Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Christian Rapture Madness

With war erupting between Israel and terrorists in lebanon, many christian groups are talking about the rapture or "end times".

The valley of "Armageddon" possibly referring to the "Jezreel Valley" of northern Israel lies south and east of Haifa, an Israeli city which is in the news as a target of terrorist Katyusha soviet designed rockets. Christians believe a great battle will take place here at a time of "wars and rumors of wars". Some Christian attitudes seem to actually relish the prospect of war, killing and violence at the time of what they believe will be the second coming of a risen Jesus Christ.

This out-cry of a pending "rapture" is often accompanied with cognitive dissonance by the claim, from the christian bible book of Matthew chapter 24 verse 36, "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven...". To yearn for the end times of war and violence seems in every reasonable way to be wholly inappropriate behavior for a human being especially one with a claim to christian beliefs. If there is a soul, if there is a God, surely Christians will meet their maker when they die, which may very well be much sooner than the arrival of a Messiah, if any exists. One would expect thoughtful selfless lovers of their fellow beings as christians claim to be, to pray for peace, to yearn for peace, to work for peaceful solutions.

Every thinking man should consider that faith-based understandings are no guarantee. Our higher level reasoning and critical thinking skills have evolved so that we can rely on our knowledge and understanding to make well judged decisions. Some parts of the brain are very good at "following the leader" and blindly obeying. Religious movements like radical islam are really just mind controlling cults where massive amounts of under-informed under-educated people are brainwashed into believing things that aren't true. Longing for the end of the world only combats ignorance with ignorance.

Maybe there is no savior. Maybe we are in charge of our own destiny and must work out our own salvation and peace. If this is so, then yearning for a catastrophic end to the world is a deeply pernicious belief system. I know some religious people don't recycle or reduce their energy consumption because "it will all end"..."jesus will fix it".

Even if there is a higher being that will emerge from the unseen spiritual realms to set foot on a battle field and settle the differences of Arabs, Jews, Christians and every other warring faction, especially in this case as in any other, we will be accountable for our actions. Whether or not there is a God, or a messiah, "longing for the end" is not an acceptable way to proceed for the world. It is entirely senseless even from a christian point of view.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Lebanon and Israel in conflict

It is almost a given fact that Israel should address its complaints about terror groups in Lebanon to Syria and Iran. Yet, Israel is not entirely wrong to expect, in principal, that Lebanon have charge of its own regions and people. Lebanon has been defacto occupied for so many years (in part by Syria and in part by Israel) that it is understandable that it would take time for the national government to gain control over all the regions of the country. Israel used to be the authority governing southern Lebanon.

When Israel backed out of Lebanon, it seemed to be part of a strategy to seek a peaceful status quo in the region. Israel backed out of Gaza as well and might eventually have gradually stepped back from occupation of the larger West Bank region. Sadly, the illegitimate terror group called hezbollah believed their assaults actually led to the Israeli withdrawal. Lebanon, though only emerging from Syrian occupation in the past year, has the moral responsibility to govern its own lands and to disallow such terror groups to exist. Such groups should be eradicated at best or at least prevented from importing weapons and holding political power. Lebanon's government seems not only to have been inactive in disarming the terror group, but entirely complicit in allowing hezbollah to continue to exist in a militant form. Weapons and equipment were imported right through the national airport.

As a westerner, I feel a kinship of culture with many Lebanese people. I understand it must feel horrifying to endure being bombed. I know there are peaceful people in Lebanon who feel disengaged from the terror groups within the land which are foreign backed groups anyway. The death of innocent civillians is awfully tragic and sad. However, The shocking fact of civillian deaths is precisely by design of the terrorist groups who situate their infrastructure near innocent civillians. Lebanon's quiet tolerance and inaction against these extra-legal parts of their own country is at the root of the latest conflict. Israel has every right to dismantle a terror group for attacking and bombing its citizens. The international community has every right to expect that Lebanon would not tolerate such groups within their borders. The government of Lebanon has not made any plea for international assistance to reign in these groups.

The claim of so called "resistance" by hezbollah, and also of the Palestinian terror groups, is a mask for the wish to eliminate Israel, an internationally recognized, legitimate country. Syrian's and others who oppose Israel refer to "the occupation". In the west, it is sometimes assumed they are talking about occupation of Gaza or Lebanon or the West Bank. It is, however, most likely they are talking about the existence of Israel, the occupation of what they perceive to be their land, all the way to the Mediterranean sea.

While Arab countries and the terrorist groups they support keep believing they should eradicate Israel, the conflict will exist. One simple solution is for Arab countries to recognize Israel and accept the will of many nations and of the Israelis themselves that there should be a Jewish homeland in a place of ancient Jewish presence. The Arab's have enough land from Morocco to Indonesia to be calm about this once and for all. Perhaps the persistence of this conflict is related to the way in which many Arab families educate their children, repressing them with ignorance so that they may be recruited to give their lives for this hopeless cause. Rather they should teach them math, science, economics and most of all history so that they can understand the reason and need for a Jewish sliver of land among endless Arab horizons.

In any case, No nation can continue to allow terror groups to thrive within their borders and do so without eventual reprisals and consequences. If Lebanon finds Israel's attacks horrifying, let them recognize that Israel has no cause to attack Lebanon other than the illegitimate group Lebanon complicitly harbors. If senseless bombing is truly wrong, let the Lebanese people be angry with hezbollah, Syria and Iran for carrying out and supporting such senseless attacks on Israel's innocent civillians for so long. Arab countries continue to cling to the dream that Israel will one day be gone and they can own the entire land for themselves. It may just be that clinging to this dream will cause them to lose more and more of what they now have. The Arab neighbors of Israel may do well to see reason and support Palestinians in living a prosperous life with all that they do have instead of grinding them to grist against the state of Israel.

Thinking of Israel as occupied Arab land is an outmoded and irrational point of view. If the claim to territory because of past authority were a legitimate argument, then the whole region could just be British land again...British land occupied by Arabs. That idea IS ridiculous, of course, just as ridiculous as the idea that Palestinians must own all of Israel. The Arab's can prevent this question from being decided by an all out war, like the 1948 or 1967 wars. How many more wars will it take to make the point?

There was a time when Palestinians went to work each day in Israel, ate bread baked in Israeli bakeries and drank milk from Israeli dairies. They lived together as one people, perhaps with varying political or religious views, and a few check-points, but one people in one land. Jews and Arabs are brothers anyway. Besides, nothing is more sacred than human life, not a belief system, not a temple site, not a spit of land.

Friday, July 07, 2006


I am single. I would love to be married, have kids with some wonderful woman I love, and enjoy family life. I have not had the chance to do that yet. I won't marry frivalously and I will marry for life someday.

As I look at the national debates about what kinds of unions are allowable. I settled on these thoughts. Corporations can marry technologies and business plans. The word "Marriage" has many uses. The word ought to be applicable to social unions of any kind.

As a mental exercize, imagine two elderly sisters whose husbands have died. They share living expenses and want legal access to one another in hospital situations and even want the right to leave inheritance to one another. Maybe they are affectionate, hugs and consoling words, shared tears. Though this last part of the situation has no bearing on the legal needs they have. They ought to be allowed to marry finances, marry their legal access rights to one another, marry their wills if they so desire. I use this example to take the specific manner and issue of shared affection out of the equation for a minute and just look at human rights and choice.

I suppose, despite the efforts of my upbringing to repress my thinking on this, I do not believe it is socially destructive for women to marry women and men to marry men. The social concerns at hand seem to be the effect on overall happiness, in society, of the happiness of individuals. I think people are far happier when they can do what they like, so to speak.

In a wider view, there are other issues involving the needs of the society concerning the propogation of taxpayers. Certainly sexuality and the ability to reproduce are not mutually exclusive at all. Homosexuals often have children. Maybe there are children from an earlier relationship, maybe by nonsexual means such as cell donors and in-vitro fertilization etc. The reproduction aspects are not a threat to society. Overpopulation may be the real threat.

So why not say that anyone can marry? I suppose the age of marriage is tied to economics, education, higher living standards and maturity and readiness of human beings to marry. A reasonable age is selected by our culture. This really distinguishes us from, for example, bacteria who reproduce as fast as physically possible. We are human beings. Marriage and reproduction age is an expression of our power over our own destiny.

This debate sometimes leads to "group" marriage or polygamy. While adults can do what they choose and life is not perfect, polygamy does pose a "numbers" problem. Nature likes to generally balance male to female population in reproductive years. There are 106 male babies born per 100 female babies in the world. This ratio seems to correct for some of the loss of males due to higher risk activities, such as war, living with testosterone and not having the protective estrogen defenses against disease to the degree women of child bearing years have. Nature wants everyone to find a mate. Polygamy is socially damaging, skewing the numbers leaving some alone.

I am not sure there is a debate about choice vs. biology among sexual preferences. We all have the in-born ability to choose, that IS our nature. Though, no amount of mocking, laughter, ridicule, or suspicion of my being a single man in his 30's will ever change my heterosexual blood. No amount of therapy, indoctrination, guilt, religion or fear will ever make me not want what I want. Sure, I don't find every woman equally attractive, but I know what I desire. My experience of sexuality is that it is part of my nature. Not even the pain, humiliation, loneliness and rejection I have experienced pursuing women throughout my few years will have a hope of changing my desire to love and marry some special woman.

I would never try to tell someone else that they are choosing who they are or don't feel what they feel. I would reject that out of hand if it were imposed on me in that way. Even though I may personally not understand someone else's desires, I strongly believe that every human being has the right to pursue happiness and have the benefits of social union as they please. If the tables were turned and my heterosexuality were socially banned, I could never stand for being denied my right to woo, date, marry and love a woman. Not on pain of death. Though, I still can't get a damn date.