Digital Dharma

The Middle Path, One Day At A Time


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The Value and Harm of Religion

People who believe that I am an Atheist sometimes seem nonplussed that I’m tolerant of religion in general.  There appears to be an idea amongst some non-believers that they must either be completely disinterested in religious ideas, or vehemently opposed and outspoken about it.  In either case, it seems, they must be prepared to pooh-pooh “superstition” and point out at the drop of a hat all the evils perpetrated in the names of various gods throughout history, and all of the ways that the shamans take advantage of the folks they’ve hoodwinked.  While I find the former positions distastefully closed-minded, I am indeed inclined to agree with the latter — at least when it involves the religious hierarchy.

My feeling is that those who are obtrusively dogmatic, pro or con, are just as bound up by the chains of their beliefs as any fanatic building bombs in the mountains of Pakistan.  To paraphrase John Bradshaw, a 180 degree turn leaves us in the same rut, only now we’re moving against the flow and annoying the other travelers.  If we want to change things, we need to get off the treadmill for a different perspective.

For the record, I am neither an Atheist nor an Agnostic. The latter claim that they are not convinced of the existence of a god or gods, the former that they are convinced that there are no such entities.  I am Ignostic, one who believes that no discussion about the question of gods’ existence can even be held, because it is not possible to come up with a coherent definition of a god.  To put it another way, I believe that when it comes to gods, no one really knows what they’re talking about, and no one ever will.

But I am not anti-religious.  I try to practice Buddhism which is, by most definitions, a religion.  While I accept that definition, I do not practice for religious reasons, but because Buddhist teachings give me a structure, based on pure logic, around which I can try to live my life and discipline my thinking.

That gets around to my position on religion in general.  I believe it is inevitable, for most people in most circumstances, and that generally-speaking it does far more good than harm.  It provides structure, guidance, community, hope — in short, a framework for living.  It matters not a whit to me whether the underlying beliefs are pure superstition or divine revelation, except when religious teachings are used for ill rather than good; to separate, rather than to draw people together.

The folks who administer religion are usually the problem in that regard.  They are the ones who teach, by their example, inflexibility, lack of compassion (although many of them give great lip service), and who perpetuate the tribal concepts of “us” and “other,” with their implied conclusions that “we are right” and “they are wrong.”  They are the ones who foster self-serving and self-congratulatory, complacent followers who seem unwilling or unable to think for themselves.

This tribal thinking is, perhaps, hard-wired into some people’s brains.  We are beginning to learn that the brains of liberals literally function  somewhat differently than those of conservatives.  There is every reason to believe that such dichotomies are necessary in primitive societies.  They are not, however, appropriate to situations such as those that exist on the Earth at present, with many people in need, and many who are unwilling to share.  This seems often to involve use of force on both sides, and in many circles it seems that two wrongs are presumed to make a right…or, at least, a lot of money for the people who profit from wars and strife in general.

Those are character defects that are engendered and supported by some shamans in the guise of the “will of God/Allah,” and in that respect religion is not a good thing at all.

The troubles in the world today cannot, it seems to me, be resolved by black and white thinking.  The True Believer in the hut is evidence of that, and those who attempt to hunt him down, without regard to the number of innocents killed in the process, are yet another.  People who seem to feel that they must contradict the beliefs of others, and put down the intelligence of those who believe other than they, are a third.  That ain’t how you build togetherness, folks.

Ben Franklin wrote at another critical point in history, “If we do not hang together, we shall certainly hang separately.”  As long as we continue to blame our problems on the other guy, we continue our trek to the gallows. To the extent that religion (or non-religion) supports that journey, it is most certainly at fault.


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Israeli document: Gaza blockade isn’t about security

McClatchey, via Al-Jazeera English, reports that documents obtained as the result of a lawsuit on behalf of the people living in Gaza contain an Isreali admission that the embargo is about economics, not weapons smuggling.

“A country has the right to decide that it chooses not to engage in economic relations or to give economic assistance to the other party to the conflict, or that it wishes to operate using ‘economic warfare,'” the government said.

McClatchy obtained the government’s written statement from Gisha, the Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, which sued the government for information about the blockade. The Israeli high court upheld the suit, and the government delivered its statement earlier this year

Al-Jaz also makes an excellent argument for Israel being in violation of the Geneva Convention (not that anyone pays much attention to them any more, including US).

Israeli document: Gaza blockade isn’t about security | McClatchy


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Southern Baptist leader Richard Land backs citizenship for illegal immigrants

Baptist leader Richard Land backs citizenship for illegal immigrants | tennessean.com | The Tennessean

Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, admits it’s a message that will test some of the church’s mainstream membership, but it’s one that needs to be said.


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Chipotle: time to back up ‘food with integrity’

Chipotle Challenge: time to back up ‘food with integrity’ | Grist

In Florida, the human rights crisis engulfing farm labor is perhaps most starkly visible. Tomato pickers have received virtually the same harvesting piece rate since 1980: 40-50 cents for every 32-pound bucket they fill. At this rate, workers must pick and haul a staggering 2.5 tons of tomatoes in order to earn minimum wage for a typical 10-hour day. Decades of class-action lawsuits have exposed a pattern of systematic minimum wage violations, and supervisor violence in the fields is not unheard of.

In November 2007, three farmworkers in Immokalee – the heart of Florida’s winter tomato production – escaped from more than a year of bondage after punching through the ventilation hatch in a box truck where they were held captive by their employers. In total, a dozen workers were forced to pick tomatoes by day and then chained, beaten, and robbed of their pay at night in one of southwest Florida’s “biggest, ugliest slavery cases ever,” according to U.S. Attorney Doug Molloy.

The enslaved crew harvested for farms owned by two of Florida’s largest tomato growers. It was the seventh farm labor slavery case prosecuted by federal civil rights officials since 1997, now involving well over 1,000 workers. All of which brings us to a question posed by Eric Schlosser at last year’s Slow Food Nation conference: “Does it matter whether an heirloom tomato is local and organic if it was harvested with slave labor?” 
‘food
with integrity


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Wonking Class Hero — The Exonerator

Advocates for innocent people in prison are few, partly because lawyers are trained to honor the sanctity of the finality of court decisions. Advocates courageous and idealistic enough to proceed on behalf of an imprisoned innocent count themselves successful if they help achieve one exoneration during a lifetime of trying.

That McCloskey — who is not a lawyer — has directed investigations resulting in dozens of exonerations is, by any measure, astounding. Those prone to biblical language use a stronger word: miraculous.  Wonking Class Hero — The Exonerator


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Help Stop Glenn Beck’s Unskillful and Divisive Remarks

Namasté,

As you may know, right-wing talk show hosts have been bringing race-based fear mongering into the mainstream, but FOX’s Glenn Beck just took it to another level. On Tuesday, Beck said:

This president has exposed himself as a guy over and over and over again who has a deep-seated hatred for white people… this guy is, I believe, a racist.

It’s part of a larger argument Beck has been making: that President Obama wants to serve the needs of Black communities at White people’s expense. This kind of talk stirs up fear, hate, and it can lead to violence.

I’ve joined ColorOfChange.org’s effort to stop Glenn Beck. ColorOfChange is already putting calls into Beck’s advertisers, asking them if they want to be associated with this kind of racist hate and fear-mongering. When the advertisers see that tens of thousands of us are behind that question, I believe they’ll move their advertising dollars elsewhere, and his show and platform will be history.

Will you take a stand and be counted, and invite your friends and family to do the same? It takes just a moment:

http://www.colorofchange.org/beck/?id=2008-1033479

Glenn Beck is appealing to the worst in America. Of course, some Americans refuse to accept the fact that our president is Black or the idea that he could truly serve all Americans. But the only way these views fade away is if they’re not reinforced by mainstream society. Instead, folks like Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, and Rush Limbaugh are exploiting racism and race-based fear to bump their ratings, stirring up racial discord in the process.

The dangers of these tactics are real. We saw the same dynamic during the presidential race: By the end, the McCain/Palin campaign was unable to control the violent energy whipped up by their race-baiting. It resulted in an unprecedented number of threats on Obama’s life, a rise in the number of hate groups, and an increase in the number of threats and crimes against immigrants and Black people.

FOX has a horrible track record on pushing racist propaganda, but Glenn Beck appears to be taking the network to an even lower standard. He’s trying to divide and distract America when we should be coming together and talking about issues that really matter–like health care and the economy.

The good news is that we have the power to stop this. All major media is funded by advertising. And advertisers care more than anything what consumers think. If we want to change what’s happening and put an end to folks like Glenn Beck having a platform, we can do it.

It’s up to us, and it can start now. Please join me:

http://www.colorofchange.org/beck/?id=2008-1033479

Thanks.

Here are some links to more info:

“Beck: Obama has ‘exposed himself as a guy’ with ‘a deep seated hatred for white people'”
http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200907280008

“Glenn Beck: Obama agenda driven by ‘reparations’ and desire to ‘settle old racial scores'”
http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200907230040

“MSNBC’s Deutsch encourages viewers to demand advertisers on Beck’s show spend money elsewhere”
http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200907290037

“On Television and Radio, Talk of Obama’s Citizenship”
mediadecoder.blogs.nyt…