What’s wrong with America?

SadnessWe see on video, two black men in as many days, in two different parts of the country, gunned down by police.

We see on video, at least five innocent police officers in Dallas, Texas, gunned down in some kind of twisted retaliation.

Given the events of this week, we have to ask, “what is wrong with America?” But beware the simple and straightforward answer.  The task requires us to dig a bit deeper.

Is it that the job of “police officer” sometimes attracts “kick the dog because you can” types of psychopathic power trippers?

Or is it that we still view people with mental health issues as weak rather than as sick?

Or is it that we refuse to recognize the clear links between poverty, health, crime and violence?

Or is it that we think that the 50 years since the Civil Rights Act, magically erases the effects of 250 years of systemic oppression?

Or is it that we have well over 300,000,000 guns in this country and at a certain level it really is just lawlessness and vigilantism?

Or is it that we really are just violent apes who kill each other?

Or is it the fallacy of small sample size bringing violence to our faces via the heretofore unheard of capability of ubiquitous video?

Or is it that things aren’t as bad as the mass media and political machines profiting from our outrage would have us believe?

Or is it a bit of all of the above?

Letter to the Editor: Local columnist wrong about pluralism and secularism

FirstAmendmentReligionClauseUPDATE: The Marietta Daily Journal published this letter on July 5, 2016. Thanks editorial board for proving me wrong!

Some of my letters to the editor make it to print and some don’t. I’m no conspiracy theorist by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m beginning to wonder if there is some unwritten rule at the Marietta Daily Journal when it comes to columns written by “venerable” Nelson Price, the retired preacher of Roswell Street Baptist church.  It seems as though his columns rarely see any push-back in the op-eds. I’ve written several over the years that never seem to rise to the appropriate “Nelson” standard. This is a post about my latest such attempt.

Mr. Price wrote a column a couple of weeks ago warning against pluralism and secularism, saying about the former:

“Pluralism is the cultural belief there are many right ways to live and believe. There are no absolutes, therefore there is nothing about which to be dogmatic. There is no right or wrong. Everything is relative. It purports to free persons from the limitations of absolute truth. It militantly fights against any belief in God and the absolute belief of the Bible. Applied, it exchanges conviction for convenience. Today’s alleged inoffensive neutrality ignores all values.”

And on secularism he said:

“…secularism has stolen our minds and hence our hearts.

Consider how secular our basic world view has become. The word “secular” means “belonging to the world or its affairs.” Secular is a contrast to sacred. It means ignoring God and living as though He doesn’t exist.

By comparison, there are few atheists today, but there are many agnostics. The word consists of “ag” meaning “no” and “nostic” meaning knowledge. Primarily among millennials, the concept is I don’t know if there is a god, but if there is, I don’t care to know anything about him. Though they may not even know the word agnostic, it defines who they are. One book on how to relate to millennials advises against quoting the Bible because they don’t know it and have no interest in it. Government accommodates this philosophy and entertainers advocate it.”

My response is below:

Price couldn’t be more wrong about pluralism and secularism

Dear Editor

In Sunday’s column, “Stand against the odds of a secular and pluralistic world,” Nelson Price contends that “pluralism” and “secularism” are causing our poor, beleaguered American society to slip further in to instability and cultural malaise. He couldn’t be more wrong.

Claiming that pluralism means there is no right or wrong, is just incorrect. Pluralism simply means that components of a society can maintain their own cultural identities within the broader society. The United States and indeed, most developed democratic states are pluralistic societies. It is because of pluralism, not despite it, that decisions about what is “right” and “wrong” can be made so that everyone in that society is protected equally, not just the ethic, religious, racial, etc. group in charge at the time. It is how we make progress.

Secularism is our First Amendment in a single word.  Unlike in many majority Muslim countries governed by Sharia law, everyone in our secular nation is free to believe or not believe whatever they want about whatever god or gods they want.  Secularism is the rule of law over the rule of some divine interpretation of scripture and is the very cornerstone of religious liberty.  That Price puts “people of faith” at odds with secularism and pluralism doesn’t make rational sense.  People like the reverend have enjoyed and will continue to enjoy the freedom to worship as they see fit in the United States because we are secular and because we are pluralistic.  So unless his intention is to force everyone to believe the same exact things he believes about deities, he should celebrate our freedoms, not bash them.

CO2 hits 407 ppm – this is not good news

220px-Pierolapithecus_catalaunicus_(Pau)_a_l'Institut_Català_de_Paleontologia_Miquel_CrusafontCO2 has been breaching the 400ppm threshold for well over a year and just a few days ago, it was measured at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Earth System Research Laboratory at just over 407ppm. This is not good news at all.

The last time the earth had this level of CO2 in the atmosphere, our human ancestor was Pierolapithecus catalaunicus (a creature who lived around 13 million years ago pictured to the left), and sea level was about 100 feet higher than it is today.

It would be nice if our political candidates from all parties were debating the best solutions. Yet we are stuck with an entire political party who refuses to accept the science. We have to be informed and vocal and we have to hold our political leaders accountable for their ignorance of facts.