Islam and the Right to Freedom

Over the last few months, the rancor against Islam has been mounting among certain religious folks. Rumors are passed around as truth, false accusations are flying and emails are being sent to and fro with horrific messages of hate and intolerance. The very ideals that these people hold up to those of Islamic faith.

As an average, 'Christian' member of this country, I know very little about Islam other than a few vague ideas. I had, up until today been trying to ignore most of this storm around me. This evening, however, a friend sent me an email about former Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, and his views on multiculturalism in Australia. His basic premise is that Australia belongs to Australians, and if someone doesn't like the rules there, then they shouldn't try to immigrate in the first place. If everyone bows to the most vocal/intolerant group of citizens, everyone will either become that group, or all group identities will be lost. ( Link to article in the Sydney Morning Herald ) The email concluded with the hope that Americans reading it would "grow a backbone" and subscribe to the same policies.

Although I understand his view, and see merit in his goal, I can not agree that it is Right, or that we in America should subscribe to such an ideal.

First, regardless of the past, there is no one religion with an overwhelming majority in this country. General Christianity accounts for 75% of the population, Secularism 13% and then Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and a bunch of other minority religions making up the other 2%. Some seem to think that this means that they, as Christians, have the Right to impose their personal religious beliefs on everyone else in the country as they are "the majority". But, if you break down this broad category, you find that of the total population there are 25% Catholics, 16% Baptists, 7% Methodists, 3% Presbyterians, 2% Pentecostals and 2% Episcopalians/Anglicans, 1% Latter-day Saint and the other 21% being made up of small Protestant denominations.

Following the logic pronounced earlier, since Catholics are the largest denomination, they should be able to dictate the way the rest of society is run. As a whole, Protestantism is larger than Catholicism in the United States, but, just as there are huge differences between Catholics and Protestants, so there are between the various Protestant denominations.

If you were to impose a religious observance to the governing of this country, an you were to choose Protestantism as that religion, which denomination would you choose? The Baptists? The Methodists? These groups are separate because they believe different things, they are different. Just as we have (or should have) the right to be equal, to all have the same opportunities, we should also have the right to be different, to be separate. The difference: it's our choice.

Back to the reason I'm writing this post. Why is there such a backlash against Islam? Fear. Fear of another attack in America (those only happen in other countries), fear of something that's different, fear that has been cultivated since the crusades.

After receiving this email, I decided to take a look at Sharia Law, the moral and legal code that governs all religious Muslims. There is more than one interpretation and execution of these laws, but they were first put into place when Islam was a young religion. After reading through these laws, I was amazed. For its time, it was hugely liberating, forward thinking and just. Today we can see it's flaws, but it was much closer to liberty of thought, liberty of action (within bounds) and liberty of belief than almost any European law at that time, or even centuries afterward. Even today, with a few exceptions, it is a fair and just legal system.

If you read the Qur'an, you will find it to be full of kindness, honesty and admonishments to fulfill your potential as a human being. There are also parts that are less benevolent, or even sinister. But, the same can be said about Judaism, and Christianity, there are parts of their scripture I could never adhere to, and neither do they, although all three groups will tell you that their religious book is completely true and written by God.

In the medieval period, the Islamic world was light-years ahead of Europe in terms of science, society, justice, hygiene, arts, and pretty much everything else. People tend to think of them as barbarians, but their heritage is greater than our own, and we could do better to remember that.

Instead of spreading fear of a religion or a whole group of people, we should be trying to root out what is actually evil: the idea that one group is better than another, the idea that one pattern of government is the best for everyone, the idea that everyone is the same or should be, the idea that government should interfere with matters of belief and on and on and on.

These evil ideas don't just live in the hearts of Muslim Extremists, but in the hearts of my friend who sent me that email, millions of Christians in this country who are preaching against Islam because they can, or are trying to force their brand of Christianity onto the rest of us, whether Christian or not. They say, prayer in school is good! but only their variety of prayer, if every schoolchild was required to even be present at a school-wide pagan ritual for peace, there would be an outcry. And why? for the same reason there is an outcry (although smaller) against any other religious ceremony being forced on young children.

Personally, I think all children should be presented with all religions at a young age to foster tolerance and understanding, but that is also frowned upon by the religious in this country (afraid that their children will be indoctrinated and fall away... that brings up the question, what's so bad about the other religions that you wouldn't want your child practicing it? Maybe that's where tolerance needs to start - a whole generation of children who leave their religion for another - breaking up the immovable force that is parental disapproval).

Finally, if every country had a "state religion" whether enforced or not - but one that was considered de-facto, where could anyone go and be guaranteed religious freedom? I wish every country had tolerance for those with beliefs not their own, for those small groups of people who suffer because they were born in the wrong place at the wrong time.

John Howard might think that his country was founded on the ideals of Christianity. But, the people who founded that continent had a very different idea of the universe, and now these are some of the very people that he is wishing to exclude with his (and their) government.

Why Obama will win the Election

A good friend of mine told me Friday that he believed that McCain would win the 2008 election, and he had a well thought out explanation as to why. Well, I disagreed, but I have not really thought out why. In no particular order, here are my reasons:

  1. Polls. I'm not sure how much to trust the national polls, but if they are accurate, Obama will win by a large margin.

  2. George Bush. Almost everyone is tired of George Bush and his various wars. Despite McCain's best efforts to the contrary, many still see him as a continuation of Bush's legacy.

  3. Youth. Obama has a power to inspire, and this has no where been more deeply felt than the young voters.

  4. Race. This issue is double edged, on one hand, the black vote, and to a lesser extent the hispanic and other 'colored' voters will overwhelmingly vote for Obama. On the other hand, there are many who still hold on to race based opinions, and will vote against Obama, even if they would have voted for him if he had been white.

  5. First time voters. The Obama campaign has worked hard to insure that all of their supporters register to vote, and then actually go vote (and vote early). Only about 60% of Americans usually vote in an election, leaving 40% of the vote untapped. Obama is doing a very good job accessing that percentage.

  6. Sarah Palin. Deserved or not, there will be many people voting for anyone but Palin.

  7. Technology. Obama is leading in two ways through technology. First, he has the overwhelming support of the tech community (based on his comprehensive technology plan, and his understanding of how things work). Second, his campaign has taken full advantage of the internet, text messaging, blogs, websites, full disclosures of his initiatives in PDF, etc. There is a behind-the-scenes web application put into place that keeps everything organized and connected.

  8. Lengthy Primary. The primaries took Obama to many out of the way places he would not have otherwise visited. I personally know a few people who changed their vote from republican to democratic after hearing him speak in person.

  9. Age. I believe that Obama would be the youngest president, if elected. This is in contrast to McCain who would be the oldest. This may be a deciding factor for some.

  10. McCain's War history. Although un-evident, and unlikely, there are some who fear that McCain's time as a POW had affected him adversely, making him unfit to lead the country.

  11. The Press. For whatever reason, the press absolutely loves Obama. (good looks, good speaker, calm and collected ... everything they admire in a journalist (maybe)).

All of these are little points, but I think they will all add up to a win for Barak Obama.

The watering down of Religion

After studying various religious movements, I have found a pattern. When the movement begins, all of the members are converts. They strongly believe in the ideas put forth. The founder is alive and well, and everyone has a figurehead to look to. When the founder dies, doesn't matter how, there is a bit of chaos. People are not sure who to follow now. (they are so used to following, it doesn't occur to them that they maybe shouldn't have a leader).

Once that is resolved, the group (or groups) remaining settle happily in their new groove. They rely heavily on the founder's teachings and so the new leaders have a lot less weight. The people stay very close to at least the spirit of the original movement, or at least one of the resulting groups do. But, here comes the shaft. All of these people have children. Unless this is a universal movement where every single person feels spiritually uplifted and edified by it (hint, I don't think this has ever existed), there are going to be some children who do not fit in with the regime. There are a few different types, although it partially depends on the type of group. One set might just up and leave. Another may be an apathetic bunch, who wish to please, and so they stay on, but don't really have any true conviction about their beliefs. Another group may be angered by what is taught and will either stay in and try and destroy it, or leave and try and destroy it.

One last group. The size of this group depends on the overall appeal the movement has on the average person. These people are the same type of person as their parents. They would have converted to this belief if they had not been born to it. If the new religion is at all strange or different or shocking to the average person, this group will be fairly small. The make up of the group starts as 90% or so people who really believe in what they are doing. Once their children grow up, it changes to 80% or so (assuming that this is a strange religion where few (25%) of the children fall into the true believer status and each family has 3 children or so ... and it's an island so that no one can leave). The original adults are still around, so the overall feel of the group is very similar, for now. The next generation is born, grows up and starts to have children. It has been 40 years since the founder died and the group was out on its own. Many of the original members are dead, the ones who were 20 when the founder died, are now 60. From my pseudo-math I get about 40% true believers.

Once all of the original members are gone (about 80 years), the false percentages are gone and it falls to almost exactly the percentage of people that the religion truly appeals to. In this case 25%. Interestingly, this also corresponds to the time when those who have never met the founder of the religion are in charge. So, what does this mean? It means that after 80 years the religion in in the hands of those who do not care about the beliefs of the founders.

Majority rules, even when it's not an official democracy. By forcing/encouraging their children to stay in their religion, it was killed. The flavor of the religion changes at this point, becoming more acceptable to that part of the population that is more numerous. The ones who stayed in the religion because they didn't want to bother finding something else. Now that the 25% of true believers are longer the target for this group, it changes into what the majority needs, as it should. But that 25% for whom the religion was founded are out in the cold with nowhere to go.

What do you think happens? They go off and join the crowds of non-affiliated members of society. A couple of them go off and start their own religion, and in time one of them will gain some ground and it will take off, and all of the people drawn to that idea will join. Then they will have children who will be forced (through brainwashing) to join as well, and the cycle will begin again.

Hooray for Youth Activists

I ran into an article written by Sasha Mushegian, a Kansas City highschool student, decrying book censorship in school libraries and literature class reading lists. Specifically, she was condemning the actions of her local "fundamental Christian back to the roots, why are my children reading books with the F-word in it" group. Sasha does a wonderful job dissembling the core arguments of this group and most other censorship groups in general. Take a look.

Richard Dawkins had a tv program on in the UK called 'The root of all evil?' exploring, among other things, what affect religion has on young people (you can find a copy on YouTube). Of course he was very negative about it, being who he is and where he stands, but he had some good points. (paraphrase) “Children are labeled with their parent’s religion as babes, even though they could not have come to that decision on their own at that age. We do not label children with the political party of their parents, we expect them to make up their own mind about that sort of thing, why should religion be any different?” I think parents try to project their political outlooks on their children as well. If children are never given the chance to look outside the perfect box their parents put them in (even if the parents are not in it themselves), they will never question the validity of what they were taught. If they never question what they were taught, it can never expand, grow or become perfected. It is expected that parents will indoctrinate their children into their own beliefs. Is this ethical or even effective?

The fewer ideas that are inserted into a child's brain, the less data that child has in order to make decisions then and later in life as an adult. Lack of a decision making ability is severely crippling for anyone.

Many people do not think the FLDS (the polygamist group of Mormons in Texas who were in the news a couple months ago) should be allowed to raise their children because of the specific beliefs that the children are being taught. Is it any more ethical if you are brainwashing them to be Southern Baptists, Gays, Catholics, Wiccans, Presbyterians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Pentecostals, Buddhists, any other religion? How about Republicans, Democrats, Mac users, Doctors, Lawyers, Loggers, Mill workers, Spanish Speakers or overweight ... eh?

You have a right to be any of those things, and you have a right to NOT be any of those things. Everyone else has that right as well. It is almost impossible to raise a child without instilling in them some of your own ideas and ideals. That’s okay. It’s when you actively limit their choice and rebuke them for turning aside form your ideals that you are doing something wrong as a parent.

All that aside, does it even work? If the child is the same type of person as their parents (ie without pressure they would have chosen the same path as their parents) they will probably either A: shrug it off and continue on that path; B: feel hurt, distance themselves from their parents, even though they stay in rank; C: angrily leave the fold, joining a similar group, or becoming agnostic. If they are a different type of person than their parents (this is usually the majority) they might A: stick with what you have told them, even though it doesn’t fit them; B: drift away and join some other group that better fits their personality; C: rebel and try to revolutionize the group they grew up in; D: rebel and try to destroy/“reveal” the group they grew up in and/or anything like it. There are a lot of other possibilities, these are just some examples. Which category each child falls in depends on the way they are raised and their personality.

Which of these examples really accomplished the goal? Most of the first group does, although, only the first one was positive. Out of the second group, the first option would “look” like it worked. The child stays in the religion, from the outside everything looks great, even though they have no conviction that it is true. They stay in out of honor, comfort, fear, laziness or ignorance. Unfortunately, the majority of people in general fall into this category. If raised in a situation that they do not fully believe, they will stay in it as long as possible, which is usually until they die. This is the reason that revolutions do not happen until the conditions are so bad that they cannot be stood for another moment. Anger and aggravation rushes out at whatever is causing the discomfort until it is alleviated. Everyone then goes back to life until they are again discomforted.

You should not force your children to be like you are. Whether you are a member of the religious right, banning Harry Potter and Darwin or a polygamist banning everything possible or a scientist banning fantasy novels. It doesn't matter who you are or what you ban, your children are not you, you will either kill their brains or alienate them from your own way of thinking.

Why do parents do this to their children? They want them to grow up as happy as they were / are. The thing they forget is that they themselves were either A: brainwashed as a child, and never got over it (and as such they can be forgiven, they are just carrying out their programing) B: Converts to that way of thinking, and so they used their mental faculties to decide what was right for them rather than being forced. C: Different in personality their children. Children are not a small version of yourself, they have the right to think what they wish, be comfortable with what they want to be comfortable with, listen to their own music, even though all the adults think it is the devil's music (*shakes head* that one has been going on since someone figured out how to clap their hands to a beat... 'when I was your age, we didn't disgrace ourselves by beating our hands together. Noise, that's what it is! Noise! ... :-) )

As children are people too, they have a right to start choosing who they will be at a younger age than 18. I am really proud of the children who stand up for their rights.

Where is the boundary between the rights of children and the rights of parents? When good choices are removed. There is a difference between ethics and dogma. Teach your child to be a good person, let them decide on the rest. You can help them along by being a good example. I think you will do more by just being an example than by keeping all outside influences away from your children. They will respect you, even if they disagree with your doctrines because you taught them that the most important thing is the way you act, the way you treat other people. If we didn’t have that, we couldn’t call ourselves civilized.

My Research System

Sort of in response to a recent comment, I would like to share with you my method of studying the scriptures.

My Tools:
My methods are different depending on what I am researching, and why I want to know. I don't use all of these resources every time I study, it all depends on what I am looking for.

Let's say I want to know more about the word translated charity in most English New Testaments. First, I would look up the word charity on Folio or my LDS bible, depending on how high-tech I wanted to get (software vs a book). This would give me every instance of the word charity in the new testament.

Next, if I was using Folio, I would click on one of the words and have it look up the strong's # for me. This would show me the greek word that was translated to charity. Next, I would compare the search results for charity with the list of instances of that greek word being translated charity and see if there are any places where that word is not translated charity, or charity was not translated from that word. Then I would do the same for any word that comes up an an anomaly. In a word processor (rather than the built-in note taker, which works, but I like a real word processor better) I would take notes on what I find. I would also make sure to write down the root of the word that is being used, as well as related words and so on.

To obtain the same results, I could also use my KJV bible's concordance to find instances of the word charity, then look them up on the KJV with Strong's Concordance website. I don't own a physical Strong's concordance, or I could also use that. The process is about the same otherwise.

If I really wanted to go low-tech, I could also use my interlinear greek / english new testament and compare the greek words. I do not speak greek, so I would only come out with a list of greek words minus their meanings.

Let's say that I wanted to study the Jewish idea of heaven. First, using either my concordance or Folio, I would look up where the word heaven is used, or I could just use my memory to start with. Then, I could look in my Jewish study bible and read its commentary for each instance (as well as the text itself, of course). Next, using Folio, I would search for the word heaven in my Legends of the Jews by Ginzberg. That would bring me to various stories and extrapolations about the jewish idea of heaven. I could do the same for the Talmud, Midrash and other jewish commentaries.

What if I wanted to know the origin of Baptism? First, I would look in the Catholic Encyclopedia, or Wikipedia and see what they had to say. I would look at the sources where possible. I would read references to baptism in the scriptures. I would study the origin of the word baptism, and see which other cultures have ritual cleansing, and read about those as well. If I wanted to do extensive research on a topic, I would use TomBoy Notes, which is like a personal wiki, to keep track of all my different pieces of data.

When I study, I cannot use just one book or piece of software. No single tool exists that can do everything that I want to do. And, even if there was one, I wouldn't want to rely on ONE source for all of my knowledge, it would be too easy for me to be lazy and not look outside that box for more information.


Since 2000 I have personally been working on a program that I call TomeCat. It is just a very basic text reader built with PHP and MySQL. I'm not a programmer by any means, and so the going has been very slow. After my run-in with Libronix (see previous post), I have some new ideas tinkering around in my brain (see other previous post). I'd like to see some of those ideas incorporated into TomeCat.

TomeCat is running on a database right now. Every chapter in the book is a separate entry in the chapter table. This is fine, except that I want to be able to quickly create books, and copying and pasting chapters into a database isn't my idea of fun. It also brought up the question of embedded media such as images, audio, movies, links and so on. I would have to manually add code to the pristine database driven text files. That was kind of bad!

As a in-between step from TomeCat in a web browser to TomeCat as a desktop app, I think XML files are a better way to go. The texts could be converted to simple XML documents with markup tags like book, title, author, chapter, section, img, map, verse, p, audio, crossreference, link and so on. A browser would be able to read this, as well as a desktop app. This would let me get the markup straight before I leap off of the platform that I'm comfortable with.

A couple hurdles that I'm not quite sure how to jump over are how to show the existing table of contents, with separate pages for each chapter. I think this would be accomplished by searching for tags, and then replacing them with functions .. not sure.

The code would have to be manually added (although the basics could be parsed with a custom tool), which is kind of sad, but eventually, I know an editor could be created that took 'What You Mean Is What You Get' and turned it into properly formatted xml.

The reasons I want to eventually go with a desktop app are:

  • The life of the product is extended past the time when I want a server running for it.
  • Right click and multiple window interfaces, without using "AJAX". This also means it will work even after web browsers are no longer compatible with the code.
  • User doesn't have to have anything but the program and documents to use in it. They will not have to install a MySQL database, or PHP, etc.
Wish me luck!

Electronic Text Interface Ideas

Back in 2007 I wrote a post about an ideal translation program. I would like to expand that idea into ideas for a better digital library system.

First, a list of features for a great electronic text reader. There are many programs that already fall into this category.

  • Simple interface
  • Bookmarks to keep your place
  • no page turning - this is contrived, you are on a computer, scroll already!
  • Changeable text sizes / fonts alignment.
  • Unicode is a must!
  • Can read many different text-file types, especially open ones.
  • can also read PDF files that have no text (each page is an image)
  • Can convert all of these formats to a standard electronic text format.
  • Has support for images and other media with captions.
  • Can have media galleries attached to a paragraph (many different pictures, all in the same place shown as thumbnails)
  • The ability to have multiple books open at once, and to view them side by side
  • The ability to look up words in associated dictionaries / encyclopedias (this ability would NOT be dependent on the TEXT, but on the dictionary/etc.)
  • The ability to add in new dictionaries / encyclopedias.
  • The ability to easily create a new text in the proper format, as well as edit existing books. This will let the user fix any formating mistakes the converter makes.
  • Free or at least cheap
  • Free books to load into it
  • sets of books that you can download. Such as the Complete Kipling, or Masonic History, or Sophia's random favorite public domain Fiction
  • tagging and organizing of books into shelves and sections
  • more than one library of books possible
  • integrate with library thing where possible!
  • The ability to sell books to other users where they aren't able to edit the text.
  • All text will be copy and pasteable - if a publisher isn't cool with that - too bad - that's why people want their book - so that they can copy and paste sections.
  • A way to unobtrusively keep track of who has bought what. The fear of pirating should not make the program hard to use! Giving each user an ID, and then inserting that number into their encrypted book would work. They can use their customer ID on many computers / devices.
  • The internet is not required for use or activation.
  • If the books are on a CD, they will work.
  • Keeping all of the files for a book together is n interesting problem. On one hand, you want to keep it open. On the other hand, you don't want people to loose track of their files. A standard archive file would work - as long as the program can read unopened archive files. OOo can read them.
  • Open standards for the creation of plug ins and modules that anyone can create.
  • A fully working demo with a time limit to register before only the reader works.

Okay, now features for a reader with research capabilities

  • all of the above.
  • The ability to look up phrases to see where else it is referenced in your library.
  • the ability to look up any word in a concordance - original language and translation and meaning (ie, there are many different words that mean the same thing in most languages, this would include them all under separate result entries.)
  • the ability to compare different translations of the same work, as well as the original. This would be paragraph by paragraph
  • Interlinear comparisons, as above.
  • maps, with coordinates coded into various texts
  • if a text does not have the coordinates coded in, a basic search is done in the applicable maps for those words. The map itself is coded to know various spellings and variations of place names.
  • the ability to look up a word by sound, and by the root of a word.
  • combination search, with an instant tree view of the search results by #
  • the ability to search by book, collection, library(s) or open documents.
  • A customizable keyboard mapper so that you can type in any language.
  • A special character picker for things like cuneiform, where there are too many characters to use a keyboard.
  • all (or most) of the ideas in my earlier post - I now think that the english language should also have a numbered reference system, like Strong's - that way words can be referenced by number.
  • simple, easy to use option in the context menu for each word - the menu is customizable through an option ON the menu.
  • Although many people will be using this for the bible, it should work with any modern or ancient text in any language.
  • the ability to back track
I know there are more ideas to be had, but this is a good start!

Libronix Digital Library System

I am again disappointed in my search for a replacement for my old InfoBase Folio Bound Views 3. Libronix talked big, but failed to deliver.

Libronix claimed to use an open format, so that you could access your data even if they go out of business, or whatever. Great! except, once I downloaded a couple demo copies of the content, none of it was in that open format. Further, if you want to create your own files, called PBBs, you have to 1) buy the Personal Book Builder ($250), 2) get a PBB activation code (included with any LOGOS product - starting at $150, going up to $1,380). 3) re-activate your product every year. Okay, now with this, all you have is the BASIC type of book, there is no way to designate a new book as a dictionary or a commentary, it's just a book. You are also legally unable to sell your PBB book. In order to allow it to be sold, you must pay various unknown fees. For $100, you can buy the Private Book Builder. This will let you create books that only your licensed user can access.

There are also claims that it uses the "free" libronix reader. Well, I still haven't been able to get that to work. The free download asks me for my SN (located on the CD I purchased .... wait, I thought it was free?), a customer code and an activation number. I am not against people trying to protect their property, but why all the hassle when it is supposedly free? As of now, I have not found a place on their site to get any of those three required numbers. My copy will expire in 40 days, so at least they give me some time to try and solve the problem.

Okay, so it fails the openness test, what about the product itself? Is it worth the hassle?

It's an okay program, but lacking in a few key areas, like the scroll button on your mouse doesn't work. The books all open on top of each other, only taking up the left hand side of the screen. There is a English concordance for the KJV, but even though I have a Strong's concordance installed, I cannot look words up with it in any useful manner. The hebrew and greek fonts are hard to read, as they didn't expect people to actually look at them. And so on. I only used it for a few minutes, so I haven't found everything I dislike yet.

What about content? There are indeed a few books that they offer that are great resources, BUT they are charging $50 for $10 books. They also have an agenda, conscious or not, involving only mainstream, conservative, protestant, evangelical Christian ideology. I know it is maybe a little too much to ask, but what about books geared toward Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses? Nope, but they do have a whole section on how to convert them back to the true gospel. There are no books about more edgy topics, but plenty of books that dredge out the same old tripe that has been going around for years. For instance, I doubt that I could find any reference to evolution other than bashing it to pieces. Is this because these edgy books are unknown to most people? No, I can find them in my local library (and I live in a small town). Is this because the publishers are awful people and don't see the benefit of electronically distributing their content? No, I have seen them on other digital library websites. Hence my conclusion that LOGOS/Libronix has an agenda.

A List of Woes...

Excessive DRM
Lack of great content
Commercial Content filtered by denominational creed
Lack of a truly free reader
The inability to create your own personal data, with full functionality
The exorbitant prices attached to all functionality
Clunky User Interface

Illegal Aliens cost us $338 Billion in Debt a year!! (or do they?)

I recently received an email regarding illegal aliens, and the horrible economic harm they are doing to our country.
You think the war in Iraq is costing us too much?
Read this: Boy, am I confused. I have been hammered with the propaganda
that it is the Iraq war and the war on terror that is bankrupting us.
I now find that to be RIDICULOUS. I hope the following 14 reasons are
forwarded over and over again until they are read so many times that the
reader gets sick of reading them.

I have included the URL's for verification of all the following facts.

1. $11 Billion to $22 billion is spent on welfare to illegal aliens
each year.
2. $2.2 Billion dollars a year is spent on food assistance programs
such as food stamps, WIC, and free school lunches for illegal aliens.

3. $2.5 Billion dollars a year is spent on Medicaid for illegal aliens.

4. $12 Billion dollars a year is spent on primary and secondary school
education for children here illegally and they cannot speak a word of

5. $17 Billion dollars a year is spent for education for the
American-born children of illegal aliens, known as anchor babies.

6. $3 Million Dollars a DAY is spent to incarcerate illegal aliens.

7. 30% percent of all Federal Prison inmates are illegal aliens.

8. $90 Billion Dollars a year is spent on illegal aliens for Welfare &
social services by the American taxpayers.

9. $200 Billion Dollars a year in suppressed American wages are caused
by the illegal aliens.

10. The illegal aliens in the United States have a crime rate that's
two and a half times that of white non-illegal aliens. In particular,
their children, are going to make a huge additional crime problem in the

11. During the year of 2005 there were 4 to 10 MILLION illegal aliens
that crossed our Southern Border also, as many as 19,500 illegal
aliens from Terrorist Countries. Millions of pounds of drugs, cocaine,
meth, heroin and marijuana, crossed into the U. S from the Southern
Homeland Security Report:
12. The National Policy Institute, 'estimated that the total cost of
mass deportation would be between $206 and $230 billion or an average
cost of between $41 and $46 billion annually over a five year period.'

13. In 2006 illegal aliens sent home $45 BILLION in remittances back to
their countries of origin.

14. 'The Dark Side of Illegal Immigration: Nearly One Million Sex
Crimes Committed by Illegal Immigrants In The United States '.
The total cost is a whopping $ 338.3 BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR!

Are we THAT stupid???

If this doesn't bother you then just delete the message.
If, on the other hand, if it does raise the hair on the back of your
neck, I hope you forward it to every legal resident in the country
including every representative in Washington, D.C. - five times a week
for as long as it takes to restore some semblance of intelligence in our
policies and enforcement thereof.

That was the entire un-edited email.

There's nothing that irks me more than an 'article' that attacks a specific group of people (be it Muslims, Illegal Aliens or Mormons) without giving all the facts, so that all those who read it come away thinking who knows what. With that in mind, I want to offer a little perspective.

If you look at last year's US budget ( Wikipedia United States federal budget, 2007 ), you'll notice something interesting. $338 Billion dollars sounds like quite a lot, and it is! But, we paid $243.7 billion in debt interest ALONE last year. Just pause and think about that for a minute. That's almost as much as the figure in the email below ... compare that to what we are paying for our active military: $548.8 billion. Social Security/Medicare hits a combined total of $980.6 Billion ... wow. (and don't forget, that number will DOUBLE in ten years)

There are about 7 million illegal aliens in the country (mostly in California and Arizona), that's an average of 1.7 illegal aliens per 100 citizens. If we take the suggested $338 billion dollars and divide it up between them all, we come up with about $48,000 in spending per illegal alien. Maybe you should ask them what they are doing with all of that cash? The more reasonable explanation is that the numbers were inflated. If you check the numbers from The Center for Immigration Studies , you'll find that they figure $10.4 billion in deficit per year. Now, that's still a lot, but not enough to put us in debt, just enough to make us stop and try to figure out a solution. What that solution is, I guess the politicians will argue about until someone does something about it. But, please! keep in mind that we're really talking about people, not numbers.

By the way, do you want to know the real reason we're in debt? (9.5 trillion, if you were wondering) The same reason any of us might be. By spending more than we earn (approx. 2.5 trillion earned and 2.8 trillion spent), as well as not budgeting in debt payments.

The Afterlife

This subject has imposed itself on me quite a few time this last month. I am beginning to feel that, yes, what we do in this life affects where we will go in the next, but there are millions of possibilities instead of two, three or even seven. Each possible afterlife is merely a gathering of like souls. So, if you are a miser, you will go to a place filled with misers. No one will help you out, but you can save to your heart's delight. If you spent your life serving others, you will go somewhere with others who live to serve. Imagine what that would be like. It could either be very satisfying, or it could be incredibly annoying. But, for the most part, we are not quite so archetypal as all that! Think of it as being gathered up with all of your possible soul mates - all in one place! You may not be exactly the same, but everyone there connects with you - they are all the people who you admire, and who in turn admire you. That isn't to say that everyone who falls into that category in this life will go to the same place - there are choices made that can kick them into another sphere, murder would be a good example.

Let's take Tolkien for an example. Not all (or even most) of his fans would be in the same place as he. But other linguists, historians, etc would - this is a place of equals!

'Getting' to live with who you are is the best punishment/reward I can think of. And, as a bonus, I don't see a lot in the scriptures that specifically contradict this notion.

Justice and Mercy in Mormonism

There are quite a few strange things about mormon doctrines. One common idea is that Mercy is utterly opposed to Justice and visa versa. Let me wander down the isles of the thought processes that have led us there.

The GOD of the old testament seems harsh, brutal, quick to dish out punishment, and slow to let transgressions go without some recompense. The Law of Torah is filled with death penalties for trivial crimes (or so they seem to us). We do not like to think of God in this light, as we believe that our souls and our futures are in his hands. Along comes Jesus! From the new testament we can see that he is loving, forgiving and fair. Whew! we know we can trust this guy not to kill us for stepping out of line.

In traditional christian thought, Jesus and the Father are one being, so what Jesus is, so is the Father, and we come up with ways to explain away the actions of the old testament god. The mormons, along with other modern arians, did not believe in the traditional trinity, but considered that the members of the godhead were all separate beings. Well, this brought up the idea of the vengeful old testament god again. If there was no new testament Jesus side to god himself, new explanations would have to be found, or the old testament would need to be downplayed (as many modern christian denominations do).

Now, I'm not sure when the Justice vs Mercy doctrine became very popular in mormonism, I'll have to do some research, but, perhaps it stemmed from these early days of the church. The basic premises of the idea is that God represents JUSTICE! perfect justice that must be satisfied at all costs! and Jesus represents MERCY! perfect mercy that could forgive those who were killing him as it was being done. When we sin, God demands that justice be served, thrusting us out into the darkness if we are the least bit imperfect - and then, Jesus saves us with his mercy, by forgiving us and taking on our sins for himself. How this works exactly is up for debate. When we are through with this history lesson, I want to show why this was a false idea in all of its incarnations.

In the very early 1900s, the mormons still believed that god the father was Jehovah or LORD of the old testament, and Jesus was a separate person who played a role as explained above. The modern era was approaching, many converts were joining the church, and as a result, many of the members of the church were becoming uncomfortable with the idea of this GOD, personally untempered by a kinder half.

Luckily for them (or not, as your point of view may be), Talmage came along and introduced what I like to call reformed trinitarianism. Basically, the old testament God, Jehovah, really was Jesus - just pretending. Besides all of the weird stuff that does to your brain (if you were brought up to be a non-trinitarian) like Jesus talking about himself in third person; Abraham, Issac, Jacob and Moses were really talking to Jesus, not the father; and apparently you prayed to Jesus before he came and the Father after etc., it neatly solved the current moral dilemma by placing the mormon godhead in the same murky water as the rest of christianity. Even though this didn't really solve the problem, it DID in so many people's minds, that it didn't really matter one way or the other.

In this doctrinal setting (Jesus is Jehovah), the idea of Justice vs Mercy would not have become as important since both roles were being played by the same person anyway (thus the internal cohesion (or confusion, as I like to think of it as) of the two would have been emphasized rather than the separateness).

Now for the fun part! How is this idea fundamentally flawed?

First off, separating these two attributes between the pair of them implies that God cannot forgive, or is incapable of mercy. Many would tend to agree with this - he represents the LAW, and it would be unbefitting of him to bend it for us (as many a tale about kings exemplifies). But, the other side to this would be that Jesus cannot exhibit justice, or met out retribution. Before you say 'of course he does not judge us - he loves us all unconditionally', remember his words to the scribes and pharisees, remember how he scourged the temple of the money changers, how he scorched the fruitless fig tree. These are not the actions of a man without justice. The thing that Jesus did, that I think was remarkable, was he knew when people were selfish or greedy or abusive, and called them on it - even if it was an acceptable practice for the day. He also associated himself with, and forgave, those that society had cast out. In short, he could see through social and cultural labels down into the human soul.

I would also like to point out that God in the old testament isn't as unmerciful as many think. Just peruse through the search result for forgive in the old testament. As an example (as I am running out of time)
Psalms 86: 5 For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.

There are examples of god the father forgiving people without requiring a sacrifice BEFORE Jesus is born and is killed. There are also examples of Jesus freely forgiving those he met in his life "your sins are forgiven you, go and sin no more". What does this mean? There was no Justice exacted before forgiveness was granted - how is this possible in the DEATH=SIN/SIN=PUNISHMENT model of things?

Lastly, this idea sets up two different ideals - one just and the other merciful. If God and Jesus are both perfect, shouldn't they share an ideal rather than separating it out between them? Is perfection Just, or is it Merciful? If we are to be perfect like our father in heaven is perfect, should we show no mercy, but demand justice in every case? What becomes of the message of Jesus to forgive everyone who crosses our path?

We ourselves should be striving for a balance between the two, and so why not our prime examples in this life as well? God is merciful, Jesus is Just. Instead of patching up things we don't want to hear, we should take a close look at our holy books and either denounce their ideals as not our own, or come to an understanding of the message which the authors were intending.

Good Little Consumers

I was reading through an article on MSNBC about the proposed "economy stimulant" and ... wow. Here's a little snip:
"The sooner we get this relief in the hands of the American people, the sooner they can begin to do their job of being good consumers," Boehner said.


How the elections are going... or are they?

I've just noticed that the major networks disagree on who is ahead for the election .. interesting.


Obama: 230 / 63
Clinton: 152 / 48
Edwards: 61 / 26

Romney: 59
Huckabee: 40
McCain: 36


Clinton: 222
Obama: 182
Edwards: 51

Romney: 59
Huckabee: 40
McCain: 36


Obama: 230 / 63
Clinton: 152 / 48
Edwards: 61 / 26

Romney: 73 / 67
Huckabee: 38 / 38
McCain: 29 / 26


Obama: 63
Clinton: 48
Edwards: 26

Romney: 59
Huckabee: 40
McCain: 36

I tried to get a more "official" count from the party websites, but - it seems as if both parties are just trying to bash the other (with more links about non-party candidates than their own .. ) and can't be bothered to let their members know how the elections are coming along.

Plus, I wanted to try out this nifty widget from MSNBC