Politics and Faith

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” – from the First Amendment to the Constitution

Never before in my lifetime of over seven decades do I recall the intersection of

President John F.Kennedy visits Pope Paul VI

John Kennedy visit the Pope, via Wikipedia

religion with politics being as much concern as it is now. In fact, looking back in my (imperfect) memory, the only time I recall it being a major issue was the election of the nation’s first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy. He addressed the issue cryptically in his inaugural speech with these two sentences,

“Considering the separation of church and state, how is a president justified in using the word ‘God’ at all? The answer is that the separation of church and state has not denied the political realm a religious dimension.”

As we all know, the Tea Party wing of the GOP has pursued its single-minded goals of reducing the size of government and prohibiting the raising of any taxes whatsoever with great zeal – one might say, with religious zeal. All of which leads me to puzzle over how anyone comes to political points of view in the first place. Is it through rational analysis, through education, or something as simple as inheriting one’s politics? I tried an internet search on this and found little of help, so I am forced back on my own intuition:  I submit that very few people derive their politics from education or analysis.  I think most people take on the politics of their parents and/or their social circles.  That phenomenon is on stark display in our own community here in SW Missouri, an area that is one of the lowest-earning metropolitan areas in the country and, at the same time, solidly Republican in its politics.

My fellow blogger and friend, The Erstwhile Conservative, recently did a post titled, “Strange Things From The Mouths Of Evangelicals”, exploring the irrationality and inconsistency of religious beliefs. It seems clear to skeptics like him and me that there is no rational basis for believing that God, if he exists, intervenes in mortal affairs. However, sports figures as an example often cite prayer for their successes. One such who does so publicly is the Denver Broncho’s new quarterback, Tim Tebow, whom my blogging friend Pied Type recently posted on.

In his post, the E.C. provided a striking example of a professional baseball player who credited the deity with his recent athletic success despite being involved earlier this year in a contradictory incident where a tiny intervention would have made the difference between life and death for an innocent man. This capacity in most human beings is called “faith”, and I use it in this post to mean the ability to believe something by force of will alone, whether supported by analysis or not.

If persons of faith are inclined to use it to put scores on the board, is it not likely that they would employ it for politics as well? I believe they do. In recent weeks I have had several experiences as a blogger that make me think so. One of the commenters on the E.C.’s post was very upset with Duane because he thought he was “attacking” religion, whereas to me it was merely a case of pointing out inconsistencies in the interest of clear thinking. In another instance of political disagreement, a commenter became angry and abusive with me, apparently because I had steadfastly held to a middle-road opinion on political issues. To him, apparently, if I was not “with” him, then I must be his (political) enemy. (I see this deriving from the human instinct for tribalism, something that can inspire people to root for athletic teams in other cities made up of persons we have never personally met and who are often not even residents of our state.)

In yet another instance I challenged a blogger over an issue of economics to support his position with specific data. He asserted that it would be a waste of time because economic figures and charts were too easily distorted and manipulated. When I persisted that these at least would provide a basis for discourse, he remained dismissive. But the exchange left me thinking, what’s the use of even talking about economics, or politics for that matter, if it’s all just a matter of faith?  (You thinking independents out there may be an endangered species!)

The impasse in Congress is now causing genuine harm to the nation and is threatening our recovery from the worst recession since the Great Depression, in my

Cokie Roberts

Cokie Roberts, via Wikipedia

opinion, and that impasse is powered by faith-based politics, a brand of politics that appears to embody a “religious dimension” that John Kennedy himself surely did not foresee. What we are seeing is not a government of compromise, which is what the founders intended, but a government locked in a struggle for tribal dominance. The most recent evidence of this is in an article in this morning’s paper by Steve and Cokie Roberts, Assault on courts downright un-American. The Roberts say that the religious among the GOP, and that appears to be a majority of them, are embarked on a mission to make the judicial system subordinate to the legislative, so that contentious issues like abortion, school prayer and same-sex marriage can be controlled by what they see is their own likely dominance. The Roberts couple makes a very good case, in my opinion, that this would endanger our very form of government, and the issue at stake is called tyranny of the majority.  As you can see from the link, notables from Ayn Rand to John C. Calhoun, not to mention the founders, considered this principle of vital importance.

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About Jim Wheeler

U. S. Naval Academy, BS, Engineering, 1959; Naval line officer and submariner, 1959 -1981, Commander, USN; The George Washington U., MSA, Management Eng.; Aerospace Engineer, 1981-1999; Resident Gadfly, 1999 - present. Political affiliation: Independent, tending progressive as the GOP recedes from its Eisenhower roots.
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43 Responses to Politics and Faith

  1. John Erickson says:

    I will agree that politics are largely inherited – in my experience, those liberals among my schoolyard chums came from liberals, and the conservatives came from conservative families. I would put forth, though, that these beliefs can (and do) change. The conservative streak I inherited from my parents would not accept homosexuals, yet I came out of college and went into the world with a growing acceptance. While my parents didn’t talk about abortion, I quickly picked up the “liberal” concept of pro-choice. I am still a fiscal conservative and a raging hawk (gee, on a blog frequented by two ex-Navy vets – ya think? 😀 ), but even some of those ideals have begun to shift. (And oddly towards more liberal thinking, though people are supposed to grow more conservative with age – typical me, against the current.)
    I ain’t gonna touch the religion thing, though – I’m too much of a coward to start a fight over THAT! 😉

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    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Right, John. When I was young and still in the service I detested long-haired hippies and anti-establishment types who demonstrated and avoided responsibility. Those black and white days have given away to a more pragmatic appraisal of humankind. Some were surely the cowards I thought them to be, but others were principled. I still hate sloth and self-indulgence, but I value the collective sensibility of a society that cares for those on its own fringes. Life is not so simple as I once imagined.

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  2. hlgaskins says:

    “The Roberts say that the religious among the GOP, and that appears to be a majority of them, are embarked on a mission to make the judicial system subordinate to the legislative”

    Perhaps they have already subordinated the judicial system. The Supreme Court’s, Citizen’s United decision could be the first shot in an unspoken crusade to test America’s unity before declaring it dissolved. Which party benefited the most by that decision? If our freedom is being tested then it’s time to begin paying attention, time to open our books and study, or toss them aside, and accept what we’ve won.

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  3. PiedType says:

    I agree with the inherited politics. Inherited religion, too. Experiences like college or the service or just the passage of time may broaden one’s horizons and change one’s point of view, but it also takes a certain amount of open-mindedness, something I don’t see a lot of in extremely religious conservatives. For a lot of them, their religion is their politics. Shoot, I nearly had a stroke when George Bush announced that he answered to a “higher power.” Higher than the U.S. Constitution? How do we draw the line between keeping religion out of government and keeping out those people for whom religion and politics are synonymous? Or can we? No matter what their religion tells them, I think the Constitution intended they keep it out of government. I think it intended they not use a position in government to impose their religious beliefs on the whole country. But I’m afraid that’s exactly what a lot of them hope to do.

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    • Jim Wheeler says:

      @ Pied,

      You said,

      I think it (the Constitution) intended they not use a position in government to impose their religious beliefs on the whole country. But I’m afraid that’s exactly what a lot of them hope to do.

      Yes, I agree. I believe I understand religion, having tried very hard durning my life to embrace it, only to fail to do so late in life. I think the majority of Christians in this most Christian of nations are in it for its social benefits, which are many and real. I think that is why most politicians’ actions have been relatively unaffected by their religious beliefs. But I don’t think the majority have real “fire in the belly” for pursuing religious agendas. It is the leaderships and the few who are zealous that are the danger, as I see it, and that IMO constitutes its own “tyranny of the majority” from within.

      But one thing worries me even more, and that is the Mormon religion. Why? Because it is private to the point of secretive and very, very serious about its doctrines, many of them quite strange to me. For example, tithing. It is my understanding that tithing is not optional, and that makes it very serious money. So, how can a Mormon president, having lived and complied with such strict doctrines all his life, suddenly insulate those ties, strictures and requirements from his new job? I don’t think he can. And what are those doctrines and beliefs, anyway? The more I read, the more I wonder.

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      • PiedType says:

        I’m not familiar with the dictates of Mormonism and whether they would have Romney interjecting his religion into his work. (How would tithing, even if mandatory, affect his work?) But to the extent that any candidate’s religion suggests that he or her owes obedience to something or someone “higher” and possibly in opposition to the U.S. Constitution, I have serious objections. I’m thinking particularly of the Dominionism of Perry and Bachmann.

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        • Jim Wheeler says:

          I offered mandatory tithing is an example of just how serious this religion is. They exhibit an obedience and unified tribal behavior that would put even the Tea Party to shame. This includes mandatory missionary service for all young people capable of it. I would extoll them as exemplars for the kind of society all of America should be, except for the bizarre underpinnings of the faith and the shadowy authoritarianism of LDS Church leaders. For more insight, here is an excerpt from a 1997 Time magazine article on the LDS religion – I will post the link to the full article at the end of the quote.

          The top beef ranch in the world is not the King Ranch in Texas. It is the Deseret Cattle & Citrus Ranch outside Orlando, Fla. It covers 312,000 acres; its value as real estate alone is estimated at $858 million. It is owned entirely by the Mormons. The largest producer of nuts in America, AgReserves, Inc., in Salt Lake City, is Mormon-owned. So are the Bonneville International Corp., the country’s 14th largest radio chain, and the Beneficial Life Insurance Co., with assets of $1.6 billion. There are richer churches than the one based in Salt Lake City: Roman Catholic holdings dwarf Mormon wealth. But the Catholic Church has 45 times as many members. There is no major church in the U.S. as active as the Latter-day Saints in economic life, nor, per capita, as successful at it.

          The first divergence between Mormon economics and that of other denominations is the tithe. Most churches take in the greater part of their income through donations. Very few, however, impose a compulsory 10% income tax on their members. Tithes are collected locally, with much of the money passed on informally to local lay leaders at Sunday services. “By Monday,” says Elbert Peck, editor of Sunstone, an independent Mormon magazine, the church authorities in Salt Lake City “know every cent that’s been collected and have made sure the money is deposited in banks.” There is a lot to deposit. Last year $5.2 billion in tithes flowed into Salt Lake City, $4.9 billion of which came from American Mormons. By contrast, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, with a comparable U.S. membership, receives $1.7 billion a year in contributions. So great is the tithe flow that scholars have suggested it constitutes practically the intermountain states’ only local counterbalance in an economy otherwise dominated by capital from the East and West coasts.

          Link: http://www.lds-mormon.com/time.shtml

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      • PiedType says:

        Interesting article. Quite the capitalists, aren’t they? I had no idea. I suppose all the business expertise might be useful in some way. If only Romney hadn’t stood there in Iowa and insisted, “Corporations are people, my friend.” That really rankled my Citizens United sensibilities. Then there’s Huntsman. An old quote of his in the article is a bit disturbing: “I find it impossible to separate life and corporate involvement from my religious convictions.”

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        • Jim Wheeler says:

          The Huntsman quote is indeed very much to the point, Pied. I am impressed and appreciative that you read the whole article. This is not your Sunday-only style of religion, this is authoritarian religion on steroids.

          My own peripheral interest in the LDS church was sparked when I undertook to complete our family genealogy following retirement. I found to my surprise that my great grandmother had been a Mormon, and also that some of my relatives on my mother’s side had been on the Fancher wagon train which was involved in the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre. Some describe that as “the first 9/11” because until 2001 it was the largest slaughter of Americans on American soil. Fortunately, my relatives were on half of the wagon train that split off and went a northern route through Utah and were therefore spared. There is a good deal of information on the internet about the massacre.

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      • PiedType says:

        Just read the Wikipedia article on the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Ugly. I don’t recall hearing about it before now (although I often suspect I’ve entered a period of relearning things I used to know but later forgot).

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        • Jim Wheeler says:

          Yep, me too. But isn’t it great to have a resource like Wikipedia? I am constantly amazed at the depth and quality of that resource. It is a triumph of knowledge and a boon to autodidacts everywhere!

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  4. ansonburlingame says:

    To all,

    So many points and so little space. First HLG and Jim regarding the SC. Remember FDR “packing” the SC? Remember the “Warren Court”? Remember the Bork and Thomas hearings when GOP tried to put conservatives in place. Compare those two hearings to the two under Obama. No comparison in my view in terms of vitrolic rhetoric and ultimate approval of the two recent nominees. The “Court” is a very slow moving part of government by design. God forbide that the Court “swung” every two to four years with the political upheaval of the House and White House. We would have so many competing “precendents” that it would be like trying to use the tax codes to determine the “law”!

    For some faith is NOT blind adherence to some doctrine. It is a matter of real and very personal experience. And faith is not just religious in nature. American’s by and large and hopefully have “faith” in a democratic government thought that gets tested often. Just like faith in God. Why did God allow my child to die?

    There are many extremes in American politics and I agree that the “religious right” is an extreme. Look at the very small but oh how extreme the Westboro Baptist Church might be. And there is the aborotion extreme, killing doctors, etc. There is no end to the potiential blogs showing “crazies” on the religious side. Go check out Muslims rallying in the streets of…… against the Great Satan. It is not just here; it, religious extremes can be found in many places.

    I have previously tried to express my views on spirituality but no long try to do so. Each to his own and such topics are best left to each individual. It is hard enough to argue politics. Faith is even harder and fruitless.

    But when faith of any sort tries to overcome politics or more important law and government by all the people, then shout out your concerns all you like and I will agree to an extent at least from the poltical point of view. And from what I have seen thus far both Perry and Bachmann come too close to ferverent religion to be President. God only knows what God might “tell them to do”.

    But for sure as well that does not tarnish the whole GOP field. Romney has a quiet and unobtrusive faith and I have no idea exactly how Cain feels about faith thought I suspect, given his background it is pretty solid, but again unobtrusive.

    Any man or woman that tries to lead must be steeped in values, moral values of some sort. There is in fact “good” and “evil” deep inside all of us as human beings, each of us. Values count a lot for me in deciding for whom I vote but I do not try to use any particular doctrine created by men or women to guide my evaluation of such values in others. It is what they actually DO that counts, not which Bible verse they might quote to “tell them what to do”.

    Anson

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    • Jim Wheeler says:

      @ Anson,

      Regarding the Supreme Court in this post, yes, I do of course remember the contentious events you mention, but I want to make sure you and others understand the point I was trying to make about it in this post. The issue that the Roberts raised was not the consent process, but rather that some of the more religious activists in the GOP are set on allowing the legislative branch to override the judicial, thus breaking the separation of powers, a fundamental rule essential to protection from the “tyranny of the majority”. In fact, I find it ironic that the Tea Party appears to have accomplished exactly what Lord Acton predicted in the link reference to the term, “tyranny of the majority”.

      Nominations to the SC have of course always been contentious, but the process seems to me to have been quite successful, at least up to now. (Obama nominees are far behind those of his predecessors because of the political gridlock.) But here’s the point: the rules that we have now have forced compromise, and thus have had a moderating effect on the composition of the Judiciary. If religious activists are successful, I believe that government will become both more dysfunctional and more extreme than it is. It will become tyrannical.

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  5. hlgaskins says:

    Anson

    “So many points and so little space. First HLG and Jim regarding the SC. Remember FDR “packing” the SC?”

    No one was discussing the “packing” of the Supreme Court, or at least I’m certain that I wasn’t. What was being discussed, as I read it, was the political and religious subversion of the Supreme Court. Of course FDR stacked the deck when the opportunity presented itself, as have all presidents.

    Consider Reagan’s appointment of conservative justice Anthony Kennedy. He generally rules as a conservative but he has crossed over and sided with liberal justices where he felt justice was best served. Reagan appointed him, but it’s clear that neither he, nor republican members of congress owned him. Kennedy kept the “Separation of Powers” intact as should all justices. They’re the “supreme law of the land” doing the work of the people. Corporations are made up of people,e but the corporations are not individual people, even in an anthropomorphic society such as ours.

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  6. ansonburlingame says:

    OK,

    So we all agree that “tinkering” with the authority of the courts to achieve political objectives is dead wrong. If a President decides to try to “pack” the court he can only go so far before the Senate (even with the filibuster, thank God) can prevent that from happening.

    I also agree that for a political faction or even party to attempt to subvert the courts to Congress strikes at the fundamental separation of Powers in the Constitution. If a political party really wants to do that then the ONLY WAY to do so would be through a Constitutional Amendment which would not stand a snow ball’s chance of hell of passing in my view. Hell we might as well implement a new Constitutional Convention and start all over again with THAT document.

    Our whole concept of government is that the Constitution is the BEDROCK upon which our government stands. That Constitution makes it very difficult, politically, to change in any way that bedrock. That is great in my view and should always remain so. The last thing we need is a Constitution that allows government, at the fundamental level, to “blow with current political winds”.

    Separation of Powers FORCES compromise between three very powerful entities, Constitutionally created entities. The rules in that regard are very clear, at least to me, penumbras aside. I for one will call for keeping it that way.

    Anson

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  7. Jim,

    As to your original puzzler of why religion is such a driving force in our polity, I think it has more to do with the rise of Christian fundamentalism than anything else. According to Wikipedia, “The first formulation of American fundamentalist beliefs can be traced to the Niagara Bible Conference (1890’s) and, in 1910, to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church which distilled these into what became known as the “five fundamentals:”

    The inerrancy of the Bible.
    The literal nature of the Biblical accounts (Christ’s miracles, Creationism, etc.)
    The Virgin Birth of Christ.
    The bodily resurrection and physical return of Christ.
    The substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross.

    Collectively, these “fundamentals” support a philosophy of Authoritarianism, if not outright Totalitarianism. This is true because the Fundamentalists’ allegiance is to a being that (who?) reputedly is the creator and ruler of the universe; “ruler” being the operative word here.

    But this is a doctrine that is anti-democracy, anti-freedom, and does not support, and even condemns, critical thinking. (See the Inquisition, Galileo, witch trials, Native Americans, the Holocaust, etc.) Unfortunately, there are those who take solace from the idea that all they have to is “believe” this stuff to get through life – and to enjoy a nice afterlife. Who wants to screw that up?

    Setting aside the obvious irony that Jesus was about as liberal as they come, the Christian Fundamentalists found a home in the GOP’s religious right, thinking, do doubt, that it was an expression of true conservatism.

    With that as prologue, I believe the Christian right really came to the fore because of Goldwater’s defeat. Looking for a way to regain political advantage, the Republicans were visited by one Jerry Falwell and his “Moral Majority.” The rest, as they say, . . . .

    As times become more uncertain and a bit scary – like now! – people tend to get more visceral and take cover in whatever belief system gives them comfort, which is mostly, in this country, religion.

    This may not be the only raison d’être for the mixing of “politics and faith,” but it might be a good place the start.

    Herb

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    • Jim Wheeler says:

      @ Herb,

      I agree with your assessment of authoritarianism. It would be one thing if the Creator were at the helm, but alas, there is nobody to be seen behind the binnacle. The last time anybody reported a direct message I think was Pat Robertson, and that one was garbled – the hurricane hit anyway.

      Thanks very much for your input.

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  8. A thoughtful essay, Mr. Wheeler.

    I grew up in a Presbyterian family in a small town in SC, and took it for granted that all good people are Christians and if there actually were people in the world who did not agree (I’d never met one) than those people are simply not yet enlightened.

    But something just didn’t take. As I was learning my catechism, I kept getting hung on
    Who made you?
    God
    What else did God make?
    God made all things.

    I wanted to know who made God.

    That may have been the beginning of my becoming a non-theist, and forty years later, I still don’t see any reason to believe something that’s contrary to evidence.
    You are right about the effects of the religious right on our government. It is troubling. I have been reading “Kingdom Coming” by Michelle Goldberg, and it is indeed troubling.

    I’m not sure I agree with your thoughts on how we develop our political philosophies, but I have gone on long enough, so that perhaps is better saved for another time.

    Helen

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    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Your thoughtful comments are much appreciated, Helen. My own experiences with religion have been similar to yours in that I have always had questions in my mind, questions like yours and other kinds as well. I finally, fairly late in life, came to the conclusion, not that religion was contrary to evidence, but that there was no evidence – at least none that could be tested or verified. As for how people develop their political philosophies, I realize I was generalizing about that, but as I said, that’s because I couldn’t find any studies to contradict my impressions. It doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t some of us who do analyze. I consider myself one of them, and I suspect you are too.

      Thanks again.

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  9. Helen and Jim,
    As to the questioning of faith, you might take some comfort in the wisdom of the late, great Carl Sagan, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” Works for me.

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  10. ansonburlingame says:

    Helen,

    I was raised in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) a fairly “mainstream” religion in Central Ky that sort of tried to hold Southern Baptists at “bay”. By the time I reached college, all the usual doubts and questions arose and my “faith” has never returned to the “fundamentals” of any “Christian” faith in an absolute sense. See Jim’s list above of such “fundamentals”.

    Certainly the “who made God” question is one for the ages and a legtimate question in my view. But don’t ask a “fundamentalist” that question unless you have a good flak jacket. Same with “strict” adherence to all things Biblical.

    But for me, in regards to “creation” the Bible lends to me at least some insight in John 1:1.

    “In the beginning was the Word and the Word became Light”. There to me is a possible “explanation” of the origins of the “Big Bang” when lots of Light was suddenly “there” and all else may have followed, scientifically.

    As to WHEN that may have happened, well that now depends on the speed of light, does it not?

    Anson

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  11. Jim Wheeler says:

    My thanks to all who contributed to the discussion of the intersection of faith and politics in the current era.

    As a matter of interest I came across a cogent comment that applies to the subject in today’s Parade Magazine, specifically in Marilyn Vos Savant’s column. She was answering the question, “Why do we cling to beliefs even after seeing facts that contradict them?” I believe her reply goes to the heart of what we were discussing in this post: (emphasis is mine)

    “. . . people get freaked out at the notion of being wrong about anything. It makes them feel insecure. If you can be wrong about this or that, what about all the other stuff that you think you know? It’s a bad feeling.

    And the more important the subject, the more unnerving the emotion. It’s not too scary to be incorrect about a math concept, but how about the car you bought? Or the doctor you chose?

    Your question goes to the heart of much unsound thinking. First, we develop beliefs throughout our childhood and teen years before we learn enough facts and have the experience to process them adequately.

    Then, after we leave school, we tend to head down one of two roads: 1) We close our minds to new or different information while becoming more and more sure of ourselves as we get older; or 2) we watch, listen, and continue to learn as we increase in wisdom. The second road has way more bumps and curves.”

    Marilyn’s column is at this link: http://www.parade.com/askmarilyn/2011/11/Sundays-Column-11-13-11.html

    Also germane, IMO, is the Wikipedia article on “confirmation bias”.

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  12. hlgaskins says:

    “2) we watch, listen, and continue to learn as we increase in wisdom. The second road has way more bumps and curves.”

    That always seems to be the case when we travel the scenic route. It never saves time but it is more often than not, worth the view.

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  13. ansonburlingame says:

    Just curious HLG,

    What is “wisdom”?

    I have accumulated a lot of “information” about spiritual matters over the course of a lifetime. But compare such with an evangelical and neither of us will consider the other very “wise”, spiritually.

    You and I disagree over treatment for addiction. Is one of wise and the other “…..” in such matters?

    Then we can get down to political philosophies. I have now “latched on” to Ben Franklin, a “Founder” that I can now link and quote until the cows come home to support many of my political views. Does that make me “politically wise” as opposed to your views. I certainly do not claim such “wisdom” but I will “stick to my guns” until shown a different way to think and act politically.

    So is “wisdom” absolute or does it depend on the views of the beholder of such “wisdom”? And simply quoting others to support one’s side……. Is that “wisdom” or just hard work to try to “prove” a point that might well be unprovable, at least in the short term.

    I want to first cut spending, balance the budget, fix the tax codes then increase revenues IF NEEDED to meet the legitimate demands for all Americans. For sure you will not call that “wisdom”. In fact you have called such views as………… I have responded in the same way to your political views.

    Now who pray tell is “wiser” than the other in such matters and how much does “popularity” in general or on a particular blog site count for determining such “wisdom”?

    Anson

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  14. Jim,

    I have said many times that, in my opinion, the biggest mistake in Christian history occurred at the Council of Carthage in 397 CE, when the first Christian bible was established that included both the “Old Testament” Hebrew Scripture and the 27 Christian texts for a “New Testament.” At that point, and continuing through today, Christians became conflicted.

    The God of the Old Testament may be best described as a cruel, vindictive, paranoid, narcissistic, irrational, controlling, bigoted, irresponsible, and dictatorial tyrant who was given to atrocities, violence, torture, rape, child abuse, misogyny, barbarism, murder, infanticide, genocide, and other crimes against humanity. And that’s on a good day. This is the Guy whose First Commandment is to have no other gods before Him and whose appetite for war, including the enjoyment of the spoils thereof, is almost insatiable. He not only condons slavery, but put all kinds of laws in Leviticus regarding their treatment; mostly, not so good

    Then comes the New Testament with the Jesus character as the mild mannered, people-loving, sin-forgiving, nonjudgmental, and all-round good hearted hero, who loves the meek and the poor and hates the rich and the powerful. Meanwhile, God, who here is given the somewhat milder attribution of “Father,” is in virtual absentia. That’s because these texts are to show that Jesus is the designated messenger of the/His Father, who is charged with laying down all the rules that your average Christian on the pebbled street needs to know and do so that he or she can get to heaven and be with, you know, God. (The New Testament apparently assumes that the reader has either not read, or has mostly forgotten about the cranky Old Testament God.)

    So, there you have it. The hardcore evangelical Christians can use either Testament as the situation dictates and do so without the remotest hint of hypocrisy and lack of coherence. They can be Old Testament war mongers, yet be assured that by following the Jesus rules they will get through the pearly gates with no problem.

    Now, add that Christian attitude to politics and the result is, in part at least, what you have described above. Sadly, reason and common sense are no match for the deep emotional investment in religious dogma. Not yet anyway.

    Herb

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    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Herb,

      Hmm. You have thought about this quite a lot, I see. To be honest though, I agree with every thing you say except for one. You said Jesus “hates the rich and the powerful”. The scene where he overturns the moneychangers’ tables in the temple is the only evidence for that I can recall for that, but that is not convincing because the context is not that finance is evil, but that it is morally incompatible with religion. After all, Jesus did instruct us to “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s”. But hey, He did endorse slavery by not condemning it, so He was bound to get some stuff right. And the Golden Rule is a good one. Let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water.

      Seriously though, you and I are quite close on this topic. Thanks for the comment.

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  15. hlgaskins says:

    “I have accumulated a lot of “information” about spiritual matters over the course of a lifetime. But compare such with an evangelical and neither of us will consider the other very “wise”, spiritually.”

    I personally believe that religion is a rejection of wisdom. Religion asks its followers to disregard solid empirical science in favor of beliefs that can never be tested or proven. Wisdom is defined as “The ability to apply knowledge, experience, understanding, and insight.”

    “You and I disagree over treatment for addiction. Is one of wise and the other “…..” in such matters?”

    Yes, because your suggestion is to assume that addiction is merely a consequence of physical due to repeated use of a substance. It’s unfortunately a view that disregards neurological and psychological disorders which should be treated along with detoxification.

    “I want to first cut spending, balance the budget, fix the tax codes then increase revenues IF NEEDED to meet the legitimate demands for all Americans. For sure you will not call that “wisdom”.”

    Wisdom isn’t made up of desirable outcomes, but rather how those outcomes are achieved.

    “So is “wisdom” absolute or does it depend on the views of the beholder of such “wisdom”? And simply quoting others to support one’s side……. Is that “wisdom” or just hard work to try to “prove” a point that might well be unprovable, at least in the short term.”

    If you state that something is true then the burden of proof is on you. “Simply quoting others” is meaningless without raw data to support it.

    “I want to first cut spending, balance the budget, fix the tax codes then increase revenues IF NEEDED to meet the legitimate demands for all Americans.”

    In short, you want what your political party tells you to want without question.

    “Now who pray tell is “wiser” than the other in such matters and how much does “popularity” in general or on a particular blog site count for determining such “wisdom”?”

    The one with enough knowledge and courage to act on that knowledge even when facing financial and personal loss.

    Like

  16. Jim,

    Just a few more comments in re your comments on my comments on your comments on my comments . . . .

    First, as to my comment that Jesus, “hates the rich and the powerful,” I will admit to being a bit hyperbolic on that point. Nonetheless, you may remember in the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus says, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24). Scholars have said that passage means exactly what it says, although there is some debate regarding what exactly the “eye of the needle” refers to.

    Then there are the passages in Acts – Acts 2:45, “Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” This idea is amplified in Acts 4:32, “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. . . . (34) There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales (35) and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.” This is pure Marxism, through and through. Are Christians supposed to be Communists?

    As to the Golden Rule originating with Jesus, it is actually Jesus who is the plagiarist here. Remember in the Old Testament, which was written more than a thousand years before the New Testament, where it says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18[1])

    Actually, some variation of the Golden Rule appears in every major religion – Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism; even the Wiccas have a Golden Rule. According to Wikipedia, the ancient Egyptians, as early as 2000 BCE proclaimed, “Now this is the command: Do to the doer to cause that he do thus to you.”

    Indeed, there is very little that Jesus brought to the table in the New Testament that hadn’t already been expressed by other Middle East religions and mythologies in earlier times; in some cases, much earlier.

    So, not to worry. The baby and the bath water are duly separated.

    Herb

    Like

    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Just so, Herb. I have the same take on the subject as you, and I was aware of the ubiquity of the Golden Rule in the OT and other religions. My comment in that regard was meant in the context that Jesus made it the cornerstone of his messages. As for your other examples from Acts, those of course were interpretations from after the crucifixion of course, not from Jesus’ mouth. But this is all nitpicking. We agree.

      Like

  17. hlgaskins says:

    All of the New Testament was written long after Jesus’ purported crucifixion. Some even suggest that the Jesus of the New Testament never existed at all. For instance some scholars have pointed to correlations between the story of Jesus and the Essene Teacher of Righteousness inscribed in the Qumran Dead Sea Scrolls. If that were true then the Jesus character actually lived up to a 100 years earlier than currently believed. Modern man can’t accurately reconcile the truth of historical figures born in the last century let alone one who lived over 2000 years ago, which is believed to have been written between 70 and 300 years after his recorded death.

    Like

  18. ansonburlingame says:

    Now I HAVE to unload, a little, on HLG,

    The only think I got out of your above remark HLG, is at least the inference is that you and yours indeed are still very “wise” and that I and “mine” are simply the dumbest SOBS roaming the earth. After all the solutions supported by all the left wing links available are just GROUND TRUTH, or “wisdom”.

    Well,…….. See, Jim, I am TRYING to be polite.

    As far as I am concerned you are simply a partisan sychopant repeating the same crap over and over again and looking to other left wingers to support your views. I am sure you return the same insight to me. That does NOT make either of us “wise” in the sense that I understand the word.

    Now Ben Franklin, George Washington, etc were WISE indeed and the results of their efforts to establish the best GD country in history bear up such “feeling”. As to you and yours today,

    Don’t even try to convince me of you WISDOM, for Christ’s sake.

    As for Jim and Herb, great exchange. I really have nothing of substance to add but it is great reading and thought provoking.

    Anson

    Like

  19. hlgaskins says:

    Anson

    “The only think I got out of your above remark HLG, is at least the inference is that you and yours indeed are still very “wise” and that I and “mine” are simply the dumbest SOBS roaming the earth. After all the solutions supported by all the left wing links available are just GROUND TRUTH, or “wisdom”.”

    Then as always, you’ve read my post out of context. The point I was making is that without knowledge there is no wisdom. “The ability to apply knowledge, experience, understanding and insight.” The keywords are “the ability to apply knowledge and experience.” We can send kids to college and shove book knowledge down their throats but they won’t fully understand it until they’ve applied it, and if knowledge is never applied then it is forgotten.

    “Now Ben Franklin, George Washington, etc were WISE indeed” and both were also quite liberal.

    “Money has never made man happy, nor will it, there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more of it one has the more one wants.”

    “When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” Ben Franklin

    “Don’t even try to convince me of you WISDOM, for Christ’s sake.”

    I wasn’t selling myself to you, nor was I proclaiming to be anything, but I was disagree with your rather limited viewpoint. I was also not looking for other “left wingers” to support my viewpoint either since that would be “preaching to the choir.”

    Like

  20. ansonburlingame says:

    To all,

    ““When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” Ben Franklin”

    NOW THAT is wisdom, in my view. I also love the old deToucville quote about trying to achieve “equality”. More WISDOM from long ago, again in my view.

    Anson

    Like

    • Jim Wheeler says:

      IMO, it is tempting to simplify complex problems, and this seems to me to be such a case.

      I too am a big fan of Ben Franklin, Anson, but he lived in a much simpler, but not better, time. Is it not true that in Ben’s era it was a crime not to pay one’s debts, and those who didn’t wound up in prison until their relatives came up with the vig, or until they rotted? I would like to think society had made some progress since then, but maybe not.

      Ben’s wisdom would be absolutely applicable to our finances today except for one gigantic “IF”. IF healthcare were a true commodity that was being paid for out of the clients’ pockets, as needed. But, and Ben (and Poor Richard) would understand this, it is not in people’s natures to save for a rainy day, much less for healthcare exigencies. So it seems to me that leaves the body politic with difficult choices, among which are:

      1. Charles Dickens healthcare – pay up or die in the gutter, a.k.a., no EMTALA.
      2. The Public Option, with or without an individual mandate to buy insurance.
      3. A single-payer government system.
      4. Stay with the present system as the Healthcare Industrial Complex grows even wealthier, the number of uninsured continues to grow and society ages and sickens until the government collapses into anarchy under debt.

      Like

  21. hlgaskins says:

    Anson

    “““When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” Ben Franklin””

    Don’t you think that’s what’s happened with George Bush’s tax cuts for the rich, and a growing control of our political system through the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision?

    Like

  22. ansonburlingame says:

    No, HLG,

    I believe the “problem” is much, much deeper than those two things. I know this may bore you again, but I go back to the “welfare – warfare” State observation.

    For the first 150 years of our country we all, individually, lived within our means or suffered the consequences. Nationally we only borrowed substandtial money to fight external wars, “good or bad” ones as the case may be. We then paid that money back and returned to “normal” essentially living our collective lives within our means.

    That all changed with the Great Depression and the resulting New Deal. EVER SINCE that time we have been building a welfare state at government exspence along with borrowing for the occassional wars. And we now NEVER pay back any of such borrowing today, NEVER, and we have NO PLANS how to do so in the future.

    Sure the “rich” belly up to the trough of federal money today. But so do the “masses” even the middle class. EVERYONE wants “their slice” of the federal pie today and fewer and fewer try to live within their OWN means for a lifetime. As a minimum EVERYONE, rich, poor or in between want THEIR SS and Medicare today, just as an example. And we will play hell changing that demand for ANYONE, even the “rich” who do not NEED it.

    I don’t know how many times I have to say that we cannot afford the welfare portion of our welfare warfare state today, as currently constructed. There is not enough money in the world to fund such a state, anywhere with all the crying “needs” expressed by EVERYONE, rich poor or inbetween.

    That gets translated in to having no empathy for the “poor” or some other lack of compassion, etc. or even favoring the rich over the poor. Well that is BS and when “we” go over the “cliff” trying to pay for that which NO ONE can afford, then “we” all go over together, ultimately.

    Go read my blog “HOW STUPID CAN WE GET?” as an example of what I mean.

    Anson

    Like

  23. hlgaskins says:

    “That all changed with the Great Depression and the resulting New Deal. EVER SINCE that time we have been building a welfare state at government exspence along with borrowing for the occassional wars.”

    There’s no such thing as “government expense” since all government money comes from the “the peoples” taxes. Therefore it is the choice of the people as to how that money should be spent.
    You will I hope recall links that I’ve previously posted on a poll done by the Pew Research Center?

    The poll revealed that 87% of all Americans, regardless of party affiliation agreed that Social Security is good for the country and 88% of them agreed that Medicare was good for the country. The only dip in that poll still had 77% of all Americans agreeing that even Medicaid is good for the country. Those percentages included democrats, independents, and republicans as well as all those “Tea Party” members who want us liberals to “keep our hands off their Medicare.”

    Those numbers are by all account a mandate from the people, who know they need keep what is good for us, but still vote against their own interests.

    http://www.people-press.org/2011/07/07/public-wants-changes-in-entitlements-not-change-in-benefits/

    “Sure the “rich” belly up to the trough of federal money today.”

    Actually the rich are feeding from from “the trough of federal money today.” A large portion of them aren’t paying any tax at all. If we make more than we should pay more. It’s absurd to consider that families with a combined income of $50,000. a year should share an equal percentage tax burden as those who make $500,000. a year.

    Anson

    Get your “hat on straight” and realize that much of the money you used to raise your family with came from, and still comes from, tax dollars. Besides why are you fretting taxes, since by all accounts you’ve never contributed to them in any sizable way, but you did contribute to our country in your own way. That’s enough for me to want to pay.

    Like

  24. ansonburlingame says:

    HLG,

    “get my hat on straight” indeed. Can you please try not to go personal too often. You have NO IDEA what I have paid in federal taxes during my lifetime. You have no idea what my net worth used to be or is today, no way can you even imagine such personal information. So why try to “guess” which is what you are doing.

    You ask why someone making $50K should pay the same percentage in taxes as a $500K earner. Well the first at a 10% flat tax would pay $5,000 and the second $50,000 in taxes. Make 10 times more in income and pay 10 times more in taxes, no deductions, no nothing, just a simple and flat tax.

    What we have today is the first pays $0 (or close to it) depending upon “circumstances” and the second pay well over, like twice as much ($100K) as with a flat tax, again depending upon “circumstances” like deductions that are currently unknowable but legal. Sure I think that is crazy.

    I really think it is crazy that 10% pay 70% while almost 50% pay 0 in such income taxes. That is not “progressive” taxation, it is rape of a sort and it is not the “poor” getting raped in that case in terms of paying federal income taxes. EVERYONE relies on defense, uses roads, etc so EVERYONE should pay the federal government SOMETHING. Flat tax it approrpriately and some pay a “dime” and others pay a “dollar”, all dependant upon income if you insist upon taxing income as the primary means of funding the federal government. Get rid of ALL loopholes, deductions, etc and flat tax the total income of all at a much lower rate, well it sure sounds better to me than what we have today.

    Anson

    Like

  25. ansonburlingame says:

    HLG, again,

    You have me “steaming” to a degree so I must add the following regarding my source of funds to “raise my family” You bet it was ALL tax dollars that did so, thank you very much American tax payers. But what did “they” get in return?

    I will also point out that my “salary” in such a profession was about 1/2 of any salary I might have earned given my “qualifications and ability” in a comparable civilian job if you could find such a job requiring an employee to be underwater for a substantial portion of his career. Not many “offices” down there that I ever found.

    As well however, in the end I “made what I was worth” through my “retirement benefits” from the military. Add up everything the federal government has paid for all my life, including a “free” college education, etc and the sum total would be very close to my salary working for 35 years as a civilian for much greater pay while working but much less benefits now. It all evened out for me over time but I lived long enough as well to collect it. My ship, thank God was not “lost at sea” during the Cold War which NO OFFICE would even think of such happening!!!

    Anson

    Like

  26. hlgaskins says:

    “I really think it is crazy that 10% pay 70% while almost 50% pay 0 in such income taxes. That is not “progressive” taxation, it is rape of a sort and it is not the “poor” getting raped in that case in terms of paying federal income taxes.”

    According to the IRS, 2010:

    The top 10% has a household income of around $113,799, and they pay 18.71% of all taxes. The top 5% make $159,616 a year and pay 20.70% of all U.S tax dollars. The top 1% are those who make over $380,354 and they pay 23.27% of all taxes.

    “1. Average income of top 400 US households in 2007: $345 million (that’s income per year), and the average effective tax rate in 2007 for this same group: 16.6%

    2. Average income of top 400 US households in 2001: $131.1 million (that’s about half). Average effective tax rate in 1993 for this same group: 29.4%

    The top 400 household incomes more than doubled their incomes from 2001-2007 while their percentage of tax dollars decreased from 29.4% to 16.6%, in just 6 years during the Bush administration.

    So who’re really paying the taxes?

    Links

    http://www.angrybearblog.com/2010/02/how-much-do-wealthiest-americans-make.html

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&biw=1280&bih=633&gbv=2&q=david+cay+johnston+reuters+wealth+disparity&oq=david+cay+johnston+reuters+wealth+disparity&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&gs_sm=e&gs_upl=7215l74472l0l75353l47l47l4l39l0l0l180l566l1.3l4l0

    http://blogs.reuters.com/david-cay-johnston/2011/10/25/beyond-the-1-percent/

    “You have me “steaming” to a degree so I must add the following regarding my source of funds to “raise my family” You bet it was ALL tax dollars that did so, thank you very much American tax payers. But what did “they” get in return?”

    Anson, if you had read my entire post then you would see that I’m not begrudging you anything. Here’s part of that post again. “Besides why are you fretting taxes, since by all accounts you’ve never contributed to them in any sizable way, but you did contribute to our country in your own way. That’s enough for me to want to pay.” Did you read the part where I stated that you contributed to our country in your own way and, and that it was enough for me?

    If I recall correctly, you served as a sumariner, and your willingness to serve your country should be appreciated, but consider this. Who manufactured the submarine, its weapons, and all the electronics that run it? Where did the materials come from that were used in the manufacture of that submarine, and who mined them? If you follow the chain you will discover that a large contribution to its build came from the labor of America’s working poor. It reminds of the Mother Goose nursery rhyme, “The House That Jack Built.”

    Everything that happens in America happens because of us all, rich and poor. Name just one historical manufacturer who didn’t make its fortune on the backs of the working poor. The only reason that our manufacturing is being farmed out to China (as well as other nations), is because China has more working poor who’re willing to work for lower wages than our poor will. What happens when wages in China begin to rise? Where will manufacturers go next for their working poor?

    Like

  27. ansonburlingame says:

    HLG,.

    Too much, far too much to even try to refute, but believe me a refute is THERE for each allegation.

    But one I will note. You said “my submarines” were built by America’s “working poor”.

    Well, HLG, come with me on a tour to Electric Boat Shipyard where submarines were and are still built today. I spent 4 years there “building” the first Trident submarine working alongside shipyard workers. They built the systems then turned them over to my crew and we tested them.

    Now compare the salary of a First Class Petty Officer, a man that had been in the Navy for maybe 8 to 10 years, to a shipyard skilled worker, say a welder with equal experience. At least twice maybe 3 or 4 times the difference in salaries between the two and the sailor gets the short end of that stick every time, yesterday and today.

    Take me as an officer, specifically the XO (second on to CO) and compare my salary to that of a mid level exec at EB. May 10 times the difference in salaries, OK “just” 4 times. I made about $50K and those guys were in the $200K ++ category, way back when.

    Working Poor my ass, at the labor OR management level. They made “fortunes” compared to me, my CO and the entire hardworking sailors under our, acutally his, command.

    But like I said, over time if that 1st Class PO stayed in for 20 and lived long enough, well he got a total package over his lifetime about the same as the “welder”, yesterday and today.

    But then again the welder basically worked an 8 shift all his life and NEVER went to sea. Not so the sailor by a long shot in work day hours or at sea periods of LONG durations.

    Working poor my ass, again!!

    Anson

    Like

  28. hlgaskins says:

    Anson

    “Take me as an officer, specifically the XO (second on to CO) and compare my salary to that of a mid level exec at EB. May 10 times the difference in salaries, OK “just” 4 times. I made about $50K and those guys were in the $200K ++ category, way back when.”

    As always you’ve sliced out only a small part of a response to support your view. I have no doubt that welders make good money when they’re not laid off. I have never met a welder that makes 200K a year. All of the parts used to assemble the submarine were manufactured by different corporations across the country or were imported from Asia. Most if not all of the parts used in the metal hull were manufactured in a foundry, which hard hot dangerous work in an often polluted environment. The work was often inconsistent depending the number of job orders a foundry received.

    “Experienced Foundry Mold Assembly and Shakeout Workers had average earnings ranging from about $12.00 to $15.00 $per hour in mid 2002, depending on their level of experience. ”

    The metal is smelted using coal fired furnaces, and the coal of course in mined by the working poor in often dangerous and health hazardous mining operations. Where does the iron ore com from, who manufactures the smelters, unloads the ore and coal from railroad cars.? There’s more to building a submarine that just assembling it.

    Like

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