Thursday, October 14, 2010

Deo ducente...

" nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all."

That statement has become quite controversial in recent times...and, on its face, is completely contradictory.

Recently, an atheist from Texas lost a court case regarding the state adding the words "under God" to our state pledge that his child is expected to recite in school, claiming a First Amendment violation of his freedom of religion.

Today I, using that wonderful networking tool known as facebook, asked my friends and family if they would be offended if the words "in the absence of God" were included in the pledge in place of "under God"...and, if so, WHY.

Many people were very adamant that the words "under God" should be included in the pledge, and would be offended if the substituted phrase were used instead...but most didn't bother to provide any type of reasoning for this. The three who did attempt to justify their position were under the impression that the United States is somehow a "Christian" nation, and our citizens should acknowledge this. Many people stated that since a person is not forced to say the pledge of allegiance, that the phrase "under God" shouldn't be an issue...but, ironically, these were the very same people who stated that they would be offended if the words "in the absence of God" were substituted.

First and foremost, let me get a few facts out of the way...
1) The United States of America is, predominantly, populated by those who claim affiliation with some manner or denomination of Christianity...and I am one of these people.
2) The founding fathers of this nation were, for the most part, believers in God...whether they be Christians, deists, or otherwise.
3) The fundamental principles of freedom of choice and a fairly universal code of morality amongst civilized society is found within the teachings of Christ.

With that being said, the United States is not a "Christian" nation, in the sense that Iran is a "Muslim" nation or Israel is a "Jewish" nation. The US is no more a "Christian nation" than a bacon cheeseburger is a "Christian meal" merely because I ate a bacon cheeseburger after church.

If a person is offended by the notion that his child would have to sit through someone else reciting a pledge of allegiance to this nation that included a reference to the absence of God, even though his child was not required to say it with the rest of the class, it makes me wonder what respect they have for the notion of freedom in this nation if they think that the child of an atheist should be forced to sit and listen to others recite the pledge acknowledging God simply because they don't have to say it with the rest of the class.

The last time I checked, the IRS does not ask you about your religious beliefs or affiliations. It matters not to them if you are atheist, Hindu, Muslim, Catholic, Pentecostal, or Southern Baptist...if you work for a living, they're still going to take your money. The same holds true with the county tax assessor. If you own property, it's getting taxed, and they aren't going to question you about your church membership. They're going to look at what you've got built on your land, and send you a bill. That money is going to end up funding a public school, which will include a recital of the Pledge of Allegiance at some point or another.

In the First Amendment of our United States Constitution, it clearly states that congress isn't allowed to enact any law respecting the establishment of religion. The argument is often made that the First Amendment does not apply, because a child is not forced to recite the pledge of allegiance in school or elsewhere. However, is it not being done while taxpayer-funded teachers and administrators are on the clock? Is it not being done within a taxpayer-funded building? Is it not being done within a school that a child is lawfully required to attend if that child is not home-schooled at his parents' expense (in addition to the property taxes that have already been paid)?

Who passed the laws requiring taxation? What happens to a person if he neglects or refuses to pay taxes?

A more important question to ask is, what gives a Judeo-Christian majority the right to tell others "We're going to publicly state our beliefs at the expense of us all, you included. If you don't like it, you don't have to participate...but we're still going to use your money.", while telling the atheist minority that they don't have the right to have their views publicly expressed in the same manner, being paid for by that same pool of tax money?

You simply cannot claim that it is right to use the phrase "under God", followed by the phrase "with liberty and justice for all", unless you are willing to look past all logic and reasoning. There cannot be "liberty and justice for all", if that liberty and justice does not include the atheists amongst us. Otherwise, it is only "liberty and justice for some", or "liberty and justice for the majority".

We don't live in a democracy, where the mob rules. We live in a constitutional republic with a limited representative democracy and a certain amount of enumerated inherent and natural rights recognized by our constitution. Amongst them is the right to freedom of religion. We have the right to believe as we choose, and to speak as we long as it does not infringe upon the right of others to do the same.

That is the constitution I swore, before God Almighty, to uphold and defend. That is the constitution that defines the republic for which our flag stands, to which we pledge allegiance...and when we declare this nation to be "under God" in doing so while tax dollars from all citizens are being used, we violate the first constitutionally-guaranteed and God-given right enumerated in our constitution.

This is not only a violation of constitutional law, but also contrary to biblical instruction. We are taught to abide by the laws presented to us by the lawful authorities in the 13th chapter of Romans. As the highest law of the land, there is no higher authority than the US Constitution in this nation, but God Himself. In Galations 5, we are told to "walk by the spirit", and that Christ has set us free for the sake of freedom.

I am a Christian by choice, not by force. A forced faith will always be a false faith, no matter how you choose to spin it. I am reminded of the old saying about catching more flies with honey than with vinegar. If someone is not a believer in Christ, what is more likely to persuade him? Will it be the Christ-like actions of your concern for his well-being, your tolerance, your perseverance of faith in times of trial, and your ability to love him not because of what he's done or said, but rather, in spite of these things? Will it be because "your side" won a court case that FORCES his child to listen to your stated beliefs?

Well, what is it?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Where the Pope and the Southern Baptist Convention see eye to eye...

No, I'm not talking about Christ dying for our sins. That should be a given. I'm talking about the ludicrous nonsense of denouncing embryonic stem cell research in the name of "protecting life". This is asinine beyond belief. Seriously. To use my cousin Travis' favorite phrase, such an opinion is "Full-on Retard" in my not-so-humble opinion.

I read an article about the first treatment in a human using embryonic stem cells, which were injected into the spinal cord of an injured patient yesterday...a treatment that is called a destruction of "defenseless human life" by the Catholic church and "the most vulnerable members of the human community" by the Southern Baptist Convention.

Why is this point of view so Full-on Retard? Because it simply isn't based in any sense of reality whatsoever. Okay, it's obvious that I'm not anti-abortion like many Christians are, simply because I have a different view on what a human "person" is. That notwithstanding, let's examine the two situations here.

An abortion, in the typical sense of the word, is a terminated pregnancy that typically happens when the fetus is younger than three months' gestation. An embryonic stem cell, on the other hand, is harvested from an embryo...not a fetus.

An abortion is performed while the fetus is in the mother's womb, to terminate a pregnancy. An embryo used for research is extracted from a test tube, typically the left-overs from a fertility clinic.

An abortion kills a fetus that has potential to become a living person. Using an embryo for research will kill an embryo that has potential to either help save a human life, or wind up in a dumpster.

So far, we've discovered that in doing research on human embryos, we aren't destroying anything that wouldn't be destroyed anyway. Fertility clinics create multiple lab-produced embryos for couples that can't have children without the help of modern technology, and there are often many left-overs. Believe it or not, but not every mother-to-be visiting a fertility clinic wants to be "OctoMom"!

Now, let's move on to the next point of contention. Many overly-religious types seem to think that because stem cells are present throughout the entire life-span of a human body, that it isn't necessary to harvest them from embryos. Well, that might be true, if it weren't for one simple little fact. As the human body gets older (from the point of conception onward), stem cells become less and less able to differentiate. A "stem cell" is called such, because it has the ability to differentiate (or become another) type of cell. An embryonic stem cell is able to become any other type of cell found within the human body, for obvious reasons. It's an embryo, duh! As the body becomes older, stem cells become more specialized...and therefore, less likely to differentiate to other types of cells. This is even true with cord blood from a newborn baby.

Since the beginning of stem cell research, there have been several scientific developments involving stem cells other than the embryonic variety, as well as the "induced pluripotent stem cell" created by altering adult stem cells. One researcher has even found a way to extract amniotic fluid containing stem cells he says can be made to differentiate into various types of cells.

However, here's the deal:

There are almost half a million frozen embryos in the United States alone, and the vast majority of them have "expired"...meaning they can't be thawed out to produce a living person. They are bound for the dumpster, regardless of whether mankind finds a way to use them to cure a disease. Nervous system cells are much more difficult to produce using any method EXCEPT an embryonic stem cell. The greatest foci of stem cell research are neurological disorders and spinal cord injuries, and have been since its inception.

So, while the Southern Baptist Convention and the Vatican are "saving the babies" that will eventually be treated as medical waste and incinerated as such, many people are dealing with debilitating, crippling, and often life-threatening injuries and illnesses.

Marty McFly had to quit his job as a working actor, because his Parkinson's got so bad that he was unable to work in front of a camera. Superman died in a wheelchair at the age of 52, due to complications from a broken neck that occurred after falling off a horse. Meanwhile, several people very near and dear to me are suffering through a lifetime of MS...including a friend of mine from college, and my own aunt. Embryonic stem cell research offers what is currently the best hope to cure those suffering from such injuries and illnesses.

God gave us the gift of life...and He also gave us the mind necessary to perform the healing art known as modern medicine, in all its myriad forms. So if you're one of those people who think it's okay for my loved ones to suffer through a disease that threatens to snuff out their lives at a young age while putting them through untold agony while they still live, in order to "preserve the sanctity of life" in an embryo that will be thrown away like yesterday's newspaper because it will not and cannot be used for its originally-intended purpose, I really don't have the words to express what I think of you...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Seventeen reasons to NEVER vote for Sarah Palin...

1) Has long-since advocated "abstinence-only education", instead of teaching proper means of birth control and STD prevention. For a glaring example of how this worked out within her own family, her 17 year old unwed daughter Bristol announced that she was pregnant on the opening day of the Republican National Convention.

2) Claims that the constitution guarantees an "inherent right to privacy"...but seems to think that, in light of this guarantee, the constituencies of the various states should see "their will" enforced upon others.

3) She, as the mayor of Wasilla, charged rape victims for the necessary evidence-gathering equipment...even though it's the only crime in which a victim has ever been charged to cover the cost of equipment used by police to investigate a crime.

4) She praised Bush's $700B+ bailout...but opposed Obama's $700B+ bailout.

5) Her second-highest priority as governor was to ensure that the state decided who was allowed to get married.

6) Her third-highest priority as governor was to halt infringements upon our liberties...except the right of peaceable assembly, and the right to smoke pot like she did.

7) She signed a bill allowing the state of Alaska to collect and store a sample of someone's DNA if they had been merely arrested (read: NOT CONVICTED) for a felony or a crime against another person.

8) She opposes the right to wager ones' own personal money in a game of chance.

9) She smoked marijuana when it was legal under state law (but still illegal under federal law), but opposes legislation repealing its' prohibition because of the message it might send to "the kids".

10) She thinks "Intelligent Design Theory", a pseudo-scientific idea with no actual scientific factual basis, should be taught in public-school science classes. Even as a Christian, I don't support teaching non-science in a science classroom...but this mother of four does!

11) Thinks the words "under God" in our Pledge of Allegiance were "good enough for our founding fathers"...even though the pledge wasn't written until well after our "founding fathers" were long-since dead, and the words "under God" weren't added until two years after the birth of my own father.

12) She calls "Cap and Trade" a "Cap and Tax" scheme...but also supports "Cap and Trade".

13) She repeatedly lied about where her campaign money came from, claiming "most of it" came from grass-roots donations instead of the corporate donations it really came from.

14) Made several trips to Washington to press for the "Bridge to Nowhere", but then later opposed it when it became a national scandal.

15) She claims that the US Armed Forces, as currently being used, are providing us with "freedom"...even though there isn't a single instance in her entire lifetime where the US military was ever used to actually defend our freedom.

16) Being a "hockey mom", she supported building a sports complex that left the city of Wassila more than $22 Million in debt.

17) She supports invading a nation that had nothing to do with any act of violence against this country, in a war that resulted in thousands of American troops and over a hundred thousand Iraqi civilians confirmed killed, to "spread democracy". Meanwhile, as a result of this "democracy-spreading", the majority of Iraq has no running water or electricity.