I believe that government of and by the people is not necessarily synonymous with government for the people. We don't usually know much at all about the representatives we choose, and we don't understand most of the issues they vote on. The language of bills is written by people trained in law; it is not a language most Americans can easily understand.

I believe that even if we did have a government that worked for the people, it would be a disaster. The people want everything without paying for it. Legislators know this, and so make little effort to make the lawmaking process transparent.

I believe that schools are designed for an industrial society, and are not equipped to educate today's children. Educate comes from the Latin educare, which means to lead out; it suggests that it is a process of being led out of the darkness of ignorance. We are living in an age of technology, a post-industrial America where shopping is the greatest source of GDP. Schools are the last bastions of the #2 pencil and the ballpoint pen: everywhere else, keyboards are the means of getting language encoded. Voice commands, while not yet ubiquitous because of the industry's infancy, will be more important as the years go on. We, however, still regiment kids chronologically into grades. We expect everyone will need science, math, art, and competitive sports. Well, did you ever meet someone who just had a knack for pitching? A penchant for gardening? These are hardly skills that can be learned, but they are important skills in people's lives. Yet these are not the skills that are fostered and measured in school. We teach and measure the skills that were necessary for success in the 19th century. We have not yet engaged in a debate on what skills kids need in a post-industrial society, but it is one we need to engage in.

I believe that the first amendment to the Constitution guarantees that religion has no place in the process of lawmaking. It is not that the establishment of a state religion that is referenced. It is that:

  •     Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;


and that's all. Not to nitpick here, but there are very few words to analyze, so we can assume they were chosen carefully. The big word here is 'an' rather than 'the'. "An establishment" is synonymous with "institution": an organization founded and united for a specific purpose. In other words, those 16 words prohibit Congress from making any law that is in any way concerning a religion. (I get 'concerning' from its synonym, 'respecting'.) So, if the grounds for prohibiting abortion are primarily religious, and if such a ban would affect any religious group beneficially, it cannot be countenanced. That many laws have already been made which benefit different religions is beyond dispute; but ignorance of the law is no excuse, and shoddy precedence is no reason for future maladministration.

I believe that climate change is scientifically demonstrable; and that it is occurring now. I do not believe that we can observe climate change individually, because it takes place over the entire planet to different degrees and at different times. But we can individually experience the changes that will occur, as we have experienced what already has occurred, such as "once in a thousand years" storms that happen every five years or so now.

I believe that television is the most powerful medium on the face of the Earth. As such, it is too powerful  to be left in the hands of private corporations. I have personal experience with the power of television, and I'll share the story with you. I was teaching fourth grade in a rural school, and my class was using the Internet to participate in a weekly math puzzle. This was 1993. I got a call from a public television station (not my local one) who informed me that they wanted to do an interview with me, because I was one of the first teachers in my state to use the Internet with kids. After the show was taped and edited, I was told when it would air. My principal shared the air time with parents via a newsletter. After that show was viewed, I was the star of my school. People I had never met came to me and told me what a great teacher I was. (They could not have known this from the 5 minute segment I was in.) My class was changed. They had been on TV! That Christmas, I got a $100 bill anonymously; the parents got together and bought me a computer (IBM compatible!); the school had a television in the front hallway with that show on a continuous loop for the rest of the school year.
Television is like nothing else the world has ever seen. It makes magic that we don't understand.

I believe that the Old Testament is by definition superseded by the New Testament.  I believe, therefore, that nothing in the Old Testament has any relevance except as a history comparable to The Iliad of Homer.  The New Testament is a book made by vote, as there were many, many books that recounted the Jesus story but did not make the official canon. You can say that this choice was guided by the Holy Spirit; I would ask you to produce evidence for that assertion.  So it follows that, absent a demonstration of proof of supernatural influence, the New Testament is a man-made book, subject to the whims and prejudices of those who compiled it. I am under no requirement to believe anything in that book ever happened, and I do not believe they did; what comes to mind is Thomas Paine's quote from The Age of ReasonThe more unnatural anything is, the more it is capable of becoming the object of dismal admiration.  There was a man named Jesus; he had some followers, which was normal for a charismatic speaker. He was said to be celestially begotten, which was a popular way for the Roman ruling class to come into this world also.  (Julius Caesar was celestially begotten, they said.)  Jesus thought the end of the world was imminent: thus his constant calls for people to repent.  So vehemently did he believe in the end of the world (which was supposed to happen when the temple at Jerusalem fell) he attacked people in the temple area.  People had come from far away to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem, and needed to exchange their foreign money for money that was worth something in Jerusalem.  It is a common misconception that Jesus "attacked the bankers" or "moneylenders" -- these were people who were doing a legitimate business and who needed some sort of protected area in which to do it.  Along comes this idiot, overturning your table, spilling your coins all over the place, saying, "Repent! Repent!  The Kingdom of Heaven is upon us!"  Well, you, too, would probably have been happy to see such a dimwit prosecuted.  If you knew what killing him would mean, though, you might well have thought twice.

I believe that I am a hypocrite, and that we all are hypocrites.  Hypocrisy is the invisible tool that enables us to live lives of relative luxury while others starve and die of curable diseases.  Hypocrisy allows me to drive my car to work, thus adding many pounds of CO2 to the atmosphere, which accelerates climate change while I rail against climate change and those who cause it.  Hypocrisy allows me to own land and refuse others access to it for any reason, thus depriving them of one more piece of this planet that really should belong to us all.

I believe that health care costs will not be contained and will continue to drive the deficit unless and until we have a reasonable discussion about what we want our health care dollars to cover.  Should an 89 year old man with Lymphoma receive $150,000 worth of treatments if it gives him a 75% chance of survival over three years?  Probably not, you'd say.  How about an 80 year old? A 77 year old?  At what point do we say enough is enough?  I do not think American society is ready for this discussion.

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Hypocrisy allows me to drive my car to work, thus adding many pounds of CO2 to the atmosphere, which accelerates climate change while I rail against climate change and those who cause it.

Maybe since you see such things, when there is an opening in your life for change, you will make it. There's always a gap between our ideals and our actions. But I wonder if labeling yourself a hypocrite is a way of not doing anything about the gap.

Your version of Jesus and the moneychangers is interesting - cite?

You say thought-provoking things.  Hopefully you will give us lots of sage loquacity :)

Thanks for your kind reply.  The interpretations of Jesus' actions in Jerusalem are best found in Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet,  by Bart Ehrman (Oxford University Press,  1999, pp. 212 - 213.)

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