Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The trouble with quoting people out of context

Can a person not make a nuanced statement about the complexity of human behavior and motivation without having their words twisted by someone? Funny how even the mention of Hitler still causes people to lose all sense of reason.

In a story published Saturday in the Daily Record, Smith was quoted saying: "Even Hitler didn't wake up going, 'let me do the most evil thing I can do today.' I think he woke up in the morning and using a twisted, backwards logic, he set out to do what he thought was 'good.' "

I think Will's absolutely right. What Hitler did is what would be expected when you combine charisma, ignorance, hatred, extreme nationalism, and way too much power. Other than that, he was just a normal human like the rest of us.

Just my two cents...

Will Smith angry over Hitler comment interpretation -

Monday, December 24, 2007

on being a practicing Buddhist but still a cultural Christian

I think this is an interesting thing to make note of today, as this is Christmas Eve. Although I am now a practicing Buddhist, I will fully participating in Christmas celebrations with my family this evening and tomorrow morning.
What brings this to mind is a bit of conversation about religion I had with a guy I've been seeing and a friend of his over dinner on Saturday evening. Both he and his friend are East Indian, and what is what made the conversation particularly interesting.
I guess my friend was just making some casual conversation, but for some reason or another he asked me about church. We've discussed religion before (I told him about Unitarian Universalism, and I already knew he was a Sikh). I'd told him that I didn't believe in a God but that I went to a church that didn't place so much emphasis on belief as on how one lives one's life. And that my religion is different from my parents, who are evangelical Christians. I've never told him I was studying Buddhism.
Anyway, I was slightly perturbed about him bringing it up because for some reason or another I get painfully shy about discussing my religion. It's an incredibly personal thing to me, and also I'm fairly new to Buddhism and I'm concerned that I might say something that would give a wrong impression. But I think it's mostly just a fear of having my thoughts and feelings rejected.
Anyway, I decided on this occasion that I would tell him that I haven't been actually going to Church, that I haven't been a Christian for several years, and that I was actually now a Buddhist. He seemed absolutely shocked. I'm not really sure why I got that reaction. What surprised me was that he didn't even know that Buddhism originated in India--this was a surprised cause he likes to brag a lot about all the good stuff that came from India--but at least his friend knew about that. His friend asked where there was a Buddhist temple in this area, and honestly I don't know of any. This, I suspect, is a cultural thing. I mean, where they are from it might be assumed that a Buddhist would visit a temple regularly. I would like to visit one from time to time, but I can't see how that would be essential to practicing. My friend thought if I was a Buddhist I was supposed to shave my head. (LOL) I explained that is something I'd only be expected to do if I was a monk.
So, apparently they have a bit of a hard time seeing how someone can be a Buddhist without all the cultural stuff that would come with being raised as a Buddhist in a country that is largely Buddhist. Well, that is just not the situation I am in--no matter how much my personal beliefs and practice are Buddhist, I'm still culturally a Christian. And that is my reality.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Interesting License Plate

I now live close enough to my workplace to drive home for lunch. So I decided to do that today.

Anyway, on the way home I saw a car parked in the street. I was sitting at a light so I had time to get a good look. First I noticed the bumper sticker: "Topless mountains are obscene." Very true, I thought. It was only then that I noticed the license plate.


Humm...I knew I knew the word, but could not place it. Pretty sure it was a Sanskrit word that I came across in reading about Buddhism but I still get all those terms mixed up. So I did a search and here is what I found.

Non-violence. Very cool.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Absolutely shocking...



The Council for Secular Humanism Chides Congress for Disrespecting Religions

(December 14, 2007) -- Experts from the Council for Secular Humanism noted with alarm the passage of H. Res. 847 in the House of Representatives. This unnecessary, unwarranted, and bigoted law, under the misleading title "Recognizing the Importance of Christmas and the Christian Faith" passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support It effectively undermines the sort of religious tolerance necessary in these changing times.

Just days ago in the midst of the Jewish Festival of Lights, four Jewish men in New York City were attacked on the subway for replying to a group of ten people who wished them a "Merry Christmas" with a similar greeting: "Happy Hanukkah. For this, these men were first insulted, then beaten. It was a Muslim man who came to their physical defense. The actions of the Congress, by passing the resolution and thus expressing preference to the Christian faith over all the others represented by the diverse population of these United States, encourages this sort of behavior.

The First Amendment's guarantee of religious liberty, and of the nonestablishment of religion, was devised to create a secular state in which all religions would be equally tolerated and none given preference. The language of the House resolution effectively undermines the design of the Founders, and creates an atmosphere where non-Christians will continue to be targeted, treated like second-class citizens, and even become victims of violence like those four Jewish subway riders in New York.

Paul Kurtz, CSH chair, stated, "It is deplorable that in this day and age and in light of violence against religious minorities here in the United States that the Congress would stoke those flames with preferential language in support of a single religion." David Koepsell, CSH's executive director, noted, "Te First Amendment Guarantee was designed to prevent the sort of religious intolerance that resulted in violence in Europe, and our Congress should respect the intent of the Founders."

We call on the Congress to reject this resolution, to stand up for religious freedom, secularism, and pluralism, and to foster a climate in which all believers and nonbelievers alike are treated equally.

I'm speechless.

Here is the text of H. Res. 847 in case you are interested.



1st Session

H. RES. 847
Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith.


December 6, 2007

Mr. KING of Iowa (for himself, Mr. AKIN, Mrs. BACHMANN, Mr. BAKER, Mr. BARRETT of South Carolina, Mr. BISHOP of Utah, Mr. BOOZMAN, Mr. BRADY of Texas, Mr. BROUN of Georgia, Mr. BURTON of Indiana, Mr. CARTER, Mr. CONAWAY, Mr. DAVID DAVIS of Tennessee, Mr. DOOLITTLE, Mr. FEENEY, Mr. FORTENBERRY, Ms. FOXX, Mr. FRANKS of Arizona, Mr. GINGREY, Mr. GOHMERT, Mr. HAYES, Mr. HERGER, Mr. ISSA, Mr. SAM JOHNSON of Texas, Mr. JONES of North Carolina, Mr. JORDAN of Ohio, Mr. KINGSTON, Mr. KLINE of Minnesota, Mr. KUHL of New York, Mr. LAHOOD, Mr. LAMBORN, Mr. LAMPSON, Mr. DANIEL E. LUNGREN of California, Mr. MCCAUL of Texas, Mr. MCINTYRE, Mrs. MCMORRIS RODGERS, Mr. MILLER of Florida, Mrs. MUSGRAVE, Mrs. MYRICK, Mr. NEUGEBAUER, Mr. POE, Mr. SALI, Mr. SHADEGG, Mr. SMITH of Texas, Mr. STEARNS, Mr. TERRY, Mr. TIAHRT, Mr. WALBERG, Mr. WELDON of Florida, Mr. WILSON of South Carolina, Mr. DAVIS of Kentucky, and Mrs. DRAKE) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs


Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith.

Whereas Christmas, a holiday of great significance to Americans and many other cultures and nationalities, is celebrated annually by Christians throughout the United States and the world;

Whereas there are approximately 225,000,000 Christians in the United States, making Christianity the religion of over three-fourths of the American population;

Whereas there are approximately 2,000,000,000 Christians throughout the world, making Christianity the largest religion in the world and the religion of about one-third of the world population;

Whereas Christians identify themselves as those who believe in the salvation from sin offered to them through the sacrifice of their savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and who, out of gratitude for the gift of salvation, commit themselves to living their lives in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Bible;

Whereas Christians and Christianity have contributed greatly to the development of western civilization;

Whereas the United States, being founded as a constitutional republic in the traditions of western civilization, finds much in its history that points observers back to its roots in Christianity;

Whereas on December 25 of each calendar year, American Christians observe Christmas, the holiday celebrating the birth of their savior, Jesus Christ;

Whereas for Christians, Christmas is celebrated as a recognition of God's redemption, mercy, and Grace; and

Whereas many Christians and non-Christians throughout the United States and the rest of the world, celebrate Christmas as a time to serve others: Now, therefore be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) recognizes the Christian faith as one of the great religions of the world;

(2) expresses continued support for Christians in the United States and worldwide;

(3) acknowledges the international religious and historical importance of Christmas and the Christian faith;

(4) acknowledges and supports the role played by Christians and Christianity in the founding of the United States and in the formation of the western civilization;

(5) rejects bigotry and persecution directed against Christians, both in the United States and worldwide; and

(6) expresses its deepest respect to American Christians and Christians throughout the world.


So what about a rejection of bigotry and persecution against anyone, regardless of religion? What about those four Jewish men in New York? And the Muslim man who came to their defense?

The Founding Fathers are turning in their graves, I'm sure.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Colorado gunman scared co-workers 5 years ago, one says -

I just can't help commenting on this...

He said Murray was told in December 2002 he would not be allowed to join a mission trip to Bosnia. That was five days after Murray performed a pair of dark rock songs at a concert at the mission that made fellow workers "pretty scared," according to Werner.

The performance -- which included a song by rock band Linkin Park and another that had been recorded by controversial rocker Marilyn Manson -- followed months of strange behavior, Werner said

I used to belong a evangelical group with similar beliefs as this "Youth With a Mission" group. When I was in there, I was terrified of stuff like metal and industrial music. However, now I know there is nothing there to fear...except the fear you create in your own mind. If they were so worried about his 'wierd behavior'--they claim that he even said he was hearing 'voices'--then why didn't they get him some help? I have to suspect, very strongly, that the news media is not reporting the whole story. Linkin Park and Marilyn Manson songs are not going to cause a guy to shoot people in a church, though (knowing how these people think) I'm sure a lot of people will assume the songs influenced him in some dark and sinister way. I'd be interested in knowing what really happened in this young man's life to lead to such an attrocious act.

Colorado gunman scared co-workers 5 years ago, one says -

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Golden Compass

*****Big SPOILER Alert! If you have not either read the book or seen the movie, you may not want to read this just yet!!!****

That being said...

After months of waiting, I finally got to see The Golden Compass movie today. I'd heard about it a few months ago, and heard that it was written by an atheist and that it had gotten the church, the Catholic Church in particular, all up in arms and warning its members not to see the movie. So, I thought, I'd better check it out! (Same way I first encountered the Harry Potter series as well, for that matter, but that is beside the point.) Got to love the irony--as a major theme in The Golden Compass is like this: Don't let the Magisterium do your thinking for you!!! And in as far as the church wants to act like the Magisterium and control people's thinking, and only let them access the 'desired' truths, and only see movies with the 'desired' messages--well they are only proving Pullman's point, are they not? (They may not have the power now, but back when they were in control this was exactly the sort of thing they did.)

Ok, stepping off the soapbox now :)

I think the movie is worth seeing. For one thing, the visual effects were great. The daemons were just as good as I'd imagined them to be, and this is a great compliment for any 'based on book' movie. Also, they kept the story pretty well in tact--even though they had to do a lot of condensing. It's slightly less than 2 hours long. That is a lot of story to squeeze into two hours. I hope there is an extended version when it comes out on DVD.

I was also impressed with the way the characters were played out. The girl that played Lyra Silvertongue was great--especially in the scene with Iofer Raknison. And then there was the scene where Mrs. Coulter was looking at the picture of Lyra and the golden monkey slaps it out of her hand--and in return she slaps him. It really shows her as a person divided, which is not quite so clear in the first book of the series (comes out later though.) Her very soul is full of evil, but yet there is some sort goodness in there, fighting to come out? This was very nicely played by Nicole Kidman.

I have one beef with the movie--they cut out the last scene! Right after Lyra gets the kids out out Bolvangar and her and Roger get in the airship to go to Asriel, the credits come up! I was anticipating seeing Asriel blow the Northern sky open! When I saw that wasn't going to happen, at least not in this movie, I audibly said "You've got to be kidding me!" (a bit embarrassing, actually...) Lets just say that adding that last scene would have make the movie a lot more interesting and true to the book, and would have make a great cliffhanger in lieu of the next movie. However, it would have made the movie a bit darker, so that is probably why it wasn't included. You know if you've read the book, that when the alethiometer tells Lyra that she is bringing Asriel what he needs, it is not referring to itself. And I'll leave that at that--you will have to either read the book or wait until the next movie to find exactly what I mean.