Mailbag


Jack Bethune writes:

Remember when…

The re-election campaign of 2004 was barely won by Bush, whose mismanagement of the economy and foreign wars by then had become unpopular with the American public.

So, how did Bush pull off a re-election victory in 2004, despite his low approval ratings?

By purposely fostering the nation’s dependence on his presidential powers to reduce the threat of another terrorist attack against the U.S.

And by claiming that changing Presidents was too risky, that only the current administration was tough enough to keep America safe from further attacks.

Remember that?

To emphasize that major campaign pitch, remember how many times the nation was repeatedly put on edge by a series of Yellow Alerts, Orange Alerts, etc.?

And, more important, remember how those security alerts ceased once the election was over, and Bush had won?

Those who suspected that national security warnings in 2004 were being manipulated for Bush’s benefit have been vindicated at last. By a new book by Tom Ridge, then Bush’s Secretary of Homeland Security.

In his book, Ridge admits that he was pressured to issue national security alerts in order to bolster Bush’s security image and standing among an uneasy and occasionally fearful American public.

An American public that ultimately voted a narrow majority for Bush — against their otherwise better wishes — only because Bush appeared to promise continued national security against further terrorist attacks.

Many of us KNEW it then, counted the national alerts, and saw what was happening — but we couldn’t prove it.

NOW we have proof that the 2004 election was fraudulently won. Stolen from a more qualified candidate. And resulting in another four years of a disastrous Bush administration, the effects of which the American people are still reeling from today.

That’s how a well-connected, incompetent, and unfit ne’er-do-well, who otherwise wouldn’t have been competent to become manager of a 7-11 Store, became President of the U.S. for a second term, while the rest of the world watched in fascinated horror.

Bush won with the blessings of a fearful and duped American public.

And in the eyes of the world, all Americans were now complicit in Bush’s continuing crimes in the Middle East.

You can read the sordid details here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/20/tom-ridge-i-was-pressured_n_264127.html

And I always f**king KNEW IT,

Jack

‘Tis the season for a lot of glurge to show up in my e-mail inbox.  This e-mail forward was particularly corny, but I realized I could improve it with some revisions.

Here is the original:

A woman was out Christmas shopping with her two children. After many hours of looking at row after row of toys and everything else imaginable; and after hours of hearing both her children asking for everything they saw on those many shelves, she finally made it to the elevator with her two kids.

She was feeling what so many of us feel during the holiday season time of the year – overwhelming pressure to go to every party, every housewarming, taste all the holiday food and treats, getting that perfect gift for every single person on our shopping list, making sure we don’t forget anyone on our card list, and the pressure of making sure we respond to everyone who sent us a card.

Finally the elevator doors opened, and there was already a crowd in the car. She pushed her way into the car and dragged her two kids in with her and all the bags of stuff. When the doors closed, she couldn’t take it anymore and she stated, ‘Whoever started this whole Christmas thing should be found, strung up and shot.’

From the back of the car, everyone heard a quiet, calm voice respond, ‘Don’t worry, we already crucified Him.’

For the rest of the trip down in the elevator, it was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop. This year, don’t forget to keep ‘the One who started this whole Christmas thing’ in your every thought, deed, purchase and words. If we all did it, just think of how different this whole world would be.

‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ (John 3:16)

My revised version:

A woman was out Christmas shopping with her two children. After many hours of looking at row after row of toys and everything else imaginable; and after hours of hearing both her children asking for everything they saw on those many shelves, she finally made it to the elevator with her two kids.

She was feeling what so many of us feel during the holiday season time of the year – overwhelming pressure to go to every party, every housewarming, taste all the holiday food and treats, getting that perfect gift for every single person on our shopping list, making sure we don’t forget anyone on our card list, and the pressure of making sure we respond to everyone who sent us a card.

Finally the elevator doors opened, and there was already a crowd in the car. She pushed her way into the car and dragged her two kids in with her and all the bags of stuff. When the doors closed, she couldn’t take it anymore and she stated, ‘Whoever started this whole Christmas thing should be found, strung up and shot.’

From the back of the car, everyone heard a quiet, calm voice respond, ‘They did. Early Christians used to torture and kill pagans all the time for celebrating their heathen traditions that included things like the x-mas tree, yule log, holly, and mistletoe. Then we Christians stole those pagan symbols and rituals to use at our celebration of Christmas. Now look what God is doing to us for it. We should have never done it and we should make it up to God by killing anyone caught using these heretical symbols!”

For the rest of the trip down in the elevator, it was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop. This year, don’t forget to keep ‘the ones who started this whole Christmas thing’ in your every thought, deed, purchase and words. If we could all eliminate these pagan rituals and those who celebrate them, just think of how different this whole world would be.

Jeremiah 10:2-4: “Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.” (KJV).

I received the Ben Stein “Christmas Confessions” e-mail forward and decided to take the time to reply to the sender in detail. Below the quoted original e-mail you will I find my full reply.

ORIGINAL:

Subject: Remarks from CBS Sunday Morning (everyone should read!)

I only hope we find God again before it is too late!!

The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary.

My confession:
I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees, Christmas trees.. I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel discriminated against. That’s what they are: Christmas trees.

It doesn’t bother me a bit when people say, ‘Merry Christmas’ to me. I don’t think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn’t bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu .. If people want a church, it’s just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can’t find it in the Constitution and I don’t like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren’t allowed to worship God as we understand Him? I guess that’s a sign that I’m getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it’s not funny, it’s intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham’s daughter w as interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her ‘How could God let something like this happen?’ (regarding Katrina) Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said, ‘I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we’ve been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?’

In light of recent events… terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O’Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn’t want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and l ove your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn’t spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr Spock’s son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he’s talking about. And we said OK.

Now we’re asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don’t know right from wrong, and why it doesn’t bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with ‘WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.’

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world’s going to hell Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send ‘jokes’ through e-mail and they spread like wildfire but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Are you laughing yet?

Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you’re not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other p eople think of us than what God thinks of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit. If not then just discard it… no one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don’t sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.

My Best Regards, Honestly and respectfully,

Ben Stein

MY REPLY:

Wow.  Where to start on this.  First, please understand that 99% of e-mail forwards contain false information.  Don’t be the one keeping the chain of misinformation going by forwarding.  The best practice is to break the chain by NOT forwarding unless you have personally researched and verified the information.  If you don’t have time to research and verify I recommend you don’t forward it at all.

The first half of the “Ben Stein letter” contains some errors and modifications that were not part of the original piece. (source) The second half of the letter was not even written by Ben Stein.  It combines text from other e-mail forwards and makes false claims like that the son of Dr. Benjamin Spock committed suicide. (source) Below I will go through the content in the “letter” to point out the lies, deception, misconceptions, faulty logic, and just plain stupidity.

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish.  And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees, Christmas trees..  I don’t feel threatened.  I don’t feel discriminated against. That’s what they are:  Christmas trees.

With this first part of Ben’s letter he is trying to set up this false idea that there is a so called “War on Christmas” being waged between Christians and Atheists.  He starts by insinuating that calling Christmas Trees by that name offends non-Christians in the “War on Christmas”.  Ben is living in a fantasy world.  This is such a non-issue.

It may interest you to know that the tradition of the “Christmas Tree” originated with pagans and is still used by some modern-day non-Christians to celebrate the winter solstice.  In the past the Puritans even condemned the use of the “Christmas Tree” since it was associated with paganism (as were most of the customs we now associate with Christmas).  Even today some Fundamentalist Christian groups oppose the use of the “Christmas tree”. (source) I think it is fair to say that in this country the Christmas Tree has become a secular symbol of the federal holiday of Christmas. However, it should be noted that the “Christmas Tree” is not a symbol exclusive to Christians or any religious group. So Ben Stein shouldn’t feel threatened, nor should anyone else.  Ironic as it may seem the most outspoken critics of the use of the Christmas Tree (and other customs), happens to be from Christians themselves. Examples: (Christians against Christmas video, Santa Claus Will Take You To Hell video by Westboro Baptist Church, Hidden Truth about Christmas by United Church of God)

It doesn’t bother me a bit when people say, ‘Merry Christmas’ to me.  I don’t think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto.  In fact, I kind of like it  It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn’t bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu ..  If people want a church, it’s just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

Ben’s statement that he doesn’t think people saying “Merry Christmas” are “slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto” is just silly.  But again he is trying to set up the reader to believe in this whole phony “War on Christmas”.

Religious displays are perfectly fine unless you want it placed on government property.  Then you get into a violation of the separation of church and state.  It is best that the govt. stay neutral and not allow any religious displays.  Of course, if they allow one religious display, in fairness, they need to allow equal time for all religious, philosophical and mythological displays.  This can lead to problems as seen with the recent controversy in Washington State.

I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians.  I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period.  I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country.  I can’t find it in the Constitution and I don’t like it being shoved down my throat.

Where is this “pushing around” that Ben refers to?  Again he is creating this false reality to help him sell his War on Christmas theme.  The United States, according to most polls, is around 85% Christian (depending on how you define the term).  Christian symbols are displayed everywhere you look in blunt fashion by believers; something not really seen in other western democracies.  You can’t drive a couple miles around without passing a number churches.  So this whole idea of Christians being oppressed or “pushed around” is bunk. (Bill Maher’s humorous look at this whole idea of oppressed Christians.)

Ben says he has no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country.  Well, I have no idea where Ben came up with the idea that there is such a concept.  Who is saying this Ben? This isn’t an atheist country, just as it isn’t a Christian, Jewish or Muslim country. It is a country of many different beliefs. This is due to us having freedom of religion in this country. And in order for us to maintain this freedom the government should stay neutral in regard to religion and never favor one religion over another.

Ben says he can’t find it in the Constitution that the country is explicitly atheist.  No shit.  How incredibly stupid.  You know what else you won’t find in there Ben?  You won’t find anything in the Constitution that provides special treatment to Christians, Jews or any other religious group.  The U.S. Constitution is a wholly secular document. It contains no mention of Christianity or Jesus Christ. In fact, the Constitution refers to religion only twice in the First Amendment, which bars laws “respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” and in Article VI, which prohibits “religious tests” for public office. Both of these provisions are evidence that the country was not founded as officially Christian. (source)

Ben doesn’t like atheism shoved down his throat?  Yes, it must be awful with all the atheism symbolism everywhere you look and all the atheist worship buildings on every corner and how this atheist country won’t allow him the freedom to believe in his own flavor religious dogma. /snarky sarcasm

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren’t allowed to worship God as we understand Him?  I guess that’s a sign that I’m getting old, too.   But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to.

Another made up idea in Ben’s head.  Who is saying this?  Who is saying we should worship celebrities and “we aren’t allowed to worship God”? No one is saying anything this stupid.  Sure, some people idol celebrities and that can be unhealthy.  In fact, I would say that veneration of any person (or being) to a point of blind and uncritical allegiance can be detrimental.  Furthermore, there isn’t anything to prevent a believer in a deity from also worshiping a celebrity.  For particularly deadly results you can combine absolute belief in a deity with worship of a celebrity cult leader like Jim Jones or David Koresh.

Nevertheless, having role models for the right reasons can be just fine. If someone looks up to Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie for how much they give to charity, then this can be a positive thing.

Of course Ben’s simplistic writing fails to mention any of this. Instead he portrays this false dichotomy between worshiping “evil Hollywood liberal celebrities” or his version of a deity.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different:  This is not intended to be a joke;  it’s not funny, it’s intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham’s daughter w as interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her ‘How could God let something like this happen?’ (regarding Katrina) Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response.  She said, ‘I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we’ve been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives.  And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out.  How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?’

Now we arrive at the part of the e-mail forward that is still attributed to Ben Stein, but in reality is cobbled together by person(s) unknown from anonymous messages circulating on the Internet since late 2001.

The exact transcript of what was said by Billy Graham’s daughter on the Early Show differs from this e-mailed version (source).  No surprise there.  But let’s look at what is described as “an extremely profound and insightful response” within this text.

“God is deeply saddened” Believers love to anthropomorphize god so that “he” has human emotions.  It works to tug at our own emotional strings and helps us identify with this “creator”.  It seems strange to think that an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and omnipresent deity is saddened by an event he knew about (omniscient), had the power to prevent (omnipotent), wanted to prevent (omnibenevolent), and was there for (omnipresent).

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”
[Epicurus, 350-?270 BC]

“but for years we’ve been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out.  How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?So this country that is 85% Christian is having bad things happen because “we” have been telling God to get out of schools, govt., etc.  Some questions to ponder:  Are Christians, or any other theists, being prevented from silently praying or worshiping their particular god(s)?  No.  How would you go about letting God back in the schools?  Should there be govt. mandated bible reading and prayer?  Which bible and prayer should be used?  Would you be OK if it was a reading from the Mormon bible and a Mormon prayer every day.  How would you feel, assuming you are not a Mormon, if the reading was from the Book of Mormon and included the scripture that says that all other Christian denominations are false?  We still have “In God We Trust” on our money and “Under God” in the pledge, right? If we removed those, would that upset God even more?  Were there really less bad things that happened before we “told god to get out of the schools, govt., etc.”?  Based on a 2005 poll, only 23% of Swedes believe in God.  So shouldn’t Sweden be experiencing more disasters and a less healthy nation since God certainly wouldn’t be protecting such a country of heathens?  How come this isn’t the case? How come the most atheistic societies (from a 2005 United Nations’ Human Development Report) — countries like Norway, Iceland, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Japan, the Netherlands, Denmark, and the United Kingdom — are actually the healthiest, as indicated by measures of life expectancy, adult literacy, per-capita income, educational attainment, gender equality, homicide rate, and infant mortality?

In light of recent events… terrorists attack, school shootings, etc.  I think it started when Madeleine Murray O’Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn’t want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school.  The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and l ove your neighbor as yourself.  And we said OK.

As I stated above, students and teachers can still pray in schools. No one is preventing them from doing so.  However, the school cannot have government mandated prayer which would then endorse one religion over another. Try to imagine a religion opposite of your own being the one that is forced on children in the schools and you should agree that mandated religion should not be in schools.   There are over 10,000 different religions, over 33,000 denominations of Christianity, and over 100 different versions of the bible. Which religion should the govt. mandate? If Christianity, which denomination do you teach and which bible would you use? The Bible saying “thou shall not kill, steal, etc.” certainly doesn’t prevent believers from committing these acts.  The bible also says to kill gay men (Lev. 20:13), disobedient sons (Deut. 21:18-21), and blasphemers (Lev. 24:13-23).  Not to mention, the bible condones slavery.  Should that also be taught in school?

A 2005 study showed that atheist societies tended to have relatively low murder and suicide rates and relatively low incidence of abortion and teen pregnancy (source). The study concluded that the US was the world’s only prosperous democracy where murder rates were still high, and that the least devout nations were the least dysfunctional. (more).

“Love your neighbor as yourself” is a form of the Ethic of Reciprocity, which predates Christianity, Judiasm or any monotheistic belief.  It a shared ethic among most theistic, non-theistic ethical and philosophic systems (source).

“What stirs your anger when done to you by others, that do not do to others.” (Socrates – 470-399 BCE)
“May I do to others as I would that they should do unto me.” (Plato -427-347 BCE)
“We should bear ourselves toward others as we would desire they should bear themselves toward us.” (Aristotle – 384-322 BCE)

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn’t spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr Spock’s son committed suicide).  We said an expert should know what he’s talking about.  And we said OK.

Now we’re asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don’t know right from wrong, and why it doesn’t bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

First of all the claim that the son of Dr. Benjamin Spock committed suicide is blatantly false. (source) Ironic, that an e-mail forward talking about religious morality makes boldface lies.

It is a deranged idea that NOT spanking children has resulted in more unruly children with “no conscience”, no ability to “know right from wrong”, and no problem murdering innocents.  There is absolutely no evidence to support this claim.  There is however, good evidence that spanking may lead to aggression and sexual problems later in life. (source)  There are good reasons that spanking is prohibited in numerous countries and that, in the United States, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association and numerous other agencies oppose spanking.  (10 reasons not to spank.)  By the way, many of those same countries that have a low number of religious believers while having low violent crime and murder rates, also happen to prohibit spanking.

“If we are ever to turn toward a kindlier society and a safer world, a revulsion against the physical punishment of children would be a good place to start.” [Dr. Benjamin Spock]
“When we make a child afraid, we stop learning dead in its tracks.” [Educator John Holt]
“Infliction of pain or discomfort, however minor, is not a desirable method of communicating with children.” [American Medical Association]

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world’s going to hell

Which God?  At every point in history some humans have claimed the world is in dire straits by looked at the current state of the world and selectively thinking about tragedies, disasters, etc., while ignoring any of the progress that has been made to make our lives better.  For instance, life expectancy has doubled in just the last century.

Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says.

Both should be questioned and put under scrutiny.

“The more firmly you believe something to be true, the more willingly you ought to offer it up to scrutiny, since, if your belief be true, no manner of attack can invalidate it. If, however, your belief is proven to be false, you owe someone a beer.” [Socrates]

Funny how you can send ‘jokes’ through e-mail and they spread like wildfire but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing.

Well as I stated in the beginning, most forwards either contain false information or, in the case of religious forwards, can just be annoying.  Some people would prefer their beliefs remain private and don’t want to be preached to or read about corny religious stories. And then there are those like me, that when sent an e-mail containing false information, misconceptions, and fallacious arguments, will respond to refute these claims.

Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Another misleading statement.  The concept of God can be discussed in a comparative religion or philosophy course in school.  And students and workers are free to discuss whatever they want in their free time.

Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you’re not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other p eople think of us than what God thinks of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit.  If not then just discard it… no one will know you did.  But, if you discard this thought process, don’t sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.

This is a typical tactic used to keep these forward e-mails propagating.  They try to use emotion to convince you to forward it on. You fell for it and sent on an e-mail that not only contained misinformation but was misleading and irrational.  Perhaps you will think twice next time.

Oh and one last thing.  I see someone mentioned Ben Stein’s movie, Expelled. What a piece of garbage that film was.  Check out Roger Ebert’s review of it here. And for a more detailed critical examination of this clap trap go here: Expelled Exposed

Happy ChrismahanukwanzakahWinterSolsticeFestivasFlyingSpaghettiMonsterDay,

David