Monthly Archives: October 2015

Make Up Your Mind!


Last weekend, I traveled to a state which is suffering from severe drought.  On Friday, there was a day-long storm which brought some much-needed relief with predictions the rain would last through the weekend.  That night my wife and I attended a banquet.  During the invocation before the meal, the pastor thanked the Lord for the much needed rain.  Then he jokingly asked there be a respite during the a local sporting event the next afternoon.

I’ve often wondered, if there is a God, how he or she might respond to trivial requests, especially those related to sports.  I imagine the conversation might go something like this.

God: For weeks you’ve been praying to me, begging for rain. I finally answer your prayers and you’re still not satisfied.

Pastor: We do appreciate your bringing the rain, but why, of all times, did you choose homecoming weekend?

God: I’m busy.  I get to things as I can.

Pastor: I know that. But we have all these alumni in town.  And it’s a special homecoming.  We’re celebrating the the founding of our local university.

God: Okay.  It won’t rain tomorrow.  Or for the next two months.  Enjoy the game.

And who could blame him or her.

For what it’s worth.


How Can They All Be Right?



In December 2011, I made a presentation, part of which covered the topic, “My Spiritual Journey or How I Became an Orthodox Jedi.”

The journey was 43 years in the making and focused on the question whether one could be both spirtual and agnostic. While I admit religious organizations do good deeds in the name of their gods, I believe, as did Christopher Hitchens, there is no need to attribute the desire to do good to some mythical being or for some reward in the afterlife. I have the power to do good deeds because it is the right thing to do.

Of more concern are the number of cruel and unacceptable acts committed in the name of religion. Or how a loving and compassionate god allows such acts. Barbaric wars and persecutions are bad enough. But when a score of innocent children are slaughtered while attending school, I cannot believe this is any god’s plan.

Much of this dysfunction is due to the absolute nature of religion. Consider the following passages from the New Testament, Old Testament and Koran.

John 14:6 — “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Exodus 19:5 — “Now therefore, if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people.”

Shahada — “There is no God but Allah.”

They cannot all be right. Therefore, one must question whether any of them are right. And I am not alone. Consider the following.

Atheist Penn Jillete in his book God, No! — “You don’t have to be brave or a a saint, a martyr, or even very smart to be an atheist. All you have to be able to say is, ‘I don’t know.'”

Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, founder of the Jewish Reconstructionist Movement — “A religion is as much a progressive unlearning of false ideas concerning God as it is the learning of true ideas concerning God.”

In the movie Contact, when apologizing that he and not Ellie Arroway, who discovered an extraterrestrial message, would be the passenger on a transport described in the transmission, David Drumlin says, “I wish the world was a place where fair was the bottom line, where the kind of idealism you showed at the hearing was rewarded, not taken advantage of. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world.” Arroway, disqualified for her agnostic views, replies, “Funny. I’ve always believed the world is what we make of it.”

And finally, master Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi — “The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.”

Obi-Wan suggests we have a choice. Think about computing power. We can either believe that everything must go through a central server of enormous power. Or we can believe that the power is distributed much the way Skype draws on the computer power of millions of individually owned computers, tablets and smartphones. I prefer this latter view. But I will not try and convince you of my perspective because “I don’t know.”

For what it’s worth.


Football and Violence in America

Is itreview_foxrobot_8 a coincidence football has become the America’s most popular sport at the same time there is a increase in gun violence in the United States? In a now famous monologue comparing football and baseball, the late George Carlin closes with the following:

In football the object is for the quarterback, also known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy’s defensive line.

In baseball the object is to go home! And to be safe! – I hope I’ll be safe at home!

Or look at the Fox Sports robot which the network uses to promote its football broadcasts. It more resembles Robo-Cop or a transformer than an athlete. Sadly, football uniforms are beginning to look more and more like this caricature’s outfit. More elaborate faceguards. Tinted eye shields. Flack jackets. Players come prepared for battle.

I know this is a stretch, but I can’t help but wonder if mass shooters view these acts of violence as another outlet to suit up and battle their rivals regardless the reason they believe they are in competition with their victims.

Don’t get me wrong. I love watching football. But this entry was triggered (pun intended) while watching yesterday’s NFL game at Wembley Stadium. Which sports are most valued in other industrialized countries in which gun violence is less prominent? In Europe the answer is futbol (which we call soccer) and cricket. Observe the difference in uniforms. The players are exposed. In futbol, a player is more likely to feign injury than actually injure somebody. And neither sport requires it participants to be 350 pound human anomolies whose primary role is to crush their opponents in the “trenches.”

Do I believe making soccer or cricket the American pasttime will end gun violence? Absolutely not. But if we really want to do something about this epidemic, we must put everything on the table for consideration.

For what it’s worth.


Hoarders versus Spenders


gold-barsDuring the 2012 presidential election, there was much talk by Republicans about “makers” and “takers.” The essence of the their argument was that the wealthy were job creators while those on any kind of public assistance were not contributing to the economy.

If the success of the US economy is dependent on consumption, perhaps we should stop talking about “makers” and “takers” and focus on “hoarders” and “spenders.” Forbes Magazine reported the net worth of the 400 richest Americans rose from $1.7 TRILLION in 2012 to $2.0 TRILLION in 2013. Just imagine what might happen if most of that $300 BILLION in new wealth had gone to lower and middle income wage earners. Chances are pretty good they would have spent it on food, clothing, household needs, maybe a new car or home improvements. Would this contribute to growth in the economy as the demand for these goods and services have to be filled? That is why many, myself included, believe an increase in the minimum wage will put money in the hands of those most likely to spend it, adding to the demand for goods and services.

For what it’s worth.


Who are these so-called REAL PEOPLE?



If you’ve been watching news programs lately, maybe you noticed there is an increasing need for reporters to talk to “real people.” For example, to get opinions about a topic of the day, the reporter will tell us, “We asked real people what they think?” Who else would they talk to? Artificial people? Animals? Trees?

The last time I looked, we were all REAL PEOPLE. So let’s start referring to individuals more accurately. For example, in Iowa, refer to individuals as potential participants in the party caucuses.

For what it’s worth.