Welcome!
Billy Dees - Writer, Podcaster, & Media Enthusiast 

I am Billy Dees and I am thrilled that you stopped by my website!

This website is a collection of my editorials and blog posts. The site also features many of my podcasts. The "Billy Dees" Podcast is available on most of the major Internet Radio Networks including Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Stitcher, TuneIn, Spreaker, and Google Play for Android. 

Social issues, politics, and pop culture are among the topics featured. I am not an ideologue. I try to objectively examine issues and hopefully present a unique perspective to the reader and listener. Thank You.

My most recent podcast, an episode list, and live podcasts will appear here:

Listen to "Billy Dees Podcast Show" on Spreaker.

Saturday
Dec052015

Are Some People Born Evil?

The recent acts of terror both at home and abroad have raised many philosophical questions about what types of individuals would be inspired to commit such horrific deeds. Are they directly influenced by their upbringing and environment to commit evil? Or perhaps is there something at the core of their being that would eventually drive them to commit atrocities against the innocent regardless of what the eventual stimuli may be in their lives?

This leads to one of the oldest debates about human behavior; nature versus nurture. This argument is used in reference to any number of human behavioral tendencies. For the sake of the topic today, are we products of an ancestral lineage that helped create us with a propensity toward evil or are we influenced by other people and other factors in our environment to learn evil traits? Again, to clarify today’s discussion we are not talking about petty crimes or minor moral dilemmas. We are talking about abhorrent evil.

Negative conditioning is most obvious any time a picture of a child surfaces wearing a hooded sheet or a Nazi uniform. This type of negative conditioning is also present on the tough streets of our most violent cities where children are often inured to violent behavior and to idolize criminals. There is no question that these children are not getting off to a good start through no fault of their own. However, despite negative odds many people rise above these types of conditioning and go on to live productive lives. Conversely, many children are raised by loving and caring families along with well-adjusted siblings in diverse communities and somehow still manage to end up choosing a dark path in life.

Specific prejudices are most certainly learned and under the right conditions can be untaught so to speak through education and guidance. However, I’m not sure that the same applies to an actual blood thirst and a desire for mass murder.

Two of the patron saints of evil are Osama bin Laden and Adolf Hitler. In this regard the histories of both men are worthwhile and interesting topics of discussion.

Osama bin Laden was born into a very wealthy family with strong connections in Saudi Arabia. He arguably had every opportunity to live a carefree lifestyle and was hardly a victim of an unfair start in life. Nonetheless, somewhere along the line the rich quiet child transformed into a religious extremist. As his radical views and actions grew his family reportedly disowned Osama bin Laden and the Saudi Arabian government revoked his passport.

Very young Adolf HitlerHitler’s personal religious beliefs are a subject of much conjecture and debate. It is generally presumed that Hitler was a materialist with little spiritual feeling and most likely evoked religion only to legitimize his own interests. Hitler had an estranged relationship with his father who died when Hitler was a young man. His mother died several years later and by all accounts her death was very difficult for Hitler because he was very close to her. Hitler’s ideological development most certainly began to resolutely take shape some years later after the First World War. Hitler was embittered over the breakdown of the war effort and was shocked by Germany’s complete capitulation to the terms of the surrender.

Both Osama bin Laden and Hitler were skilled communicators, intelligent, and able to amass a large radical following. Unfortunately, their bizarre and malevolent brand of charisma reaches beyond their graves to inspire deep-seated violence and hatred for a present-day generation. It is a plausible assertion that if either man directed his leadership skills toward good deeds the world might be a better place.

So, why do some people such as Osama bin Laden and Hitler actually seem to choose to commit diabolical acts?

As the understanding of the human genome has progressed it seems as though both of the arguments for nature and nurture are partially correct. Nature endows us with certain inborn abilities and traits and then the nurture aspect takes these genetic tendencies and molds them as we mature.

By contrast, The Bible addresses the notion that some people are incorrigibly wicked. “Though grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and regard not the majesty of the Lord.”

I do not believe that there are positive or negative spirits influencing human behavior. However, I do feel that some people will innately and deliberately turn away from what we might call a natural goodness or morality.

Most pets have been conditioned through generations of selective breeding to genetically be predisposed to co-exist with human beings. Those with the most friendly and human like attributes are encouraged to breed. They are also a product of human nurturing as almost from their birth they are raised by humans who love them and show them affection. However, there are times when a pet, despite the best pedigree and nurturing, is a dangerous threat to human beings and therefore must be destroyed.

Is it possible that some people as well are not intrinsically capable of living in a civilized world with other human beings?

There is ongoing research as to what other possible causes there may be for violent tendencies and psychopathic behavior. Many have suggested that irregularities in the brain and the limbic system could play significant roles in the development of violent behavior. Any combination of physical or mental abuse is also a major consideration. A more controversial theory from the biological and evolutionary point of view is that the transition of man from beast to the purveyor of civilization is not yet complete.

Going back hundreds of millennia, the first evidence of the use of tools by our earliest human ancestors in Africa is followed closely by the use of weaponry. It didn’t take long for us to realize that the same tools and technics that could split rocks could also split heads. We are a violent species that has utilized war as much as anything else to shape our civilizations.

I would agree that humans could very well be influenced by our early animalistic instincts. After all, we are just an advanced species of primates and not the only members of that group to engage in aspects of warfare. However, referring to certain evil humans as animals may be an insult to animals because we have managed to kick thing up a notch in the brutality department. Megalomania and genocide are a few examples of classically unique human endeavors. 

The same power of intellect that we possess as human beings that gave us the ability to dream of traveling to the moon has also enabled some of us to craft new ways of indulging our desire to inflict pain and suffering onto other people and living things. In this regard I wonder if it is this dark side of our brainpower that has allowed us to evolve a barbarity that transcends the natural viciousness of the wild kingdom. Serial killers are prime examples of human beings who not only have an insatiable desire to kill but also mix their homicidal cravings with a lust for violent deviance. Sociopaths, who have no conscience but yet retain the uncanny ability to disguise this disastrous inadequacy, by some accounts represent one to four percent of our population.

I wonder how many of us would take a tour of the most violent and locked down death row wards in various prisons throughout the country? What would scare us the most about that experience? Would it be the fear of violence? Or perhaps, would it be that we don’t want to face the fact that the people incarcerated there are not necessarily monsters but are more normal human beings than what we would care to admit? Maybe they remind us of our own evil dark side that dwells deep within each of us. The only thing that separates us from impenitent killers is that they choose to indulge an aspect of their will that we as civilized human beings recognize as the absolute worst traits that humankind has to offer. In my opinion there has to be something misfiring in the character of what makes them human that makes their brand of evil beyond rehabilitation.

Are some people born evil? To some degree I would argue that we are all born evil. However, we are also born with a great capacity to love and care for each other. Those traits have become a valuable part of our intellectual evolutionary process as well. We comprehend and appreciate that it is much harder to create and nurture the fragility of life than it is to destroy it, and that our immense capacity to destroy life could result in the end of our species and possibly the end of all life as we know it. The common desire that we all share as human beings to be loved and respected should extend to all living things and the world that we live in. It is for these reasons that the vast majority of us win our inner struggles to become better people and work toward a better world for everyone. Our love and appreciation for each other is the heartbeat of our humanity.

In this way we as intelligent and civilized human beings have great powers of reason and a free will. There is hardly anyone of any age who is not able to recognize the act of murder as an offense against humanity and the laws of a civilized society. I would caution against shifting the blame for the evil that some men do onto other influences in society. I understand that it may be easier for some of us to believe that we are all born sweet and innocent rather than to have to struggle with our own still evolving inner demons. That is scary because frankly it is a fight that some of us will not win and eventually we all need to own up to who and what we are as an individual human being.

Ultimately, that is what separates the good people from the evil people. 

Sunday
Sep202015

The Planned Parenthood Controversy

Abortion, a subject that always seems to be inserted into the grandiloquence of presidential politics, has again become a central theme in the upcoming 2016 election. A new debate among legislators and the public at large about the federal funding for Planned Parenthood has arisen. 

The latest incarnation of the abortion issue became center stage when the incongruously named Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, produced what amount to sting video tapes allegedly showing the sale of baby body parts for medical research by Planned Parenthood earlier this summer. There are reportedly approximately 12 hours of footage. The content, accuracy, and to what extent the videos have been edited are a topic of much debate and investigation around the country.

At this time the general consensus about the videos is that they do show officials from Planned Parenthood discussing fetal tissue in ways that could be construed as coldhearted and appalling. However, there doesn't seem to be any blatant instance on video where Planned Parenthood discusses procuring fetal tissue for profit. There also doesn’t appear to be any strong clear moments on video of the sensationalized and goulash descriptions of squirming babies about to have their brains harvested as some candidates and commentators asserted.

The use of fetal tissue has produced some groundbreaking scientific discoveries due to the tissue’s capacity to rapidly divide, grow, and adapt to new and various conditions. Notably in 1954 researchers managed to grow the polio vaccine in fetal kidney cell cultures. In more recent years and in a changing technological medical landscape the use of stem cells for therapeutic and research purposes has become more of a central focus than fetal tissue.  Nonetheless, it remains legal to donate tissue from a legally aborted fetus and for that tissue to be used for research purposes. This is all part of a wider general dialogue that includes such terms as cell structure and DNA that worries much of the public at large.

Moral and ethical concerns about medical research are nothing new. Often these apprehensions combine with long held beliefs and superstitions to further frighten the public. When has the religious right, for example, ever presented medical research in a positive light? Most often medical research is criticized as “playing God.” An example of this would be the attitude toward human dissection. Through the eighteenth and a good part of the nineteenth century the human form was considered sacrosanct. This kept human dissection for medical research difficult to perform. State and church opposition to dissection and other anatomical experiments kept knowledge of the functional aspects of disease elusive. During this time period fear of dissection was a common phobia and fixation. 

In England the artist and satirist William Hogarth published a series of prints depicting a fictional story entitled “The Four Stages of Cruelty.” The fourth print, “The Reward of Cruelty,” portrays a public dissection. The images reflected the feelings about dissection of the era so well that within a short while after the publication of the series the Murder Act of 1752 stated that the bodies of murderers could be provided to surgeons for dissection as a further deterrent to crime and to address the shortage of cadavers at the time.

As the nineteenth century rolled on in America oddly enough it was another of mankind’s obsessions, one that never seems to be held back because of moral or ethical reservations, that was about to blow the lid off of any trepidations about exploring human anatomy; war. The Civil War helped change modern medicine.

At the time The Civil War was about to begin it had been about seven or eight decades since there had been any significant fighting on the continent. As war was about to begin in 1861, medical science was not prepared for the scale of violence that was about to begin with new and advanced weaponry. In a short time doctors were treating massive and gruesome injuries in large numbers that many of them would not have otherwise treated during the course of an entire normal medical career. In addition, soldiers from small towns came together in large assemblies and became exposed to pathogens that their bodies had no resistance to in an era when there were no antibiotics and antiseptics. During these barbaric conditions of The Civil War doctors learned techniques that forever changed medical care on the battlefield and beyond. For example, it became clear that cleanliness reduced infection and fatalities. There were great strides in understanding neurology, pain management, and other fields. In the years following The Civil War much of the mystery surrounding the form and function of human anatomy was removed and replaced with knowledge as how to better treat disease and injury. Mysticism was slowly replaced with logical scientific methods in the fields of anatomy and medicine.

It is a general given that we fear the unknown. We have a tendency to cling to long held beliefs and standards of which we are comfortable and that we understand. We are now at a new precipice of science and medical research, one that reaches not only into the anatomy of the body but of our cells, our DNA, and the very building blocks of life itself. Just as images of human dissection frightened Europe and America during the early Victorian period, tall tales of human baby parts being collected in some Frankenstein like manner in these Planned Parenthood videos have the imaginations of millions of Americans running wild. The only thing the videos are missing is a wild-haired mad doctor screaming, “Give my creation life!” It is propaganda that is designed to frighten and lather up the public against pro-choice positions.

Autopsies are rarely considered sacrilege today. Hopefully in the near future the paranoia about the research and medical advancement of stem cell research, genetics, and tissue growth will seem as silly. In the meantime we must strive to keep all of this in perspective.

The role of religion, specifically how religion is evoked to limit women’s access to reproductive healthcare, cannot be understated. A good example of this is the plethora of hyperbole regarding contraception being a sin. Oddly, a man’s choice to have a vasectomy is never referred to as an abomination against the blessedness of procreation. Nonetheless, as recently as 1965 married couples had the right to birth control but millions of single women in 26 states were denied it. It wasn’t until 1972 that The Supreme Court ruled that birth control was legal for all citizens regardless of marital status.

If it really was the goal of the pro-life movement to unambiguously reduce abortions they could do so immediately without changing any laws or restricting women’s rights.

The first step would be to champion, not hinder, public access to contraception and sexual education and counselling. Recent declines in the number of abortions coincides with a reduction in the number pregnancies. The use of IUDs and other contraceptive implants has risen enormously since 2009 among women with access to publicly funded contraceptive methods and care. It is nothing but pure common sense that the ability of women to actively prevent an unwanted pregnancy rather than to retroactively choose whether to continue with an unwanted one reduces the abortion rate.

I have no idea why contraception is considered a sin by many people and why there is so much resistance to publicly funded contraception devices or including them as part of healthcare.

When the dynamics of suggesting that contraception is a sin are examined the nature of the awkward logic of it really begins to break down. What is the best contraception? Saying "no?" Therefore saying “no” to sex is a sin? Don’t laugh. There are many on the religious right who suggest that a wife cannot deny her husband sex.

A second way of reducing abortions would be to reduce the stigma of single motherhood and to support, not resist, public funding for single mothers needing assistance or wanting to further their educations. Again, it’s pretty much common sense that if women feel like there is support in whatever form they need for them and their child it makes it easier to become a mother. Yes, there has to be controls in place to keep the system from being abused. However, by and large the pro-life community who proclaims the “sanctity of life” for the unborn rarely uses the same term for those who are born and who are living in poverty.

There are many on the religious right who have a societal and economic disconnect with those who live in poverty. It is a world they cannot understand. They don’t know why it is that if the poor need women’s healthcare that they just can’t jump into their Acura and drive to the doctor’s office. According to reports for 2012, almost 80% of individuals receiving services from Planned Parenthood were living near the federal poverty level if not below it. Many women do not have healthcare insurance that covers a trip to a private gynecologist not only for contraception but for pap smears or cancer screenings. Many women do not have parents or other family members that they can rely on for advice or help in difficult situations. In fact, many women living in poverty are often more likely to be trapped in unfortunate circumstances which often include emotionally or physically abusive situations. 

Government funding for Planned Parenthood is an infinitesimal fraction of the overall federal budget at approximately $500 million. The aftermath of the undercover videos is currently driving the defund Planned Parenthood and the renewed abortion debate. However, abortion is only a small part of the services Planned Parenthood provides. The vast lion’s share of services are for sexually transmitted disease, contraception, cancer screenings, and other women’s healthcare services. In the year 2013-2014 approximately 3% of Planned Parenthood’s services went to abortion. Critics of this 3% statistic call attention to the fact that this figure does not necessarily explain how much of Planned Parenthood’s revenue comes directly from abortion. However, the notion that some on the religious right as well as other critics have contended that abortion is offered as a free and on demand governmental service is a fallacy. Medicaid in some cases does allow funding for abortion only in very restricted circumstances such as rape, incest, or life of the mother. States wishing to expand any provisions for abortion do so at their own expense. Patients for the most part pay for abortion services themselves or obtain assistance through their own auspices.

The move to defund Planned Parenthood is nothing but political grandstanding. I find it ironic that one of the organizations most responsible for the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and consequently lower abortion rates is the one most demonized about abortion. Additionally, the horror drama depicting all of Planned Parenthood as suppliers of body parts to Dr. Frankenstein is a slap in the face to the majority of the staff of Planned Parenthood who are dedicated to the cause of women’s healthcare, especially the healthcare of poor women. The vast majorities of employees of Planned Parenthood often work for less compensation compared with that of private practices and have had nothing to do with this controversy. 

For more on this topic please reference my 2013 article A Perspective On the Abortion Issue

Thursday
Aug062015

Cecil the Lion #CecilTheLion

If you want to get a good cross section of how people view life in today’s society I suggest you follow the hashtag #CecilTheLion for a time on social media.

Male LionCecil was a male 13-year-old lion residing in the Hwange National Park in Matabeleland North, Zimbabwe. The lion was a star attraction at the park and was being studied and tracked by the University of Oxford. Cecil was apparently lured off the reserve by Dr. Walter Palmer, a dentist by trade and an American trophy hunter. The lion was then reportedly shot by a crossbow and wounded, tracked for almost two days, and then killed by a rifle the first of July 2015.

So far, the hunt and kill have been determined to be illegal and officials are still investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident. Walter Palmer has contended that he relied on the direction of the guides he had hired to assure that the hunt was legal. I find this explanation suspicious being that the lion had to be enticed away from where it was originally. It also troubles me that this was not even a clean kill as the lion was injured and suffering for approximately 40 hours.

The killing of Cecil has sparked international outrage and a firestorm on social media. 

I have followed many of the comments on social media and to say they cover the gamut on this topic is an understatement. The remarks range from people suggesting that we have more important issues to worry about, such as human violence, to what amounts to a blood lust for Walter Palmer himself. The dentist from Minnesota has gone underground and his practice, River Bluff Dental, has been closed.

I would not condone violence against Walter Palmer. I do, however, consider the killing of Cecil the Lion as a senseless and tragic waste. In addition, putting a stop to all legal and illegal trophy hunting along with the crimes of poaching should be made a priority by the international community. The killing of Cecil the Lion has become a well-known incident due the celebrity status of this lion, however, the killing of lions in order that these selfish trophy hunters can ghoulishly display a lion’s head is hardly a rare occurrence. 

To begin my analysis of this story let me first try to put hunting into some sort of perspective. One of the tweets I noticed said something like, “Many people complaining about the killing of this lion go to restaurants and eat chicken and beef all the time so what’s the big deal about a dead lion?”

Well, there is a big difference between the proper hunting of an animal that is a member of a large population of a species considered a viable food source and, by contrast, the poaching or trophy hunting of an endangered species.

I am from Ohio and the deer population here is often a problem. When the deer become over populated they endanger themselves and the environment. Responsible hunting in this case is not only permissible but a necessity. Many hunters will have their kill butchered and load up their freezer to feed their families for many months. In this scenario the hunters are playing the role of natural predators. Lions play exactly the same role as hunters in the wild managing the population of any number of herds of various animals.

Natural predators in Ohio are long gone and unfortunately that is becoming the case in too many other areas of the world. Predators are more vulnerable than renewable herbivores. Skilled and intelligent predators are part of an elite group of nature’s animals that exist in small populations. After all, they can’t just eat what they are standing on. Different types of predators also have to compete with each other for territories and survival. These traits also put them at odds with human civilization. For these reasons and many more various species of predators are on the endangered list around the world.

Killing a magnificent and wonderful animal for a trophy has nothing to do with the observance of the food chain. Those who make the argument that there are any benefits to trophy hunting for the sake of the animals or the local residents are full of pretense. There are plenty of more cost effective and beneficial ways to help impoverished areas than hunting endangered species. Moreover and for example, when we consider the type of waste of life that is involved in the poaching of elephants for the sake of ivory trinkets, animals which have maternal bonds and mourn their dead, we are engaging in behavior that natural predators do not. Lions would not kill a herd of buffalo just to take their hides and leave their carcasses to rot in the sun. This applies to shark finning and so many other crimes against nature that human beings commit. I find it ironic that we describe a person who commits widespread abhorrent violent acts as an animal when in fact animals do not behave that way. Describing such a person as an animal is an insult to animals. 

Much of the notion that we as humans have the right to do as we please in nature comes from the religious right. According to these beliefs humans were made in God’s image and have dominion over all of the Earth. If rhinos become extinct that’s just too bad. With this attitude there is no reverence for the intelligence of a given species or its place in the food chain. There is human life and everything else. Only humans have a soul.

This notion of dominion over the Earth put forth by the largely Christian Right not only puts the animal kingdom beneath mankind but the world as well. It enables humans to do as they wish to the environment with impunity. After all, we can do as we please with the world because it was created for us. Besides, the only world that truly matters is the Kingdom of God.

If this is what certain Christians believe, that the world was a gift, wouldn’t it make more sense to take care of it? How often would we continue to give things to a spoiled child who constantly breaks what we give him? God must have considered the animals to be important too because He did save two of everything during the great flood right? I’ll leave those points of view and arguments to theologians and others who believe such things. 

What we are dealing with on a more practical level is that our world and its resources is becoming ever more synthetic. Farm animals and agricultural crops as well, such as corn, would not exist as we know them today without human intervention. For example, the ancestor of modern cattle is now extinct. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find any farm animal in a pure wild incarnation. Furthermore, the conditions by which plant and animal food resources are cultivated are also increasingly artificial and cruel. Cattle and chickens that once grazed on acres of green farmland in years past are now penned up and fed processed food for quicker and less expensive farming.

The passing of Cecil the Lion is sad because his passing is another step toward a type of world that will soon no longer exist. This is all the more reason that big game trophy hunting being considered any type of sport is a farce. Two or three hundred years ago the world may have been a big untamed and dangerous place but that is no longer the case. What remaining large predators and other endangered species are living in now are essentially fish bowls where hunting trips to them are guided tours and the participants have loaded guns.

It is my view that we should protect endangered species so that future generations can marvel at these beautiful and magnificent creatures. Unfortunately, it has come to the point that the only areas where this may be possible are parks and protected sanctuaries.  

We need to pay attention to how we are changing the world as our own existence may depend on it. As you gaze outside toward the horizon be aware that the distance up to where you can no longer comfortably breathe is more accurately measured in feet not miles. This thin life support system that we take for granted is the same one that kept Tyrannosaurus Rex alive. That’s right, there has not been any new shipments of life-sustaining material to Earth. T-Rex breathed the same air and drank the same water that we do. The chemistry of our environment’s natural renewal process is now being stretched to its limits more than ever before.

I understand people who question Cecil’s death as a worldwide tragedy in comparison with human death and suffering. However, I can care about more than one important cause at a time. In addition, I would say that those who wish to criticize man’s indifference to life’s struggles can find better whipping boys than animal lovers. I do subscribe to the notion that a love of animals and the natural world demonstrates an appreciation of all life which is the greatest humanity of all.

There is a poem by John Donne that instructs us not to ask for whom the bell tolls because no man is an island unto himself. If you are annoyed by the toll bells for Cecil remember that our humanity is not an island unto itself either. The toll bells not only ring out for Cecil the Lion but they ring for us as well.

A little bit of us died with him.

Wednesday
Mar112015

Religion, Extremism, Violence, and Faith

Editorial/Opinion

There has been much debate in the media and society at large about what the proper terminology should be for the religious extremist groups behind a growing terrorist threat in the Middle East and throughout the world. The Obama administration has taken center stage in this debate for not referring to self-proclaimed Islamic terrorists as part of “Islamic extremism.” The administration has opted for the term “violent extremism.”

For me this topic transcends the names we assign to various extremist groups. This is a multi-layered subject and what gets lost in the shuffle is the pivotal role that faith itself plays into our religious and cultural attitudes toward each other.

In defense of the President and his administration’s reluctance to use the word “Islamic” in connection with “violent extremism” there are three points that we must consider relating to foreign policy and national security.

First, the President needs the help and support of Islamic leaders throughout the Middle East to combat extremism and especially ISIS. He cannot afford any confusion in his terminology referring to the enemy. Second, in addition to religious affiliations there are political and cultural struggles going on for power and control between the Shia and Sunni along with the offshoots of each and among other regional groups. Third and critically, aspects of the Islamic religion are in fact misrepresented and used as recruiting tools by Islamic extremists to legitimize their cause and get more fighters on board who are avid believers and willing to die in the name of their religion.

At the same time, throughout the world the amount of violence linked to Islamic extremism either directly from the leadership of various radical groups or by the fanaticism they inspire is substantial. To slap an ambiguous label onto it may not serve in the best interest of identifying the problem. Additionally there is a sensitive politically correct climate which labels any criticism of Islam as “Islamophobia.” I would absolutely agree that we must avoid sweeping generalizations and paranoia. However, there is a point where my openness to “political correctness” concerning the relationship between any assortment of religious extremists and their respective faith begins to run short.

Although any given extremist group or oppressive religious cultural norm may have other economic or political motivations, faith is the contrivance that establishes allegiance to a cause. Furthermore, when examining the nuances of any religious fanaticism you almost always discover that many of the tenets held by the zealots are not as confined to the fringes of the religious mainstream as they first may seem.

Claiming that Jihadism has no real role or connection to Islamic fundamentalism is akin to saying Christianity had nothing to do with the Crusades. We could talk around Christianity’s influence of the Crusades in the same way we talk around Islamic extremism. 

Crusaders were not representative of all Christians. What really was at play was a grab for territory and power. They were using a perversion of the Christian faith to recruit followers and evoke the name of God in their conquests.

There is some truth in those statements as there is when referencing similar points in regard to Islamic extremism. However, to discount the role of the Christian faith in the systemic political and cultural mix of motivations and moral superiority behind the Crusades would be wrong. 

A modern incarnation of this type of danger is ISIS which is as large as an army, well financed, and becoming a threat to entire nations in the region. In addition to their inflated Islamic tenets they also embody an ideology that holds the west as an enemy of Islam as a whole. To ignore these rudiments of their beliefs would be a miscalculation in the analysis of the enemy.

Advocates of using the term “violent extremists” as opposed to “Islamic extremists” point out that extremists are only a small portion of the Muslim population and they do not reflect the beliefs of the majority as a whole. This is very true. In fact, Muslims are often the victims of Islamic extremism. We must also certainly acknowledge the many Muslims who have fought against violent extremists. However, stating that violent extremism is only a small non-representative portion of the Muslim population as a simple matter of fact is minimizing the overall size of the threat for everyone in its path.

It is true that only one or two percent or even a fraction thereof of Muslims fall into an extremist category. The vast majority of Muslims are also non-violent. However, regarding a religion that reportedly has 1.6 billion followers those small percentages reflect millions of people.

A litmus test for measuring the scope of religious extremism would be burning a holy book. If an official of the United States burned The Bible on the Capitol steps there would be some unhappy Christians for sure. Pat Robertson would have to go on oxygen. However, if the same thing would be done to a Quran there would be chaos all over the world. Every United States military base and embassy would be battening down the hatches because of outraged Islamic extremists.

Violent retribution sparked by such things as videos and cartoons deemed as religious desecration by Islamic Extremists are also widespread and are hardly a small problem. Christians were offended by the 1987 Piss Christ, distastefully depicting a crucifix submerged in urine. However, when it was exhibited in New York that year one could make the argument that it was more beautiful than The Mona Lisa. Why? Because we live in a country that extols the separation of church and state along with free speech and an artist can exhibit such a work of “art” and not be executed. They are principles that we should never be apologetic about. 

Moreover, some of the oppressive ideals held by Islamic Extremists are in fact shared by wider segments of Islamic culture. In Yemen married men can be sentenced to death by stoning for homosexual intercourse. Under Saudi Arabia's interpretation of Sharia Law, a married man engaging in sodomy or any non-Muslim who commits sodomy with a Muslim can be stoned to death. Likewise in accordance with Sharia Law in Iran, homosexual intercourse between men can also be punished by death. Similar penalties exist from region to region for leaving the Islamic faith or adultery. I could go on here but you get the idea.

Furthermore, to pretend that the faith held by any religious extremist has nothing to do with his or her violent actions is a canard. Islamic extremists often conduct religious rituals before conducting a suicide attack and believe their actions are in service to God. What I have never heard any world leader address is the dangers of such radical and ardent faith itself.

There is a certain amount of crazy associated with religion in general. You can sometimes notice that moderately religious people are aware of this as they discuss the extent of their faith and distance themselves from the more radical elements. “Oh yeah I’m religious but you know not real religious.” In other words they are the right amount of crazy. There is a fine line between the faith that can move mountains and the faith of a terrorist organization. Sometimes to fall into the depths of religious extremism all we need is a little push.

Especially when we are depressed or in need of inner strength the desire for faith and purpose can often leave us vulnerable. Certain preachers who are far from taking a vow of poverty are happy to provide emotional sanctuary to you in the form of a lavish church along with eloquent sermons. Why wouldn’t you want to help them spread the word to shine the light on others by making a donation? Maybe you can take a bit of that feel good stuff home in the form of a copy of their new book or a subscription to their newsletter? Similar stratagems are implemented by many psychics, mediums, and other faith entrepreneurs. It is among the world’s oldest slights of hand.

In more dangerous situations faith can become a facilitator of extremism among a mix of unscrupulous things in areas of the world that undergo continual religious and political turmoil. When certain religious factions or economic groups feel oppressed it opens the door for the susceptible to have a faith in something greater than themselves and to belong to a cause. This is the perfect environment for the rise of radicalism. As this radicalism gains momentum it also obtains the allure of power. This power along with far-reaching religious and ideological rhetoric recruits new members from all over the world and from all walks of life. It can happen anywhere and is from the same petri dish that yields a cult. 

The power and manipulation of religious faith cannot be understated in regard to terrorism. It can be very comforting when someone is dying to hear that there is something better after life. At the same time this devaluation of life in the present can be a powerful incentive in persuading someone to strap on a bomb and blow up people in a crowded marketplace. The young, who often have a sense of immortality to start with, are the easiest to convince that their actions will result in a special place in the paradise of the hereafter. Standing up for “God and country” sounds very noble but like it or not it is the same credo held by a suicide bomber.

In essence this is how religious faith can be wrought into the inspiration to fly planes into buildings or for that matter throw bombs into abortion clinics.

Many Christians, some of whom are the most vocal critics of Islam, are guilty of falling into the same pitfalls of unwavering faith and also often hold the same values as their more extreme constituents.

I have had any number of conversations with various Fundamentalist Christians about abortion. When I say Fundamentalist Christians I am referring to certain Fundamentalists whose early movement grew out of resistance to theological modernism which among other things tried to accommodate the theory of biological evolution. Certain Evangelicals who adhere to the historical accuracy of the Bible and the "born again" experience in receiving salvation are also inclusive.

When I have brought up an abortion clinic bombing or shooting with various fundamentalists their response is almost always a pat statement that these actions are wrong and not Christian. However, upon questioning these activities further things get a bit more interesting. 

Do you believe abortion clinic bombings are permissible for the purpose of discouraging women from having an abortion? Do you believe defending the rights of the unborn in the name of Jesus is a noble religious endeavor? 

In these cases the rhetoric of a Fundamentalist against an abortion clinic bomber will almost always soften. Few Christians across the board refer to abortion clinic bombers as terrorists. To be clear the vast majority of pro-life activists are non-violent and do not condone violence. However, the protests directly in front of women’s clinics are clearly designed to intimidate and shame women. Additionally, there is always the subliminal threat that some religious nut case is going to do something. Women’s healthcare workers are often afraid to work at these clinics and Christian pro-life demonstrators know it.

In a recent conversation I had with a Christian Fundamentalist I asked him why the phrase “the sanctity of life” was never used in connection to the homeless or those needing healthcare. His answer was, “Those people had their chance.” I’m not sure exactly what people of whom he was referring. The poor who have never been blessed with God's grace maybe?

The Westboro Baptist Church is infamous for protesting the funerals of soldiers claiming that their deaths are the result of God’s retribution for America’s permissive attitude toward homosexuality. Most Christians would not agree with their vulgar methods. This “church” is very small but the flip side of this is that substantial percentages of the public, Christian and otherwise, are in total agreement with the Westboro Baptist Church that homosexuality is an abomination and an affront to God.

The belief held by many Christians that the United States is a divinely favored nation played a key role in the implementation of Manifest Destiny. Most of the Christian fundamentalists who I have debated on this topic are still reluctant to express any empathy for the plight of the American Indian.

For the record, as a non-believer I do not feel that most religious people are a problem or are in any way infringing upon my rights. I have known many Christians and Muslims whose spirit of humanity gushes forth upon their first handshake. I happen to believe these wonderful and generous people would be just as good of people without their faith but to each his own. Concurrently, I do not believe that religious faith is a prerequisite for meaning and purpose in one’s life. The process by which some people find inner peace through religious faith is no different than those who find it through meditation or taking a hike in the woods and becoming one with nature. Inner peace dwells within us and we find it by having faith in ourselves.

Religious extremism and the violence that often goes with it speaks to the dangers of unchallenged beliefs and ideals rooted in faith. It is tragically ironic that three of the world’s major religions, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity; all share the same ancient texts and holy lands yet always seem to be at odds with each other. The authors of these holy writs had just a modicum of accurate knowledge about the world. Yet, what they wrote long ago is so important that we have hated and killed each other over it for millennia.

I’m not sure if that is an indictment of religion or a testament of mankind’s stupidity and insanity.

Maybe it would be worthwhile for everyone to set the comfort of religious faith aside, just once in a while, and relish the life we have in this world. Every breath, every heartbeat, and every smile is precious. We all can agree life in this world is extremely short. Maybe we should all work together to extend it as long as possible and not worry so much about the hereafter. That is the anti-extremism message I would like to hear from our politicians to other leaders of the world.

What are the odds of that? Maybe religious faith is the extreme concept that everyone is really afraid of.

Saturday
Nov012014

The Right to Live and Die - Death with Dignity

Life is short. For some, it is cut even shorter. Enjoy life. Never miss a chance to tell someone that you love them.(Please note the update at the bottom of this post.) The right of sick and dying individuals to choose when they wish to die has always been a controversial topic. It has risen to significant levels in the public discourse several times during the past few decades. One of the most notable controversies of years past was regarding Dr. Jacob "Jack" Kevorkian, dubbed “Dr. Death” by many, the euthanasia activist famous for often championing a terminal patient's right to die. He claimed to have assisted well over a hundred patients to end their lives.

Recently, the sad set of circumstances regarding Brittany Maynard has taken center stage in a similar debate about what has become known as “death with dignity.”

Brittany Maynard is a young and beautiful woman. Under different circumstances she would have everything to live for. However, after having been married for just over a year and after months of suffering from debilitating headaches, she was diagnosed with brain cancer. After her initial diagnoses and several surgeries, she learned last April that her tumor had returned and was more aggressive. Doctors at that point gave Maynard a prognosis of six months. After researching her illness and the accompanying recommended treatments Maynard concluded that her condition was futile in respect to any quality life as the months would ware on and opted for a "death with dignity" solution.

Maynard and her family decided to move to Oregon which is one of only five states that permit “death with dignity” briefly defined as an end-of-life option for mentally competent and terminally ill patients with a prognosis of six months or less to live. More specifically Oregon, Washington and Vermont have "death with dignity" laws that allow terminal patients meeting these criteria to voluntarily request and receive prescription drugs which are self-administered to quickly bring about their death. Judicial decisions in Montana and New Mexico permit doctors to prescribe fatal drug doses in such circumstances however the rulings haven't progressed into becoming state laws.

Maynard produced a video that went viral during the past weeks or so (located for your reference at the bottom of this article) and also announced that she planned to die via the prescription drugs scheduled on November 1, 2014 surrounded by her family and close friends. In the last week or two Maynard managed to achieve a major goal on her bucket list, which was a visit to the Grand Canyon.

Just in the past 24 to 48 hours (at the time of this writing) Maynard seemed to have put off the plan to die on Nov. 1st. She was quoted as saying, “I still feel good enough and I still have enough joy and I still laugh and smile with my family and friends enough that it doesn’t seem like the right time right now.”

As I have followed the Maynard story in the news and social media it does seem as though there are two camps on this issue with very little middle ground.

I would say the support for her on the one hand has been over-whelming.  I have noticed many people posting comments in support of Maynard who have had family members die excruciating deaths. Also, many have noted in their comments that they are medical professionals who perfectly understand her decision to “die with dignity.”

Maynard has also had her detractors. Many of her most staunch opponents not surprisingly come from religious circles citing that only God can decide when death comes. Others are also alarmed by the amount of support she gets in the public forums claiming that “death with dignity” is veiled terminology for suicide.  I would concede there is a certain risk that would need to be addressed to guard against the abuse of these options, especially by family members, if legalized on a larger scale. Other remarks question why we should be celebrating "suicide" as a heroic act.

After her announcement to possibly put off the November 1st date for her death here is a random sampling of some comments by various individuals on social media:

“God is never a minute early or late. Let him decide”

“Alright, well she's had enough attn....I'm sure she's benefited from this circus she created.... I.e. free stuff, trips ect....”

“Little Internet fame got her rethinking?”

“I say fight to live as long as possible...”

“I can only hope when it is her time, she has peace. Sad situation, but a very brave woman.”

My own analysis of this is as follows. For this being 2014 we certainly have some archaic notions about death in our society. We have this mental construct of death being a dark hooded villain about to slay our white silk-shirted life. We want life to fight death to the bitter last breath and never surrender.

It makes for a good story but it is nothing but a leftover of mysticism.We want to keep the grim reaper as far away as possible. This may very well be why we often treat the elderly so poorly. Old people remind us of our own eventual mortality and therefore belong put away somewhere in cold sterile environments. Yes, there are many times when the medical needs of our older loved ones are truly beyond what we ourselves can privately provide. However, there is a tendency among our youth crazed society to keep anyone who is anywhere near death as far away as possible. Who wants the grim reaper hanging around in the hallway upstairs?

Well, there is no grim reaper. Death is not a sentient entity and this is not the fifteenth century. Life is not in a never-ending duel with death. These concepts and others like them such as the angel of death do nothing but instill unnecessary fear and diminish the outlook of dying as being part of the natural end of life process. Death is merely a term to describe the final stage of life.

Life comes around to a close for everyone eventually. Unless it is caused by an accident or something akin to a massive heart attack, dying will likely be some sort of a progression as opposed to a moment for many of us. I find it anomalous that we as a society are so obsessed with liberty and for the right to live our lives as we choose except for how to manage the end of our own life cycle. For some reason we must fight to stay alive down to the last puke-choked gasp for air.

We need to reform our attitude toward the sick and the dying. We need to show love and support for the elderly and others in end of life situations. Absolutely, our healthcare system should provide the best means to provide the support of life for anyone who wants it for as long as they want it. This includes healthcare insurance to make sure that no one ever has to struggle with medical bills as part of any decision they may have to face. However, when the instinct of self-preservation starts to wane in the human heart we then need to surround our loved ones with the support they need to let go in the manner in which they are most comfortable. For many, that may mean choosing to die when they are mentally cognizant enough to appreciate the love and support of those around them.

In the words of Forrest Gump, “Momma always said dyin' was a part of life. I sure wish it wasn't.”

*****

Note:

I will be following the Brittany Maynard story and will post updates when possible. If any of you run across more information on this story or have an opinion on this matter please feel free to post it in the comment section or tweet me at @BillyDees  Below is the video that went viral. In case you missed it Brittany Maynard made it to the Grand Canyon.

 

Sunday
Apr202014

Atheism Needs to Find a Soul

Some of the non-believing undertones I inject into my editorials have garnered me a fair amount of jabs from the extreme religious right. I consider myself a non-believer who is equitably objective in these matters and in all fairness I would say that there is also no shortage of extremism in contemporary atheistic circles.

I avoid the term "atheist." It conjures up images of people protesting Christmas mangers and that is not my gig. I have better things to do with my time. I presume most atheists are similar to me, quiet practical folks who go about their business and try their best to be good people. Unfortunately, it is the more radical ilk of atheists who are doing much harm to such causes as reason and humanity.

I am completely for the separation of church and state as it relates to policy. I am most disturbed by fundamentalists in various positions of government who often vote on matters such as funding for medical research, women’s rights, and similar issues based upon religious convictions rather than scientific merit, justice, and practical fiscal investment. Certain fundamentalists acting upon their beliefs while serving in government deserve ground swells of criticism and need to be voted out.

That being the case, however, I feel that certain atheist groups will gain little ground by ridiculing or insulting religious fundamentalists at large. The passion behind such belief is too strong and such blatant negativity thrown their way only emboldens fundamentalists’ positions in an almost martyrdom fashion. The real shame here is that when atheist groups scattergun vitriol at all people of faith, reasonable people in the fertile middle ground adopt a negative impression of all atheists as just simply godless. Don't forget, we need these votes!

For instance, the politically correct hysteria that some atheist groups have generated about religion in schools has made teachers nervous about even mentioning Jesus Christ as a historical figure. Major religions for better or for worse have significantly affected the development of modern civilization and are in fact a substantial part of history. Middle America has a hard time understanding these politically correct restrictions in school. 

It should be noted as well that most believers do not deserve the condescension and the trampling upon of their traditions by atheist groups. Almost all of my friends maintain some sort of a religious or spiritual belief and simultaneously live hard-working and commonsense principled lifestyles. A good person is a good person and I do not care what gives them purpose. All I know is that the world needs more good people, period.

I have had more than one devout atheist give me a lecture on Twitter as to what the term "atheist" really means. Okay, I understand that “atheism” is a passive term. The “a” simply means “without.” In this case the total meaning is “without belief in regard to a deity.” I can't get that hyped about the non-existence of something but to each his own. If you are that motivated as an "atheist" to be out publically protesting religion then you are more than just a non-believer in a god. This is why the atheist creed that the public is becoming familiar with is more of an anti-theist ideology and the “religion is bad” message seems to be the only one that atheists have. 

If you doubt me on this feel free to follow the hash-tags “atheism” or “atheist” on Twitter. The Easter and Passover season of 2014 had a barrage of anti-theological Christian and Jewish tweets.

This is why I have often stated over the years that atheism needs a public relations overhaul. The status quo being what it is, literal definitions aside, when the public hears the term "atheist" it is almost always in conjunction with some atheist group complaining about religion.

A cross doesn't bother me one bit because my name isn't Dracula. It also comforts millions of people.A perfect example of this is the protests and actions against the 911 Miracle Cross from being included in the new National September 11 Memorial and Museum. An atheist group, American Atheists, has challenged plans to place steel components from the wreckage of the World Trade Center from 911 on public property because it is in the shape of a cross and thus violates the separation of church and state. The cold hard legal dynamics of this may very well favor the atheists but I do not care. To win the battle of ideas you have to win hearts and minds and this sure as hell isn’t going to do it.

The religious right is often correctly criticized of not being tolerant. Well, in a free society tolerance works both ways. Deal with the cross already. Why is this so important?

To form an atheistic quintessence as such that people can identify with, proponents of atheism need to tone down the anti-religion rhetoric. Everyone expects an atheist to make disparaging remarks about religion. Do the unexpected. Be respectful. Stop telling people of faith that what they believe in are fairy tales. There are plenty of skillful ways to logically exhibit the pitfalls of faith after a constructive dialogue is opened.

If atheists really believe in the tenants of humanity it is time to be humanistic. This does not mean just quoting Albert Schweitzer or Isaac Asimov. I quiz atheists every so often about what positive message they may wish to extol. They throw me little scraps about humanism but invariably fall back on anti-religion hyperbole. Ok I get it. The public gets it. Religion is bad. So what kind of positive dogma do you have?

For example, maybe what groups like American Atheists should do with their resources instead of challenging the 911 Miracle Cross is establish a fund for victims of terrorism all over the world. The charitable nature of such an act would speak for itself as well as highlight in a subtle style what type of damage that radical religious beliefs can cause.

From a public relations standpoint atheists need to be more visible with positive actions and rhetoric that stems from a profound and positive ideology that is all their own. Telling someone that his or her ideas are bad is not presenting alternative concepts.

Atheists who protest in America largely have become the same judgmental, self-righteous, all-knowing do-nothings that they claim to rail against.  It is time for atheism to find a soul. 

Sunday
Mar232014

My Experience with Erotica Writers on Social Media

As a blogger I have been using social media for almost half of a decade. I have crossed paths with various bloggers who cover different subject matter utilizing various styles.

Lately, I have worked my way in with any number of erotica writers on Twitter. This is interesting to me because although I have written about subjects that do include human sexuality, I have never explored erotica as a genre.

Many of these erotica writers are very talented and produce not only tantalizing tales but also include posts about sexual health, sexually transmitted diseases, and social commentary related to sexuality.

It seems to me, as an outsider on the subject of erotica, that the challenge for many of these authors and bloggers is how to connect with a wider group of potential readers who are not necessarily seeking out sexual stimulation. Many of these potential readers may not realize that the erotica genre encompasses a great deal of information and displays a wealth of writing skills worth perusing.  One of the hurdles attributed to this disconnect is the word “porn.”

It has been said that one man’s music is another man’s noise. Much the same can be said about erotica and pornography.

Erotica to me, in the classic interpretation of Eros in regard to love or desire, is an artistic depiction of human sexuality that celebrates the instinctual sexual attraction we all share. Pornography is a more graphic and in your face (no pun intended) representation of explicit sex acts. It should be worth noting that some people recognize little distinction between erotica and porn.

Andy Warhol once infamously stated that, “Sex is the biggest nothing of all time.” Much has been inferred by what he may have meant by this but for me the take away is simple.

We live in a society that represents an odd dichotomy in regard to sex. We both celebrate and suppress sexuality. In this process sexuality becomes more than what it really is. At its core sexuality is just another natural part of life.

We certainly enjoy cooking and trying new recipes to help us enjoy eating.  A little spice here and there adds zest to meals we have eaten a hundred times before. In the same vein sometimes a relationship needs a little zing.

For example, within the context of an adult consensual relationship where trust and respect abound, a woman may enjoy submitting to a bad boy and a man may enjoy the shaky breath of fear coming out of his damsel in distress. For the less adventurous the old fashioned game of the cable guy visiting the lonely wife may be in order. Erotica can help conjure up ideas and fantasies for many couples. Good sex, as they say and I believe that it is true, is largely mental.

Porn may have its place too. Just about everybody at one time or another has checked out porn. My only caution with porn, as with so many other things in life including eating and drinking, is to keep it in moderation. For too many people porn is becoming a replacement for real sex. Just as socially we often tweet people on the other side of the world but may not know the name of our next-door neighbor, technology is providing better and increasingly interactive virtual realities where we can have sex but is also creating a situation where we can forget about how to deal with real human relationships.

My experience with erotica specifically on social media would lead me to believe that the human experience in regard to erotic content should be presented in a creative and positive way.  I believe there are a fair number of potential readers out there who could be brought into the erotica genre never before having considered it.

Again, erotica is not my forte. But to reach fuddy-duddies like me I would recommend these few suggestions.

Keep avatars and bios modest.  If your avatar is a picture of human genitalia I will not follow you. If your bio is an exhibition of four letter words in regard to your sexual exploits I will not follow you.  Many of my followers are professional writers and marketers who do not expect a picture of a woman with a penis jammed into every orifice of her body showing up in my timeline.

Do not lead with posts that are designed to shock. People who are seeking jaw-dropping material will find it on your site if you decide to offer it. The last thing you want to do is scare away a somewhat potentially interested reader.

Appeal to women. A set of breasts crammed into an avatar will attract men but not necessarily the best followers. Where women go men will follow. It doesn’t necessarily work the other way around. My years around the nightclub industry taught me that male review nights attracting women were a lot more fun to work than female review nights attracting men. Women just don’t care about a bunch of horny guys coming out to watch strippers. That is the whole point of Lady’s Night and not Men’s Night. If women are tweeting about you, male followers will also appear and those men will be more interested in your content.

Erotica at its best should enhance the way people enjoy love and sexuality. Erotica should be about people and the human experience. Erotica should put a naughty smile on your face as much as a warm spot in your jeans.

Sunday
Dec152013

What Does Conservation Mean to You?

What exactly does the term conservation evoke? In this day and age of going green we hear many buzzwords such as renewable energy, waste reduction, and so on. All things considered, including the ground beneath our feet, the world’s resources are much more limited than what many of us realize.

Consider that if the Sun’s size was represented by a basketball, the Earth’s size relative to it would be a tiny pellet about 2.2 millimeters in size. (This is about 0.0866142 inches so we’ll stick with metric for the very small.) Using this scale how far would our little pellet be from the basketball relative to the distance from the Earth to the Sun? I don’t have access to NASA’s resources on this but I would say pretty far. Just kidding. I have an idea.

What would you say? If you placed a basketball on the ground and held a little pellet between your fingers how far would you have to walk away to represent the distance of the Earth from the Sun? 5 feet? 10 feet?

This is a loose comparison but on the scale of our Sun down to the size of a basketball, one inch would equal approximately 91,000 miles. This would put the 2.2-millimeter pellet about 86 feet from the basketball. I have heard similar comparisons with the scale of a foot equaling a million miles meaning that similarly sized spheres would be about 93 feet apart given that the Sun is on average (varying in orbit) about 93 million miles away. 

So, if you can imagine taking a basketball or a bowling ball out to a parking lot, pacing out 93 feet from it, and then setting down a little BB pellet on the ground; that would give you some representation of how we are literally just hanging out there.

Regarding how small our world really is, consider that most people presume that the entire Earth is friendly to human existence and that is not true. If you were dropped in a bathing suit, or in your birthday suit as in the case of some new reality shows, haphazardly anywhere on the Earth most of the places that you would land on you would be dead in no time at all. You would likely be frozen, asphyxiated, or drowned in vast amounts of water if hypothermia didn’t get you first. There are only so many places on Earth that are beach weather friendly.

So, what exactly do we do with what livable space we have on our little pellet? For starters we divide up the land with imaginary lines. Then, after we divide everyone up in these boundaries, we divide up those groups by social class, race, and here it comes, what different things we all believe.

I find it ironic that three of our major religions, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam; all pretty much share the same origins in terms of ancient texts and the same holy land but somehow always seem to be at odds. These ancient religious texts were written by men thousands of years ago who didn’t know anything about the world. In fact, our comparison of the Sun to a basketball is far more than they ever imagined. Yet, we are perfectly willing to hate and kill each other over the ancient tenants that they wrote. The same goes for the fighting over the holy land.

The holy land? What exactly is that? Remember that little pellet between your fingers? That’s it. That’s the holy land because it is all we have. Every inch of our Earth is our home and very precious.

If we are lucky in life, 70 or 80 some odd trips around the basketball riding on the little pellet are all we get. This is out of billions of trips the Earth continually makes around the Sun.  Saying that life is short is not a cliché but a monumental understatement.

Maybe instead of worrying so much about what everyone else believes we should realize that we all share an incredible oneness. Every atom in our bodies and every piece of dust in our living room are composed of elements forged in the furnaces of the universe. None of us comes from a better set of elements than anyone else. Genesis is curiously very scientifically prophetic when it states, “…for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we spent more time helping each other enjoy as many trips around the Sun as possible? That’s what conservation means to me.