Hip-Gnosis: March 2008: Archives

March 27, 2008

Creationist Crib Notes On Evolution: The 6,000 Year Dilemma genre: Hip-Gnosis & Video-Philes

The following video is a an ABC News segment that demonstrates the degree to which creationist fanatics will go to promote their Biblical beliefs...regardless of the utter lack of scientific evidence.

In Denver, a group is offering tours of the Museum of Nature & Science to the children of parents who believe that the earth is 6,000 years old and that evolution is a false theory. As the tour guides travel through the Museum, they offer their unfounded interpretations of the exhibits in an effort to support Biblical indoctrination.

When confronted by the reporter on the lack of evidence that humans and dinosaurs inhabited the earth at the same time, the tour guides admit that it is a problem. However, it isn't enough of a problem to cease disseminating false information. As noted in the report, the parents of these children aren't interested in facts. The guides get paid and mom and dad are able to falsely legitimize their beliefs to their children.

Take particular note of the young girl at 1:35 into the video. It is abundantly obvious that she has been coached by her parents and her religious mentors to be assertive in ridiculing science. It's a tactic that seeks to capitalize on the benefits of peer pressure and I suspect it is an essential element of religious homeschooling. The manner in which this young girl attacks evolution is clearly the result of intense training that seeks to give her the confidence to withstand the facts she will encounter which may undermine her Biblical beliefs.

In my opinion, the goal of these parents is to sear these beliefs so deeply into the psyche of their children that scientific evidence can be discounted without consideration. The fact that the tour guides have chosen to capitalize on the ideological intransigence of these parents is disgusting. It is also further evidence that the actions of many religious fanatics are steeped in deception and dishonesty. So much for facts and family values.

By the way, the video closes with a clip from The Family Guy on the absurdity of creationist mumbo jumbo.

Tagged as: Bible, Creationism, Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Evolution, Fanaticism, Religion

Daniel DiRito | March 27, 2008 | 10:33 AM | link | Comments (3)
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March 23, 2008

A Contemplation On Easter Sunday: From Baptism To Waterboarding genre: Hip-Gnosis & Snapshot Thoughts & Tongue-In-Cheek

Since I don't like holidays, it seemed appropriate to use Easter Sunday as an opportunity to offer a contrarian's contemplation...as well as a sarcastic graphic. I often write about the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church and the Bush administration's efforts to skirt the issues of torture and civil liberties, so linking the two seemed to be a marriage made in heaven...between a man and a woman of course.

Two items in the news provided added inspiration. The first was the Pope's baptism of Muslim journalist, Magdi Allam. I don't begrudge Allam's conversion...but I don't see the wisdom of making it a focal point of the Pope's Easter Vigil. In these times of tension between people of faith, this high profile baptism seems to be the equivalent of throwing salt on a wound...or perhaps vinegar would be more appropriate given the imagery of Easter.

From The Times Online:

Pope Benedict XVI has risked a renewed rift with the Muslim world by baptising a converted Muslim born journalist who describes Islam as intrinsically violent and characterised by "hate and intolerance" rather than "love and respect for others".

In a surprise move at the Easter vigil at St Peter's on Saturday night, the Pope baptised Magdi Allam, 55, an outspoken Egyptian-born critic of Islamic extremism and supporter of Israel, who has been under police protection for five years following death threats against him over his criticism of suicide bombings.

Mr Allam's conversion was kept secret until less than an hour before the service. He took the middle name "Christian" for his baptism. The Vatican said: "For the Catholic Church, each person who asks to receive baptism after a deep personal search, a fully free choice and adequate preparation, has a right to receive it."

In a combative article for Corriere della Sera, the Italian paper of which he is a deputy editor, Mr Allam - who has lived in Italy most of his adult life and has a Catholic wife - said his soul had been "liberated from the obscurantism of an ideology which legitimises lies and dissimulation, violent death, which induces both murder and suicide, and blind submission to tyranny".

Instead he had "seen the light" and joined "the authentic religion of Truth, Life and Liberty". He added: "Beyond the phenomenon of extremists and Islamist terrorism at the global level, the root of evil is inherent in a physiologically violent and historically conflictual Islam."

It's difficult to separate the Pope from the confrontational words written by Allam and I suspect most Muslims will view this very public baptism as an affront to their faith. I'm always amazed at the need people of faith have to assert that only those of their denomination have a kinship with the true God. History is filled with wars designed to hammer home that point. Nothing like an old fashioned crusade...or a jihad...or an intifada to demonstrate one's kinship with God. I don't know the Pope's true motivations in this matter, but it's hard to imagine this as an act of conciliation.

The second item involves the President's Easter message. Take a look at the following excerpts.

From Fox News:

America is blessed with the world's greatest military, made up of men and women who fulfill their responsibilities with dignity, humility and honor. Their dedication is an inspiration to our country and a cause for gratitude this Easter season.

On Easter, we remember especially those who have given their lives for the cause of freedom. These brave individuals have lived out the words of the Gospel: "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." And our nation's fallen heroes live on in the memory of the nation they helped defend.

Look, I have no objection to honoring the sacrifice of our soldiers on Easter...or any other day for that matter. However, why must that acknowledgment be couched in terms that suggest their efforts have the authority of the Gospel...and therefore God? In my opinion, it simply sends a message to Islam that they can utilize as evidence that the West seeks to destroy Islam and install Christianity as the prevailing faith. If Iraq were part and parcel of the war on terror, why would we impart language that can be used to incite more terrorism?

No, the President's words don't directly state what I've discerned...but he clearly infers that the actions we have undertaken in Iraq have the blessing of God. Such a statement leaps over the numerous facts that suggest we may not be able to assert that our actions in Iraq were simply initiated to defend this country. Further, once we realized Saddam Hussein didn't have WMD's and wasn't involved with 9/11, I don't see the means to conclusively characterize our invasion of Iraq as an act of defense.

The fact that the President found it necessary to shift his rationale for the war on several occasions suggests he understands this criticism. If so, why was it necessary to refer to the efforts of our soldiers in the religious context he chose? Toss in the events at Abu Ghraib, the ongoing operations at Guantanamo Bay, the revelations we did use torture on "enemy combatants", and the refusal to clearly denounce and define such actions as torture and the notion that our President and his supporters view this as a holy war isn't all that much of a stretch.

Hence, after reading and ruminating on the above...as well as recollecting upon my Catholic upbringing...my conflation of religion, sin, Easter, and baptism with waterboarding and war began to emerge. The ultimate irony evidenced on this Easter Sunday centers on this subtle vitiation of the actual meaning of Easter.

As I understand it, Easter centers upon the belief that this day culminates God's efforts to send his son Jesus to live amongst us as a teacher and to endure death for our sins...only to rise again as evidence of the promise of eternal life for those who follow in his footsteps. I think the focus was upon a way of life; not upon religious institutions.

Frankly, it seems to me that on this Easter Sunday we are closer to the crucifixion of our fellow man than we are to the redemption that was promised in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Perhaps that's the cross we bear. Let's just hope we have the good sense to resist nailing each other to it. Happy Easter?!


Tagged as: Baptism, Catholic Church, Crucifixion, Easter, God, Humor, Jesus, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion, Resurrection, Sin, Torture, Waterboarding

Daniel DiRito | March 23, 2008 | 1:06 PM | link | Comments (3)
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March 22, 2008

Gay Scientists Isolate Christian Gene & Bishop Bible Babble genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

Nothing like a little levity on Saturday...especially when it comes at the expense of the holier than thou. The following two videos take some oft heard Christian propaganda and give it a gay spin.

In the first video, it's reported that gay scientists are on the hunt for a Christian gene. In the meantime, gay counselors are helping Christians deal with their troubling lifestyle.

In the second video, prominent anti-gay Australian Archbishop Peter Jensen is confronted with numerous Biblical passages that religious leaders seemingly ignore. The Bishop seems unable to explain or discount the various verses.

Surprisingly, during the confrontation, the Bishop decides to tell the male reporter that he finds him "so good looking"...at which point the reporter reminds the Archbishop of the very Leviticus verse that is used to condemn gays...just in case the Archbishop has his sights on a sinful romp with the reporter.

Thank goodness we have men like the Archbishop to interpret the Bible for us. However, after watching this exchange, it looks like the Archbishop needs a refresher course in Biblical content. Sadly, he's not the only Christian who has a selective knowledge of the Bible.

Gay Scientists Isolate Christian Gene

Bishop Bible Babble

Tagged as: Archbishop Peter Jensen, Bible, Gay, Humor, Leviticus, LGBT, Religion, Same-Sex Marriage

Daniel DiRito | March 22, 2008 | 1:37 PM | link | Comments (0)
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March 21, 2008

Tony Perkins Links Global Warming, Abortion, & Gay Marriage genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis

I've long believed that religious fanatics have the willingness and the capacity to justify any behavior or action they feel will further their agenda and solidify their authority over their minions. The evidence supporting my belief just grew exponentially.

In the following video, ABC News explores how global warming is viewed by a number of religious leaders and their denominations. The report stems from the declaration signed by current and former leaders of the Southern Baptist Church in which they assert that they have been too timid on addressing global warming. That's the good news.

The bad news is that Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council disagrees with this position. Instead, Perkins argues that those who favor a reduction in global warming are actually seeking to promote abortion and same-sex marriage. Perkins contends that limiting population is an element of climate control and is therefore contrary to the promotion of life and procreation. Rather than focus on Perkins' absurd conflation, I think it makes more sense to explore the motivations that in all likelihood underly it.

After assailing abortion and the gays, Perkins pivots to make the argument that people would be better served to put their energy into preparing themselves spiritually for the end of the world (the rapture or the end of days) instead of championing climate control. I guess Perkins sees humanity like an ant colony in a jar - if our willful actions lead us to outgrow and destroy our planet, the masses should simply soldier on like tireless worker ants.

I find his logic problematic (OK, what logic?) because it suggests that God gave us a brain and the ability to build all that exists in this world...but not the good sense to be prudent stewards in order to preserve and protect it. So I'm left to wonder how we're supposed to know when it's time to stop using our brains and drive the humanity bus willy-nilly off the cliff?

However, if God decides when to end the world, why would we suddenly determine that we knew it was coming and therefore elect to throw caution to the wind? Isn't that rather presumptive and arrogant on our part? What if we're wrong? Isn't it possible that God would see our carelessness as a sin? Further, what right do we have to destroy his creation...on our own timeline?

People like Perkins like to hear themselves pontificate but they rarely take the time to think through the significance of their proclamations. Is God going to reward those leaders and industries that ignored global warming in the pursuit of profit since their efforts will have helped facilitate the end of days? Will Al Gore and those who sought to save the planet be banished to hell because they opposed unbridled profits at the expense of extinguishing the planet?

If so, wouldn't that mean that those who chose to give, like the woman in the parable of the widow's mite, were being punished...while those who chose to take, like the tax collectors seeking to amass more wealth, were being rewarded? How could that be God's plan?

The answer may be found in what has come to be known as the prosperity doctrine, prosperity theology or the prosperity gospel. Essentially, those who promote this version of faith (and there are many well known ministers) argue that God wants his believers to be successful in all they do...including the accumulation of wealth.

I don't know if Tony Perkins is a disciple of this thinking or not; but the contradictions found in his position on global warming better align him with prosperity theology than with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Taking it a step further, I doubt Perkins plans to suffer in the days that precede the end of the world; otherwise he would have already diminished his focus on the material world in order to allow time to prepare his own soul for the impending rapture.

You see, I contend that men like Perkins have no intention of suffering...though they make their living asking others to do just that...especially if it means pledging to donate a greater share of their income. Men like Perkins worship money and the spoils of capitalism above all else. They view climate control as an impediment to the pursuit of wealth...though they couch their opposition to it as the promotion of life.

Yes, all too often, the lives of Perkins and his ilk are steeped with worldly treasures. My cynicism tells me they are the equivalent of modern day snake oil salesmen. They travel from this conference to that speaking engagement...preaching their version of values...while separating as much coin from the congregation as is humanly possible.

I question the sincerity of leaders who lecture their flocks ad nauseam on the importance of sacrificing for the afterlife in order to receive its many rewards...particularly when they insist upon rewarding themselves handsomely in the here and now...as if there were no tomorrow.

Perhaps I just don't know my commandments...especially the one that states - Thou shalt use the name of the Lord thy God when one taketh without guilt.

The following video clip includes the original ABC report along with several insertions of commentary in the form of text added by the individual that uploaded it to YouTube. It is somewhat distracting but it doesn't prevent the viewer from following the original ABC News report. Perhaps as payment for enduring the editorializing, they include a snippet from the TV show Family Guy at the end of the clip. I thought it was funny so hopefully it will make you chuckle.

Tagged as: Abortion, Al Gore, Climate Change, Climate Control, Commandments, End Of Days, Evangelicals, Family Guy, Family Research Council, Gay Marriage, Global Warming, God, Jesus, LGBT, Population Control, Prosperity Gospel, Prosperity Theology, Rapture, Religion, Same-Sex Marriage, Southern Baptists, Tony Perkins

Daniel DiRito | March 21, 2008 | 3:42 PM | link | Comments (2)
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March 15, 2008

Richard Dawkins: Break The Science Barrier genre: Hip-Gnosis & Six Degrees of Speculation & Video-Philes

Richard Dawkins takes an in depth look at the degree to which science is a part of our daily life and our understandings of the world in which we live. He begins by visiting the portions of the American south where evolution isn't a generally accepted theory. He points to a provision in Alabama that requires all biology text books include a sticker challenging the theory of evolution.

Dawkins goes on to point out that many people fail to understand the basic premise of science and what one can reasonably conclude from the results of the scientific endeavor. He moves forward to discuss some of the recent findings in science that make it a field filled with amazing discoveries.

In part two, Dawkins looks into the growing interest in the paranormal...including psychic abilities and psychic surgery. These are not only scams; in the instance of psychic surgery, the patients are often exposed to even greater risks through unsanitary practices.

Dawkins then speaks with one of the founders of DNA fingerprinting. He explains the risks associated with taking science as certainty...and he offers the hysteria over mad cow disease and poor forensic criminology as examples. He interviews a man who was convicted of a crime based upon inadequate information and a lack of expert testimony. The man subsequently educated himself and discovered the information that would lead to his acquittal.

In part three, Dawkins returns to a discussion of man's origin and the curiosities that lead scientists to ask why. In order to understand the tedious nature of science, he looks at the research on fruit flies and how it may provide important clues into cancer treatment.

The documentary closes with a Dawkins demonstration conducted to explain the number of years man has occupied on the entire continuum of time. In the scheme of things, mankind has only occupied a minute point. Science has provided us with the tools to make that determination.

Break The Science Barrier - Part One (1 of 2)

Break The Science Barrier - Part One (2 of 2)

Break The Science Barrier - Part Two (1 of 2)

Break The Science Barrier - Part Two (2 of 2)

Break The Science Barrier - Part Three (1 of 2)

Break The Science Barrier - Part Three (2 of 2)

Tagged as: Astronomy, Cancer, Creationism, DNA, Evolution, Forensics, Fruit Flies, Mad Cow Disease, Richard Dawkins, Science

Daniel DiRito | March 15, 2008 | 9:40 AM | link | Comments (0)
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March 12, 2008

The Sex As Sin Scam: One In Four...And Then Some More? genre: Hip-Gnosis & Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Uncivil Unions


They say life imitates art...and if that is true, then the words spoken by Jack Nicholson in the film A Few Good Men may explain why the Bush administration and so many of its followers continue to insist on promoting abstinence as the preferred approach to sex education. Those who "can't handle the truth" and insist on wearing blinders might want to read the latest study on the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases in teenage girls.

If the information is accurate, 25 percent of girls aged 14 to 19 have a sexually transmitted disease. I'm no statistician, but if one in four of the girls in this age range has an STD, how many of of those who make up the other 75 percent must be engaging in sexual relations? Let's be honest, the STD infection rate isn't 100%...which means that many of the other girls have to be sexually active as well.

The first national study of four common sexually transmitted diseases among girls and young women has found that one in four are infected with at least one of the diseases, federal health officials reported Tuesday.

Nearly half the African-Americans in the study of teenagers ages 14 to 19 were infected with at least one of the diseases monitored in the study -- human papillomavirus (HPV), chlamydia, genital herpes and trichomoniasis, a common parasite.

The 50 percent figure compared with 20 percent of white teenagers, health officials and researchers said at a news conference at a scientific meeting in Chicago.

The two most common sexually transmitted diseases, or S.T.D.'s, among all the participants tested were HPV, at 18 percent, and chlamydia, at 4 percent, according to the analysis, part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Among the infected women, 15 percent had more than one of the diseases.

The president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Cecile Richards, said the new findings "emphasize the need for real comprehensive sex education."

"The national policy of promoting abstinence-only programs is a $1.5 billion failure," Ms. Richards said, "and teenage girls are paying the real price."

Look, I understand that parents don't want to believe their children are sexually active nor do they want schools to encourage sex. However, admitting the difference between wishful thinking and cold hard facts may be the best way parents can protect their children...especially their daughters...from potentially fatal diseases. Reality remains reality...even in the presence of self-deception.

The death of a daughter from cervical cancer seems an exorbitant price to pay for burying one's head in the sand. Nonetheless, millions of parents continue to be willing to put their children in the position to play a deadly game of Russian roulette when it comes to sex.

Let's assume that fifty percent of girls in this age bracket have engaged in sexual activity. That suggests that parents who continue to embrace the effectiveness of abstinence only programs have a fifty percent chance of being wrong. Put in terms of risk management, at least half of the daughters of those parents who are in denial are at risk to contract an STD.

Even worse, this preoccupation with abstinence sets in motion a default mindset that accepts the habit of participating in unsafe sexual activity. Here's the equation. Once a teenager has been bombarded with admonitions to abstain...often premised on the construct of morality versus immorality (behavior is reduced to a good v. bad concept)...the decision to engage in sex is viewed as wrong.

Rarely do people about to engage in an activity they view as wrong take the time to employ prudent practices and thoughtful judgment. It's the principle of premeditation versus happenstance. I suspect many of these teenagers want the deniability that comes with an unintended act...an accident if you will. Being able to tell mom and dad that they didn't intend to break their pledge to abstain is much easier than admitting a deliberate act of defiance.

Recent reports that girls are engaging in more oral sex as a means to maintain their virginity is a clear example of the unintended consequences that come with unrealistic expectations. The emotional burdens we're heaping upon these young people is a recipe for failure and it often plants the seeds of future dishonest dalliances. If one's initial view of sex is that it must be committed as an act of deception or secrecy, one is apt to repeat that behavior.

In the end, asking children to suppress their sexual desires as a function of morality begins the process of disconnecting sex from love...its intended partner. Once sex is viewed as sin, it becomes increasingly difficult to embrace it as an act of the heart. As this sex as sin notion takes hold, I'm inclined to believe that many of these teenagers, who subsequently contract an STD, begin to internalize the diagnosis as the inevitable consequence of being "immoral" (God's punishment). Once the identity is viewed as damaged (or demonic in the extreme), the likelihood for more damage is enhanced in what I would characterize as a predictable spiral of self-loathing.

We would be far better served to instruct children on the merits of sex as an adjunct to love...giving them the tools they need to maintain both their physical and mental health. Sex is an inevitable human activity. STD's and a sinking self-esteem need not be its destructive companions.

Tagged as: Abstinence, Cervical Cancer, Condoms, Evangelical, HPV, Morality, Religion, Sex, Sex Education, Sin, STD's, Teenagers, Virginity

Daniel DiRito | March 12, 2008 | 11:06 AM | link | Comments (5)
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March 10, 2008

Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern: Gays Worse Than Terrorists genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

I'm always amazed when the religious right seeks to characterize the pursuit of gay equality as a militant homosexual agenda. I'm especially amused when the rhetoric by which they put forth this argument is laced with the words we normally associate with the very militancy they seek to attach to the gay community.

In the following video, Oklahoma Representative Sally Kern waxes on about the threat posed by homosexuals. According to Kern, homosexuality poses a greater danger than terrorism. Just listen to the angry and confrontational imagery laced throughout her speech. When Kern states that she is in jeopardy by just making her comments, what kind of jeopardy is she alluding to? This is fear mongering at its worst. Sadly, these are the words we hear so often from those who claim to be Christians.

Oklahoma State Representative Sally Kern

As is so often the case with bigotry, Kern's remarks are rife with exaggerations and misinformation. Kern tells us she was a teacher for twenty years and that schools are no longer teaching facts and knowledge. It sickens me to imagine the curriculum Kern and her ilk would favor. Thank goodness she's no longer teaching. We can only hope that her political career comes to an end as well.

Honestly, when I hear the assertion that no society that embraced homosexuality has survived, I want to puke. I could just as easily assert that no society that has embraced a monetary system has survived. There isn't a scintilla of evidence that any society failed due to an acceptance of homosexuality...unless of course one chooses to cherry pick from the Biblical account of Sodom and Gomorrah.

I find it amusing that homosexuality is given the distinction of being the preeminent means by which sexual behavior can destroy a society. Somehow, the Kern's of the world seem to ignore God's supposed admonitions against adultry, premarital sex, or any other heterosexual indiscretion. I wonder what Kern thinks about the growing prevalence of pegging. Of course I'm sure she would blame it on gays.

Rather than rant on about the ramblings of another run of the mill right winger, I decided to grant her inane fears the credence they warrant.

The following is my version of the top ten goals of militant homosexuals.

Number Ten:

Organize local groups of gay men and women to form "Queer Make Over Militias" designed to convert and enlist heterosexuals who are style challenged.

Number Nine:

Align with the growing metrosexual population to form an underground alliance to chase rural right wing Republicans away from major metropolitan areas. (Think pink robes and hoods from a Dave Chappelle skit)

Number Eight:

To take advantage of the outrage at Janet Jackson's Super bowl wardrobe malfunction, gays are quietly seeking legislation to ban all beer commercials that objectify women's breasts and promote a stereotypical heterosexual male persona.

Number Seven:

Distribute campaign door hangers on election day that contain gay inspired victory party planning tips complete with recipes and decorating tips.

Number Six:

Use Bill O'Reilly's confusion about the differences between a loofah and a falafel on a stick as an opportunity to ban the use of soap on a rope from all public shower facilities.

Number Five:

Establish a non-profit to donate tea sets to all preschool aged boys.

Number Four:

Begin marketing a new doll called G.I. JoAnne...one that morphs from a dainty debutante into an androgynous action hero when her American Graffiti poodle skirt is transformed into a paramilitary parachute.

Number Three:

Promote a high school curriculum which requires that all students take a home economics course on using springform pans to bake the perfect cheesecake.

Number Two:

Establish a nationwide ex-gay ministry that is actually a clandestine gay dating service for closeted christians and discredited evangelical ministers.

Number One:

Produce and promote a blockbuster film titled Jesus Camp - The Sequel...a sassy musical portraying the tribulations of Jesus, Mary, & Joseph, a polyamorous trio played by Matthew Broderick, Harvey Fierstein, and Nathan Lane.

Tagged as: Bible, Bigotry, Evangelical, Gay Bashing, Homophobia, Humor, LGBT, Religion, Religious Extremism, Sally Kern

Daniel DiRito | March 10, 2008 | 11:32 AM | link | Comments (3)
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Sam Harris On Religion And Modernity genre: Hip-Gnosis

In the following video, Sam Harris offers some insights into religion's waning influence in the face of modernity. Harris discusses the tendency towards literal interpretations in the Bible, the Koran, and other religious texts...as well as the inclination of others to ignore the passages that no longer suit their interests.

Harris cites the recent Virginia Tech shooting as an example of an uninformed reliance upon religion in the midst of sound science. The mother of Seung-Hui Cho (the shooter), chose to understand her son's mental illness in the context of demons outlined in scripture. Rather than address his illness with modern day means, she sought to the help of numerous churches...hoping to have his demons exorcised. Harris argues that this primitive view is a growing problem for religion.

Harris closes with an argument that any book authored by an omniscient god would be far more relevant than the Bible or the Koran. The wisdom of existing scripture is wholly lacking in our modern context...a fact that makes it all the more doubtful that these documents could be the work of a god we choose to view as all knowing. That apparent disconnect isn't being successfully addressed by most religions.

Tagged as: Bible, God, Koran, Literalism, Modernity, Religion, Science, Secularism, Seung-Hui Cho, Virginia Tech

Daniel DiRito | March 10, 2008 | 10:41 AM | link | Comments (0)
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March 8, 2008

Culture War: Teach Your Children Well? genre: Hip-Gnosis


Drawing the appropriate line between parental rights and the states interest in the welfare of children can be a complex consideration. The emergence and prevalence of homeschooling has further complicated the equation. A ruling by a California appeals court will likely catapult the topic into the mainstream and it will undoubtedly become the latest flash point in the culture wars.

A California appeals court ruling clamping down on homeschooling by parents without teaching credentials sent shock waves across the state this week, leaving an estimated 166,000 children as possible truants and their parents at risk of prosecution.

The ruling arose from a child welfare dispute between the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services and Philip and Mary Long of Lynwood, who have been homeschooling their eight children. Mary Long is their teacher, but holds no teaching credential.

The parents said they also enrolled their children in Sunland Christian School, a private religious academy in Sylmar (Los Angeles County), which considers the Long children part of its independent study program and visits the home about four times a year.

The Second District Court of Appeal ruled that California law requires parents to send their children to full-time public or private schools or have them taught by credentialed tutors at home.

The appeals court said state law has been clear since at least 1953, when another appellate court rejected a challenge by homeschooling parents to California's compulsory education statutes. Those statutes require children ages 6 to 18 to attend a full-time day school, either public or private, or to be instructed by a tutor who holds a state credential for the child's grade level.

The appeals court told the juvenile court judge to require the parents to comply with the law by enrolling their children in a school, but excluded the Sunland Christian School from enrolling the children because that institution "was willing to participate in the deprivation of the children's right to a legal education."

I suspect that the issue will soon devolve into a question of religious freedom...pitting the rights of parents against the states compelling interest to insure a curriculum consistent with sound science. Anyone who has watched documentaries like Jesus Camp or Baby Bible Bashers should have an understanding of the underlying issues.

Adding to the complexity are cases like that of Matthew Murray, the young man who was homeschooled and subsequently murdered two individuals at a Youth With A Mission location in Arvada, Colorado and two others at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs before killing himself.

Let me be clear, I don't believe that parents should be precluded from teaching their religious beliefs to their children or that Matthew Murray's situation is an indisputable indictment of homeschooling. On the other hand, the push for a Biblical interpretation of science and the argument that God's laws take precedent over the laws of the state are troubling developments that must be addressed.

Ironically, one can look to the words of the ancient playwright Terence for a measure of guidance. Not only is Terence known for his quotation, "Moderation in all things", he also is said to have stated, "Children should be led into the right paths, not by severity, but by persuasion."

All too often, those inclined to homeschool do so in order to instill their brand of extreme ideology...even if it lacks substantiation and conflicts with far more factual theories. Unfortunately, the dogmatic nature of many religions posits that the only relevant truth is the truth they espouse. Hence, many of those parents who embrace this doctrine are not only unwilling to expose their children to alternate views; they see the views of the state as inferior and irrelevant.

Even worse, some parents seek to portray the state and the society as evil which can effectively isolate and alienate their children. In extreme instances, it may well set in motion the process by which the Matthew Murray's of the world unleash their misguided malice on others.

Unfair as this may be, the fact that the California ruling outraged James Dobson of Focus on the Family leads me to believe that the appellate court may have ruled correctly in requiring that homeschooling must be conducted by instructors with state mandated credentials. Sadly, men like Dobson have made a career of vilifying others in order to solidify their hold on their followers and thus insure his financial success and his penchant for power.

The following is from the Focus on the Family website.

Dr. James Dobson used today's Focus on the Family radio broadcast to tell his listeners about an "egregious decision" handed down by a California appellate court recently.

The 2nd District Court of Appeals ruled that California parents without teaching credentials do not have a right to home-school their children.

"The court has assaulted parental rights again, and this time with a sledgehammer," Dr. Dobson said. "Listeners in all 50 states should take notice."

Dr. Mike Farris, co-founder and chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, said the ruling "effectively is slamming the door on home schooling for everyone."

"I [Dobson] just pray that you all will be on your knees before the Lord, symbolically or otherwise," he said, "and ask Him to protect those children in California and all over the country."

Note how the final quote from Dobson seeks to suggest that parents must "protect" their children from the state. Look, I realize that public education isn't perfect. At the same time, the ruling isn't prohibiting homeschooling; it is simply requiring that it be taught under the guidelines of prior rulings. Dobson neglects to mention this in his statements.

It doesn't surprise me that he prefers to portray the ruling as an assault upon religion...an emerging tactic employed by many evangelical leaders. Identifying an enemy and establishing themselves and their followers as victims of persecution only strengthens the hold men like Dobson seek to insure.

Frankly, I see the strategy of men like Dobson much the same as I view the actions of Karl Rove and George Bush. Nothing serves their purposes better than to identify an enemy, argue that the enemy seeks to destroy one's way of life, and them utilize the fear they create to manipulate the masses.

I don't begrudge anyone's right to their religious beliefs. At the same time, when those beliefs are pitted against the interest of the state in order to usurp the state's authority, then the lines drawn by our forefathers to separate church and state are being violated.

In the end, men like Dobson burn the candle at both ends. They favor democracy when it serves their purposes, they play the victim when democracy doesn't comport with their wishes, and they yearn for the day when have the wherewithal to dictate their doctrines without regard for the democratic process.

The Dobson's of the world champion dissent...but only if it is their own. Those dissenters with whom they disagree are cast as villains who threaten to usurp God's authority. Unfortunately, countless religions are convinced they are the sole purveyors of God's truth. As such, they have no reservation to meet out condemnations and call for prohibitions against, and punishments for, those they oppose.

The logic employed by our forefathers well over 200 years prior suggests they understood that religions would likely remain "at loggerheads" in perpetuity. Wisely, they sought to establish a system that was intended to insure that no one faith should or could abridge the rights of others.

In this day and age, it's troubling to realize that men like Dobson in this country...and Islamic extremists in other nations...are all too happy to seek to subvert the role of the state while sharing in their disregard for the principle of reciprocity.

Tagged as: Baby Bible Bashers, Bible, California, Evangelicals, George Bush, God, Homeschooling, Islamic Extremists, James Dobson, Jesus Camp, Karl Rove, Matthew Murray, New Life Church, Religion, Religious Extremism, Terence, Youth With A Mission

Daniel DiRito | March 8, 2008 | 9:15 AM | link | Comments (1)
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March 7, 2008

Bill Keller: Oprah Is The Most Dangerous Woman In The World genre: Hip-Gnosis & Video-Philes

Who knew?! Oprah is the most dangerous woman in the world...at least according to internet evangelist Bill Keller. Keller goes on to call Winfrey a "New Age witch" who is promoting "spiritual crack".

While Keller has been a longtime critic of Winfrey, his latest assertions originate from his objection to Oprah's upcoming internet course based upon the teachings found in the book by Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth, Awakening Your Life's Purpose. WInfrey has touted this book and other books that Keller believes deviate from the "true" teachings of the Bible.

Keller has been warning the subscribers of his Daily Devotional for years about entertainment icon Oprah Winfrey and how she uses her TV program to promote every New Age philosophy in the world, like the very popular book and DVD last year, "The Secret."

Keller, who called Oprah on Neil Cavuto's FOX News program last Friday "the most dangerous woman in the world," and has been quoted in the national media as labeling her a "New Age witch," states that her current commitment to use her vast entertainment resources to promote New Age teachings that do nothing for people but make them feel good for a moment just like smoking crack, will be responsible for leading millions of unsuspecting souls to hell with these false teachings.

Keller told his 2.4 million Daily Devotional subscribers that, "Oprah is now trying to be the spiritual guru to this nation. Sadly, she is being used as a tool of satan to lead millions of souls to hell with her false teachings."

Of course, Keller would prefer that Oprah's followers spend their time on his website and fork over their hard earned cash to support his little evangelical enterprise. No doubt he promises to show them the correct path to heaven...for a nominal fee.

I would guess Keller is ticked off because Oprah's new television program, "Big Give", is garnering her more attention and accolades and isn't putting any cash in his collection basket. I have a hunch Keller is more about receiving than giving.

The following video is from Keller's recent appearance on Fox News.

Tagged as: Bible, Big Give, Bill Cavuto, Bill Keller, Eckhart Tolle, Evangelism, Faith, Fox News, God, New Age, Oprah Winfrey, The Secret

Daniel DiRito | March 7, 2008 | 3:13 PM | link | Comments (6)
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March 4, 2008

George Carlin's HBO Special: It's Bad For Ya genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

George Carlin is a comedian...but his real talent is his ability to deconstruct the many concepts we've come to take for granted in this life. On Saturday night, during his HBO special, It's Bad For Ya, he gave us another hour of his many insights .

When I listen to Carlin, I cant help but think of politics and elections...not simply because he often discusses politics. I mention this because it's often said that voters will vote for the candidate with whom they would most enjoy sharing a beer. Well Carlin isn't a candidate, but I would love to have a beer or two with him.

When I imagine having the choice to sit around drinking a beer with George Carlin or a politician, there's no contest. I'd choose Carlin every time. I'd do so because I know he would share his truth with me; not attempt to find my truth and feed it back to me in exchange for my vote.

When I compare Carlin's candor to the cautious and convoluted words of most politicians, I quickly realize the magnitude of the dysfunction we promote in our political system. We each want our politicians to agree with us and to promote our own self-serving interests...which is impossible. What it does is make our elected officials little more than malleable manipulators willing to be the equivalent of political parrots. We sing, they listen...and then they attempt to sing each of our songs back to us...all at the same time.

In the end, the message they convey has morphed into a misguided and mechanical medley. This resulting "musical" melange lacks a coherent melody and it is often no longer in sync with reality. While Carlin is a master at transforming this dissonance into comedy, it may well mean we're in the midst of a tragedy. That's not a laughing matter...and I fear it is bad for us all.

George Carlin: God Bless America...And Other Hat Tricks

George Carlin: Swearin' To God, Mom's Hooters, & I've Got Rights

George Carlin: From On High...Or From Down Under

Tagged as: Comedy, Death, George Carlin, God, HBO, Heaven, Hell, Humor, It's Bad For Ya, Patriotism, Politics, Religion

Daniel DiRito | March 4, 2008 | 9:06 AM | link | Comments (0)
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