Friday, April 17, 2009

Crucial Conversations

Last night I participated in an interfaith dialog. It was an interesting experience. The group that organized the dialog insisted that my dialog partner and I have a meal together first. So like a week ago the organizer, my dialog partner, and I went to breakfast together. My dialog partner’s name is Humza. I had never met him and was excited to meet him; he is Muslim and I didn’t know anyone who was before I had met him.

The breakfast was cool. We all got along just fine. We agreed to the topics that we would discuss later. We agreed to talk about our different beliefs in the afterlife, how our beliefs were shaped, how society sees us, and things like that. We couldn’t do it that day; the organizer couldn’t get all of his camera equipment ready till later in the week.

When we met last night I discovered that we had quite a few differences in opinion, but we were able to find a lot of common ground. Islam is quite the polar opposite of Atheism. Humza is a cool guy. Something that we agreed on was that no matter how we believe and no matter how others believe we still have to live with people who don’t believe the same as us. We can ether fight them about their beliefs or you can just learn to accept their beliefs.

He and I really disagreed when it came to thoughts about the afterlife. Islam has a significantly different idea of heaven than I thought. He told me that after we die, Muslims believe that our body tells Allah about our sins. We don’t speak with our mouths, but things like our feet and hands speak to god and tell him about our sins. As an Atheist, I don’t believe that anything happens after we die. I believe that the rewards that we should receive for the good that we do in this world, come to us in this world. Seeing as this is the only chance that we get to live our life.

I really enjoyed the dialog. I found things out about my ideology. There was one question about the difference between speaking with someone to understand their faith and speaking with someone to convert them to your faith. We both agreed that when trying to learn about another’s faith, religion, or ideology you can’t have the end goal as a conversion. You must be able to have an open mind.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Come On Man, Not Funny

I have always thought that if something was done in good fun, there really is no way that people can take something offensive. But after the group presentation today, I really see jokes really aren’t funny all the time.

The jokes about women were really offensive. They were very juvenile. I know that I would have found them funny if I was still ten years old, but now, they are rude and inappropriate.

The thing that I found the most profound was that people in the UK are discriminated against because they are light skinned, red haired, and have freckles. I had no clue that this kid of discrimination occurred in the world. I have always thought that white persons were excluded from discrimination, at least on the base of their skin color. I mean while people discriminate against other races and even their own when it comes to political affiliation, religious views, and the like. But this is all new to me.

I don’t really get the “ginger” discrimination. I find red headed women to be very attractive. I don’t get it.

It must be that this type of discrimination is specific to the United Kingdom. I won’t deny that it may exist in the United States, but if it does, then it is not as pronounced as other types of discrimination.

The only thing that I could find about “ginger” discrimination here in the US was a South Park episode. Where Cartman wanted to unite the gingers and kill all the “normal” people. I don’t watch the show, so I don’t know what the episode really entails. There was no description.

But does humor really break down barriers to discrimination? Dave Chapell refused to continue his show on comedy central because he thought that he was just reinforcing negative stereotypes of the black community. I don’t have the answers.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Political Despair

Everything that I seem to have to consume has been completely constructed for me. That just fills me with… despair. I have always thought that democracy was the best way to run our government. But from the looks of things, it is simply the worst. Huge multi-national corporations are now so large that they have the political and economic muscle to pass any legislation that they feel is in their interests, even if it is not in the good of the public. I have always thought that our legislative representatives were corrupt, but I could do something about it. I could run for office, or at least, campaign for someone who had some decency. But now I know that I don’t have enough money to do a damn thing!

Rather than listening to consumers, like years ago, corporations now only give us a single voice to listen to. They censor everything that we hear or see all in the name of capitalism. It is so disheartening.

I feel like I’m stuck in Plato’s allegory of the cave. All I ever see are the shadows on the wall. The media is the fire and the corporations chose what objects we see. I just can’t imagine what the world outside of the cave would look like. Is it a world where the acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives? Is it a world where those we chose to represent us look out for the public good, and not their wallets? Or does this world even exist?

There are two things you have to do to keep a civilization from an overthrow. First, create a disaster that requires something that you have to resolve the problem. Preferably something that is scarce. Next, while giving the people the solution, blame someone the whole civilization is afraid of. In a panic of fear, people give up rights in order to become safe again.

Congress lied to us and took our rights after September 11th 2001. People believe there is nothing that they can do about it. In the last midterm election less than twenty percent even voted. Political efficacy is at the lowest point that it has ever been at in America. The people are so in debt that they can’t even begin to see the sun, which only adds to the despair that the public feels.

And in America, people don’t react the same way to abuse of power by lawmakers and public officials. In France there was a riot when government officials tried to get rid of a social program that gave people without much money the option for cheap housing. There was a riot. If this happened in American, we wouldn’t even notice… Americans don’t have the will to fight the corporations of the world.

We don’t have the economic muscle to defeat the power of the corporations. We, as Americans, are supposed to have the most economic freedom in the world, but when corporations tell us what to buy and we don’t have another option. How free is that?

I feel so much political despair…

Friday, March 20, 2009


With all of the talking about conglomeration within media, I just keep thinking about anti-trust laws. Anti-trust laws prohibit groups from forming large scale monopolies. In 2001 Microsoft was accused of violating anti-trust laws when they started packaging the product “internet explorer” with the Microsoft office bundle for free.

Anti-trust laws are meant to protect consumers from price fixing and price gouging. But with media, the protection is different. Anti-trust laws that are written for media protect consumers from self mitigated censorship. When one message is the only one that is heard, then it is the only one believed, is the idea behind pushing all media ownership.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Now Things Are Getting Scary

The whole time that we were talking about media control in class, I kept thinking about a television show called “Bullshit”. The show airs on Showtime network and is hosted by Penn and Teller (well more by Penn). In its second season the show tackled the important issue of censorship and profanity. The discussed at length the legal, societal, and personal sides of the issue. The show is very well researched, but I would only recommend it if you are ok with heavy use of the “F” word. There was a part where the FCC was discussed and quoted as saying something to the effect of: When they [the FCC] get the go-ahead from congress they intend to start regulating cable and pay TV. They don’t have the ability to do so now.

Right now the FCC only regulates what you can pick up with an antenna. So this means they have no say about what happens on cable, the internet, or subscription service TV. They only have the ability to regulate basic channels and radio.

This is the single most horrifying thing that I think I have ever heard. I still can’t get it out of my head. Thomas Jefferson once said, “A government big enough to give you everything you need, is big enough to take everything you have.”

Think about that!

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Contradiction

The way Gloria Watson (bell hooks is Gloria Watson’s pen name and I refuse to refer to her in as bell hooks; capitalize the letters, it’s grammar, not oppression) perceives the world is a way that I hope that I never see. She sees every action as a part of the problem. I would hate to be the one who has to break it to her that the world that she believes is so racist, she actively participates in. She works for an upstanding university in Kentucky, but the thing is that she probably buys wares and services from companies that have oppressed some social, ethnic, economic class in history.

It seems that she only cares about the color black. Now call me a racist if you think I am, but only one color matters to me: green. Money makes the world go round. She advocates a total removal of the current system, but I KNOW that the current system is the best way to do things, because millions of people would be killed and harmed in the transition. Anarchy leads to Despotism.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Alternative

I have really strong opinions about some things. I just happen to be very passionate about what I believe, and I consider that passion to be a source of great strength for me. But at times it can get in my way. While my group was trying to select a topic for our presentation I kept hammering for a specific discrimination that I have been the target of in my life, but the topic isn’t really one that could easily be accomplished for this project. So I thought that I would talk about it here in my blog for this week.

When I was eighteen I had a real crisis of faith. I thought that I had found a profession that I would enjoy a great deal. I was going to be helping people as an EMT. But about halfway through the training, I was on a ride along with the city’s Emergency Services and the ambulance responded to a multiple vehicle car crash. The driver of an SUV had tried to avoid an accident on the express way by swerving into the median, but that had just flipped her car right over and into oncoming traffic. Six cars were involved and seeing how we were the first ambulance on the scene, it became the jobs of the EMTs and I to evaluate the severity of the injuries of the people that were involved, called triage.

The first person that I came up to was a nine year old girl had been hit in the head. Her hair was once blond but because of the blood, it was now a dark crimson color. Because she had not been in a car seat, she had been thrown around the vehicle like a rag doll. Blood was everywhere. The girl wasn’t breathing, she had no pulse; she was dead and I had to put a black tag on her forehead, to indicate that she was dead. I started throwing up and I don’t really remember anything else about that day.

I went to see my pastor the next day. I explained what had happened and asked her, “Why would God do such a terrible thing to her, and her family? What higher purpose would this little girl’s death serve? What did she do to deserve such a painful death?” The answer that I got from my pastor was one that made me cringe. She told me that everything that god does have a purpose, but that we may not be able to know it. I asked for help with dealing with what I had seen, but all she wanted to do was pray. I told her I needed an explanation but she didn’t have one for me.

This chain of event is what lead to my religious conversion to Atheism.

I like being an atheist. I have a view of the world that suits me. But when people learn that I am an atheist, they then tend to feel that it is their responsibility to convert me back to Christianity. I tell people that my philosophy on god is that in a world where god allows children to die when murderers live, I would much rather believe that there is no god. But I have never met someone who lets me live with my philosophy.

The devout religious just can’t deal with the fact that I don’t believe in god any more. They take it as a personal attack on their faith. I don’t really care what religion someone is, but when they take it upon themselves to attack my beliefs, I take it personally. I attack back with some of the more obvious contradictions within the Bible. Then I get called godless and immoral. But I end up being the bad guy? Is that how atheists got such a bad reputation? By arguing against faith with logic?

I see signs and religious symbols and icons advertized everywhere, but if I were to buy a billboard and put up some sort of pro-atheism message on it, there would be an up cry by the religious community. I would be forced to take the sign down, and I would probably not be able to find a job. I never tell the people that I work with that I am an atheist. I am too afraid of what they would try to do to me.

I feel that these two clips (the first is from the Paula Zahn show, the second is a personal testimonial of a Christian) the hatred that the mainstream media has for atheists.

It just makes me feel… alone.