Hip-Gnosis: August 2006: Archives

August 30, 2006

Tomlinson: Bush Appointee In Trouble Again genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Kenneth Tomlinson

Kenneth Tomlinson, former head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a position from which he was forced to resign, is once again under scrutiny for questionable activities in his new position with the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Tomlinson was ousted from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting after he came under fire for attempting to alter public broadcasting programming to reflect a more conservative message as well as other questionable practices. Read the full New York Times article here.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 29 — State Department investigators have found that the head of the agency overseeing most government broadcasts to foreign countries has used his office to run a “horse racing operation" and that he improperly put a friend on the payroll, according to a summary of a report made public on Tuesday by a Democratic lawmaker.

Mr. Tomlinson’s position at the broadcasting board makes him one of the administration’s top officials overseeing public diplomacy and puts him in charge of the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe.

Mr. Tomlinson, 62, is a former editor of Reader’s Digest who has close ties to Karl Rove, Mr. Bush’s political strategist and senior adviser. Mr. Rove and Mr. Tomlinson were on the board of the predecessor to the broadcasting board in the 90’s. Mr. Tomlinson has been chairman of the broadcasting board since 2002.

Not unlike his friend, Karl Rove, Mr. Tomlinson seems to have a propensity for pushing the limits in order to advance his agenda while always attempting to downplay any inference of impropriety. He, like Karl Rove, continues to have the full support of the President which leaves one inclined to conclude that so long as appointees promote the same agenda endorsed by the President they will remain in positions of influence despite unethical, if not criminal, behavior. One might speculate that the values of the President and his operatives wane at the waters edge.

The heavily edited State Department report on Mr. Tomlinson’s activities at the Broadcasting Board of Governors did not identify the friend who received the improper employment contract. The report said that there was no competitive bidding to hire him, that he was retired and on a government pension when Mr. Tomlinson hired him and that he never filed the required paperwork with the board.

Mr. Tomlinson was rebuked in the earlier report at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for improperly hiring an acquaintance from a journalism center founded by the American Conservative Union. The corporation paid the person more than $20,000 to monitor public radio and television programs for bias, including “Now," with Bill Moyers as host.

People who have seen the report said it noted that Mr. Tomlinson, on his lawyer’s advice, ended an interview with investigators early. One person familiar with the inquiry said Mr. Hamilton ended the interview as the investigators began to ask about using the office for horse racing business. Mr. Hamilton would not comment about the interview.

Mr. Tomlinson joins a long list of Bush cronies who have been scrutinized for improper activities and unethical practices. Nonetheless, the President continues to appoint these individuals to significant positions. As an aside, it seems a bit comical that Tomlinson and former FEMA Director Michael Brown were both involved with raising horses...a coincidence one might connect with the President's preference for "cowboy diplomacy".

Perhaps they should be joined by Bill Bennett on a Presidential committee to explore the virtues of exposing more Americans to gaming and gambling related enterprises. After all, that seems like a worthwhile consideration for a President committed to family values, doesn't it?

Daniel DiRito | August 30, 2006 | 9:18 AM | link | Comments (0)
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August 24, 2006

FDA: 18 & Older Can Purchase Plan B OTC genre: Hip-Gnosis & Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Six Degrees of Speculation & Uncivil Unions

FDA & Plan B

The Food and Drug Administration, after numerous delays that many felt were politically motivated, has approved Barr Laboratory's Plan B contraceptive for over the counter sales to women over the age of 18 years old. Read the full article here. The age restriction is in line with remarks made by President Bush at a recent news conference whereby he suggested he was in favor of approval so long as minors were excluded. Thought Theater has previously discussed the rancor over the approval as well as the opposition expressed by numerous religious groups based upon the contention that the over the counter sales would lead to promiscuity here and here.

The Food and Drug Administration today said Barr could begin selling the drug, called Plan B, over the counter to those 18 and older. Plan B is designed to prevent pregnancy when taken within 72 hours of sex.

The decision capped a prolonged fight over whether the pill should be available without a doctor's permission, and which age group should get access. Some doctors' groups and Barr called for over-the-counter sales without an age limit. Some social conservatives said easy availability could increase promiscuity among teenagers.

Under the FDA's decision, Plan B will be kept behind pharmacy counters and can be dispensed only after customers provide proof of their age. The drug has been available with a prescription since 1999.

The FDA has been considering Barr's over-the-counter bid since 2003. An agency advisory panel recommended approval of Barr's application to sell the drug without a prescription to all age groups. The FDA rejected that approach, saying there wasn't enough evidence young teens could safely use Plan B without a doctor's supervision.

While the approval is long overdue but a welcome decision, I personally feel the decision to limit the sale to women over the age of 18 to be an absurd accommodation of those who insist upon viewing sex as an evil. At the same time, these same groups and individuals are living in full denial of the fact that preventing minors from purchasing the product will simply place underage women at risk for unwanted pregnancies as well as potential abortions. Further, the notion that a 16 or 17 year old woman would be unable to safely use the product is nothing more than irrational babble used to impose moral judgments and religious values...it has no scientific basis.

Anyone that believes 16 and 17 year old women haven't the ability to use the product properly must be oblivious to the fact that many of these same women are experimenting with alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes...all products that have detrimental health implications but because they are not associated with religious and moral judgments, they are often overlooked or condoned by the same parents that oppose the availability of Plan B. Additionally, should there be any doubt that 16 and 17 year old women will find the means to obtain the drug if they find themselves in need? Isn't it time this country have an honest discussion about sex and begin to approach it with maturity and reasonability instead of making it a divisive subject that simply serves to alienate children from parents?

How a parent can decide that they would prefer to place sexually active children at risk rather than provide them the means to prevent a pregnancy is beyond my comprehension. I understand that parents may prefer that their children not engage in sex prior to marriage but that desire is simply not founded in reality. If parents would simply accept that their children are apt to engage in sex just like they did, they might find the courage to set aside their antiquated moralistic judgments and begin to deal with sex in a proactive and positive manner. Why sex must be vilified in a world that is filled with divorce, crime, violence, wars, and numerous other clearly negative behaviors is unfathomable to me and it fully demonstrates the hypocrisy that permeates the entire debate about sex, contraception, and abortion.

Daniel DiRito | August 24, 2006 | 7:49 AM | link | Comments (1)
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August 15, 2006

Dobson Leads Religious Voter Registration Efforts genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

James Dobson

James Dobson, the head of Colorado based Focus on the Family is leading a massive voter registration effort geared to engage millions of religious voters for the upcoming midterm election in November. Dobson has long been associated with Karl Rove and the Bush administration...as was most recently witnessed during the Bush's two Supreme Court appointments. Read the full article here.

The program, coordinated by the Colorado-based group Focus on the Family and its influential founder, James C. Dobson, would use a variety of methods — including information inserted in church publications and booths placed outside worship services — to recruit millions of new voters in 2006 and beyond.

The new voter registration program puts a special focus this year on eight states with key Senate, House and state-level races. Turning out core voters is central to the GOP strategy to retain control of Congress, especially as the party struggles with negative public sentiment over the war in Iraq and other administration policies.

According to the e-mail, county coordinators are being asked to work about five hours a week and would be responsible for "recruiting key evangelical churches."

The church coordinators, devoting one or two hours per week, would be in charge of "encouraging pastors to speak about Christian citizenship, conducting a voter-registration drive, distributing voter guides and get-out-the-vote efforts."

Critics say the practice is potentially illegal, citing tax laws that prohibit churches from engaging in partisan activities.

The IRS has launched a program to crack down on violators, with investigations pending against dozens of churches.

The willingness of the GOP and its supporters to conflate religion with politics has proven to be a successful tactic and one that has amplified the polarization and polarity seen in U.S. politics. Many have expressed doubt that the religious right would turnout in 2006 given disappointment with Bush on several issues that motivate such voters. Thought Theater has previously argued that the Rove strategy is to focus on winning the support of religious figures in leadership positions. Clearly, that effort has been successful and there is little reason to believe that it won't continue to be effective in mobilizing those voters that are affiliated with these leaders. Rove is a master at delivering targeted messages to motivate various constituency groups.

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, called the evangelical voter registration drive a "blatant effort by Dobson to build a partisan political machine based in churches."

"He has made it abundantly clear that electing Republicans is an integral part of his agenda, and he doesn't mind risking the tax exemption of churches in the process," Lynn said. "Dobson wants to be a major political boss, and this is his way to get there."

The Republican Party is escalating its own courtship of evangelicals, registering voters at Christian rock concerts, state fairs and other events that draw religious activists and core conservatives.

Democrats need to be mindful that despite opposition to the war in Iraq, religious voters are not likely to support Democratic candidates...especially as the efforts of Dobson and his ilk work to equate the Party with social issues that religious voters will be unable to accept such as same-sex marriage, abortion rights, and stem cell research. Hard core evangelicals will hear Dobson's message that staying at home due to dissatisfaction with the Bush administration will only lead to further erosion on the issues they seek to impact. Dobson knows all too well the risks associated with Democratic control of the House or the Senate. I expect the dissemination of religious rhetoric to meet or exceed the levels seen in 2004.

Daniel DiRito | August 15, 2006 | 4:06 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Richard Cohen On Middle East Birth Pangs genre: Hip-Gnosis & Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Middle East road map

The Washington Post's Richard Cohen has a good article on the situation in the Middle East and the growing concerns that the conflict is far more about ideology than geography. The article points out that the United States and Israel both seem to be struggling to understand the new dynamic of warfare that has taken shape in the region. Read the full article here.

The "birth pangs" are over. This was the term used by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to describe the war between Israel (supported by the United States) and Hezbollah (supported by Iran). If she is right, let us see what has come out: a defeat for the good guys, a victory for the bad guys (the "Islamic fascists" of President Bush's formulation) and some clear lessons. This has been a very hard birth.

But the lesson of Iraq and, now, Lebanon, is that zealots make tough enemies. It was one thing for Israel to fight apathetic and hapless Egyptians, Iraqis, Jordanians, Syrians and Lebanese. Those armies consisted of the indifferent: Sure, these Arabs opposed Israel, but they were mostly unaffected by it and would rather live with it than die fighting it. Even the Palestinians proved to be not much of a battlefield foe. This has not been the case with Hezbollah or, in Iraq, the various groups of fanatics who would blow themselves up for reasons that we could not begin to fathom. Hezbollah is now described in terms once reserved for the Japanese army of World War II. "If you are waiting for a white flag coming out of the Hezbollah bunker, I can assure you it won't come," said Brig. Gen. Ido Nehushtan, a member of the Israeli army's general staff.

The prevailing problem with the U.S. and Israeli strategy is that they continue to rely on military solutions. Despite the fact that both have military superiority over their opponents, they seem to struggle with an understanding of the motivations and mentality of the enemy. With the imposition of force, while one can calculate the physical damages, one must also calculate the psychological impact. Clearly with Iraq and now with Hezbollah, the U.S. and Israel have failed to win the war of minds...perhaps the most important battle.

This zealotry, this ideology, this religious fervor is not something we in the West -- and that includes Israel -- know how to deal with. The sheer scale and number of suicide bombings in Iraq was once considered inconceivable. Iraq, after all, was extolled as one of the more secular Arab states, which was among the reasons why some otherwise sane people predicted an easy U.S. victory followed by the national singing of "God Bless America."

This seemingly abrupt shift to the ideological, to the religious, is the most noteworthy and ominous development of recent times. The fight is no longer over territory -- the West Bank, Gaza -- but over the very existence of Israel. The people who seem to hate Israel most, who will kill to kill it and die for it to die, are not reclaiming ancestral land -- no Iranian pines for his lost orange grove near Jaffa -- but instead cannot abide the very idea of Israel.

Democracies are in a fix. If your enemy will gladly die for his cause while you wouldn't think of dying for yours (not that you even know what it is: freedom? liberty?) then clearly the fight is not to the swift but to the suicidal. The obvious short-term remedy is cold, lethal technology. But the reliance on high-tech stuff has not subdued Iraq, and it utterly failed in Lebanon as well. These are the realities of the new warfare, and if they are the "birth pangs of the new Middle East," then what is being produced is not some cute, babbling democracies but a hideous monster.

Just wait until he reaches for a nuclear weapon.

With each preemptive effort, the U.S. and Israel have sent more and more of the all important moderate individuals into the hands of the ideologues. Each bomb that destroys a bridge creates the path by which more and more citizens find their way into the extreme...a place from which return is very unlikely. Certainly there are times when force is inevitable but unless a diplomatic and humanitarian front is pursued along a parallel path, the battle for sentiment will be lost...leading to more animosity and a greater likelihood for further conflict in a never ending spiral towards ideological polarity.

One is left to wonder if the current efforts aren't simply hastening the unthinkable eventualities that come with ideological desperation. The suicide bombers are abundant...and the motivation to provide them with better weapons is growing exponentially.

Daniel DiRito | August 15, 2006 | 8:45 AM | link | Comments (0)
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August 5, 2006

Poll: Voters More Reasonable On Cultural Issues genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak

Culture war

A new Pew Research poll indicates that Americans may be more moderate than expected on five key cultural issues. The survey indicates that on most issues, a majority of voters prefer a middle ground approach. Reuters has the full article here.

Best illustrating the willingness of Americans to consider opposing points of view is that two-thirds of poll respondents supported finding a middle ground when it comes to abortion rights -- a solid majority that stood up among those calling themselves evangelicals, Catholics, Republicans or Democrats.

The issue of abortion continued to split the country -- 31 percent want it generally available, 20 percent say it should be allowed but want to impose some restrictions, 35 percent want to make it illegal with few exceptions, and 9 percent want it banned altogether.

On five prominent social issues -- abortion rights, stem cell research, gay marriage, adoption of children by gay couples, and availability of the "morning-after" pill -- most Americans did not take consistent stances.

Just 12 percent took the conservative position on all five issues, while 22 percent took the opposite stance on all five. The bulk of Americans had mixed opinions.

On the subject of gay unions, 56 percent opposed giving gays the right to marry, but 53 percent favored allowing gays to enter into legal agreements that provide many of the same rights as married couples.

There has been an increase in recent years in the proportion of Americans who believe homosexuality is innate -- 36 percent, up from 30 percent in 2003. Similarly, 49 percent believed homosexuals cannot be changed to heterosexual, compared to 42 percent in 2003.

The poll's findings on stem cell research -- which preceded President George W. Bush's veto of a bill to expand federal funding -- showed 56 percent favored the research even though human embryos would be destroyed, while 32 percent were opposed.

Unfortunately, the extreme views attract the most attention as news outlets seek to report on controversial issues by having two polarized individuals debate the subject. When this happens, both sides utilize the standard rhetoric that has traditionally dominated the headlines...furthering the appearance of the divide. A reasonable dialogue would certainly be a refreshing alternative however it wouldn't likely boost viewer ratings. That's unfortunate because the rhetoric helps promote the underlying prejudices and perpetuates the misinformation that fuels conflict.

Daniel DiRito | August 5, 2006 | 10:52 AM | link | Comments (0)
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August 2, 2006

Kansas On The Mend: Part II genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Evolution vs. Creationism

The conservative anti-evolution hold on the State Board of Education in Kansas appears to have been defeated, leaving the Board with at least a 6-4 pro-evolution membership heading into the November general election. The primary election received national attention as Kansas has been a battleground over the issues of evolution and intelligent design (creationism). The New York Times has the full article here.

With just 6 districts of 1,990 yet to report as of 8 a.m. Central time today, two conservatives — including incumbent Connie Morris, a former west Kansas teacher and author who had described evolution as “a nice bedtime story" — appear to have been defeated decisively by two moderates in the Republican primary elections. One moderate incumbent, Janet Waugh from the Kansas City area, held on to her seat in the Democratic primary.

Both moderate Republican winners face Democratic opponents in November, but the Democrats are moderates as well, favoring a return to the traditional science standards that prevailed before a conservative majority elected in 2004 passed new rules for teaching science. Those rules, enacted last November, called for classroom critiques of Darwin’s theory.

The most closely watched race was between current board member Connie Morris, an anti-evolution conservative who has called evolution "an age old fairy tale" and "a nice bedtime story" that is unsupported by science and her moderate pro-evolution opponent Sally Cauble. While the results have yet to be certified, Cauble held a significant lead of 54-46 percent or just over 2,000 votes.

From The Associated Press:

Critics of Kansas' science standards worried that if conservatives retained the board's majority, it would lead to attempts in other states to copy the Kansas standards.

"There are people around the country who would like to see the Kansas standards in their own states," said Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, Calif., which supports the teaching of evolution.

Last year, in Dover, Pa., voters ousted school board members who had required the biology curriculum to include mention of intelligent design. A federal judge struck down the policy, declaring intelligent design is religion in disguise.

The Pennsylvania and Kansas results offer encouragement that further efforts to push intelligent design will also be defeated. Thought Theater has previously discussed the evolution controversy here as well as the remarks made by conservative Connie Morris here. Hopefully this outcome will be the turning point for allowing science to move forward without repeated efforts to impose or interject religious beliefs.

Daniel DiRito | August 2, 2006 | 8:29 AM | link | Comments (0)
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August 1, 2006

The Daily Show: This Week In God genre: Hip-Gnosis & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

Daniel DiRito | August 1, 2006 | 6:04 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Can Faith & Religion Be Acts Of Cowardice? genre: Hip-Gnosis & Nouveau Thoughts & Six Degrees of Speculation

Faith & Religion

I’ve always been a contrarian. Those who know me well know that my motivation for being so is primarily to force myself to look at alternate perspectives in order to uncover more “truth". Being a contrarian is like walking a tight rope…tilt a little too far in one direction and you risk the ire of those you potentially offend. Nonetheless, today I venture out onto the wire again without the benefit of a safety net in the hope that at the other end lays more “truth".

I’ve been thinking a lot about faith and religion. In a world filled with skepticism, I have long been fascinated by the propensity of people to cling to faith and religion while expressing wholesale skepticism for other concepts and data that is supported by strong factual evidence. Faith has long been portrayed as an act of courage and there have been numerous books, plays and movies made to celebrate such acts. However, as I’ve pondered that notion, it struck me that one could argue the opposite…that faith and a belief in religion are acts of cowardice. Abrasive as that may sound, please hear me out.

First, I should make my own confessions. I grew up a Catholic and attended Catholic schools until I went to college. My family is Italian and as such faith and religion were fundamental constructs throughout much of my life. Regardless, about seven years ago, during a difficult time in my personal life, I found myself lying in bed looking for comfort and hoping for guidance. It wasn’t long before I found myself beginning to pray about my situation…asking God for guidance…and without warning I suddenly stopped. After a lifetime of prayer and faith, I vowed at that moment to never pray again…and I’ve kept that vow to this day. It wasn’t an easy task. I’ve caught myself about to invoke prayer on a number of occasions…although the frequency has greatly diminished with the passage of time.

Let me attempt to explain why I made this decision and perhaps that will help explain why I would make the assertion that faith and a belief in religion are acts of cowardice. I’ve previously written about “terror management theory", a psychological concept that attempts to explain how humans deal with the notion of the terror created by their pending mortality. The theory posits that there is what one could characterize as an existential disconnect whereby the individual attempts to bury the anxiety created by the fear of death.

The theory asserts that culture and self-esteem are interconnected as the mechanisms of choice to deal with this anxiety. Essentially, as the individual begins to comport with cultural paradigms, the individual thereby receives favorable feedback that bolsters self-esteem. Heightened self-esteem seems to diminish the anxiety created by the concept of one’s death. Culturally accepted achievements and affiliations are therefore reinforcing and they provide the individual with an esteem buffer that allows them to avoid some of the inevitable anxiety that is created by our uniquely human awareness that death is inevitable.

One of the primary cultural constructs is religion and, as such, faith is the means by which the individual is able to demonstrate one’s connection to that cultural paradigm…the method by which self-esteem is bolstered and anxiety is therefore diminished. With this backdrop, I propose the argument that expressions of faith are acts of cowardice used to ignore the inevitable…not unlike using alcohol or drugs to mask unresolved anxieties. Hence my conclusion that fateful night was that prayer, and therefore faith and religion were merely the crutches I sought to use to anesthetize my turmoil and moreover to minimize my own realization that each day passed brings us closer to death.

One must then look at the mechanisms within culture that seek to insulate religion and faith from scientific examination to fully appreciate the theory’s significance and to understand why faith and religion endure. In a world that by and large requires evidence in order to advance new ideas or novel theories, there is an unspoken taboo on the application of the same to religion and faith. Further, when science refutes religion or faith, whether that is by implication or as an elected choice, there is often an inherent cultural push-back. That collective push-back is the angst that permeates culture and society with regards to dealing with death.

An example might be helpful. The state of Kansas has been at the forefront of the battle between evolution and intelligent design (creationism). The State Board of Education recently mandated a curriculum that challenges Darwin’s theory of evolution and that many within the scientific community see as an attempt to circumvent science by endorsing and institutionalizing religious beliefs. At the center of the conflict is a woman named Connie Morris. The New York Times recently discussed the Kansas issue here.

Connie Morris, a conservative Republican running for re-election, said the board had merely authorized scientifically valid criticism of evolution. Ms. Morris, a retired teacher and author, said she did not believe in evolution.

“It’s a nice bedtime story," she said. “Science doesn’t back it up."

Clearly, these remarks represent a full reversal of the application of science and religion. Ms. Morris and a majority of Board members, because of the religious beliefs they hold, (although they deny that their religious beliefs are the premise for their contention) seek to use science to disprove one scientific theory (evolution). They argue that because the science isn’t absolute (basically many of those opposed to evolution contend that there are some time gaps in the fossil documentation of evolution) then, at the same time, a greater truth must exist and that truth is reasonably found in faith because faith provides a better (or one might posit the only) explanation of the gaps within science (intelligent design such that a higher being must have been involved). They make this argument despite the fact that science continues to predictably fill in these blanks as more evidence is figuratively and literally unearthed.

Nonetheless, she and other like minded individuals, supported by a culturally adopted construct that serves the purpose explained by the “terror management theory" are by default asserting that faith is science of the highest order...and need not prove itself scientifically…but merely contend that the converse cannot be proven absolutely. By calling evolution a “nice bedtime story" Ms. Morris has completed the reversal and the culturally held beliefs (faith and religion) remain unchallenged and not subject to scientific standards. As such, the mechanisms that provides relief from the anxiety of death (faith and religion) are protected and preserved.

Let me offer another example that demonstrates my proposed argument at work within an individual. Mel Gibson was recently arrested for driving under the influence. During that encounter, his behavior apparently involved flagrant anti-Semitic remarks. In the aftermath, the situation does an excellent job of showing how faith can be used to disprove the obvious without regard for reason or legitimacy. Today Mr. Gibson issued a statement in which he asserts that he isn’t a bigot and that he isn’t anti-Semitic…and most notably explains that it isn’t true because “that goes against my faith". In saying as much, Gibson is substituting a culturally held premise (faith) as a defense for his own explicitly contrary actions. Not only is that intellectual dishonesty, it is a despicable act of cowardice. Regardless, many will allow and accept his explanation in order to protect the notion of faith and religion.

Let me offer one final example. The recent phenomenon of suicide bombers is perhaps the ultimate act of cowardice that has at its core a culturally held set of religious beliefs. It also presents an instance of abundant irony. Let me walk through the rationalization in order to make the necessary connections. Driven by the perceived desperation of their situation, and in the absence of the strength to make the choices necessary to be an actor in the process of change to make their life and this life here on earth better, they not only embrace culturally held beliefs that seek to diminish the anxiety of our existential existence, they leap beyond this world in what they deem to be an act of faith, in the hope and belief that the next world is guaranteed to provide them with what they were unable or unwilling to endeavor to obtain here in this existence.

Further, in their acts of faith, they seek to end the lives of those whose faith they deem worthy of destruction…all the while ignoring the fact that if they believe in faith, they are providing the same afterlife opportunity to those they murder…without any evidence that it is their faith that will be rewarded by their act as opposed to the faith of those they kill. That is an indefensible act of cowardice committed under the guise of faith fully devoid of reasoned support. However, the actions will be defended by those who embrace the same culturally held beliefs.

Faith can therefore become the means and the method whereby one defines the meaning and purpose of one’s existence and when that faith subverts the realities of our human condition, humanity is abandoned. If humanity is abandoned, then acts of faith are frequently allowed to trump humanity and what follows is often the infliction of atrocities carried out in the name of faith. They are acts of cowardice that are perpetrated as part of an elaborate system of denial meant to not only minimize the terror of death for the actors but to give the death of some of the participants a greater worth and therefore a better promise of an unfounded, though ever defended eternal future.

If faith is meant to soften the blow of death by offering the possibility of an afterlife, then living life with faith because death is too frightening is merely an act of cowardice that has nothing more than an unproven and uncontested culturally held context and contract as its premise. It is perpetuated despite the reality that virtually all of our remaining worldly existence is predicated upon fact…and yet we cling to faith despite the fact that the preponderance of evidence suggests that death is inevitable and final. I contend that this faith driven denial must therefore be synonymous with cowardice.

In the end, religion and faith are likely to become the vehicle by which the existential journey is abandoned. By subrogating our responsibility to make the choices necessary to define the meaning of this life for the promise of a future life that is “believed" to be absent the same travails, the individual remains a culturally defined entity rather than an individual that defines culture. In that subtle distinction is the quintessential difference between cowardice and courage…and therefore it is also the difference between accepting and manipulating the terror of death. Unfortunately, that choice will determine whether the individual has actually lived enough to accept death or chosen to cease the act of living in order to avoid the reality of death. Death will gladly tell each of us which choice we’ve made.

I choose to believe there is no afterlife because I accept the evidence that suggests as much. For years it was easier to believe otherwise, yet harder to live. I gave up believing in faith and religion so I could start believing in this fully human existence. I accepted the responsibilities and the consequences of making this life meaningful without the need for a means to avoid the fear of death. In so doing, each day can be lived as part of the preparation for dying without a preoccupation for the prevention of death. By living each day, we can remove some of the potential for regret and we can also minimize what would otherwise be a growing need to be compensated for the days that we didn’t live…and which faith and religion have taught us to expect to obtain in an idyllic afterlife. This life is forfeited when it is used to negotiate for an afterlife.

In the end, faith in one’s self and faith in humanity requires courage because the evidence suggests that both are flawed. Perhaps if we accepted as much, faith might become fact and this life might be lived as it should rather than as part of an elaborate self-denial. I think its worth a try…the current approach has proven to be every bit as deadly. Death is a given…life need not be its victim.

Daniel DiRito | August 1, 2006 | 3:00 PM | link | Comments (1)
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