Thursday, October 30, 2008

Carlton Pearson leaves rigid doctrine behind

I am a late comer to this news. I did not realize that Bishop Pearson had formally left the fold. He still believes in God, but not hell. And even his idea of God is pliable and humanity affirming.
At the end of the article are comments from the fold; one has to revisit the religious nutjob universe every now and then to remember the insanity. One Bea K. writes, "I’d... be quite upset, more than you realize, if I’d have done everything possible to help mankind (my creation, if I was God that is), and they turned on me by literally spitting in my face and choosing another ‘religion’ over mine. In other words, “I’ve given you everything you could have ever wanted, but I really don’t need you God”. How humiliating is that?"
My response to Bea:

I am so glad to see Carlton Pearson make this journey. He was always such a jovial person, it is nice to have him as company. As one who was brought up steeped in the illusions of the Christian religion, I am heartened to see others freed from its false fears and lies.To all of you who are still in your religious cocoon, this is why someone like Carlton Pearson, or me, would leave. Bishop Pearson could not reconcile the idea of eternal hellfire for the great majority of mankind simply because they did not embrace one, particular conception of faith, millions of whom had never even heard of it. To any one who thinks clearly about it, it just is not fair. In fact, it goes to the central question of suffering that is the singular failure of the Christian religion (and most others, for that matter.)

I left the idea of a just and loving God behind because it did not square with the world I saw as I traveled through more than sixty countries. I saw the teeming millions in India, China, and Africa. Millions born into misery, living miserable, painful lives, and dying miserably, never knowing hope or cheer. It is the sad reality of most humans who are born today. They are born with no hope. For those in the rich west this is a hard concept to grasp.Bea K., you have it exactly wrong. In what sense did God “do everything possible to help mankind?” That contention would be a great surprise to more than 3/4 of the world’s population, who are born into lives of misery with no clue about where they came from or for what purpose they are here. They are simply cast adrift into a tooth and claw creation, with little to guide them on their way. In fact, the opposite of what you say is true. There is such pain and suffering, in so many lives, not even to mention your horrific idea of eternal damnation, that it is God himself who stands accused. How could he have created such a vicious, merciless world?

I have been to two wars and several disaster operations and have witnessed the most wrenching and ferocious mutilations of the bodies of men, women, and children. If there were a God responsible for setting a world in motion that resulted in such unending sorrow, he would, infact, deserve to be hammered to a cross every single day it spins its rounds through the cold expanse of this universe. So, now we come to the brass tax. I suggest to you, Bea, that your only real concern is your own safety, because you fear hell. The likelihood is that you are in fact a coward, too afraid to face the all too apparent conclusion, that there is no God to indict. I think that most Christians are only Christians because they fear the logic of Pascal’s wager - that one has nothing to lose by believing, but risks hell by not believing. But this is the logic of cowardice. The best response to Pascal is Thomas Jefferson’s advice to his nephew as he searched for a religion, “Fix reason firmly upon her seat. Bring to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question boldly even the existence of God, for if there be one, he surely must more approve the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.”

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I have been purged.

If you have reservations about Sarah Palin, you have been purged by Robert Stacy McCain :

If you are one of the purgees, don't be surprised. This is really not unprecedented. National Review, in the '60s, used to haul itself up as the judge of all "true" conservatives. They made sure to loudly denounce Birchers on the one hand and Randites (Objectivists) on the other. They were quite the opposite of the big tent. So, I suppose it is fitting that the son of the great purger himself (WFB) finds himself purged. And for what better reason than a completely arbitrary one? Notice, it is not about principle, not about small government, or the free market, or protection of private property...nope, it just comes down to whether you can swallow hard and vote for a clearly unprepared candidate. That's it. That's the new shibboleth.

So, I hope Republicans and Conservatives, now that you have purged me and all other libertarian leaning voters from the GOP, that you have great fun by yourselves in the loser's column, because that is where you have consigned yourselves for the foreseeable future.Still, 'tis a strange standard to raise, this Sarah Palin test.

I remember seeing the women of the right in the '80s, when I came to the movement, women like Margaret Thatcher and Jeane Kirkpatrick and Peggy Noonan. These women were full of substance and presence. They were not vapid cheerleaders who could mouth a bunch of rightist platitudes with a smile and a wink. They didn't wail against the media and cry about being misportrayed as lightweight. They didn't need "fair treatment." They went into the fray and gave better than they got. Who here thinks that Jeane Kirkpatrick could be set on her heels by Katie Couric? This is what we have been reduced to, defending a third stringer who has no business at the national level. I am not waiting to be purged. I'm out. Will the last libertarian turn off the lights, please?

Why the guilt-by-association sideshows about Obama don't matter.

Ove the last few weeks, the guilt by association machine has been run on overdrive by the McCain campaign and their allies. Ayers, Wright, Rezko, Khalidi, etc. As we go into this election, we should all remember what's at stake, and what is really important.
I have served this country in two wars. I have traveled to more than sixty countries, been on every continent other than Antarctica, and worked with several foreign govts and companies on behalf of American interests. So, I will humbly suggest that I have learned a few things about the world.
I admit that I have voted Republican most of my life, but in this election, I agree with Colin Powell. Obama has the temperament, the vision, and the decisionmaking skills needed in this moment. McCain is too reflexively violent, blunt, and self righteous. He believes that war solves things. And it does, sometimes, but more often it does not.

All of these sideshow stories about who associates with whom really don't matter and I'll tell you why, especially for those of you who live in your partisan or ideological bubbles and don't understand the way the world works. When you want to get something done in the real world of space, time, and history, you saddle up to the people who can help you do it. Sometimes it means making associations with people who are not perfect, or even admirable, but a pragmatist has to deal with the world as it is, not as one might wish it were. Ayers, Wright, and the rest of these people were those who could get things in done in the political landscape of Chicago poltics that Obama was entering. That's simply what politicians do. But McCain's reflexive self righteousness leads him to deny this reality (even while he hypocritically does the same thing, such as chumming up to Falwell when everyone knows McCain despised him.)

This is why McCain's support of Bush's current stance toward Iran is a tell tale sign of his unsuitability for the Presidency. Especially now, with Iran on the verge of becoming a nuclear power while simultaneously exploiting the U.S. intervention in Iraq to exponentially increase their power and status in the region. Bush's (and McCain's) approach states that we won't even initiate diplomatic talks at any meaningful level until they capitulate to a long list of demands, half of which are completely impossible for Iran to do given the current state of their internal politics. This lack of understanding and subtlety just won't wash in these times. So, partisan bubble dwellers, have all the sideshows you want, but please stay home on election day and let the adults decide this one.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Was Hiroshima terrorism?

My new comment on Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog:
re: " I've never understood why Hiroshima (necessary as it may well have been) wasn't an act of terrorism." and "There's no civilized way to make war." and "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter."
This is a subject I had to confront as Marine. I served in Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2005-6), as well as Haiti (2004) and more than sixty other countries across the globe. I am writing this from Japan, where the US military has been since we conquered the place. Think of the word, conquer. We didn't conquer this country by being nice or civil, we brutalized them terrorized them, caused the most severe hardship and pain, before they surrendered. That is simply what war is. The subject of war and how to wage it is more than a preoccupation with me, it is my profession.

First, I have learned that is always easy in hindsight to second guess the actions of those who served in combat years before. So some perspective is necessary.
My grandfather was in the battle of Okinawa along with his brother (who left his right leg on the island). Afterward, he was set to invade mainland Japan where he would most certainly die, when the bomb was dropped. He credited the bomb with saving his life. My mother vividly remembers, as a six year old, saying goodbye to her Dad with the certain knowledge that he would never return. That was the world as they knew it.

I have walked the battlefields of Okinawa, Iwo Jima, and Saipan and studied the events there closely. We should all remember the ever escalating brutality with which the war was waged. Certainly Americans had racist vews of the Japanese, but the opposite was also true. Almost certainly, the need to dehumanize the other side is neceassary to generate the will to kill in the human animal. Believe it or not, there is generally found in humans a natural reluctance to commit violence on other human beings. That's why it is very often done in a ritualized or a severe social context.

In WW II specifically, as one side committed atrocities against the other, the viciousness increased all around. On Tarawa, U.S. platoon positions were marked by stakes with Japanese heads stuck on them. But also, Americans captured by the Japanese were mutilated and tortured all night before they died. Just thirty or forty feet away, their fellow Marines had to listen as the captives' genitals were cut off, and they were skinned, and disemboweled, slowly. There is no mercy after enduring such a thing. This is the nature of war. As the famed military historian and theorist, John Keegan, notes, whatever the initial reasons for war, once begun they take on a logic and momentum of their own that often become completely disconnected from the original reasons for the war. This is why they should be entered to with great trepidation.

So, having said that, let's remember what war is, one side seeks to bend the other to its will. There are alot of fancy definitions but they all come down to simply that - a battle of wills. In a total war, such as World War II, where entire civilizations are battling for supremacy and even survival, one can expect the battle of wills to extend to every aspect of life.

Of course Hiroshima was an act of terrorism, because it was intended to cause terror in the other side's population, causing them to lose the will to fight. That is what war is all about, producing terror and causing the other side to exhaust themselves, to give up, to decide that the horror can be endured no longer. So, that is a long post to say that all those quotes are true. War is terror. Freedom fighters are terrorists. It only depends on your perspective.

Think of the examples from history, our founding fathers were terrorists to the British King. People like Yizhak Rabin and the other founders of Israel were hunted as terrorists by the British before they were ever accepted as diplomats. Leaders of the IRA now sit in chambers of democracy in Europe. And, yes, Ahmadinejad, who stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979, is now the President of Iran. It is all a matter of perspective.
Semper Fi,PTR
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