Category Archives: Religion

Freedom of speech…for all?

Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that members of the Westboro Baptist Church have the right to protest at the funeral of vetrans.

The church believes that the wars in the Middle East are the work of God punishing Americans for the sins of homosexuality. Members show up outside churches and funeral homes across the nation with signs like “God hates f-gs” and “Pray for more dead soldiers.” Initially, a lower court ruled that the church had to pay damages to the family of a soldier killed in action for protesting, but that ruling has been overturned.

Is it right that people can use other people’s funeral as a soapbox for their own radical ideas? Probably not. But is it right that the Supreme Court is sticking up for the citizens of the United States and their right to say whatever they’d like to say?

Stick with The Pendulum, and pick up next week’s issue to read our staff editorial on this issue.

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Filed under Media, Military, Pendulum, Religion

This is probably old, but…

You know how in Family Guy, the brilliant writers will land on one single thing, usually “awkward stare” or “irritating noise” or just maybe “Hey, it’s a gay baby. That’s funny. A gay baby. Get it? He’s gay. But a baby. Did we mention that, if on a form he was asked for his sexual preference and then subsequently, his age, he would have to put, ‘Men’ and ‘Baby’?”

Well this is that in real life.

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One nation, under whoever or whatever the majority in the board of education decides

Kids are often compared to sponges, absorbing everything they see and experience then presumably, scrubbed against the backs of the geriatric or on a crusty plate. The key element of that absorbency is how there are no barriers to exactly what is taken in. Toss a sponge onto a puddle, and its response will be akin to the result of tossing it on some soda.

Likewise, throw a kid into a household where the air sags thick with slurs and profanity, and chances are they’ll carry the same air wherever they go, until on their deathbed, the nurse is so repulsed by the tumult of foul speech that she’ll cram soap in their mouth. Just as when kids are raised and surrounded by particular ideological doctrine, they’ll carry that train of thought until they’re old enough to wonder whether or not they should get off at each passing station.

Look at how cute my kid is! He certainly is a big fan of the Republican party, and in no way am I tackily enforcing my own beliefs upon him. No sir. He even voted for Dole!

Look at how cute my kid is! He certainly is a big fan of the Republican party, and in no way am I tackily enforcing my own beliefs upon him. No sir. He even voted for Dole!

But kids aren’t treated like the sponges they’re often compared to, they’re not tossed indiscriminately into seas of knowledge, instead they’re coddled, sheltered and in many cases, methods by which to perpetuate particular systems of belief. They’re to be taught to believe what their elders believe, to reach conclusions not by their own deductions, but by the assumptions of those in power. Masters of particular ideologies feel such an incredible compulsion to in essence, brainwash the young, because if they can’t persuade the most impressionable, what does that say for their own intellectual validity? A charade caught by the most gullible of citizens isn’t likely to fool most of the masses.

That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with parents and other figures of power trying to instill their beliefs upon the younger generations. How else is a society expected to perpetuate if the youth are left while still in the nest? But there’s something a bit sickening when figures who already have their own pulpits decide to encroach upon the domain of others when educating the young, and who seek to monopolize the way in which history, the most underrated of all of education’s pillars, is told.

Case in point, the oncoming struggle of Texas’ educational curriculum, in particular, the tone of the historical lessons. It’s the classic example of the traditional academic hierarchy facing off against the religious right over the various subtleties of historical lessons.

Be warned, this goes on for a while…

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Filed under Culture wars, Education, Monkeys, Religion

Ellen Degeneres apparently ruined our GDP

UPDATE: Pennsylvania State Senator John Eichelberger, during a radio debate on June 19, revealed his thoughts about his attitude toward homosexuals.

“They’re not being punished. We’re allowing them to exist, and do what every American can do,” he said.

Of course, they can do everything but be married and have the same rights straight couples enjoy…and to try to seem accepting while offhandedly remarking that its his warm, generous heart that keeps him from killing homosexuals, is ridiculously disturbing. This, in effect, makes them second-class citizens. When lawmakers view a subset of the population as inferior, and allow their continued existence not because they’re good people, or rightfully American, what else can you view this line of thought as?

There was a time when economics was used to solve economic problems, in the same way that if your toilet overflowed, you would use the skills of a plumber, or if a badger was stuck in your fridge, you would call someone from animal control (or Maytag, if it was shipped with the badger in tow). But Oklahoma State Representative Sally Kern, whose comments have landed her in hot water before (according to her careful analysis, homosexuals are more dangerous than terrorists), sees the current economic crisis and has come to the realization that it wasn’t the rampant use of overly-complex and untrustworthy investment practices based on speculation instead of actual worth, nor the growing lack of competitiveness on the part of American industry when faced with improving international competition that led us to the rut we’re in today.

According to the Oklahoma Citizen’s Proclamation for Morality, courtesy of Rep. Kern, “we believe our economic woes are consequences of our greater national moral crisis.” Why did the banks fail? Because your parents got a divorce. Why did General Motors go under? Some girl had an abortion a few weeks ago. The giant mess that is our health care system, regardless of nationalization or not is due to some porn on the Internet, obviously. Why does China continue to enjoy economic growth, though it may have been slowed from its double-digit figures of the past several years? Because they worship Go…wait a second.

According to Rep. Sally Kern, one of these guys helped bring about the financial crisis. Which one is it? (Hint, he's the one who sang about crocodiles.)

According to Rep. Sally Kern, one of these guys helped bring about the financial crisis. Which one is it? (Hint, he's the one who sang about crocodiles.)

In an interview with News 9 in Oklahoma (see it here, I’d post the video but .flv files are horrible to deal with on here…), Kern said “Blessed is the nation whose God is the lord.” So obviously, because China is a largely atheist country, with only a tiny minority practicing the Christian faith, they should be doing pretty terribly, right? The big dude in the sky is right on the verge of tossing some lightning bolts on Beijing, or at least throwing some frogs at Yao Ming. So why is he letting their GDP grow a projected 6.5 percent this year? He must have gotten his paperwork messed up, I heard the Blackberry up there is pretty spotty.

The proclamation quotes Roger Sherman as saying “We hold sacred the rights of conscience, and promise to the people…the free and undisturbed exercise of their religion.” This is all well and good, but what is the purpose of a free and undisturbed exercise of religion if, “This great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians,” as Patrick Henry is quoted, on the next line? Countries with a sole and declared religion, despite any half-baked attempts at open-mindedness, don’t exactly do a good job protecting the rights of smaller religions. Why should they? The danger with following such partisan, religious lines of though, as Kern loves to do, is that there can be no rational debate. Everyone who disagrees with someone like Kerns will be dismissed as a non-believer, and in her frame of mind, their opinions are a moot point. They’re condemned to hell for their sins anyways. Why should they be bothered to be listened to?

This document, this half-baked list of quotations and demands of moral conduct, is merely a giant finger to be pointed at those Kern and her ilk don’t agree with on a social level. It’s not enough to hold moral indignation for those in favor of abortion or gay marriage. To really destroy a group of people, to ruin them in the eyes of a nation, all you have to do is blame them for a universal problem, to isolate them as scapegoats that they had nothing to do with. It’s actually terrifying to see a member of a state government blame people performing “debauchery” for economic problems, it’s the same sort of tactic that despots and fascists have used throughout the ages to horrifying ends.

Universal problems bring about tough times, but to try to alleviate those tough times by promoting a theocratic, ridiculous agenda? That’s just lunacy, lunacy that will prove to be frighteningly effective as these sort of folks on both sides of the political spectrum try to blame groups they’ve been waiting to massacre for years. Fools choose easy solutions, and what easier solution is there other than to blame your house’s falling value on the gay guy who lives a few blocks down?

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Filed under China, Culture wars, Government, Morgan, Religion

This week in The Pendulum…

For the first issue of the summer, the opinions section will have a nice little balance of that warm, fuzzy optimism that you’ve grown accustomed to reading in other publications, and the typical grizzled, commentary that tends to dominate the editorial pages. If you’re on campus (all three of you) then pick up your copy on Wednesday, but if not, take a look on the Internet. I heard it’s the hip, new thing.

As for a few sneak peeks at this week’s content…

  • Learn about the humility and honor in charity, no matter how small the contribution may seem.
  • Can Obama’s new “Can’t we all get along?” policy for the Middle East accomplish anything?
  • Reality TV doesn’t just hurt the pride of super models and the crotches of the contestants on “Wipeout.”
  • The revolution in Iran will be televised, and the West can do nothing but watch.
  • Hard times don’t mean that deplorable behavior is inevitable, it means that ideologues will have an excuse for their depravity.
And find out just what this cat and his bumper car have to do with Obama's economic policies...

And find out just what this cat and his bumper car have to do with Obama's economic policies...

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Filed under Business, Culture wars, Elon, Government, Hollywood, International, Iran, Media, Military, Morgan, Obama, Pendulum, Religion

You woeful idiots, join me!

Dr. Carlo Strenger is a pretty darn smart guy. A professor at the psychology department of Tel Aviv University, he frequently contributes to The Guardian (a paper that, if you have not noticed, I worship), mostly on the topic of religion and how it pertains to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. I know, it’s a topic that it seems as though everyone in the world has already tossed their two cents into.

But there’s a certain calmness to Strenger’s writing that’s uniquely appealing, and a recent article of his, “Dawkins is wrong about believers” struck me as particularly appealing. In it, his atheist stance is made quite clear (a stance that can be the only logical result of enduring the Middle East’s religious warfare for so long), but he’s not afraid to quickly discredit the man who is considered by many as the king of the modern atheist movement.

A press photo of Richard Dawkins, the prophet...I mean...big cheese of atheism.

A press photo of Richard Dawkins, the prophet...I mean...big cheese of atheism.

That man, Richard Dawkins, though also an intelligent fellow, is also a feverishly pretentious jerk whose eagerness to belittle accomplishes little good other than to cement the beliefs of those he intends to persuade through condemnation. If you agree with Strenger and me, that is.

It’s a pretty simple point that Strenger argues. Dawkins is voracious in his attacks on religion and religious beliefs, and he encourages atheists not to be calm observers of religion’s follies, content in their rationality, but instead to passionately convert them from one belief system to another in a way that is in no manner remotely similar to religious conversion.

This ultimately offends religious folks and makes them further disenchanted with atheists, and more likely to sink further into fundamentalism. It’s like if somebody in a Yankees hat came over, kicked me in the nuts, spat on my Brooks Robinson jersey and then demanded that I purchase some tickets to a Yankees game (for only $240 at that!)

Everybody’s going to be inclined to stick with their preexisting beliefs if berated with new ones that run directly counter to them. The better, and more productive path to take is one of reasonable persuasion, by putting efforts not on dismantling the Catholic church from the bottom up, but in changing their stance on AIDs prevention, for example.

But of course, reasoned, middle-ground ruminations on the possible benefits of a calm and measured relationship between atheists and the religious don’t sell speeches or books…

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Filed under Culture wars, International, Media, Morgan, Religion

Baseball and symbols

Today, while carefully splitting my time between the Pendulum and ESPN, I was excitedly sitting through Baseball Tonight’s analysis of the American League East. Buster Olney examined the Yankees spending spree, the depth of the Red Sox’s pitching staff, the immense talent of the Rays and the sudden downward spiral of the Blue Jay’s rotation. Then the Orioles came on and garnered around thirty seconds of completely negative coverage.

Immediately, I was mildly offended for absolutely no good reason. The Orioles will be a horrendous team this year, no amount of offense will make up for their two starting pitchers and lack of any middle relief whatsoever. They won’t make a run at the playoffs, and the most exciting element of their team, catcher Matt Wieters, is starting the season in AAA.

Yet there I was, the stereotypical guy miffed about his team receiving a snub. But if people are going to do anything consistently, they’ll attach themselves to symbols. Continue reading

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An excellent addition to this week’s section

Eugene Daniel, who can always be counted on for thoughtful and thorough analysis, has a new article on the neccesity for a change in our relationship with God. It’s a very, very interesting piece and I’d reccomend anyone interested on the topic to take a look.

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The need for a crisis of faith

Let’s take a moment to look at faith’s place at an institution of higher learning.

Robert Wohner’s article in this week’s Pendulum featured this key idea: “But by neglecting to present any esteemed speakers with a traditional worldview, the assumption is that anyone who reads from the Quran or the Bible in a literal way is inherently intolerant.”

So, the idea stems from Elon’s push for alternative religion, and questioning of what constitutes faith, and student’s ability to recognize their own role in that. Making the case that students of Christian and other “traditional” faiths are neglected (through criticism of holy texts, critical discussion in class, lack of speakers, and whatever else), Wohner argues that the university setting is allowing classrooms to be too liberal with their discussions on faith.

Now, here is where it gets interesting. Because just like that kid who was hauled off of the Palin rally’s turf for vocally supporting Obama last semester and arrested with a $500 bail, the classroom is an area where students are free to say whatever Elon deems appropriate. And in some ways, even what it doesn’t. That’s part of the whole idea behind private, liberal arts education.

So that doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be equality within the class studies–there should be equal criticism of all faiths, or equal praise or equal bashing, whatever. Wohner’s right: consistency is important. But part of having a faith means having the ability to defend it, and the gall to stand up for yourself when your professor is being condescending.

This is where the role of the student comes in, and this is the incredibly important part: your education in college is personal. Especially at a liberal arts school. SO take what you learn, consider it, question yourself, torment your brain and your thinking and your priorities, lose your mind trying to figure out why you believe what you believe and what your morals will be. Because you’ll reach a point where it all makes sense, where things don’t need to be explained and they make sense, whether that can truly be described or not.

The way that pertains to the classroom is this: consider those bashings in class, leave feeling like nothing and not knowing “why you came to Elon” in the first place, when you’ll end up having a fundamental aspect of your life questioned. A significant role of the college student is to question his or her own beliefs, to put themselves to the test.

If a class unfairly portrays one religion over another, make it known. Make sure that professor does not forget you or your value of equality of analysis. And fuck grades. The education itself is infinitely more important (as grades are a function of the education itself), and that means questioning and defending and allowing yourself to receive a well rounded curriculum.

So I agree with a lot of Wohner’s points, sure, but here’s my advice to him: things are not going to be that simple. And as a college student, it is your responsibility to look at the fundamental values within your life and question them. That is part of strengthening faith, that is part of becoming wiser, it is part of life. To allow lopsided classes to disillusion you about college is to give up on your role as a student, so live up to yourself.

Read the Bible again if you have to. Or the Koran if that’s what you believe. Or if you’re a science person, and your holy book is Principia Mathematicae, read that. Whatever. Find affirmation within yourself, without blaming the systems around you for being neglectful or biased against your religion.

After all, is there anything more personal than spirituality?

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Filed under Elon, Jack Dodson, Pendulum, Religion