Previous experiences and current opinions

Another member of Trump’s family speaks out. They know him the best, Good idea to listen and believe what they say.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/maryanne-trump-barry-secret-recordings/2020/08/22/30d457f4-e334-11ea-ade1-28daf1a5e919_story.html

Albert Einstein

“If I were to remain silent, I’d be guilty of complicity.”

― Albert Einstein

A lot of what I see on social media portrays the Democrats of some kind of evil conspiracy. Those portrayals are the evil conspiracy. Anyone who is wondering what is going on would do good to take a look at the Federalist Papers and see what the Founding Fathers had in mind for how our government should work.

The Great Courses has a lecture series on them that is very informative.

https://www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/books-that-matter-the-federalist-papers

Professor Daniel Nagin is the 2014 recipient of the prestigious Stockholm Prize on Criminology, an elected fellow of the American Society of Criminology, and the Teresa and H. John Heinz III University Professor of Public Policy and Statistics. His research focuses on the evolution of criminal and antisocial behaviors over the life course, the deterrent effect of criminal and non-criminal penalties on illegal behaviors, and the development of statistical methods for analyzing longitudinal data.

Daniel Nagin: The Black Lives Matter Movement has to be understood in the context of the historical legacy of the ill treatment of blacks by the police and the criminal justice system and American political and social institutions more generally. That legacy is a fact. The Movement, I think, is a reflection of and reaction to that legacy. I don’t think people should be surprised by it, and it’s part of why people should listen to the Black Lives Matter position. At the same time getting people to listen has been greatly complicated by the lethal ambushes of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge.

When you see video, for example, of the incident in North Charleston, where a police officer gunned down a man who was running away from him—you can’t deny those facts. I don’t know what motivated this cop to do it, but I’m not surprised that black people interpreted it as still another instance of their mistreatment by the police.

Once you use data to identify what the problem is, then you’re going to have to change what the police do, and how they interact with the public. And in that regard, there is wide agreement among policing scholars that the research on the effectiveness of police training is woefully inadequate. There are very few careful studies on what’s effective and what’s not effective in changing the behavior of police in the field.

For example: when police do use force, how well considered is it? Would a trained observer conclude that the use of force was necessary and appropriate? Was there a conceivable way that the use of force could have been avoided by some kind of de-escalation tactic?

The comparison I would give is that police, in general, do not receive anywhere near the level of training that we give to the members of our military on how to control their emotions and respond in a way that is going to be effective and constructive in conflict situations. People in our military, and in the best militaries in the world, get intensive training in those kinds of things, and by and large police don’t get anywhere near that level of training.

Right now, for obvious reasons, the pendulum is focused very much on what the police can do to improve their credibility in the community. 20 years ago, when crime rates were high, the focus was on doing anything they could to reduce the crime rate. What police departments ultimately have to do is to recognize that both of these values are important. It’s important that they do things to help make the community safe. But it is also important that they do things in a way that leaves the community with confidence and trust in them, and to keep in mind that sometimes these two different objectives can wind up being in conflict. They’ve got to balance these two objectives, and know that one shouldn’t have the status to trump the other. The idea is not to have a safe police state. The idea is to have a safe democratic society.

Founding Fathers quotes

“I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.” —Thomas Paine

“When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it, so that its professors are obliged to call for the help of the civil power, ’tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.” —Benjamin Franklin

“Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony & irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause …” —George Washington

“Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear…” —Thomas Jefferson

“During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution…” —James Madison

The separation of Church and State is vital to our Democracy. Here is what 4 of the Founding Fathers said about it.

John Adams, 2nd President of the United States
“The Government of the United States is in no sense founded on the Christian religion.”
“This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religions in it.”

Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father
“The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason”
“Lighthouses are more helpful then churches.”

Thomas Jefferson, 3rd US President
“I have examined all the known superstitions of the world, and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology”
“The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.”
“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

Thomas Paine, Founding Father
“All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.”

I think this is an important documentary: “Farenheit 9/11 ”
It can be found on Amazon Prime.

And for anyone who mistrusts religion, this is both enlightening and hilarious: “Religulous” by Bill Maher

The following was posted on
Fast Forward <newsletters@email.bostonglobe.com>

The Senate Intelligence Committee released its last of five reports on its probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the findings are damning, according to the Associated Press: It concludes that the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russian intelligence services during the 2016 presidential election posed a “grave” counterintelligence threat and details how Trump associates had regular contact with Russians and expected to benefit from the Kremlin’s help.

“The report … describes how Russia launched an aggressive, wide-ranging effort to interfere in the election on Donald Trump’s behalf. It says Trump associates were eager to exploit the Kremlin’s aid, particularly by maximizing the impact of the disclosure of Democratic emails that were hacked by Russian military intelligence officers.

“The report from the Republican-led panel lays out significant contacts between Trump associates and Russians, describing for instance a close professional relationship between Trump campaign chairman Paul Mananfort and Konstantin Kilimnik, whom the committee describes without equivocation as a Russian intelligence officer

https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/sites/default/files/documents/report_volume5.pdf?fbclid=IwAR3eM9NX9X3PVaLk1CRpIsqh9lfCxIiJsH1GQY0_8ZsMDb328IC8ZO9vfaU

 

Faith and Knives

I have written quite a bit about my life at the Community of Jesus. Check out the archived posts for all of that. For now, I am sharing some of my educational journey after I left.

In the summer of 2019 I took a class in comparative religion, comparing Christianity and Judaism.

Faith and Knives

What is faith? It is complete trust or confidence in someone or something. Faith can be secular or religious.

Most of us think of faith in the context of religion, as in, faith in God and what that god can do. Believing by faith in that which cannot be proved. But faith is a confidence, and that confidence is not confined to the religious sphere. One’s faith can be in science, in nature, in our fellow human beings, in my pet. Anything that I have complete trust or confidence in, that is where I put my faith.

Faith of itself is neither good or bad. I propose that what we put our faith in determines the goodness or badness of our faith. Again, it is not the faith that is good or bad. But we can say that our faith is well-placed, or mis-placed.

Faith is personal by its very nature. What I put confidence in is determined by me, and by no one else for me. Even if I am persuaded by others, it still comes down to where I have confidence, in whom or in what. So, faith is not the sole purview of religion, and non-religious people can be examples of a wholesome and strong faith, also.

Whatever venue our faith is active in, it truly can be “…a marvel or a horror,” depending on how it is used, for faith itself is just the context from which a person chooses to act. It is the “reason” behind the choice of action.  I don’t think the faith that flies planes into buildings is any stranger than the faith that spends all to feed the poor. I think it is the same action of faith at work, it is just the direction of the work that is different, diametrically opposed to each other.

“…€very day religious faith is used to justify atrocious behavior around the world”, as is non-religious faith. Faith in money drives the oil wars, faith in competition drives the sports industry, and faith in only one way to reach salvation (and that salvation is attainable) drives religious fervor, arguments, and even wars. I propose that it is not religion that is basically at fault, but the mis-use of religion for personal agendas, personal gain, that is the evil, and evil it indeed is. Using religion, mis-guiding someone’s faith, is perhaps the greatest manipulation, scam, and betrayal that exists today.

If children represent all that is good in life, the very continuation of life itself, then to kill children is perhaps the greatest evil of all. To even consider killing children for the sake of faith is the height of mis-guided fervor. It is well that God spoke to Abraham at the end, charging him to not lay a hand on Isaac, for that is the message that needs to be proclaimed. Do no harm to one another, and especially to the defenseless. All tales of heroism and chivalry raise that banner high. But it does beg the question of why the story has Abraham being instructed to sacrifice his son at all. Why does God even speak that atrocity to him? Is this god made in the image of man? Is this the epitome of the mind sickness that seems to afflict humanity?

When the California courts ruled that the Wentlands and the Church of Science were innocent of the Wentlands’ son Andrew’s death, they were allowing for a faith that values the spiritual life above the physical life. They were giving permission for people to let children die for the sake of saving their eternal souls.

This is a debate that has gone on for generations, and continues to this day. Who is responsible for children? There seems to be a consensus that the parents are the primary agents of responsibility for their children. There are exceptions to this. When a parent is causing physical harm to the child, or is neglecting the child to the point of physical damage, then the state has taken the right to step in and protect the child, and to provide its basic needs. However, in this country especially, the freedom of religion is such a strong value, that it takes precedence over child protection. The story of Abraham underscores this hierarchy. God told Abraham to kill his only son, the son he loved. Abraham takes steps to do so, up to binding his son and placing him on the altar on the wood. He reaches for the knife and takes it up. Only then does God stop him, and God praises Abraham because he IS WILLING TO KILL HIS SON. This obviously teaches that children are expendable, and God comes first. If this is the model, then the Wentlands were obeying God as they understood him, and the courts were right to allow them to do so without punishment. They were following in the footsteps of Abraham. However you want to interpret this scripture, that is what it says, and if a Christian is going to believe the Bible as the word of God then how can they judge others who do the same?

Now, I do not agree with this. I think the story of Abraham is wrong, and I think the Wentlands were wrong. I think the courts of California were wrong. I agree that people should be free to worship as they please, unless it brings physical harm to someone, including their own children. There are groups of Christians who run totalitarian churches, subjugating their members to strict controls and unreasonable practices. I know because I was a member of one of them. These churches should be held accountable for the harm they do, and they are not, because of freedom of religion.

Ethics, Jephthah

I have written quite a bit about my life at the Community of Jesus. Check out the archived posts for all of that. For now, I am sharing some of my educational journey after I left.

In the Spring of 2019 I took an Ethics class. This is a reflection on the stories of Jephthah, Brutus, and Abraham, and comments by Kierkegaard.

Jephthah, Abraham and Kierkegaard

When Kierkegaard recounts again the story of Jephthah in Problema I, I can’t help but think that the faithfulness of Jephthah to keep his promise was based on a false assumption. He assumed that it was his prayer and his promise of sacrifice that turned the tide of the battle. (He had prayed that if God would give him the victory in this battle, he would sacrifice the first person who came out of his house when he returned. That first person was his only daughter) I doubt very much that this was cause and effect. When you believe in a god who directs the affairs of men, then the burden is laid on you to plead with that god and to convince him to act in your favor. When events do go your way, then you attribute those events to the power of your prayer, that god “heard” you, and you reinforce your personal relationship with this god. You also put yourself under the fear that if you displease this god, then you are in for punishment. If this is the relationship you have with your god, then any sacrifice is deemed noble in order to preserve god’s favor, including your own children. This puts the universal higher than the individual, and becomes the reasoning behind all kinds of violence. It is the dangerous tipping point that brings this kind of reasoning to support terrorism and murder “for a good cause.”

In the case of Jephthah and Brutus, their idea of ethics supported their actions. “The tragic hero stays within the ethical.” (pg. 87) Kierkegaard is saying that ethics based on reason binds you to laws, even when the outcome is murder, and that mankind applauds this kind of commitment. (If it includes murder, I do not call it ethical.) He is saying that Abraham went beyond ethics, that faith is some level of existence above and beyond the realm of ethics. “In his action he overstepped the ethical altogether, and had a higher telos (purpose) outside it…” (pg. 88) I am personally still wary of this kind of religious fervor that looks above and beyond logical human ideas of care and love, because even though the story of Abraham came out “good,” I have seen too many examples of harm being done through the lens of “giving all for God.”

I guess the point of looking at ethics and faith is, as has been said before in our posts, to be aware that there is no “black and white” “set in stone” set of ethics. Faith can open us up to being humble and flexible in our ethics. If God is beyond our understanding, then we have to always be open to being taught, in the moment, about what we should do. I guess that is the lesson from Abraham. Although started out ethically following what he perceived as God’s command to him, but he was humble enough to hear God’s voice changing his direction. For me, the bottom line remains to do no harm, as far as it is possible, to no one.

I also want to put in a word for those who do not have a religious faith in a God. The meaning of life and the ethical framework from which to love others does not have to have a religious bent. A highly moral and ethical life is possible without a religious faith. Humility and an open mind are needed whether you are religious or secular.

Ethics and Kierkegaard

I have written quite a bit about my life at the Community of Jesus. Check out the archived posts for all of that. For now, I am sharing some of my educational journey after I left.

In the Spring of 2019 I took an Ethics class. In it  we were reading some of Kierkegaard. He expressed this about people who do not believe in a God…

“…if an eternal oblivion always lurked hungrily for its prey…how empty and devoid of comfort would life be!” (Kierkegaard.) I am not really a disagreeable person, but I have to disagree with, or at least question, this statement of Kierkegaard’s. I have heard this before, that unless you believe in an after-life your present life is full of despair. That is not necessarily so. To the contrary, how sweet our present life is, since it is the only one we will have. How precious is every moment, how full of life and joy and pleasant surprises each day and each vista brings to our senses. If we cease to exist when we die then how much more should we drink our full of all experiences while we have the live senses to know them. If death brings oblivion, then how much more responsible we are to care for others, to be a bearer of love and comfort in the now. If we will not know what the future will bring to the generations that follow, how much more is it laid upon us today to care for this earth, to preserve its abundance and beauty, to leave behind a legacy of life for others. If we know that this is our only chance at life, then how much more important it is that we live it well. I do not begrudge anyone their belief in an after-life, but neither should anyone assume that if someone does not believe in an after-life that their life now is full of misery or despair.

Doubts can be instructive. Doubts are often my subconscious’ way of trying to tell me something, and I should take the time to seriously consider them. In his Preface, Kierkegaard is complaining that modern philosophers doubt everything. He goes on to say, “…we must trust to this natural light only so long as nothing contrary to it is revealed by God himself…Above all we should impress on our memory as an infallible rule that what God has revealed to us is incomparably more certain than anything else…”

I would like to take this quote and look at Abraham again in light of my other post that God was tempting Abraham with the instruction to kill Isaac. I would like to look at the whole process of God revealing Himself to us, and the place of ethics in our lives and thinking as we try to interpret God’s will for our lives. Abraham was sure he heard God telling him to take Isaac and sacrifice him. He took the steps to obey, right up to the last moment. If he had really believed that it was a revelation from God, and infallible, he would not have heard the change of plans at the very end. Since he did hear God telling him to change course, is it possible he had a corner of questioning in his heart and mind all along, and was looking for another possible answer? When he answered Isaac’s question, saying that God would provide the sacrifice, was he hoping that he had heard God wrong, and that an alternative would be provided? I think so. I think he was not 100%, absolutely sure that he was doing the right thing, and that is why he was able to hear God at the end. (If you do not believe in a god, just substitute the word conscience instead)

Is Kierkegaard referring to the Bible when he says “…revealed by God himself…”, and if so, what has God revealed? There are so many interpretations of the Bible, and the debates continue. These writings are still through men, so it depends on whether you think the scriptures are the infallible word of God, or have come through people’s minds and are therefore up for interpretation. Certainly, we each have our own convictions about the will and Word of God, and we trust our own interpretations and understandings, perhaps influenced by our parents, or a teacher or clergy whom we trust. There are radical people out there, and if we have a strong ethical basis, based on both reason and faith, it will help us to distinguish what is God’s will from what we may be tempted to think is God’s will. This is why I think ethics can play an important role, for if we are concerned with ethics, we will be concerned about not hurting others, and will question any action or philosophy that leads to hurting others.

Kierkegaard, S. (1985) Fear and Trembling. Penguin Classics, London, England.