Saturday, February 18, 2006

Religion Part3

People who take jobs in religious establishments are by definition power seekers.  They frequently find themselves in conflict with their flocks.  This is one, if not the main, reason there are so many sects in each and every religion.  Power and domination are the ego satisfiers of church leaders; adulation is their wealth; though most are monetarily wealthy as well.  Through the ages secular political development has followed two paths.  The struggle for freedom has been rebellion against high or noble birth, and its accompanying wealth and privilege; and rebellion against spiritual domination by those who hold wealth and privilege and wear the uniform of the priesthood.

In today’s world many of the world’s great religions are reduced to shadows and even caricatures of themselves; perhaps parody would be descriptive.  In days of old though, they were the repositories of untold wealth and authority.  Kings quaked before the religious leaders.  Constantine co-opted Christianity and became the de facto Pope ruling on religious matters from a political perspective.  The faithful were disdained from a safe distance.  Today this behavior is observable in Muslim cultures where the Imams dictate the living of every day life and these dictates are ignored at one’s peril.

I am not picking on Islam, they are simply the only ones still in the game.  Christianity has been relegated to the sidelines for nearly two hundred years.  In its prime Christianity gave us the Inquisition, the slaughter of several brands of “heretic,” even during the Crusades Christians in the Holy Land were murdered by their fellows for their wealth.  Education has been the downfall of Religion.  They behavior of the priests has always been reprehensible but without knowledge to combat their authority the populace simply accepted their situation in hope of heaven.  What a disappointment that must have been.

Violence rather than peace has been the hallmark of religion even today that tradition is carried on.  Fire and brimstone awaits anyone who fails to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior.  Death to Infidels is the cry throughout the Middle East.  Death to Queers is heard in the United States.  White Christians must kill black ones, and Jews can be added to the list.  The roll call is endless Hindu against Muslim, Muslims against all.  Even the strictly orthodox Jews are violent against non-believers. Let’s not forget that in religion it is primarily a man’s world when it comes to making the rules and enforcing them.

What then is the alternative?  Spirituality is overrated in my opinion.  This is especially true when people feel they have to let you know what driving them and want you to come along.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Religion Part 2

The World’s great civilizations are based on religion, from ancient time until now.  The corrupting influence has been human nature.  Great literature, architecture, painting, science, all have their roots in the effort of mankind to understand its origins and purpose.  The apparent conflict between religious impulse and science is just that an apparition without substance; one can’t exist without the other.  Unfortunately there are other needs in human nature that will be met.  These include acquisition of power and wealth for their sake.  Many religions have attempted to balance or even eliminate such behaviors, but with only limited success.

The need to recognize right from wrong is in itself empowering. He who is right has the high ground.  It’s a shame that agreement on what is right and what is wrong is not absolute or easy to come to.  The result of disagreement is often zealotry and disaster.  In today’s world a minor example are the “Eco-terrorists” who feel justified in destroying another person’s property on the basis of perceived right or wrong.  This flaw is what sets ancient Greek civilization apart from other Western Ideas.  Their gods were all powerful, yet fallible.  By imparting human characteristics to their deities the Greeks were among the first to actually question the existence of god or gods; even though it was only an implicit doubt.  This doubt made possible the cooperation between gods and man and allowed mankind the ability to weaken the priesthood by developing parallel philosophies.  This was the last time that a kind of gentleness was to be found in religion, a kind of getting along.  This is not to say that brutalities did not occur, the death of Socrates being the most famous example.

The Hellenistic cultures of the Mediterranean world lost their moorings the further a field the thinking was transplanted.  Greek influence was felt throughout the western world and its resonance can be felt today.

The Judaic and Christian testaments were strongly affected by Greek culture and even more ancient philosophies.  The one obvious influence is the Greek myth of Zeus and Leda, the coupling of a god with a human.  This is manifested in the story of Christ’s birth when Mary is impregnated by God though without actual sexual intercourse.  This is a minor modification wisely chosen by the priestly caste to make such an action acceptable to their clients.  Islam is really nothing more than a cobbling together of Judeo-Christian thinking into a philosophy that suited a nomadic desert people and which political control of the tribes a much easier proposition.  Close scrutiny of western thought will reveal the influence of Buddhism in the search for self knowledge and contempt for the material world.

Today the so-called fundamentalists are really people who have not moved beyond the fear of the dark.  Their leaders can easily manipulate them and the results speak for themselves.  There are Christian sects that actually endorse hatred of their fellow man, a complete corruption of Christianity’s greatest law: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”  The behavior of certain Muslims sects is making biblical prophesies self fulfilling.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Religion Part 1

This is the first in a series of think pieces regarding religion.  There is no doubt that in its purest form religion is, or can be a force for good.  Most people think that the origins of religion are shrouded in mystery; this is only true for those who essentially deny their humanity.  The origin of religion is quite simple, it was developed and used as a means to explain natural phenomena, console those affected by the vagaries of life, and to control the population.  Those early human beings whose brains evolved more quickly were able to recognize the need for and the method for accomplishing the aforementioned rationale.

Today we have only the remnants of religion.  The closest thing to medieval religion is Islam.  This is not to say that some of the Christian fundamentalists are modern in their thinking they are not, but they only give lip service to their beliefs.  Modern Christian religions or sects are about raising money and buildings as evidence of the believer’s salvation.

Since the dawn of memory religion has been used to control the populace.  Some of mankind’s earliest records from Egyptian history illustrate this.  The pharaoh was god and his word was law; the power of life or death resided in him.  Religious leaders have attempted to emulate this control and position ever since.  The sole exception appears to be Christ Himself, whose self-effacing demeanor and apparent disregard for the material world make his philosophy remarkable among religions, something akin to true Buddhism.

The experience of mankind, as far as can be learned, has been a gradual awareness of himself and the world around him.  If you believe that theory of evolution explains man’s presence and development then it follows that there was a period that is not within the collective memory. The residual fears experienced during the early evolutionary process would be locked in the subconscious, as they are today, and would need rationalization.  This is where the priests and other thinks come in.  Could this group of individuals have been developing more quickly?  Could their manipulative techniques have been learned and used to their advantage?  Were they less frightened of the dark than their fellows?

The answer to each question above is obviously yes, given the assumption that evolution is the only explanation of our present condition.  The fact that a cosmos was created for the gullible makes it obvious that all men are not created or do not evolve equally.  The gods of ancient times were used in various cultures to control the behavior of the masses, even to the point of human sacrifice to enforce rules, and to justify the position of the priests.  As different groups of humans came in contact with each other they adopted and modified the social laws that worked.  In western culture religion is a relic, in Asian cultures it was never a real state force, with the possible exception of Confucianism in early China, the once powerful religions of Central and South America are mere shadows of their former glories.  Only Islam is fixed in the past.  This is where the danger lies, not just because of the number of believers, in the fear based control system where any conflicting opinion can be designated as apostasy or heresy and be eliminated by the death penalty.  This was a hallmark of all early religions including Christianity.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Lawyers - A Neccesary Evil

Trial lawyers and attorneys in general occupy the appropriate rung of societal acceptance the bottom one.  This is not simply another slam at Democrats but a view of a cultural sub-group that claims to work for the disadvantaged, the injured.  All you have to do to see this in action is turn on your television set, very soon you will barraged with ads about how much money you might be entitled to based on some drug or disease you or a loved one has either suffered and / or died from.

The Bush administration has attempted something called tort reform that will limit the money damages that can be awarded.  This of course is anathema to trial lawyers who, as a group, are one of the largest contributors to the Democrat party.  While the Democrats scream corruption about Jack Abramoff the rest of us take it for granted that trial lawyers are innocent of any such behavior.  Lawyers, on the whole, are among the most liberal of our citizens, no problem, but they are also among the most influential.  They have the law at their disposal; and dispose of it they do.  There will be only marginal tort reform in this country because Republicans are lawyers too.

Recently the ABA, the associative body of lawyers nationally, and an accrediting body for law schools, has pushed for extralegal requirements to certify law schools.  Any law school that does not abide by the ABA rules will lose its accreditation.  The most onerous of these is to require affirmative action.  They have deliberately misconstrued recent Supreme Court decisions to justify this action.  This is simply another feel good act that is perceived to reflect well on the ABA and its members.  In truth it is a power grab and an insult to those it purports to help.

There was a local class action suit here in which the plaintiffs were awarded $6 million.  After costs and legal fees were subtracted each member of the class got a check for less than $50.00.  The law firm received a check for more than $4 million dollars, to be divided up among the partners.  When I asked my own attorney about the justification for this lopsided payment he simply replied that the lawyers had worked very hard and should get paid.  Of course the fact that the “injured parties” who formed the basis for the lawsuit did not really have their “injuries” compensated bothered him not.

This is the reason that trial lawyers oppose tort reform.  So what if insurance costs skyrocket, that’s a result, not a cause for damage solution.  So what if many lawsuits are frivolous, in the US anyone can sue anyone else for anything.  If monetary awards are limited then the lawyers lose, their clients already lost when they hired the attorney.  If you have the money a lawyer will take your case if it is a difficult one charging by the hour.  If they think it is a “slam-dunk” then they will take it on a contingency, which means the law firm is going to get most of the award at least one third if not more.  There are few contingency cases that are losers, this only occurs when the attorney has misjudged the circumstances of the case.

At the moment lawyers are a necessary evil and should make an effort to fulfill their role as champions and not simply satisfy their greed.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Nancy Doesn't Get It

Today’s Wall Street Journal has an article by Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader in the House of Representatives.  It is a very strange article in that she supports all the Bush administration policies but doesn’t think they go far enough.  Most of her arguments are very weak, and she leaves out who is going to pay for all the Democrat “investments.”

She complains that the United States is only graduation 70,000 engineers this year while China and India are graduating 600,000 and 700,000 respectively.  Is there a surprise here?  In terms of population comparison alone I think the US is doing very well; we have 300 million people while China has 2 billion and India nearly one billion.  So why wouldn’t they graduate more of anything?  To highlight this number and use it to point out the failure of the US in research and development is specious to say the least.

Her main thrust is that the education system in the United States is lacking and she is 100% correct.  As long as the teacher’s unions get the lion’s share of new tax dollars for education they system will remain broken.  Stricter curriculum and discipline is what is needed.  Administrator’s who have been teachers are needed instead of the so-called Doctors of Education that currently pollute our school systems.  Teacher pay should be higher, and the number of vice-principals should be lower.

The next thing the Democrats are going to do is to gain energy independence within 10 years.  This is going to be done through green initiatives that are currently failing in the EU.  We should extract all the fossil fuels we have been blessed with, the caribou will find a way to survive, and we should emphasize development of alternate chemical fuels.  This development should be done carefully so that the problem eliminated is not replaced by a worse solution whose effects can only be felt in the long term.

If this is the Democrat plan for our future, and it is told with have truths and lies, then they are doomed.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Winter Games - So Far So Good

I usually don’t return to a topic the next day but in this case it is justified.  As a freelance writer I often write about sports and sporting events.  I watched NBC’s coverage last night and was pleasantly surprised.  While it was necessarily choppy because of the choices that must be made, the program of events was well chosen.  I particularly enjoyed the 5000 meter speed skating, even though the outcome was already known, the Hedrick story is a very good one and amazing to boot.  His performance was outstanding and was enough to pique my interest in watching his efforts yet to come.

The women’s mogul was exciting if short lived.  I thought Ms. Traa had a good chance of capturing the gold again, and was surprised when France came through a winner.  The luge qualifier was very exciting, I particularly like these speed events as the skill differences between competitors is so small that even the slightest mistake can spell disaster.  The spectators often cannot even tell when a mistake that costs a mili-second is made.

Of course the figure skating is one of the premiere events generating the most interest and yet it is almost completely subjective in its outcome. The American pair completed a throw triple axel, the first time ever in Olympic competition, but we knew at the beginning that they were not considered to be a factor in the medal chase. From my perspective the judges got it right last night, the Russians were clearly the best during the short program.

I wasn’t really planning on watching the televised coverage, but NBC is doing such a great job, for a change, that I will continue to enjoy the Games on their network.