Apr 24, 2011

Without Evidence and Reason?

Do we have the right, indeed the duty, to evaluate the messages from our political and spiritual leaders? I argue that this is imperative. Blind obedience to dogma, or unproven claims shouldn't be the response of an enlightened people.

As the intended recipient of the messages from the various Xtian leaders on the occasion of Easter , I feel the need to respond. They keep telling us that only through faith a person can achieve enlightenment and salvation. Take for example the message from the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew who referred to the ‘arrogant human mind’ that attempts to harness the immensely stronger forces of nature, noting that this attitude is directly linked with the ‘spiritual deviation of the human race.’ Faith in the Risen Christ forms the only path modern man should follow, the Ecumenical Patriarch underlined.”

The heads of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches have often criticized humanism and the human mind’s attempt to make sense of the world around us through reason almost as a sin. Faith is the only and best way to understanding, they argue blissfully. I beg to differ. 

On the contrary, it is faith that can easily lead to arrogance—especially by those who claim to know and speak the mind of God! Taking something on faith usually means don’t ask for evidence and don’t use reason to evaluate absolute claims.

It is reason and skepticism that can prevent us from following someone who claims to have a message from God or speak on God’s behalf. There would be no problem if we knew for sure that such claims had come from the Omnipotent, but who knows? History is full of leaders and followers who were convinced they were carrying out God's commands. Of course, any faithful person can choose to accept such messages and follow any leader (spiritual or political) without evaluating, without any evidence or reason, but I think we should know better in this 21st century.

I know it’s unpopular to speak truth to power these days, but especially this Holy week our senses are overwhelmed with messages from God that only the very few have heard and ask us to just obey. As a counterbalance, there have to be voices against such rhetoric of ignorance and exaltation for sheepishness. 

It started with the Renaissance and culminated through the Enlightenment (17-18th centuries) when humanity re-discovered the ancient Hellenic civilization—one that the Orthodox Church in Byzantium tried to eradicate. It was the ancient culture which included the emphasis on reason, inquiry, and free expression, that laid, again, the foundations of our modern society.

It was through the path of the Enlightenment/Age of Reason—not divine revelation—that we can enjoy an unprecedented quality of life today. A better life with human rights, freedom of expression, which includes religious freedom.

So, I hope their holiness understand that I reserve my right to make up my own mind using the best tool I have available—reason. I won't claim it as infallible but its strength comes from acquired not revealed knowledge. And, it can be revised if better evidence is presented. What if they got it wrong? Maybe God wants us to use the mind he gave us...

Apr 8, 2011

Do the Republicans Have Any Shame Left? It's a Plutocracy Party and We're Not Invited!

Update, 4/13/11: I've got to hand it to Jon Stewart again. He nails it!

How do these "leaders" still argue for tax breaks to the wealthiest people in this country while cutting essential services--yes, those essential services the common people depend upon. And, yes, those pseudo-moralists want to shut down our government because of issues, like abortion, that have nothing to do with the budget deficit.

Here's the bottom line: corporate profits are sky-high, the middle class keep losing ground, the poor get poorer, the to 1% of the rich control 40% of the wealth, education, health care, and housing costs have risen astronomically compared to wages. Actually wages in NYS have declined, adjusted for inflation, in the last 20 years. But, we have cheaper consumer goods from China, bragging rights against those who die to sneak into our country, and a sense of superiority since only US teams make it into the World Series all the time.

Watch Bernie Sanders's (I-VT) speech. Every citizen should be aware of what he's saying when Republicans talk about deficits, budgets, and the role of government. Maybe they have no shame left, but if the American public doesn't see through their smoke and mirrors and send this regressive party home, then we, collectively, deserve what we get. 

I thought we were smarter than those who don't realize their own exploitation. I thought that at least we knew we were exploited but the American dream was about transcending those handicaps and realizing one's own potential.  Increasingly, this dream is only for those who sleep.