Thursday, October 30, 2008

Of Apes and Women

Here's another discovery that gives very strong evidence for evolution:

Dr. Penny Patterson took an ape at around toddler age and taught her sign language. Koko is the name of this intriguing ape.

Dr. Patterson started out wanting to accomplish her doctorate degree by researching how well apes could learn sign language.

Here findings revel that apes already have a gesturing system of their own. Koko learned sign language just like an infant learns to talk.

It just sort of happens.

But, this isn't just learned responses from an animal. Not the lab rat stuff like pressing the bar 10 times to get a sugar cube. Or, flip the switch 8 times and get a treat.

Koko communicates.

She demonstrates that she understands English. Ask her questions and make requests and she'll do them.

Okay, so a trained dog can do that.

But, walk into the room and give Koko the bad news that her darling pet kitten died and Koko responds through sign language by signing the words "sad" and "cry". Her facial expressions shows she's hurt and understands. Then she groans in bereavement; she comprehends that her pet is gone at that very moment.

She comprehended this because Dr. Patterson signed this information to her and told her with words. Koko didn't have to "figure out" her kitten was dead after missing her pet for weeks or months. She understood the gravity of the event right then when she was told.

Koko really understood.

What does that say about man's kinship to the apes?

And Koko isn't the exception. Other apes have shared past memories through sign language!!!

Remember, apes already have a natural inclination to gesturing.

They simply don't talk vocally because they don't have the same type of vocal cords as humans. The human vocal cord is unique.

But, they can talk with their hands and their eyes and their hearts.
Like we humans often do, too.

Dr. Patterson's work is amazing.

Read more about Dr. Penny Patterson and Koko if you don't already know about them.

And even better, check out Nature: Koko -- part of the PBS Nature series.

See for yourself. These examples are not embellished! Check it out!

Also, at the time this blog was posted, Netflix has this documentary as part of their instant viewing selections. So if you're a Netflix member already, just watch it on your PC or on your TV through your Roku device.

(gotta love Netflix . . . and that nifty little Roku, too!)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Celestia

I had the pleasure of learning about a free program named Celestia. The program renders models of the solar system with great accuracy. You can choose a point in time and view a depiction of how certain events would appear from space or from the surface of a planet.

The program is very accurate . . . but not necessarily perfect. But, hey, I'm no astronomer or physicist, so as far as I'm concerned, it's good enough for my purposes.

Celestia can depict events in real time or you can re-play time and events in backwards motion. You can speed time up or traverse light years across the galaxy in an instant.

Shortly after learning about Celestia, I saw a picture of Saturn taken by the spacecraft Cassini. Then, I got an idea . . . why not plug in the date and time of Cassini's take off and watch it's journey. Then, I can compare the photo's perspective with Celestia's simulated perspective.

Cassini's trip to Saturn took seven years! So, I had to speed the time up a lot. But lo and behold, when the program reached the time stamp of that picture I saw . . . the perspective was nearly the same!

Impressive. Most impressive.

This universe is so big and vast. Space is dreadfully beautiful and terribly awesome after letting the concepts soak in and take root. Just as atoms and cells make up who we are, our planets and moons are like atoms and cells to this great universe.

No wonder we have religion and god. We need something to explain all of this -- this inexplicable wonder and vastness that so captivates us and frightens us.

If you're any sort of star gazer, download Celestia. This wonderful program is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. If Celestia doesn't run well after your first install it, try installing older versions of Celestia until one works. Also, consider making a quick check to see if your PC can meet the system requirements.

And remember . . . this program is free!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

An Unfortunate Anniversary

Eight years ago, on the day of this blog post, my dad died.

While we weren't very close, we cared for each other and we had respect for each other. We had a connectedness that seems to exist between all fathers and sons, regardless of the quality of the relationship.

His death was hard at first, indeed. But over time, dealing with it has gotten much better.

I smile when I think of him now. At first, it wasn't always that way.

I cannot say that his death was the cause of my slide into non-belief of my former Christan faith nor did this event single-handedly cause me to tread down the path towards atheism.

Years would go by before I'd reach the point where I am now. But no doubt, his death was a catalyst to my slide. I think this is where it all really began.

Here's the story:

My dad came over to visit us (my parents were separated) and we noticed he didn't look so good. He told us that, too. He thought it was just terrible gas, but said he would go see a doctor.

He never really got out of the hospital after that.

He made a downhill progression in his heath because of lung cancer.

Funny thing is, a few months before my dad's illness manifested, I determined in my heart that I would start praying for him every night.

And I did. I usually neglected praying for my dad because he was estranged. But, I decided I would stop being so negligent. I was passing judgment on him by thinking praying for him would do no good towards seeing him saved.

So, I started praying earnestly for his soul's salvation.

The timing of his illness was such that I started to wonder if my payers brought some curse upon him. At this odd coincidence, I stopped praying for everyone -- in fear someone else would fall ill like my dad. My spiritual life was paralyzed.

As my dad's condition worsened, I would visit him in the hospital from time to time. Other relatives and loved would come to visit. Some came way from other states. We knew in our hearts that time was running out for him. But . . . being believers . . . we hoped for a miracle.

Just in case. You never know what God might do.

But, if God didn't do anything, I knew my dad was going to die. And that was that.

An evangelist in our family said that she had received an inspiring "word" from the Lord. She said that God asked her concerning my dad, "why do you worry as though there was no hope"?

There was innuendo in this question. Why are you worried, oh ye, or little faith? I can heal your dad. Didn't you get the memo?

I can save him at any time. Why are you concerned?

And some people in my family that heard those words, took those words to heart.

My dad got baptized before all his strength failed him. But, to my knowledge, he never had the all important speaking in tongues experience that Pentecostals expect from someone who is truly saved. Without this experience, you cannot be saved in the view of many Pentecostals. Especially the type I was and the type that my dad started to hang around after he became sick.

He never got better. He never spoke in tongues. After a few short years passed, so did he.

But at the funeral, the other Pentecostal relatives rejoiced because they claimed God saved him.

But God broke one of his own rules if he truly saved my dad!

Well . . . he's God. He does what he wants.

In reality, a prophesy was made and everyone had to save face. God said there was hope. He insinuated that my dad would be saved according to the evangelist months ago.

So, God must have saved him somehow, since he didn't heal him.

I never bought into that "prophesy". I fully expected my dad to pass. Just not so soon I suppose.

So, there were no hard feelings towards the evangelist who uttered the words. Not from me, anyhow.

But, I was confused and this was the beginning of my problem.

How could someone speak for God and say something that was wrong or untrue? Either God made a mistake, we misunderstood what God was trying to say, or the minister speaking for God was wrong.

Well, if we misunderstood what God said, then God isn't that great of a communicator.

If the evangelist truly heard from God, then God was wrong. (or lied??) Why? Because my dad did not fulfill the criteria for being saved according to the very God who made the prophesy! Only my close family (and family friends) felt my dad was saved. Everyone else at the church would initially show sympathy when they learned my dad had died. Inevitably, members would ask if he spoke in tongues before he died.

When I told them "no" or that I wasn't sure, their silent regret shown upon their faces. That was all I needed to see. They felt sorry for me. In their minds, I had to deal with the hardship of my dad spending eternity in hell.

I was forced to witness a contradiction for the first time. I had to see people who speak for God say wrong things.

I didn't lose my faith at that point. But, I became very angry at God over the next few years. And worse, people at church seemed very insensitive. I began to feel like a person in a swimming pool crowded with people. As I start to drown, I flail and panic. I cry out and splash. I thrash around. But no one in the crown sees or hears me.

Staying at that church felt like staying in that swimming pool.

So, I got out.

But, I still believed in God and in the Christian faith. I just needed to find a better place to practice my beliefs. But first, I had to stop being angry at God.

I hoped I could find a place that could help me understand why God didn't save my dad after I made an effort to pray for him. The timing was so awful for everything.

For a while, I felt like I was the one that killed him because I decided to pray for him.

Talk about classical conditioning. My "prayer life" suffered greatly after that. I started to develop a phobia of prayer.

Eventually, I remembered the verse in the Bible that says, "It is appointed that all men die, and then judgment."

That made me feel better. Everyone has to face that journey. All life experiences that transition.

From that idea, I began to accept the thought that God didn't let my dad die out of cruelty or meanness. Dying is the taint from sin that we all have to deal with (that's what I told myself, at least).

But, why did he not save him after I prayed so fervently? Doesn't God want to save everyone?

And how come we can just bend the rules of salvation like that? We say people are saved when it's convenient. But, we're preached to with strict fervor and admonition that there is only one way to be saved.

I was puzzled.

And so it began. The seed was planted.

From then on, I started to ask myself if there was something wrong with what I believed.

People tend to use religion to comfort themselves when their loved ones die. That didn't happen for me. Religion made the passing of my dad worse in more ways than I can go into on a blog post.

Now without religion -- I feel much better about the passing of my dad.

Without religion, I can know that my dad will truly rest in peace.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Communion

I went to a group meeting of local atheists for my area. Very interesting. I enjoyed it very much.

The group was eclectic and everybody has something rich to share.

I might have made some new friends. We'll see.

I'm glad I went to the meeting. I was nervous -- but not any more.

So . . . am I atheist?

I don't think I went to find out, now that I've gone to the meeting.

Without a doubt, I've stopped being Christian. I'm still timid about saying it because I've got practically 30 years of indoctrination pressing down on me. That's hard to shake.

But . . . I have shaken most of it off; I just can't go back to the way things were.

I only believed in one God when I was Christian. So to stop being Christian can only mean one of two things:

1. I still believe in God -- but differently.

OR

2. I reject this God along with all the other gods which I have already rejected long ago.

Since I can't find it in my heart to practice another religion, it looks like I choose number two.

Boy, it was nice sitting and talking with people of the same mind set. And, it was cool to sit with people who were from all over the world with different experiences in different countries.

It was sweet, refreshing Communion.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Conspiracy "Theory"

Have you seen those ads for the book called the Jerome Conspiracy?

I wanted so much to know what it says, but I didn't want to buy the book for fear that the information was bogus.

The ads seems a little hyped; sort of like an ad for a fiction novel -- not a presentation of a scholarly researched idea.

I got lucky and got an opportunity to read parts of it without buying it.

The book asserts that eternal damnation in hell was all made up by St. Jerome -- a scribe and bible translator who was largely responsible for producing the Vulgate and having several New Testament books canonized.

The book argues, by way of a fictional story (think DaVinci Code), that St. Jerome got his ideas of hell from the The Book of Enoch. Latin was emerging as the language of the day and a Latin Bible was now in demand. As Jerome produced his translation, he took liberty to write in his belief of eternal damnation. The book also asserts that until then, mainstream Christianity did not believe in eternal damnation. Rather, that there would be a time of purging for the sinner. After which, he could then be reunited with God just like the ones who are saved. Jesus' sacrifice took care of it all -- universal reconciliation.

I won't go into how he defends this. I didn't get to read the whole thing, for one. Second, I don't want to tell the whole thing . . . after all . . . he does want to make a profit from his labor.

I may still buy it. I'm still curious. I know what he's trying to argue now. I'm curious if he can prove it.

That would be another discredit to the biblical narrative.

But, if you're where I am already -- this is probably a moot exercise.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Church of the Atheist

I stated in an earlier post that I really don't think one can seriously call atheism a religion. I argued that religion in the most common definition requires the worship of a higher power or governor of the universe (AKA god). Atheism rejects this notion. At best, atheism is a philosophy. Passion about an idea isn't a religion -- but can be described as religious. But again, not in the sense that Christianity is a religion.

I still stick to that idea.

I'm still planning to meet with a group of local atheist for my first time. I'm a little nervous and curious as to what I'll witness.

I have found someone to share this with that respects my emerging non-belief. But, I got an odd comment about my plans:

Isn't this meeting the same as going to church? I mean, you're meeting to encourage each other. Christians do the same thing when they meet for church.

Maybe.

Church certainly has a social structure to it. And the more active and enjoyable the social atmosphere of a church, the more motivated the members tend to be.

But, church isn't just a social club. Church isn't only a place for Christians to mingle and share ideas. Besides, not all churches participate in allowing members to become close-nit so that they become comfortable sharing ideas and emotions with each other. When all else fails, church is supposed to be the hub of worship towards God for that group of believers who meet together. The sacred rites of Christians are performed -- Eucharist (Communion), baptism, worship and praise, repentance, reconciliation and so forth.

I'm sure none of that will be going on at a meeting of atheists who have come together to share their views. Just because the group is atheist doesn't mean they will all agree on everything.

But, there is a solace when you know you aren't alone.

I know that church provides that, too, for believers. But that similarity still doesn't make atheism a religion -- even if they meet to share their, er, non-belief.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Our Cells

I enjoyed a fascinating documentary over the weekend called Death By Design. The documentary reveled how cells interact with each other and their environment. Also, the film pointed out that cells often destroy themselves when told to by outside sources -- other cells higher in the chain of their command structure. Or, some incident in the environment is a signal to the cell that it needs to die for other cells to be formed or so that it can become nourishment or recycled material for the organism as a whole.

The whole thing blew my mind. Awe overtook me especially, when the film introduced a community of single cell organism that would live as separate individual organisms. Yet, if the environment stopped supporting the group, the cells would merge into a brand new organism! Think something like Voltron or the Constructicons from the Transformers. Or, think of the Sandman in Spider-Man. But every grain of sand is an individual entity -- yet they all give up their identity to create a new creature.

When this creature is formed, the community is no longer -- only the multi-celled organism that slinks away to find a better environment. Once found, it grows a stalk and releases spores which produce -- a whole new community of single cell organisms!

That really challenged my view of what life really means.

Our cells probably could live on . . . but they don't. Cancer is when cells refuse to die and respond to the signal to self-destruct (according to the documentary). What if we could find a way to make the right cells continue to live and the necessary ones die? Keep in mind, some cells need to die and disintegrate. Such material isn't needed and can cause major dysfunction. Thus, cancer is often deadly -- especially if left untreated.

And another thing . . . what keeps our cells (as humans) from merging into a new life form with other people?

Life is thought to have started from a single cell organism (if you believe in evolution. I do). And over time, communities of cells learned to come together to form multi-cell organisms. So, this odd community that merges into a new life form seems to be the missing link between single cell and multi-cell creatures!

Amazing!

And somehow, this knowledge makes the thought of death a little easier for me. I don't know why . . . it just does. I guess seeing that all nature cycles, changes, dies, and is born again. (no, not like in the bible!) We're not just being picked on. We just happen to have the cognition to know what's going on around us.

But to see cells change from one state to another makes me wonder if perhaps we do live on -- in some way. Not like the vivid afterlife of heaven as in the bible. But, in a subtle way. What if a tree has material from someone who died millions of years ago because their remains fertilized the ground? What about someone's ashes spread out to the sea? What if plants came to life in part because of that material that floated to the bottom of the ocean?

What if we become absorbed as nourishment for other organisms and ultimately some of our material resurfaces again as part of something else -- somewhere else?

Maybe the ancient philosophies and beliefs that accept reincarnation picked up on this possibility. Maybe they couldn't name it at the time and explained it instead with religion. I think the ancients recognized that we aren't only a smaller part of a larger cosmos. But also, a cosmos can be found in our very selves -- which in turn is made up of an unseen microcosm that may actually live beyond ourselves.

I think we can name it now; I think it's our cells.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

So Now What?

This is my first impromptu post. All the other posts so far were thought out and pre-written before I published them. But, I don't feel like doing all that this time.

Quite frankly, I can't think of much else to say. So . . . now what?

Well, I did start this blog for my self as an outlet for my feelings. That's what most blogs are, right?

I'm still in the closet concerning my apostasy. Now, my next issue . . . am I an atheist?

I'm not sure. I think I am. I'm comfortable with the idea. I can't see the point in worshiping God if I have to decide what and who God is. If it's left up to me, I'd rather not bother with it.

And, the idea of not having an after life doesn't bug me all that much.

Sometimes . . . but I'd rather have no afterlife than to be cast into the hell I was taught to believe in.

So, upon the suggestion of a friend, I will join a local group of atheists and see what it's like.

I've come to find out that when I stopped being a Christian, I just stopped. Something clicked in my brain and I just stopped. I didn't make a decision exactly. I just couldn't do it any longer after I realized I didn't believe. I think the same thing is happening with my thoughts on atheism. I don't think the group will convince me. I think something has clicked again and here I am -- an atheist.

If I am one . . . I'd say I'm a soft atheist. I don't believe there is a god, but I think spirituality can still be enjoyed and explored.

And of course, I have no problem with anyone else believing in god.

Just don't burn me at the steak if I disagree.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Congress shall make NO law . . .

Crushing all deceivers, mashing non-believers
Never-ending potency
Hungry violence-seeker feeding off the weaker
Breeding on insanity

Smashing through the boundaries, lunacy has found me
Cannot stop the battery.

-- Metallica


Believe it or not . . . separation of Church and State is a good idea. This idea IS WRITTEN into the US Constitution as part of the FIRST Amendment. This idea GRANTS freedom of religion -- along with freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

The above mentioned freedoms are among the most important in American society. Suppress those rights and you can kiss the "land of the free" goodbye.

Why?

Because . . . people cannot have true freedom if they cannot express themselves according to their own will or desires.

See . . . the religious environment of our founding fathers etched the importance of this concept into their minds. Back in England, you had better align your religious beliefs with the ruler of the day or -- off with your head! Rulers did what they wanted and ruled because they said that God put them on the throne. Got something negative to say about your king? Well, you've just said it about God's sense of judgment, too! Then the king and clergy introduced you to your divine punishment -- a guillotine, flaming steak, or boiling oil, to name only a few. And those tortures were their way of giving you a "going away" party while on your way to enjoy your eternal punishment in hell.

Ouch!

Our founding fathers clearly recognized this problem and didn't want to recreate the same environment after framing our new government.

After all, why do you think they left England in the first place?

Even the pilgrims left because they wanted freedom of worship . . . not because England didn't have ANY Christians there. They weren't leaving to evangelize a new world. They were leaving to be left alone.

The founding fathers understood that variance in belief had to be tolerated in order for everyone to have freedom. The Catholic needs to tolerate the Protestant. The Protestant needs to tolerate the Quaker. The Deist has to tolerate the Theist. And yes, the Atheist deserve tolerance, too. Each gets to practice his or her faith (or non-faith) . . . but none can force this on the other. This must exist not only among citizens, but with the governmental administration as well.

After all, what is the true purpose of our government? I propose that Government's purpose is first and foremost to facilitate the power of rule that belongs to the citizens. Yes -- the citizen's power. Government doesn't rule us, exactly. We elect representatives that are supposed to make our voice valid. If they do a poor job, we fire them by voting for someone else! Government also enforces the laws made and protect the citizens from outside and inside forces that threaten our private property and our personal rights. But, government cannot make any such law that overturns our power as people who govern ourselves. Government is not permitted to strip away our "inalienable" rights. In exchange for this, we support the government with taxes and obey the laws that are enforce by the government -- as long as they are reasonable and truly protect the people at large. Many citizens volunteer for the army that the Government funds through our tax dollars. We give, the Government gives. We support each other, but the people rule themselves through the Government by electing leaders. Keep in mind, any government can go astray. The founding fathers understood this too, and wrote into the Constitution the right to protest and assembly that we might bring grievances to our leaders. After all, government facilitate our power to rule ourselves -- they don't rule us as their people.

Government, however, is not about the business of regulating the morality of the culture. The government is then encroaching on the privacy of the citizens and has overstepped it's bounds. Our founding fathers confirm this ideal by making our government secular and non-Christian. Doesn't matter what the religious orientation was for any of the founding members of our government. They ultimately agreed to make our government secular when they added this statement to our Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
First Amendment, US Constitution (you know, the Law of our land -- if you're a US Citizen)

Congress is the only branch of government that can make laws. (Though, recently, it seems, some Presidential administrations want to push this envelope. This is very dangerous. Never mind your party affiliation). The First Amendment bans Congress from allowing any faith based organization to have laws made in it's favor -- nor can laws be made to suppress the exercise of any religion. These ideas can clash at times and the lines can get blurry. But, a good way to draw the line is to understand that religion is private. Church is private. Government can't stick it's nose in a religious organization's business (unless they are harming citizens against their will. Then, such a religious group has violated the rights of others and should be stopped). But, Church has no business trying to use Government to create a culture that reflects their beliefs.

Not fair. That violates the free will of everyone else. Change the culture through evangelism!

By the way . . . didn't Jesus say that his kingdom was not of this world?

Look at it this way . . . is our nation a theocracy?

Theocracy -- A government ruled by or subject to religious authority.

In other word's -- God's rule (or his 'clergy').

That won't do. Too many people disagree on who God is (or if he is). Christians can't agree among themselves if God is a trinity or only one person. How can they agree with any particular flavor of religion taking over our government and imposing rule? Instead of having two political parties, we'd have a party for every denomination of religious faith.

Just having two political parties makes my head hurt!

But, never fear. Our government is NOT a theocracy.

Old Testament Israel -- that was a theocracy.

Modern day Arab states ruled by radical Muslims -- those are examples of a theocracy.

But the United States of America . . . now that's a Republic.

A Republic is:
  • A political order whose head of state is not a monarch and in modern times is usually a president.
  • A nation that has such a political order.
  • A political order in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who are entitled to vote for officers and representatives responsible to them.
  • A nation that has such a political order.
  • An autonomous or partially autonomous political and territorial unit belonging to a sovereign federation.
  • A group of people working as equals in the same sphere or field

The supreme power lies in the citizens who are entitled to vote for officers. Not God. Not clergy. Not any religion. The citizens -- they are the ones who are sovereign.

Religion has a tendency to breed intolerance. We've seen it in history time and time again. And Again . . . that's why people came to the 'New World' in the first place. Religion breeds intolerance because faith is subjective, yet the rules of religion are often absolute. So without question, someone will not believe in your faith. Never mind if they don't believe in God. If they don't believe in your faith -- what's the difference if they are atheist or Hindu? They don't believe in your God the way you do. Even some people who call themselves Christian are not considered saved by other Christian groups. So, who gets to impose their faith on the world?

This absolutism also tends to cause religious organizations to have deep influence on their follower's lives. Intolerance and absolutism that aims to dictate how you should live so that you can make God happy (or is it all for the clergy? Hmmmm). Regardless, involving your life in a religious faith is a personal decision. Government should NOT pressure any of the citizens to do this. And the interesting part is . . . the Bill of Rights cannot be repealed. So, no act of Congress or vote of the people can erase this ideal.

Government simply does not need the power to rule people's lives in such a manner.

The USA is a Republic -- remember?

I fear, however that our Republic is slowly eroding away. People can become quite corrupt and the citizenry of any country can be lulled to sleep.

I fear that a religion of sorts is grasping the citizens at large and is causing them to forfeit the power of rule into the hands of corrupted entities who influence our government officials.

And believe it or not . . . I'm not referring to the so called 'conservative Christian Right'.

I'm referring to extreme, unquestioning, patriotism.

The religious kind.

Don't misunderstand me! Patriotism is good. We need it. Loving one's country is wonderful. We should be involved and we should care. We should come together as one and be proud of our nation. We should feel fortune and gratitude for our realized rights and freedoms. We should have deep respect for those who died for our country and died to protect our freedom.

Patriotism does not require believing our country is completely perfect. The USA has some blemishes in her past. You can still be a patriot while acknowledging these past (and yes, present) faults.

For example:

  • In the expansion of the USA, Native Americans were slaughtered. For restitution, the Native Americans were given tiny plots of land so they can be pseudo-sovereign nations. (Gee, thanks.)


  • Navajo Indians were being assimilated into American culture and being forced to forget their language in new public school programs. That is, until the US military realized the Germans never head of the Navajo language. Then, they wanted the Navajo to use their language for encrypted communication in World War II.

  • The US build concentration camps to hold Japanese immigrants during World War II.

  • US leaders planned a State sponsored terrorism* scheme called Operation Norwoods. The plan was discovered before it was implemented and people were held accountable.
* In other words, US leaders were plotting to stage the hijacking of a US airplane or bomb US buildings. US citizens could very well become casualties so that the people would become upset and rally behind the government in a show of patriotism and readily support war.


  • When Hussein rebelled against US interests, the Gulf War broke out. (And I thought we were trying to liberate the people of Kuwait). Eight years after that, US leaders end up in Iraq again**. Rumsfeld is in charge of the military strike that ultimately captures Hussein and has him tried for war crimes and executed. (I'm not saying Hussein was a nice guy . . . but, US leaders weren't being too nice, either).
** Ironic that Rumsfeld was sent by Ronald Reagan -- whose Vice-President was George H. Bush. And years later, the Gulf War happened; George H. Bush was President. Eight years later, the Iraqi War happens after 911; George W. Bush (H. Bush's son!!!) was President! And Rumsfield was Secretary of Defense for President George W. Bush at this time.

All coincidence?
  • The Iraqi war was launched under false pretenses. Alleged weapons that could endanger the US were said to be horded by Hussein before his capture. Military troops were sent in and toppled the Government. No weapons were found. Then, leaders started to say that we invaded Iraq to free the Iraqi people. Again, patriotism is used to get people's minds off of the scandal. Our love for freedom and our love for our troops gets exploited.

That's enough for now. You get the picture.

But, hey, I still love this country. And I deeply honor our troops. But, I am ashamed of some parts of US history. But, the strength of the US is that we can freely discuss these things and hold our leaders accountable.

Unless, the people become too patriotic to tolerate listening to the truth.

All the things I mentioned above -- all verifiable fact. None of it is left wing, wild-eyed liberal, hogwash. This problem transcends political parties. Both political parties will exploit hyper-patriotism.

Admitting America's imperfections is not unpatriotic. This is important to understand.

Lutherans realize that their name sake, Martin Luther, did evil things against the Jews and spread antisemitism so hard that Hitler was inspired by it. Lutherans acknowledge this and denounce this evil. Does that make them any less Lutheran?

Extreme, unquestioning acceptance to any leadership is like being in a religious cult. This type of patriotism allows corrupted officials to keep the populous in the palm of their hands. This is a type of brainwashing.

I did say that Christian conservatives were not the religion we needed to fear most in attempting to abduct our government. But, I do think that they are influenced the most by this blind, extremist patriotism. And, many religious leaders exploit this notion as do politicians. Mixing extreme patriotism with faith can cause people to follow God and country -- no matter what. Even if both 'God' and country both get caught doing something evil.

People forfeit their power to voice grievance when they refuse to examine the governments actions for the sake of patriotism. Such people will think the country is never wrong and the leadership shouldn't be questioned. They will support every war, fearing they are defaming our precious troops and spiting on our freedom. This is not the case. You can disapprove of a particular war and still honor and support our troops.

Yes, disapproving of a war and still honoring our troops can still be patriotic. Acknowledging the faults of our nation and still being proud of our country can be separate feelings within the same patriotic citizen.

Church and State need to be kept separate like that, too.