Hip-Gnosis: June 2007: Archives

June 28, 2007

Laura Bush Promotes Faith-Based "Snake Oil" For HIV genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Little Red Ribbon-Hood

Selling Snake Oil

Look, I generally like and respect Laura Bush...and while I would typically refrain from criticizing the First Lady...I have to call her on her latest remarks regarding the faith-based efforts being employed by the Bush administration in the African AIDS initiative. Here's what Laura Bush had to say:

"Religious institutions bring a personal healing touch to the fight against AIDS," Mrs. Bush said, adding that Zambian health caregivers "know very well the healing power of faith."

OK, this may sound callous but when was the last time a person, infected with the HIV virus, experienced a cure as a result of the healing power of faith? Further, the last time I checked, a healing touch does very little to lower a viral load or increase t-cell count...that requires expensive medications.

Now I'm sure the First Lady didn't mean her remarks literally, but it demonstrates the degree to which this administration will go to promote their failed faith-based abstinence initiative...as well as the abject denial they demonstrate in the face of factual evidence that it isn't as effective as sex education and the distribution of condoms.

Canisius Banda, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health, said Zambia placed "great importance to the role of faith-based organizations in ... the fight against HIV and AIDS."

But he said such groups were not always supportive of certain aspects of the U.S.-backed prevention message that focuses on abstinence and faithfulness, along with condom use.

"They are weak on condom usage. They seem to have difficulty with that part of the message," he said. "They are very strong on abstinence as well as being faithful."

Again, this will sound shrill, but if one of the Bush children was infected with HIV, I doubt they would be focused on sending her to see a representative of a religious organization for a serving of "healing touch" and a dose of the "healing power of faith".

One last comment and I will stop. If the Bush family were to switch places with an African family, I doubt George and Laura would be content to tell the twins to abstain from sex (assuming they would have a say in such matters given African culture) and refuse to allow them to have condoms in order to protect themselves should they need to do so.

Faith is not science and abstinence is not the equivalent of contraception and access to antiretroviral medication. If god is watching as we sit in our ivory towers spending limited resources on…and lecturing impoverished Africans about…the power of faith and the need to abstain, I doubt he's preparing a hero's welcome for the pious purveyors of faith based snake oil.

Daniel DiRito | June 28, 2007 | 4:19 PM | link | Comments (0)
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June 27, 2007

Poll: Gays Have Tacit Permission To Be Homosexuals genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Six Degrees of Speculation

Peeping Tom

A new CNN poll suggests that a majority of Americans believe that gays cannot change their sexual preference. I applaud the shifting perspective, though I'm not sure that I can accept that being homosexual requires such an acknowledgment; any more than it would make sense to poll gays to see if they acknowledge that heterosexuals cannot change their sexual preference.

Fifty-six percent of about 515 poll respondents said they do not believe sexual orientation can be changed. In 2001, 45 percent of those responding to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll held that belief. In 1998, according to a CNN/Time poll, the number was 36 percent.

In addition, 42 percent of respondents to the current poll said they believe homosexuality results from upbringing and environment, while 39 percent said they believe it is something a person is born with -- a close division that reflects the national debate over the issue.

However, those numbers are greatly changed from the 1970s and '80s, in which fewer than 20 percent of Americans said a person is born homosexual. In a 1977 poll, the number was 13 percent.

Inherent in such polling is institutionalized prejudice and judgment...a preconceived notion that being gay is somehow open to a vote of acceptance. Such polling begins with the premise that being a homosexual is relevant to heterosexuals. In reality, the reverse is far more accurate since society is predominantly heterosexual and judgment is directed from the heterosexual majority towards the homosexual minority. Therefore, the negative impact of sexual preference is born disproportionately by homosexuals...a construct I find detestable.

When I look at the data, one item stands out in its significance...and while its meaning is the result of my own speculation, I think its worth noting and discussing. Note that 56 percent believe that homosexuals cannot change their orientation and that 39 percent believe that it is something an individual is born with. That discordance (as well as the discordance between those who believe homosexuality results from environment) is meaningful and I contend that it is a measurement of judgment and blame...although it is likely the result of religious doctrine.

Let me explain. If one believes sexual preference cannot be changed, then how would a respondent explain answering these two questions differently? The seventeen percent difference (fourteen percent in the case of those who believe it results from environment) requires an explanation and the obvious one is that the conflict is explained in a belief that homosexuality is chosen rather than a trait one possesses at birth. That leads us back to judgment...a belief that gays aren't willing to change...a state of being that would allow one to conclude that the homosexual is electing to sin and ignoring religious doctrine...making them subject to the condemnation of their heterosexual detractors.

The number may also be a measurement of the conflict some heterosexuals are experiencing between what they believe through experience and/or science, and what their religious beliefs tell them they should think about homosexuality. The good news is that it appears that experience and/or science may be winning the battle...even though the reporting still demonstrates the impact and influence of the religious indoctrination.

One might also conclude that the conscience (a mechanism of fairness) is at work and compelling the disparity...meaning that deep down...despite religious beliefs...these respondents know it is wrong to apply judgment though they can't yet compel themselves to fully discard their learned bias.

I'm hopeful that the perceptions will continue to change. At the same time, I cannot help but find it offensive that the sexuality of some Americans is open to the judgments of the remaining Americans. There's something very creepy about that focus.

Daniel DiRito | June 27, 2007 | 6:33 PM | link | Comments (0)
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June 26, 2007

American Confidence In Organized Religion Drops genre: Hip-Gnosis & Six Degrees of Speculation

Cynicism

Organized religion trails the military, the police, and small business in a new Gallup survey of the confidence Americans have in their major institutions. Religion leads banking by a small margin and it exceeds the presidency, congress, the criminal justice system, and television news by wide margins.

In the last year, those who expressed a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in organized religion dropped a full six percentage points from 52 percent to 46 percent. With almost every institution, confidence was lower in 2007 than in 2006.

From www.beliefnet.com:

Only 46 percent of respondents said they had either a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the church, compared with 69 percent who said they trusted the military and 54 percent who trust police officers.

The figures are among the lowest for institutionalized religion in the three and a half decades that Gallup has conducted the poll. Peaking at 68 percent in May 1975, the numbers bottomed out at 45 percent in June of 2003.

But while confidence is waning for organized religion, the numbers are even bleaker for other American institutions. Just 25 percent expressed confidence in the presidency, while a mere 14 percent say they trust Congress.

Other findings suggest the nation is focused more on political issues than morality issues.

I find the data interesting because it reminds me of something my dad has talked about for a number of years. He points to the popularity of the NFL to make his argument that people generally approve of those institutions that have a clear set of rules that are straightforward and that are enforced with impartiality...or as he explains it, "People are looking for a level playing field" that is easily understood, consistent, and transparent.

If one looks at the military or the police, it has many of the same attributes as the NFL...people know what the rules are, they know that certain people are assigned to carry out those rules, and they have a degree of certainty as to what they can anticipate.

I would suggest that religion is frequently viewed as arbitrary and subject to changing rules offered by those in positions of authority...often handed down with little explanation beyond some assertion that it results from a revised interpretation of doctrine. One might call it the do as I say principle.

Looking at the institutions that scored the lowest...including congress, HMO's, big business, and the criminal justice system, it isn't difficult to understand the lack of confidence. By and large, people believe these institutions lack clarity and a set of defined rules. They believe that these institutions are vulnerable to being manipulated by money and/or power and that they also lack the transparency necessary to fully understand, trust, or appreciate them.

In many ways, the numbers are encouraging because they point out that people are generally law abiding citizens that simply seek a level of equal treatment and equal opportunity. The more American's view an institution to contain these traits, the greater confidence they are willing to demonstrate.

In the end, it may be safe to conclude that people like clarity and detest manipulation...they want to know what they can expect and in return for being afforded that consideration, they won't hesitate to show their loyalty.

In the near term, I would suggest that those politicians hoping to win the favor of a majority of voters in 2008 heed this very simple message and give American's a much needed reason to reevaluate their cynical view of our all too tarnished political system. In the longer term, I anticipate that religious institutions are going to face the very same challenge.

Daniel DiRito | June 26, 2007 | 12:31 PM | link | Comments (0)
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The Fred Phelps Singers: God Hates The World genre: Hip-Gnosis & Six Degrees of Speculation

Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church followers have taken to singing...doing a knock off of the well known ensemble song We Are The World...one they call God Hates The World. Everyone that's anyone in WBC apparently participated in this musical masterpiece...including a child that can't be more than three or four years old.

Anyone that doesn't understand how hate and prejudice exist and how it is perpetuated need only view this little child singing at the end of the video clip. I can't imagine raising one's child in such an environment but the Phelps clan seems perfectly content to indoctrinate the entire Phelps family and all of their offspring.

I've never fully understood the goals of people like Phelps. If they believe that they are in god's good graces, why not take solace in knowing as much? The fact that their actions are vocal and controversial suggests that it isn't enough for them to believe they are right. Perhaps just being right wouldn't pay the bills and give the entire family the ability to travel around the country staging protests at the funerals of gays and soldiers. Apparently being saved isn't enough...they need to raise cash in order to conduct their vile attacks on innocent people.

If their actions are the work of the lord, then I'm afraid I will have to pass on the promise of an eternal afterlife...their god is far too hateful for my taste. On the other hand, the end of life might have a few of its own surprises in store for Phelps and his fanatical flock. I'm happy to let the cards fall where they may...I'm certain I won't be sharing any future accommodations with Fred Phelps.

Daniel DiRito | June 26, 2007 | 10:16 AM | link | Comments (1)
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June 22, 2007

British Teen Petitions High Court To Wear Purity Ring genre: Hip-Gnosis

Daddy's Gold Key

Well there you have it...Christians are being discriminated against because a school in England has refused to allow an exception for a sixteen year old girl to wear her purity ring to school. Maybe I'm insensitive, but it seems to me that the last thing a sixteen year old schoolgirl should be focused upon is a court battle that contends her religious beliefs are being silenced. What kind of parent involves a child in pushing his or her own agenda?

Lydia Playfoot, 16, from West Sussex, says the silver ring is an expression of her faith and should be exempt from the school's rules on wearing jewellery.

"It is really important to me because in the Bible it says we should do this," she told BBC radio. "Muslims are allowed to wear headscarves and other faiths can wear bangles and other types of jewellery. It feels like Christians are being discriminated against."

There have been a series of rows in schools in recent years over the right of pupils to wear religious symbols or clothing, such as crucifixes and veils.

Lydia Playfoot's parents help run the British arm of the American campaign group the Silver Ring Thing, which promotes abstinence among young people.

Members wear a ring on the third finger of the left hand. It is inscribed with "Thess. 4:3-4," a reference to a Biblical passage from Thessalonians which reads: "God wants you to be holy, so you should keep clear of all sexual sin."

Lydia's father, Phil Playfoot, said his daughter's case was part of a wider cultural trend towards Christians being "silenced."

"What I would describe as a secular fundamentalism is coming to the fore, which really wants to silence certain beliefs, and Christian views in particular," he said.

No doubt secular fundamentalists see sixteen year old children as the focal point of their effort to silence religion...please?! What's next...a battle over the sacrificing of lambs on the playground? Frankly, I view parents of this ilk to be one step removed from child abuse. Children endure enough peer pressure and antagonism without having to champion mommy and daddy's causes. I can't imagine the damage they are doing to this young girl.

If you would like to know more about groups like Silver Ring Thing, visit this linked site which discusses Father Daughter Purity Balls...events I would characterize as quasi-incestuous rituals which are akin to dad attaching a chastity belt to his daughter and wearing the key on a chain around his neck...presumably granting him authority over his daughters sexuality because she is incapable of managing her own body.

Note the fact that mommy is apparently out of the loop. I would also note that I've not seen a reciprocal event called Mother Son Purity Balls...but then again, if one endorses a misogynistic society, why would any woman have a say in any mans sexual activity...because as we all know its women who are out of control and chasing men for sex.

Excuse me daddy, but if you need to have your daughter take a purity pledge, just who is it you fear would take away your daughters purity...some other father's son perhaps? Oh, I forgot…we accept that boys will be boys.

UPDATE:

I found some follow up information in another article that I thought was worth passing along:

In the US the organisation [Silver Ring Thing] received more than one million dollars (£500,000) in funding from the Department of Health and Human Services for its work to combat STDs and teenage pregnancies.

It was then taken to court by the American Civil Liberties Union for using federal funds to promote Christianity but the case was dismissed last year.

Whether the abstinence approach actually works is still controversial.

A study by researchers at Columbia and Yale Universities revealed 88% of chastity oath-takers had sex before marriage.

It also found that teenagers who took chastity vows had almost the same rate of STDs as other young people, because they were less likely to practice safe sex if they broke their oath.

But those who had taken the pledge delayed sex by an average of 18 months, married earlier and had fewer partners.

Note the content of the last paragraph. I studied psychology in college...and while I am by no means an expert on human nature...I would love to see data on these marriages in five years as well as the numbers of partners these individuals have in the future.

I suspect that the fact that these individuals married earlier is symptomatic of guilt guiding them to marry rather than break their pledge...and I doubt it leads to healthy marriages. I've also read that many young adults who have had abstinence only education have higher rates of oral sex...indicating that abstinence education may be a temporary deterrent to having sexual intercourse...but it may also lead to an increase in all other forms of sexual activity.

Try as people might to prevent it; sex is a natural human activity that shouldn’t become a pawn in today's culture wars. In the end, the damage being done to these young adults’ remains to be fully understood but I'm willing to bet that history will view this period of "purity pledges and purity balls" more like the Dark Ages than the Renaissance.

Daniel DiRito | June 22, 2007 | 10:14 AM | link | Comments (2)
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BBC - Atheism: A Rough History Of Disbelief 3: 4 - 6 genre: Hip-Gnosis

This is the sixth and final part in a Thought Theater series that replays the BBC three episode documentary, Atheism: A Rough History Of Disbelief. The fifth part can be found here, the fourth part can be found here, the third part can be found here, the second part can be found here, and the first part can be found here along with my own thoughts on the subject and the objections that were voiced when PBS decided to air the documentary on American television.

Episode Three - Part Four

Episode Three - Part Five

Episode Three - Part Six

Daniel DiRito | June 22, 2007 | 9:53 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 21, 2007

Senate Committee Cuts Abstinence Funds genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis

Birds And Bees

In a move that is consistent with recent studies, a Senate committee voted to cut funding for controversial abstinence only education which has not proven to be effective. The committee also voted to increase funding for the Ryan White CARE Act.

A Senate Appropriations Subcommittee has cut next year’s budget for controversial programmes that teach abstinence as the only way to practice safe sex.

The programmes have been found to routinely teach medically inaccurate information about contraception and HIV/AIDS and mandate teaching that sex outside of a heterosexual marriage "is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects."

In April 2007, the Department of Health and Human Services released a federally funded report conducted by Mathematica Policy Research Inc. that found that these programmes have no impact.

Youth who participated in them showed no difference in either the age they first had sex or in the number of partners from those who had not participated in an abstinence-only until marriage programmes.

The Senate committee also provides $31 million in additional funding for the Ryan White CARE Act, including $25 million for the AIDS Drug Assistance Programme.

The Ryan White CARE Act has suffered in recent years under the direction of the GOP controlled congress and with the insistence on funding abstinence programs by the Bush administration. Faith based groups with little prior experience in sex education and AIDS prevention have taken the lead in many of these programs...often leaving longstanding organizations struggling to maintain important programs with successful results.

Abstinence only programs are also a requirement attached to the Presidents African AIDS initiative. Under that program, a third of all prevention funding is required to be spent on abstinence only programs. As with the U.S. based programs, these programs have not been effective in combating the spread of HIV.

The most recent statistics on combating the spread of AIDS in Africa offer a grim assessment. For every South African initiating lifesaving medications last year, five others were infected with the disease.

Despite President Bush's recent announcement to expand funding to 30 billion dollars, the disease continues to have the upper hand. Hopefully money spent on abstinence programs can soon be directed into other efforts to combat HIV.

Daniel DiRito | June 21, 2007 | 6:49 PM | link | Comments (0)
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U.S. Politics: Time To Reject Religious Litmus Tests? genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Religious Litmus Test

The notion of a litmus test has long been associated with politics. Strangely, when asked if they employ such a methodology, the vast majority of politicians vehemently deny that they would bring any such bias to their position as a public servant.

On the other hand, voters tend to display their litmus standards as a badge of honor and a measure of conviction. We've all heard the proclamations..."I won't vote for a pro-choice candidate"..."I can't endorse a candidate that supports gay marriage"...and so on. Rationally speaking, the fact that politicians and voters approach the notion of litmus tests so differently defies logic and makes little sense.

Other contradictions abound...but I would like to focus on the litmus test that I believe has done more to paralyze our objectivity and to polarize our political process than any in recent memory. It’s the litmus test of religion...which includes the requirement by many voters that elected officials embrace religion or faith and act in accordance with a specific set of beliefs...as well as the acceptance that politicians need to be coy about their litmus standards to maintain a broader appeal in order to be elected.

Over time, the litmus test mentality continues to evolve to include ever more specific measurements. It isn't enough for a candidate to espouse a religious affiliation...one's particular affiliation and one’s adherence to the prescribed values is now a matter of review and it may serve to nullify one's consideration as a viable candidate for some portion of the electorate. Case in point...Mitt Romney's Mormonism.

Gathering for their April meeting at the county courthouse, Republican activists from Warren County, Iowa, planned for this summer's county fair and vented about illegal immigration.

And then the county chairman for Senator John McCain's presidential campaign, Chad Workman, made an unexpected digression: He took direct aim at Mitt Romney's religion, according to four people at the meeting.

Workman questioned whether Mormons were Christians, discussed an article alleging that the Mormon Church helps fund Hamas, and likened the Mormons' treatment of women to the Taliban's, said participants, who requested anonymity to discuss the meeting freely.

One participant summed up Workman's argument this way: "The fundamental flaw of Mitt Romney…was that he was Mormon, not because he thinks this way or that way on one issue."

The most recent example came to light earlier this week when the Washington Post reported that Emma Nemecek, an Iowa field operative for Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, had recently forwarded an e-mail to Iowa Republicans containing a number of criticisms of Mormonism, including a charge that it is not a Christian faith. The e-mail closed with a quote from a Founding Father, John Jay: "Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers."

The campaign of former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani was forced to make a similar apology this month after The New York Sun reported that Katie Harbath, Giuliani's deputy e-campaign director, had forwarded to a blogger a story in The Salt Lake Tribune linking Romney to an unofficial Mormon prophecy that a leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would one day save the Constitution. "Thought you'd find this interesting," Harbath wrote to the blogger, the Sun reported.

Romney has faced repeated slights against his religion from other quarters as well. A Florida televangelist, Bill Keller, told followers recently that a vote for Romney is a vote for Satan. And a small group of worshipers from the Faith Christian Outreach Church in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, has been going door-to-door distributing a DVD that takes a critical look at the Mormon Church.

"Our concern was simply that Mormonism has continued to try and pass itself off as a Christian religion, which it is not," said Monte Knudsen, senior pastor at the church, who insisted the effort was not aimed at hurting Romney's candidacy.

"In some ways, [Romney's candidacy] is the best test of whether Americans have really put some of the old religious differences aside," said Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College. "And my guess is that they haven't."

Its worth noting that each time a campaign operative has called a candidates religion into question, the candidate who employs that operative has issued an apology as well as a statement that the personal faith of their opponent should not be an issue. The obvious question is whether these attacks...which are frequently described as lapses in judgment...are actually part of a strategy to manipulate the well known bias that exists within the electorate? While we've all heard the expression "accidents happen", my suspicious nature doubts that, when it comes to politics, they happen all that often.

Look, the bottom line is that Romney served as Governor of the state of Massachusetts...and he seems to have conducted himself in an acceptable manner (my personal political preferences aside). I'm just not sure what threat he poses to his fellow Americans...and if he does in fact pose a threat as a direct result of his faith, what is that threat? If he isn’t a threat, what does the belief that a threat exists tell us about this country?

Let me attempt to answer my own questions. I don’t believe Romney’s faith presents anymore of a threat than Rudy Giuliani’s failure to adhere to the precepts of his faith (his divorces are presumably breeches of Catholicism). The threat comes from those who believe that one faith ought to trump all others, that seek to impose their particular faith upon others, and that believe they are imbued with the god given mandate to pursue both.

I would argue that it is incumbent upon politicians to be neutral with regards to the application of any one particular faith. A glance at the sectarian violence in Iraq ought to suffice to demonstrate what happens when religious groups are determined to make their particular beliefs the law of the land. There are numerous other examples.

To a lesser degree, our current president is an example of the dangers and risks associated with a narrow ideology and a belief that a particular belief set ought to be institutionalized. At some point, adamant proponents of differing ideologies determine that the state is illegitimate and that subverting or overthrowing the state is consistent with one’s religious tenets…and in the extreme…that doing so is the justifiable will of god.

What remains to be seen is whether we can step back from this dangerous trend and revisit the guidance of our founding fathers…guidance that sought to prevent the victimization of different faiths while establishing a government that would be tolerant of diverse beliefs but guided by a bill of rights that remained ideologically impartial…though institutionally equitable.

Far too many Americans endorse the misconception that the United States is a nation guided by a specific vision of Biblical law…and that our constitution and our legal system must adhere to one interpretation of that law. On the contrary, America was founded to avoid the pitfalls of that very notion. In fact, our existence emanates from a rejection of that very construct.

We are a nation that sought to judge its inhabitants by their commitment to fair and equitable treatment…by their willingness to allow alternate beliefs so long as they would adhere to the notion that each of us is entitled to humane treatment.

Goodness is not measured by affiliation…goodness is an individual action; not an act of admonition by one individual or one group towards another. Goodness is a choice that is mindful of the sanctity of humanity…even when that humanity may hold beliefs that do not comport with our own. Goodness is not the domain of one faith…it is not unique to one set of beliefs.

A religious litmus test is not a test of goodness…it is a demand for compliance…it is a rejection of difference…but once applied it is also an egregious application of bias…it is a judgment we are not entitled to make…and when we do make that judgment, we ridicule those who sought to rid us of such bias; wise men that century's prior had the foresight to understand the risks that come with demands for ideological compliance.

Isn't it time that voters and politicians recommit themselves to an honest dialogue, an acceptance of differences, and an awareness and willingness to see beyond them in order to move forward? If not, where and when will the inevitable and torturous machinations cease?

Image courtesy of www.thelitmustest.org

Daniel DiRito | June 21, 2007 | 10:24 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 20, 2007

GWB: The Flaws Of A Faith Based Presidency genre: Hip-Gnosis & Little Red Ribbon-Hood

Dining At The Blind Faith Cafe

I accept the fact that the President is opposed to embryonic stem cell research on the basis of moral and ethical considerations. At the same time, I'm not sure his role as president is to apply his own particular religious beliefs when considering whether to fund of efforts intended to provide hope to those in need of medical breakthroughs.

On Wednesday, the president is expected to veto the most recent bill that would expand funding for embryonic stem cell research...funding that is favored by a wide majority of voters.
The New York Times is reporting that the President intends to announce his own initiative to promote research into regenerative medicine...a move that will likely be viewed as an effort to offset the criticism that will be leveled at the president.

In interviews on Tuesday, two senior administration officials said Mr. Bush would direct his health and human services secretary to promote research into producing cells with properties akin to those of human embryonic stem cells, without destroying embryos in the process. Mr. Bush has said embryo destruction is a moral line that he will not cross.

The officials said Mr. Bush wanted the National Institutes of Health to capitalize on recent scientific advances, including a study published this month involving skin cells in mice, that had the potential to sidestep the ethical controversies surrounding embryonic stem cell experiments. The White House has been consulting with scientists in recent weeks on the plan, they said.

But the effort appears largely symbolic — there is no money attached — and some scientists were instantly skeptical. Two leading stem cell researchers, interviewed Tuesday evening, said the recent work was no substitute for embryonic stem cell research. One, Douglas A. Melton of Harvard University, said he had become aware recently that the White House was trying to reach out to some of his colleagues who are pursuing the skin cell research, which has not been replicated in humans.

“It should be pursued just as actively as we pursue human embryonic stem cell research," Dr. Melton said of the recent studies. “I’m not trying to say there’s nothing to this," he continued, “but it doesn’t need any special attention from the White House. All we’ve ever asked is let human embryonic stem cell research vie for public funding like all other research."

The officials said the White House was particularly encouraged by several new avenues of research, including studies involving stem cells obtained from amniotic fluid, and efforts to extract stem cells from embryos that had been declared “clinically dead."

“It is not an alternative for embryonic stem cell research, because some of these alternative procedures still have ethical issues associated with them," Dr. Gearhart said, adding, “Who is the god that says the embryo is dead?"

Let me be the first to answer Dr. Gearhart's question...George W. Bush...of course. You see, that is the very problem when politicians believe it is their mandate to apply religious doctrine...just who draws the lines and where are those lines to be drawn? If we can't trust the scientific community to act with appropriate caution...caution that weighs the potential to improve the health of millions against the costs to implement those improvements, should we be content to simply follow the belief system of the then sitting president?

What if a president decides to only fund research conducted by faith based scientists? This president has already attached a requirement to its African AIDS initiative that requires that a third of all prevention spending must promote abstinence only...a method of prevention that has already been proven to be inferior to sex education and the distribution of condoms.

Perhaps my example is extreme, but is it hard to imagine that the NIH or the CDC, under the direction of a president and his appointees, might attach similar ethical considerations when funding other scientific initiatives? What if a president determined that bad behavior ought not receive research funding and cut spending on lung cancer caused by smoking or liver disease caused by excessive drinking or diabetes caused by obesity? Hey, it’s not that big of a stretch; they've already made a statement of moral judgment with regards to HIV in Africa.

Don't get me wrong, I applaud the President's initiative as I think we ought to spend more on scientific research as opposed to billions on failed efforts to export democracy. However, the preceding statement only serves to further illuminate my concern that elected officials should not apply their own moral judgments.

The notion that bringing democracy to Iraq would solve their longstanding sectarian conflicts and our concerns about terrorism was not only naive; it sought to replace one belief system with another...and in doing so, the president, in effect characterized one set of religious beliefs as evil.

I don't doubt that George Bush is a man of faith. However, the myopic view created by his adherence to his particular brand of faith has made him a president for some of the people...a world leader that prefers to dictate rather than negotiate...and a man who is ultimately ill-suited for the complexities that accompany the constitutionally defined role of president.

In the end, we're left to hope that those in need of medical breakthroughs and the rest of the world can hold it together long enough for us to elect a replacement that is worthy and wise.

Image courtesy of www.blindfaithcafe.com

Daniel DiRito | June 20, 2007 | 10:49 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 18, 2007

Evangelicals Respond To Trojan Condom Ad genre: Hip-Gnosis & Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Tongue-In-Cheek

So the bottom line must be that contraception and contraception products promote sex for pleasure...which makes the new Trojan Condom ad campaign off limits for Fox and CBS. The networks are apparently only willing to air condom commercials that have disease prevention as the theme, and not those with a message aimed at pregnancy prevention.

The new ad campaign is called "Evolve" and the message is to use a condom every time. The problem arises from the setting and the storyline for the campaign. The ad takes place in a bar and uses pigs to depict men looking to connect with women. Once the pig purchases a condom from a vending machine in the bathroom, it is transformed into an attractive male who draws the attention of the woman seated at the bar. You can view the ad here.

From The New York Times:

Representatives for both Fox and CBS confirmed that they had refused the ads, but declined to comment further.

In a written response to Trojan, though, Fox said that it had rejected the spot because, “Contraceptive advertising must stress health-related uses rather than the prevention of pregnancy."

In its rejection, CBS wrote, “while we understand and appreciate the humor of this creative, we do not find it appropriate for our network even with late-night-only restrictions."

“It’s so hypocritical for any network in this culture to go all puritanical on the subject of condom use when their programming is so salacious," said Mark Crispin Miller, a media critic who teaches at New York University. “I mean, let’s get real here. Fox and CBS and all of them are in the business of nonstop soft porn, but God forbid we should use a condom in the pursuit of sexual pleasure."

“With a 75 percent share of the market, we can prioritize growing the category and increasing overall condom usage," Mr. Daniels [Vice President for Marketing] said. “Right now in the U.S. only one in four sex acts involves using a condom. That’s dramatically below usage rates in other developed countries. Our goal is to dramatically increase use."

“The ‘Evolve’ ad does a nice job of being humorous, but it’s also a serious call to action," Mr. Daniels said. “The pigs are a symbol of irresponsible sexual behavior, and are juxtaposed with the condom as a responsible symbol of respect for oneself and one’s partner."

The industry typically tries to reach men, but this campaign’s ads are running in Cosmopolitan and Glamour. Trojan sees growth potential in women customers, who make only 30 percent of condom purchases.

___________________________________________________

To say that the mentality at Fox and CBS is archaic would be a kind characterization. Its common knowledge that a large share of television advertising and programming uses sex as a draw…a fact that clearly illuminates the hypocrisy of these networks. Apparently the rationale suggests that one simply cannot focus on measures that could protect one from sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, or being forced to confront the possibility of an abortion…if they remotely suggest that people willfully engage in sex for pleasure.

The fact that 75 percent of all sexual acts performed in the United States take place without the use of a condom is beyond the realm of rationality. Anyone that believes that the extinguishing of sex for pleasure will eventually be the accepted moral directive and that abstinence will eventually transform the sexual practices of the nation and the world is living in denial. It just isn't going to happen.

A number of months back, Thought Theater posted a video clip of a safe sex advertisement that ran on French television...an ad that wouldn't have a chance of airing on U.S. television.

When confronted with irrationality, it seems that I often turn to humor. Perhaps it helps diffuse the frustration. Regardless, a little laughter never hurts. The following is my own satirical tongue-in-cheek visual of an ad campaign that would stand a good chance of airing on CBS and Fox.

Devolve...Pray For A Miracle Every Time

Evangelical Brand Products

Daniel DiRito | June 18, 2007 | 3:31 PM | link | Comments (0)
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June 17, 2007

Fred "Outta His Mind" Phelps On Surgeon General, Gays genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis

Fred Phelps, the ass that keeps on giving...is at it again. This time he rails against the powerful gay movement and the fact that they are opposed to the nomination of James Holsinger to be the new Surgeon General. Phelps is a bit comical (if one can say as much) in his ranting at the power gays have in the United States. If you believe his rhetoric,, gays virtually run the government and make all the decisions.

If that's true, then why in the hell haven't we sent Phelps and his flock away for some much needed reprogramming? The bottom line is that Phelps and his family have made a handsome living off of their vile diatribes of hatred.

H/T to Pam's House Blend

Daniel DiRito | June 17, 2007 | 1:25 PM | link | Comments (0)
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June 15, 2007

Around The Net: A Contemplation On "Isms" genre: Hip-Gnosis & Six Degrees of Speculation

Thoughts On Isms

Jonah Goldberg has an interesting article posted in “the corner" on the National Review Online. His article is actually a discussion of points raised in other articles. The first is called Religion And The Threat Effect by Paul Waldman at The American Prospect. The second, appearing in The Atlantic, is titled Crisis Of Faith, and it was written by Ross Douthat. Douthat also elaborates further in his blog here.

Waldman seeks an understanding of the state of secularism…particularly its relationship and interaction with the evangelical movement. He wonders whether the geographic proximity of these distinct groups will lead followers of both to even further entrenchment…including a shift by secularists to become a defined and cohesive movement intent on enacting their own agenda in the political arena.

Douthat argues that secularism is the up and coming newcomer in the political arena and that it will set the tone and provide significant influence for the next decade. He draws some historical comparisons and suggests that the new secularism may be more hostile and more focused on extinguishing religion…or at least removing its influence over politics.

Goldberg moves the argument forward (or backwards depending on one’s particular bent) to include a suggestion that secularism is actually the successor to the failed experiment called Marxism or communism. He posits that the death of the isms may have put a damper on the very vocal anti-god sentiment that typified the movement…leaving in its wake a more palpable remnant called secularism.

Each argument brings its own particular focus and each has merit. My objective is to draw some different connections which certainly might impact the conclusions one may choose. There is a general assumption that secularism still rejects religion…at least as a player in the political process. If it doesn’t necessarily seek to end religion…it no doubt seeks to separate it from its propensity to pursue the institutionalization of its belief system.

I’ll stipulate to Goldberg’s conclusion that today’s iteration of secularism may have separated itself from the perception that communism was virulently anti-god. However, I think an argument can be made that while its communist voice struck a decidedly anti-god tone, Marxism was actually, at its core, first and foremost anti-religion. Let me be clear…I’m not seeking to dig up either in order to give them new luster…I am simply attempting to sort essence from echo.

While the impression remains that these isms primarily sought to eviscerate god; if one actually reduces them to their basic underlying components, a new picture emerges. I’ve identified three components. One is an understanding of the philosophical premise and the suggested societal manifestations that were the essence of Marxism. A second one is the players who eventually interpreted and imposed their understanding of communism or Marxism, and the final one is the historical record that explains and delineates both.

Absent a cogent dissection and delineation of the two former components, the degree to which the latter element (the reporting) can be viewed as definitive remains in question. No doubt I’ll be viewed to be treading on thin ice…but I proceed unfettered. I contend that there are, in actuality, only two plausible characterizations of the historical record. One concludes that the effort and ability to understand the distinction between the two primary components is thin…and the other…the one which I hypothesize is the more plausible characterization…concludes that the effort and intention to provide the distinction between the two primary components is thin.

While that contention may appear to impugn far more noted scholars, let me suggest that all history has an element of subjective interpretation. In drawing the above conclusion, I am simply offering my own alternate analysis in order to expand the arena and the dialogue.

It is said that art imitates life…and in that notion, our written and oral history becomes an artists rendition of events…albeit supported by far more depth than the thickness of a canvas…yet no less only a single dimensional representation of what can no longer be viewed as the original body of evidence…leaving our images relegated to our ability to act out…as if in a play…our impression of yesteryear’s actual performance.

A near perfect segue. A couple years ago I saw a play in Denver called Marx in Soho by historian Howard Zinn. The premise of the play is that Marx has come back for one day to defend himself and his theories. The following is a summation of the play from Westword, a Denver publication:

He is not a Marxist, this Marx insists, going on to condemn the power-mad thugs who terrorized Russia and China in his name. He describes his belief system as essentially humanistic, a blueprint for a classless society in which everyone is free of want and able to develop fully as human beings.

On the other hand, the critique of capitalism is spot-on, since capitalism, too, carries within itself the seeds of its own corruption. "I predicted that capitalism would increase the wealth of society, but this wealth would be concentrated in fewer and fewer hands," Marx says, describing the America we know with absolute precision. When he talks about the manipulation of patriotism to make people "forget their misery" and thunders against capitalism's tendency to commoditize everything, including art and human individuality, it's hard not to stand up and cheer.

Although Marxism contended with capitalism for dominance and legitimacy over much of the twentieth century, few Americans know anything but a cartoon version of it; Marx in Soho is an excellent antidote to this ignorance.

Now the sacrilege. If one sought to find another historical character with a defined doctrine that best approximated the essence of Marxism…as it was intended to impact our collective human condition…I would contend one would choose Jesus. Allow me to elaborate before condemning me to hell.

The story of Jesus is the story of a social critic who dissected the fallacies and hypocrisies that permeated the then existing societal construct and their impact upon the human experience. Granted, Jesus never denounced the notion of god…though he did reject much of established religion’s efforts to interpret and implement gods will. Setting aside the obvious contrast…meaning the fact that Jesus embraced god and Marx embraced atheism…their shared lack of convention and their mutual identification as rebellious outsiders is palpable. Additionally, they also embraced similar visions with regard to endorsing equitable human treatment.

If one were to analyze the secular agenda, it maintains many of the same precepts that Jesus endorsed and promoted. It also maintains the rejection of established religion that both Jesus and Marx demonstrated…though it more closely approximates Marxism with regard to its rejection of a deity. Notwithstanding, the agenda is also predicated upon a value system that can be closely equated with the message of Jesus…a message focused on fostering the dignity of every individual in order to elevate the whole of humanity.

With that said, one can argue that communism and secularism have always maintained a connection to a world view consistent with the principals of Jesus. Semantically, by virtue of their own self-reported rejection of a deity, communists and secularists have been viewed synonymously with all things anti-Christ. Regardless, one would be hard pressed to provide a tangible measure of that notion…which supports the alternate conclusion that goodness is not the exclusive domain of religion and allegiance to religion does not necessarily indicate proximity to Christian living.

In the end, the clash between secularists and evangelicals…while portrayed as a battle to prove the existence or denial of a deity…is really a struggle to identify the most appropriate manner in which we humans choose to interact with our counterparts. What that means for the future is that it will become increasingly difficult for evangelicals to hold the moral high ground when challenged to explain the fundamental blocks upon which it has been built.

The harsh tenor found in recent secularist publications is a measure of the degree to which secular society has decided that it will no longer sit back and allow evangelicals to witness to values and platitudes that are little more than hypocrisy hailed as holiness. The period of time since the rise and fall of communism has simply been the time it has taken secularists to rid themselves of the doubt and guilt that was heaped upon them…and that they foolishly accepted.

Secularists have reconnected with and reclaimed the principles that long ago led them to reject the institution of religion. The presentation of the debate as a battle between believers and non-believers will no longer prevail. The defining battle will be a struggle to determine which group is authentic in living values that enhance the human condition and which group has used the proclamation of values to dictate the human condition. A day of reckoning approaches…it is a day when nothing short of sanctifying humanity will suffice.

Image courtesy of www.ithaca.edu

Daniel DiRito | June 15, 2007 | 9:24 PM | link | Comments (1)
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Icebergs And Identities: What Lies Beneath? genre: Hip-Gnosis & Nouveau Thoughts & Six Degrees of Speculation & Uncivil Unions

What Lies Beneath

We often hear the expression, "That's just the tip of the iceberg". The good news is that our familiarity with that terminology has probably prevented a few maritime collisions. The bad news is that the principal holds true for numerous other life situations...situations that go unnoticed or ignored because we really don't want to understand the depth and breadth of the issues we encounter and exactly what they might tell us about our choices, our beliefs, and our identities.

Let me ease into the topic with a story my dad has told for a number of years. My dad and my uncle were business partners for all of their working lives. At different points along the way, they entered into partnerships with other individuals. This particular story is about one of those partners...I'll call him John.

John was married when the partnership began but there were lingering questions about John's propensity to have outside interests. Eventually, John and his wife divorced and over the next few years he dated a number of different women...enough to catch my dad's attention. My dad, my uncle, and John spent a lot of time together discussing the business...which as we all know allows one an opportunity to see how people behave...to learn about their idiosyncrasies.

As the three of them were out and about, my dad and my uncle were always comfortable noticing and pointing out an attractive woman. As my dad says, "What's wrong with acknowledging what you see and what you think?" In other words, a pretty woman is a pretty woman...and noticing that reality is normal. John, on the other hand, never noticed or acknowledged an attractive woman. It was as if they didn't exist...never saw them, never gonna see them.

So I recall many nights when my dad would joke about the fact that John seemed to always have a new woman sitting next to him in his car...and my dad would ask, "If he never sees or acknowledges an attractive woman, how is that he always has a new girlfriend?" Of course he always answered his own rhetorical question...John had learned to lead two lives...the one he wanted everyone to see and the one he actually preferred...and he lived those two lives while he was married and while he wasn't. Somewhere in John's identity, he needed others to see him as a good family man...even if he couldn't actually live that life.

In the end, my dad's conclusion was that it is unhealthy to deny human nature...people are sexual beings that notice what they find attractive. If you accept that reality and make your choices mindful of that aspect of your human nature, you'll be able to make good choices...because you will better understand yourself. If you deny that reality, you will always be in the throes of a deceitful internal battle and your choices will lack clarity and your actions will betray the outward persona you present. Thus, you end up fooling yourself...perhaps the worst transgression one can commit.

I was reminded of icebergs and John's story while surfing the internet this morning. I came across an article discussing an organization called XXXChurch.com, a religious based group intended to help Christian men come to grips with their obsession with pornography.

Brian McGinness had an insatiable appetite for porn. Day after day, for more than eight years, he spent countless hours surfing the Web for it, usually on a computer that he used after business hours at his old job.

Because of his compulsion to view pornography, McGinness spent more time away from home, so he lied to his wife about having to work overtime in the evenings. He felt guilty about what he was doing, believing that it was morally wrong and knowing that it was keeping him from his spouse and their two young children. But he also felt unable to control himself.

All that started to change one Saturday morning in December after he attended a breakfast of "Porn and Pancakes" organized by XXXChurch.com, an online ministry created to get Christians talking about their X-rated addictions.

The December event attracted more than 500 men to Ada Bible Church, which McGinness attends. They ate pancakes and sausage while discussing how pornography had harmed their lives, including their relationships with God and their families.

Craig Gross, a pastor with XXXChurch.com, refers to the widespread use of porn as "the elephant in the pew" that many churches ignored for years because they didn't know how to deal with it.

First, I commend Gross and his organization for having the ability and the integrity to expose and address the issue. At the same time, I'm not surprised that the problem exists. One need only recall the many high profile ministers that have fallen from grace as a result of sexual indiscretions...the type of indiscretions that were often the subject of their sermons and that I would suggest result from this concept of dual identity.

Here's the equation. Religious beliefs often focus on sin and sex...virtually portraying sex as sin and creating an environment whereby one's proximity to god is premised on one's denial of sexual reality. Good men are family oriented, have sexual desires for only one woman...desires that are believed to exist in order to create Christian families...which are to become testaments to the established doctrine. Sex is packaged into a tidy formula and acting outside that formula is viewed as a betrayal of one's faith...a formula I believe to be both unrealistic and unhealthy.

Freud described the concept of identity as a tube of toothpaste. If one allows one's identity to flow from the tube naturally by removing the cap, then the identity functions as it should. If one puts a cap on the tube and applies pressure, toothpaste will find weak points from which to escape...toothpaste being the dark corners of our unhealthy and unexplored identity that become pathology (bad behavior). I think the model explains the issue of porn addiction or obsession in these Christian men. Doctrine becomes the cap that places an inordinate amount of pressure on the capped identity...and in due time it escapes in unhealthy ways.

Let me be clear. I am not suggesting that pornography is sinful or evil (Isn't it actually just visual images of our sexuality?). The state of mind one brings to the viewing of pornography is the issue. We watch people act out other elements of human nature in movies and on television all the time and we're still able to use good judgment about our behaviors. Watching pornography needn't be any different so long as one hasn't given it far more power than it actually possesses.

I think it’s akin to the way alcohol consumption is addressed in the United States as opposed to Europe. In our Italian family, having a glass of wine wasn't just reserved for those over the age of 21...we were allowed to drink wine as children (in moderation) and it never became an obsession brought about by an archaic notion of denial.

We don't give children the keys to the car the minute they turn 16...we spend time teaching them how to drive and giving them an opportunity to gain some experience. Does it make sense to forbid a child to taste alcohol before they turn 21 and then turn them loose to drink all they can consume? Is sex any different? Does it make sense to tell children not to partake of this great thing...until we tell you its time...and then Katie bar the door?

I'm not suggesting parents ought to encourage their children to have sex...but I am suggesting that the model of denial is nothing more than the predecessor of an unhealthy perspective that is likely to haunt the individual well into adulthood if not indefinitely. Connecting sex with loving relationships ought to be a parent's focus because it will provide the proper motivation and avoid instilling a cookie jar binge mentality. We should rethink the current construct and I would suggest that an unhealthy obsession with pornography supports that argument.

"We're not going to shut down the porn industry," Gross said. "So, why even try? It's a $13 billion-dollar-a-year industry in the United States.

"The right-wingers say, 'Let's boycott this, let's all stop doing this.' Well, if the Christians would just stop consuming it, that would put a dent in it. To me, they (in the porn industry) have a right to do what they do."

McGinness, who has been married for more than 10 years and has children ages 8 and 3, said he is not ashamed of talking publicly about his former problem because he hopes to help others by doing so.

"I want other people out there to know there is a way to get away from this."

Look, sexuality is not extinguishable...but having healthy thoughts about sexuality is achievable. I agree with McGinness that banning porn isn't the answer. Unfortunately, the goal of XXXChurch is to extinguish the interest in pornography amongst Christians by reasserting the importance of religious doctrine and family values. I don't begrudge his efforts though I doubt it provides a lasting solution. It may, in the short term, diminish the obsession...but until the underlying realities of sexuality are addressed in a proactive and positive manner without the attachment of sin and judgment, there will no doubt be more Ted Haggard’s and more money spent on pornography.

An iceberg is not only what is visible, but it is also what exists beneath the surface. Life is no different. We can elect to only address that which is visible and on the surface or we can accept and embrace that which exists just beyond our view. When we choose to ignore the whole of our human identity, we run the risk of being torn apart by that which lurks below. We need not steer clear of who we are...the whole of our essence must be acknowledged and accepted.

If we turn and run, then the weight of what lies beneath will become an albatross around our necks and pull what little remains of our authenticity and awareness into the dark abyss of self-deceit. If we embrace our totality, it will be the ballast that allows us to endure the rough waters that lie ahead...but most importantly, it will be the anchor that firmly fastens us to the whole of our wondrous human identity.

Image courtesy of www.shiftingbaselines.org

Daniel DiRito | June 15, 2007 | 9:52 AM | link | Comments (2)
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BBC - Atheism: A Rough History Of Disbelief 3: 1 - 3 genre: Hip-Gnosis

This is the fifth in a six part Thought Theater series that replays the BBC three episode documentary, Atheism: A Rough History Of Disbelief. The fourth part can be found here, the third part can be found here, the second part can be found here, and the first part can be found here along with my own thoughts on the subject and the objections that were voiced when PBS decided to air the documentary on American television.

Episode Three - Part One

Episode Three - Part Two

Episode Three - Part Three

Daniel DiRito | June 15, 2007 | 7:50 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 13, 2007

A Religion Salad: As Easy As Mixing Oil And Water? genre: Hip-Gnosis

Like oil and water

A conference to be held in New York on Thursday will release a report detailing the common ingredients of religious fanaticism. The goal of the conference is not to negatively portray religious groups but to begin a process of determining what needs to be done to diffuse the mechanisms that lead to extremist ideologies. My own opinion is that they are undertaking a most ambitious endeavor...but someone has to do the dirty work, eh?

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Violent Muslim, Christian and Jewish extremists invoke the same rhetoric of "good" and "evil" and the best way to fight them is to tackle the problems that drive people to extremism, according to a report obtained by Reuters.

It said extremists from each of the three faiths often have tangible grievances -- social, economic or political -- but they invoke religion to recruit followers and to justify breaking the law, including killing civilians and members of their own faith.

The report was commissioned by security think tank EastWest Institute ahead of a conference on Thursday in New York titled "Towards a Common Response: New Thinking Against Violent Extremism and Radicalization." The report will be updated and published after the conference.

The authors compared ideologies, recruitment tactics and responses to violent religious extremists in three places -- Muslims in Britain, Jews in Israel and Christians in the United States.

"What is striking ... is the similarity of the worldview and the rationale for violence," the report said.

The report said it was important to examine the root causes of violence by those of different faiths, without prejudice.

"It is, in each situation, a case of 'us' versus 'them,"' it said. "That God did not intend for civilization to take its current shape; and that the state had failed the righteous and genuine members of that nation, and therefore God's law supersedes man's law."

I find it fascinating that most of these groups cite a specific document as the absolute proof of their own particular "truths"...and they then proceed from their to justify their actions and to demonize those who are viewed as opponents or obstacles to procuring the world they envision.

"Extremists should never be dismissed simply as evil," said the report. "Trying to engage in a competition with religious extremists over who can offer a simpler answer to complex problems will be a losing proposition every time."

She [Jessica Stern - Harvard] said it was dangerous for U.S. President George W. Bush to use terms such as "crusade" or "ridding the world of evil."

"It really is falling into the same trap that these terrorists fall into, black and white thinking," Stern told Reuters on Wednesday. "It's very exciting to extremists to hear an American president talking that way."

Stern said to compare violent extremists from the three faiths was not to suggest that the threat was the same.

Conference organizers say their aim is to develop a nonpartisan strategy to combat religious extremism.

Always referencing my psychology background, I view the black and white thinking as an adjunct to the theory of "Terror Management"...a concept that suggests people struggle to manage the fear of their pending mortality. The best solution to the terror of death is to believe in a specific process that is attached to dying. The more absolute the beliefs: the more anxiety that can be relieved.

In simpler terms, we're all looking to apply reasons to our otherwise random world. When someone is stricken with cancer at an early age, we want an explanation that is palatable...maybe god had another plan for that person or maybe their death was intended to bring the survivor to a new life path (maybe its raising funds to defeat cancer).

Religion is perhaps the single most effective mechanism to give meaning to events we can't understand, explain, or accept. If necessity is the mother of invention, then faith is the essential glue that allows so many of us mortals to bond so tightly with our chosen religious doctrine.

I find great irony in the fact that all religions believe in a higher power...a god of some sort...yet blending these seemingly harmonious beliefs under one roof (one set of beliefs) is akin to mixing oil and water. One might conclude that salad is rarely, if ever, going to be served.

Image courtesy of worth1000.com

Daniel DiRito | June 13, 2007 | 5:16 PM | link | Comments (0)
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June 11, 2007

Ex-Gay's Call Gays Bigots - That Boat Won't Float genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Little Red Ribbon-Hood

Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX), an organization opposed to homosexuality...and a copycat of PFLAG, an organization that supports the LGBT community...has voiced its support of President Bush's nominee for Surgeon General, James Holsinger. Holsinger has been involved with...

Daniel DiRito | June 11, 2007 | 9:25 PM | link | Comments (0)
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The Evolution Of The GOP genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Tongue-In-Cheek

Typically we view the passage of time to be commensurate with enlightenment and knowledge...and the advances we have seen in science, technology, medicine, and countless other areas over the centuries are a testament to man's capacity for growth. Unfortunately, we...

Daniel DiRito | June 11, 2007 | 1:46 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Dr. X - Bush To Pope: "Go Stick It" genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Gifts are fascinating things to psychoanalysts. An analyst does not accept a gift from an analysand without giving careful consideration to the possible meanings of a gift to the gift-giver. Like the dreams and stories recounted by the analysand during...

Dr. X | June 11, 2007 | 11:39 AM | link | Comments (2)
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Sen. Brownback: On Managing Mommy's Uterus genre: Hip-Gnosis & Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Kansas Senator and GOP presidential candidate, Sam Brownback not only opposes a woman’s right to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy, he believes that if a man rapes a woman, she should still not be permitted to have an...

Daniel DiRito | June 11, 2007 | 9:29 AM | link | Comments (4)
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June 10, 2007

Watergate Figure Calls Islam Evil & Atheism A Threat genre: Hip-Gnosis & Just Jihad & Six Degrees of Speculation

One of the lead figures in the Watergate scandal during the presidency of Richard Nixon...Chuck Colson...told a conference of Southern Baptists that Islam is evil and atheism is intent on destroying religious beliefs. Watergate figure Chuck Colson warned a gathering...

Daniel DiRito | June 10, 2007 | 10:23 PM | link | Comments (1)
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June 9, 2007

GWB's AIDS Funding: Good News, Bad News genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Little Red Ribbon-Hood

The recent announcement that President Bush would seek to increase his Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief to 30 billion dollars...doubling the prior 15 billion dollar commitment...is by and large a very positive development in the battle to combat the...

Daniel DiRito | June 9, 2007 | 3:25 PM | link | Comments (0)
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BBC - Atheism: A Rough History Of Disbelief 2: 4 - 6 genre: Hip-Gnosis

This is the fourth in a six part Thought Theater series that replays the BBC three episode documentary, Atheism: A Rough History Of Disbelief. The third part can be found here, the second part can be found here and...

Daniel DiRito | June 9, 2007 | 11:40 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 8, 2007

All About Adam...And Eve genre: Hip-Gnosis & Tongue-In-Cheek

The Creation Museum is back in the news, although I doubt that this is the publicity they were hoping for since their recent opening of the facility. It seems that the actor for the museum's video on Adam and...

Daniel DiRito | June 8, 2007 | 5:23 PM | link | Comments (0)
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June 7, 2007

GWB's Top 10 Reasons For His New Surgeon General genre: Hip-Gnosis & Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Six Degrees of Speculation

I've got to hand it to the President...he is consistent. Unfortunately, it is that same consistency that has apparently led him to nominate James Holsinger to be the next Surgeon General. The only thing missing from Holsinger's resume is...

Daniel DiRito | June 7, 2007 | 9:37 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 5, 2007

Let's Hope God Offers A Liberal Statute Of Limitations genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Over my many years of contact with the Catholic Church, one of its more detestable and defining traits has prevailed…deniability. Despite a history checkered with inconsistency and intolerance, the Church has maintained its air of institutional intransigence couched in...

Daniel DiRito | June 5, 2007 | 9:13 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 4, 2007

The Rabbit Test genre: Hip-Gnosis & Six Degrees of Speculation & Uncivil Unions

Nope, it’s not what you think. In actuality, it’s a follow up to my prior Thought Theater posting, Getting The Giggles When The Right Eats Its Own. In that posting, I talked about the need to do more than...

Daniel DiRito | June 4, 2007 | 6:07 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Getting The Giggles When The Right Eats Its Own genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

While I readily admit that my parents taught me not to laugh at the misfortune of others, I have to admit that I get the giggles when I read about schisms in the religious right. In truth, it should...

Daniel DiRito | June 4, 2007 | 11:48 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 3, 2007

BBC - Atheism: A Rough History Of Disbelief 2: 1 - 3 genre: Hip-Gnosis

This is the third in a six part Thought Theater series that replays the BBC three episode documentary, Atheism: A Rough History Of Disbelief. The second part can be found here and the first part can be found here...

Daniel DiRito | June 3, 2007 | 12:43 PM | link | Comments (1)
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