Interrupting the School Calendar

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schoolscene

Montgomery County School Administrators almost made the right decision by striking the names of religious holidays from the school calendar but then, at the same time, they made no decision at all. They failed to make the point that school is a place of education, not religious observance which they could have done by eliminating at least some of these  holidays from the school calendar. As important as the trappings and beliefs surrounding religious observance are to some families and individuals, certainly even the most devoutly religious parent recognizes on some level (but most likely will not admit) that religion and the days off school that people believe are ‘required’ for religious observances do nothing to improve the quality of a child’s education and, in fact, are distractions that interrupt the learning process. The time and place for religious indoctrination of children is when school is not in session, and in the home or in a religious center.’ There are lots of hours outside school and some of those can certainly be spent carrying out religious ritual.

Is it possible that Christian parents think that increasing their child’s wealth of knowledge and critical thinking abilities will in any way interfere with their understanding and observance of their parent’s religion? Organized religion should readjust it’s priorities by realizing that their holidays would not be harmed in the slightest by rearranging worship services so they don’t conflict with school time or study time.

Quality of Education Measured in OECD countries

There are 34 countries (including the United States) that belong to the OECD (The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). This is an organization of developed countries committed to democracy, the market economy and the education of youth. Every three years, as part of their Educational tracking, students are tested, worldwide, for their academic abilities in three areas: Reading, Mathematics and Science. Until the last few years American students ranked about “average” (about 17th out of the 34 countries) in all three academic areas. A country as wealthy and powerful as the United States being just “Average” among these 34 developed countries in the field of education does not bode well for our countries future and should be considered scandalous, but as bad as it was, it got worse.  In Mathematics, the United States has, in the most recent testing, now plunged into 25th place. Understanding that one fact alone should encourage all intelligent Americans who care about their children’s future, without regard to their religion, to demand more classroom time, higher educational standards and less time away from school.

The OECD’s Secretary-General, Angel Gurría, during the OECD launch in Washington D.C. made the unarguable points: “With high levels of youth unemployment, rising inequality and a pressing need to boost growth in many countries, it’s more urgent than ever that young people learn the skills they need to succeed. In a global economy, competitiveness and future job prospects will depend on what people can do with what they know. Young people are the future, so every country must do everything it can to improve its education system and the prospects of future generations.” He made this statement several years ago and things haven’t changed much, at least in American education, since then.

According to the OCED , “Shanghai-China, and Singapore are top in maths, with students in Shanghai scoring the equivalent of nearly three years of schooling above most OECD countries. Hong Kong-China, Chinese Taipei, Korea, Macao-China, Japan, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and the Netherlands were also in the group of top-performing countries.” What’s different between them and us? You can bet that the children in those countries spend more time in the classroom than they do in their churches or athletic fields, perhaps more importantly, you can bet that bringing home a marginal or failing grade would have more severe repercussions for those students than it does for most of ours.

Religious Conservatives are labeling what happened in the Montgomery schools as a “War on Religion”! The fact of the matter is that Montgomery was engaged in a battle, in a war but it’s a war on education that is in progress as well as a war between religions. What choice did the Montgomery County School Administrators have? They are already sacrificing their ability to provide a quality education to their children to:  parents that are seemingly more interested in religious holidays than they are in their children’s education; parents who just don’t care and to those Liberal activists who value “fairness” far more than quality education and political correctnessness more than logic and truth.

References:

ABC News: Montgomery County Schools remove religious references from calendar

Huffington Post Religion: US Falls in Education Rankings.

TheAtlantic.com: American schools vs the world, Expensive, Unequal, Bad at math 

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How Many Gods?

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How many Gods are there in this world? Must be thousands or perhaps millions; or perhaps there is only one, known by a million different names. Then again, the gods imagined by the human race may only be a fiction made up to answer the millions of questions that can’t be answered by man.

It’s all guesswork. No one has looked into the face of any god, not while they were alive and could talk about it, but yet throughout the history of this planet, millions have died at the hands of those who unequivocally believe in a particular god and as many die at the hands of those who do not believe in any gods with the exception of power and politics. This does not illustrate the existence of any particular god, it simply illustrates the inate human need to hold onto a belief that helps explains life and the reason for existence.

 

WE ARE HERE! WE MUST HAVE COME FROM SOMEWHERE!

It seems virtually impossible for any sentient, thoughtful human to deny is that there was a creative process that brought our complex world amid all the ever-changing and sometimes opposing forces of life into being. Then look at yourself! Only a fool would suppose that a magnificent, complex ‘machine’ like the human body, or even any one of it’s thousands of parts, just happened by chance. I’m not talking about the seeming impossibility of Creationism, or the best guesses of man (evolution and intelligent design) I’m talking about the almost certain objective reality that there was an unknowable, intelligent creative force at work in the universe.

The main difference between a religious person and me is, a religious person has given this force a name, a gender identity and the power to control life and nature, I on the other hand do not relate that creative force with the religious person’s “controlling” force and I don’t believe that anyone should claim to know the unknowable.

Back when man first started populating the earth he certainly also marveled at this miracle we know as life and because of his inquisitive nature he certainly began to create a scenario that allowed this “magic” to make ‘sense.’ After many thousands of years that scenario, passed down through the ages and embellished by each successive generation, created religion and religious texts.

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The preceding is simply a collection of my thoughts on the subjects of life, human nature and the unknowable nature of life and it’s equally unknowable origin. I do not claim to have written or divulged any truths.

Religion, in it’s traditional sense, is a necessity for some as a guide to daily life with the ultimate objective of gaining eternal life for the spirit or soul at the end of ones physical life. For others, traditional religion is an anathema because they see it as pure mysticism that has no place in day-to-day life and they see faith as an excuse for not knowing what will happen next.

Believing in something however, even for skeptics, is a necessity — it’s something built into our DNA and for those of us with little or no faith in established religions we often turn to philosophy or science.

My personal inspiration and guideline for life has, since my early teenage years, been the following inspirational piece called the “Desiderata.” For years a copy of the Desiderata hung on my bedroom wall and I always tried to follow the Desiderata’s guidelines for life but, like most people, I am not always in control. Just another imperfect human!

The word desiderata is a form of the Latin word “desideratum” which means: “something that is desired or felt to be essential.”

The origin of the written work is uncertain but legend has it that it was either found in Saint Paul’s Church in Baltimore, Maryland and distributed to parishioners or it was actually written by the man who eventually copywrited it (in 1920), the American writer Max Ehrmann (1872 – 1945).

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DESIDERATA

“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

“As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

“If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

“Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass.

“Take kindly to the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

“Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

“Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann c.1920

Revisiting “The Homophobic Baker”

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Arizona Senate Bill 1062 was one of several similar bills in U.S. state legislatures allowing business owners to refuse service based on religious beliefs. The bill was passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature and then, on February 26, 2014, unexpectedly vetoed by Republican Governor Jan Brewer.

Remember? There was a baker in Arizona who refused, because of his religious belief that homosexuality is a sin, to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. The lawsuit that arose out of that situation was one of the prime factors behind AZ SB-1062.

I posted an article on this blog last December “The Case of the Homophobic Baker”  condemning the baker based on Federal anti-discrimination laws that make it illegal and legally actionable for a business to discriminate against members of protected classes. “What Is, IS!” It’s a law and we have to follow it or face legal penalties.

What I didn’t realize at the time (and still do not understand why) was that every state has a different list of protected classes. Isn’t this Federal legislation? Doesn’t Federal legislation automatically trump state legislation?  Guess not! That teaches me to try and think logically about any aspect of the Federal Government. Just because LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgendered) individuals were added to the Federal ‘list’ of protected classes, it apparently does not mean that every state has to add them to their state anti-discrimination legislation. Arizona, at least at that point at the beginning of this year, does not have anti-discrimination legislation that covers LGBT individuals.

So, going back to the baker who I condemned as a law breaker; I was wrong! What IS in many states, IS NOT in Arizona.

I’m not saying that discrimination based on a person’s sexual identity is in any way right, or that this particular baker is not reprehensible but, at least in Arizona, it’s apparently perfectly legal and justified to be a religious bigot.

Governor Brewer faced a hail-storm of criticism because of her veto of SB-1062 and it primarily came from religious bigots who identify themselves (as most do) as Conservatives. Thanks however to Governor Brewer, as much as she may have wanted to as a Conservative politician, she could not bring herself to sign that legislation that would potentially allow uncontrolled religious discrimination. As part of her statement after the veto she said:

“Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value. So is non-discrimination.”

Unfortunately Gov. Brewer made that good decision based on a common misconception. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was put in place not to protect citizens from unwarranted religious bigotry but to protect religions from government interference. All that, however, has nothing to do with anti-discrimination laws; they were put in place to protect citizens from racial, sexual, and religious bigotry. Either way, the “Homophobic Baker” comes out a loser (not to mentions being an incompetent businessman).

Read about the case:

CNN Politics: “Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoes controversial anti-gay bill, SB 1062

The Mark Davis I Didn’t Know I Knew

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I’ve for years enjoyed listening to Mark Davis radio talk show (in spite of his occasional ‘moral’ rants). He’s for the most part intelligent and reasonable and he always seems to come up with his own unique perspective on the topic of the moment. This morning was no different until he said something just after 10:30 am that ‘shifted my brain gears’ and actually caused me to wince at what he appeared to admit to his large radio audience.

Before the previous ‘break’ in his show he had a long and interesting conversation with journalist Mark Lewis. One of the last topics in this conversation was Evolution vs. Creationism. Mr. Lewis brought an interesting perspective to the conversation by introducing a famous quote that suggested that evolution was a part of the process of “God’s Plan;” sort of a tool used to facilitate the evolution of man. I was actually surprised when Mark Davis, usually a logical thoughtful man, rejected outright the thought that evolution had anything to do with the creation of man — wouldn’t even consider it a remote possibility.

It’s a much debated subject of course and many people have hard and fast opinions on the topic and today we learned where Mark Davis stands. If he only just “stood” there.

After the commercial break where, in the world of talk radio, the talk radio hosts are degraded and forced to sell ‘stuff’, Mark did some musing on the previous subject and, I admit my mind wandered a bit until I heard him bring up a quotation that was derived from Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872) who wrote in “Essence of Christianity: “God the Image of Man..” The version of that quote that you have probably heard is: “Man created God in HIS own image.” Mark followed that with a personal recollection that he was only 14 at the time he first heard that and not mature enough to be “insulted.”

Insulted??

As I think back on his other personal asides I realized that Mark Davis is, as I said previously, intelligent and reasonable . . . about almost EVERY OTHER topic but religion. It’s like when it comes to God, Jesus, the Bible, Creationism and a proper moral perspective to all of life’s quandaries, HE KNOWS the answers. You may never even get an “In my view” from him on these subjects (as you always get from the title of this blog); just his opinions stated as absolute, unimpeachable fact.

That is, at least, the way it is presented.

I’m a life-long atheist but I never claim that I KNOW the true facts, (I just suggest that those who disagree with me are being illogical or irrational . . .). I never, however, feel insulted.

Be that as it is, he is still the best talk show host on the radio when it comes to non-religious topics and when he suggested that the thought that “man created God in His own image” INSULTED him it just moderated my respect for him. I could understand and respect most other word choices that would suggest that he disagreed or even violently disagreed with a statement but there is something amiss when a difference of opinion effects you to the point where you are “insulted.”

The bottom line is, I love the guy (in an appropriate sense) and I’m giving Mark Davis the benefit of the doubt by assuming he just made an inappropriate word choice.

The Mark Davis Show

US Supreme Court v. the First Amendment

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Religious Freedom

From Wikipedia:

“The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights.”

Give it second reading, it’s not at all confusing!

From CNN: Two local women brought suit against Greece, New York, officials, objecting that the monthly public sessions on government open with invocations they say have been overwhelmingly Christian in nature over the years.

With this amendment in mind, the rationale for the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case brought by extremist Atheists against the small town of Greece, New York is far from clear. In fact it’s obviously frivolous nonsense; the court should have seen that and turned down the case for just that reason.

Read the damn amendment again if you must! If anyone is interfering with the free choice of religion it is the Atheists interfering with the religious choices of the town officials and those in the town who have no problems with prayer. Incidentally they are also attempting to interfere with the rights of the citizens of Greece to “peaceably assemble.”

So why did the Supreme Court, or any court in the country, choose to hear this First Amendment case and render an opinion on the obvious non-Constitutional issue of a government body allowing prayer to begin their meeting? The only rationale I can think of for accepting this case is that the Justices have their own closely held prejudices and opinions and have  covert urges to MAKE law rather than interpreting existing law.

Seriously, is there anyone in Washington suited to do their job??

For sure there are many areas of the Constitution that are “grey areas” and need to be interpreted but the First Amendment is not one of them.

I’m a life long atheist but I’m not one of THOSE atheists who assumes they have all the rights and those who hold different views have none.

Ding Dong the DOMAs Dead!

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DOMA
The BIG news today is, of course the Supreme Court’s ruling “overturning” DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act); it’s hard to understand legalese sometimes, but I think that means that they declared DOMA unconstitutional.

I don’t know how many times I’ve declared DOMA unconstitutional over the past years in this blog, but it feels good to be proved right.

The absolute foolishness of believing, as most anti-gay marriage activists apparently do, that a same-sex marriage in any way effects a traditional marriage, is mind boggling. Do they really think that every time a same-sex couple gets married, a heterosexual couple will get unmarried? Do they really believe that “straight” people will be lured into same-sex relationships simply by the legalization of same-sex marriage? If they do they are thinking stupid. Do they worry that their straight kids will all suddenly go against their natural attractions and suddenly become attracted to someone of the same sex? Apparently they do and that’s even worse than stupid, it’s illogical.

This whole anti-gay phenomenon is simply a reaction by people who have been raised with (and by)religion. The simple realization that all society is not ruled strictly by bible verse is driving them crazy. There are many wonderful lessons to be learned by the Bible but there are also many falsehoods (such as the basic falsehood, the inerrancy of the Bible) that have been taken for granted as true. To understand that the Bible was written by mortal men who inserted their own beliefs into what they felt to be “the word of God” is a very important understanding.

Back from the sublime: there will probably be more “Gay Pride” parades in the following days, with gay guys dancing around like a bunch of Disney fairies. News Flash! You have nothing to be proud of. You are what you are and antagonizing the rest of the population (the majority) will gain you nothing but more ridicule and more hate! Well deserved ridicule for acting like uncivilized children and understandable hate by people who refuse to believe that gay is NOT a choice — but a God-given (if you’ll allow me that phrase), inherent sexual preference.

References:

Politico: Justice Antonin Scalia brings drama to DOMA ruling

USA Today: How will same-sex marriage rulings affect children?

The Problem With “Openly Straight”

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Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the military is a sensible position IF it is applied to ALL the troops.

When I was in the Navy there was never even an eyebrow raised when I bragged about the bar girls I spent my nights with while on shore leave in Kaohsiung, Manila and Hong Kong. Why wasn’t I put on report and brought before a ‘Captain’s Mast’ for breaking the regulation that prohibited me from discussing MY sexual orientation?

I don’t have to say it, you can figure it out . . . but I’ll say it anyway for those of you who remain clueless about the phobic nature of the human race: ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ was never even intended to apply to heterosexuals. The majority rules and the majority are heterosexual. The military (and the Congress) may have thought they were attempting to correct a social imbalance by doing away with “don’t ask, don’t tell” but all they managed to do was make the problem worse by officially categorizing the sexual orientation of their troops.

Life has become more dangerous for gay troops who choose to become “open” about their sexuality because the military has painted a ‘target’ on their backs — a target that, for sure, will not be ignored by the more ‘aggressive’ “straight” troops who will always be in the majority; many of whom have been taught all of their lives that gay people are freaks to be ridiculed and, in many cases, even physically abused. (‘It’s alright, they’re just queers!’)

This past week, in an organization for youths . . . an organization that common sense suggests should be completely devoid of sexual agendas . . . the words “openly gay” were bantered about like they actually belonged in a discussion about rules for youth organizations. The Boy Scout’s of America (BSA)  National Council voted to allow “openly gay” scouts in the BSA and by doing that they declared that sexual orientation IS important in Boy Scouting (More important than the boys themselves?) and, beyond that, they declared, by implication, that it is absolutely proper for Boy Scouts to be open about their sexual preferences (and conquests, real or imagined). (Soon we may see merit badges for “Openness.”)

I would suggest that it defies logic why any organization created to teach and benefit American youth would make sexual orientation a defining issue, but when you consider that Boy Scouting is traditionally sponsored by religious organizations, it’s perfectly clear why logic plays no part in their rules.

100 years or so ago when the Boy Scouts began, there was no controversy about “gay scouts” only because gays were considered a ‘socially unacceptable” sub-culture that no one talked about. Gay boys had to hide their feelings for fear of rejection and physical abuse. Gay boys were taught that they were freaks of nature and were damned to Hell. Boys, however, will always be boys and indeed they were; gay boys secretly (very secretly) found each other and straight boys openly, proudly and loudly  “chased skirts” and bragged of their lust and their ‘conquests’ all with the smiling approval of the BSA.

The BSA’s ‘Bible-based’ oath which refers to being “morally straight” would have been a good one if it had applied to all scouts, not just the gay ones. If you had listened to “Conservative Talk Radio” during the debate leading up to the BSA Council vote, you would have heard that phrase: “morally straight” was specifically used (by supposed Christians) as a disqualifier for admitting gay scouts in the organization. Hearing that, you would have to suppose that that they think that their God created heterosexuals with one hand and homosexuals with the other (or something like that.)

This rant would not be complete without mentioning ‘activists;’ those who thrive on this type of controversy. It seems that, for some of the gay activists (the loudest and most “colorful”),  gay is not only their sexual identity, it is the entirety of their being.

It might be more beneficial to their lives if activists of all stripes (sexual, racial, ethnic, religious, etc) came down to earth and realized that activism is only effective up to a point; after that point their pride and arrogance only serve to separate them from the society that they are supposedly asking to be a part of.