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Archive for the ‘The Human Condition Links’ Category

On Saturday, October 29, 2011, I had the honor of addressing a gathering Occupy Tacoma supporters in Lincoln Park, Tacoma. My remarks were a part of a longer statement. Several people asked me to post the entire statement here. Above is a video of the speech as it was presented on Saturday. Following is a full statement, including the parts I left out when speaking, slightly edited to make it suitable for posting purposes. This article was originally published on the Occupy Tacoma Website.

Hello all!

My name is Alan OldStudent, and I love what I am seeing here today. You are great! You are amazing!

In my long life, I have seen many amazing things. I saw how a mass nonviolent movement ended the infamous Jim Crow laws, — laws that legalized racial segregation, — laws that made it a crime to marry outside of your race. And now, I am seeing a how a mass nonviolent movement is ending laws against marrying the person you truly love, even if that person is the same sex as you.

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It has been around a year since my last post to this blog, and to my readers I must offer my apologies.

My wife Margaret, whom I was with for the better part of 3 decades, recently died, around the middle of April 2011. I was her full-time caretaker for many months previous to her death, working at home nearly full time, leaving me little opportunity to blog. Although most called her “Miss Margaret,” I called her “Sweet Margaret,” because she had the sweetness of spirit common in young girls.

In the year or so before she died, she required a great deal of care.  I sometimes had to carry her to bed or to a chair or the couch. I sometimes had hand feed her, help her dress, help her with personal hygiene, and supervise her medications. She nearly died around September of 2010, temporarily lost mental clarity, occasionally hallucinating, all because of strong pain medication. While this was going on, I was trying to recover from joint replacement surgery on my hand for an arthritic thumb joint, which made caring for her more of a challenge.

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Mark Twain wrote a scathing antiwar poem/story called “The War Prayer,” which he feared to have published during his lifetime. Decades after his death, this work was published.

I first ran into “The War Prayer” when a young woman sold me a copy at an antiwar demonstration during the Vietnam war. I was struck by the power of its language, as well as by the sentiments.

Several years ago, I found a a very effective YouTube animated version. This version is a bit long, which is why it is split into 2 videos. But it is well worth watching.

Then, just a few days ago while searching for this 2-part video presentation, I discovered a 1981 PBS adaptation of “The War Prayer“ which was part of a larger program on another of Mark Twain’s antiwar stories.

The actor who delivers the actual prayer of God’s emissary puts an experienced hell-fire preacher’s delivery into a decidedly antiwar statement.

The two-video version, which follows Twain’s text pretty much as he wrote it, appears below:

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According to The National Priorities Project, The United States passed a landmark on May 30, 2010. On that day, the United States will have spent 1 trillion dollars on the Iraq and Afghan wars, and on June 7, 2010, the Afghan war will become the longest war the United States has waged.

Moreover, the cost of the war in Afghanistan is currently 1 million dollars per soldier per year, according to this November 14, 2009 New York Times article.

One million dollars is a large number, but one trillion dollars is an unimaginably larger number. It’s easy to gloss over when the politicians and pundits toss around these numbers.

The thickness of a dollar bill is 0.0043 inches. So a stack of a million dollar bills would be about 109.22 meters or 358 feet tall. That’s as high as an office building 30 stories tall, counting a story as being approximately 11.9 feet tall (about 3.6 meters).

But a stack of a trillion dollars would be 63,516.5633 miles (109220 km) tall. That’s 2.5 times the circumference of the earth. That’s what American taxpayers pay for the Iraq/Afghan war. And the champions of small government say nothing about this.

Did you know that the United States just by itself has a military budget greater than the rest of the world’s countries combined? Or did you know the US military budget is more than 10 times  greater than that of either Russia or China’s? (Click here for the documentation of those figures).

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I do not feel obligated to believe that the same God who endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use. (Galileo Galilei, quote taken from Michael Parenti’s new book titled God and his Demons)

Recently, I’ve received some private emails from readers of this blog concerning my passing statement that I am an atheist. I mentioned it as a minor point at the very end of my article Trusting God and Worshiping Mammon, which deals with separation of Church and State in the American constitution.

Several people have since emailed me to ask me why I don’t believe in God, expressing their own doubts. One of these correspondents tells me she doesn’t believe in God either. Like many in her position, she dreads the loss of respect and affection of friends and family, fearing that admitting an atheist outlook would cause loved ones much distress.

I well can understand these swirling feelings, and I sympathize with their plight. All of us atheists have faced the discomfort of disapproval or loss of friends because of this at one point in our lives.

Not long ago, I had just such an emotionally painful experience, an experience not untypical for atheists.

I used to participate in a physical fitness web forum whose owner, an ordained minister, often said he is honored to be my friend. But then, a month or so ago, he started a thread titled “The Fool Says In His Heart There Is No God.” This refers to a Bible verse that says atheists are fools and incapable of producing anything of good.

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On the Religious Tolerance website, I found the following:

Concerning the Ten Commandments in courthouses and legislatures: You cannot post ‘Thou Shalt Not Steal,’ ‘Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery,’ and ‘Thou Shall Not Lie’ in a building full of lawyers, judges and politicians…It creates a hostile work environment.

The above witty quote illustrates a peculiarly American conundrum.

We US citizens have an officially nonreligious government enshrined in our founding document, the Constitution of the United States, yet one of the most religious populations for an advanced industrial nation. That dynamic opposition, historically speaking, has created an interesting political tension.

God As A Secular and Patriotic American

In the western part of United States, The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is the second highest court, ruling over 9 states and 2 territories. It sets legal precedents for all courts in the western United States, and lower courts are bound by its rulings. Only the United States Supreme Court can overrule it.

This court recently made the preposterous ruling that the phrase “under God” in the American Pledge of Allegiance is not inherently religious. Two of the 3 justices actually said that the phrase “under God” was merely a patriotic and ceremonial phrase, not a religious one.

Now American judges are supposed to be scholars of the law. Thus, for these judges to make such an obviously moronic assertion with a straight face is an insult to the intelligence of thinking Americans.

Surely those august scholars of the law can’t believe that to be true unless they have deliberately stupefied themselves.

I clearly remember when that phrase was added to our Pledge of Allegiance in the middle 1950s. Before then, it had not been a part of the American Pledge of Allegiance.

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The article that appeared in this blog called Pat Robertson’s Blasphemy, Accuses God of Terrorism has got me a fair amount of private email, and several readers of this blog left comments. Because of these private emails comments posted here, there are a few more things I wish to say about Robertson and this tragedy.

In the past few days, it has become quite obvious to me that many, and probably most, Christians completely disavow Pat Robertson’s pronouncements, which seemingly blame the Haitians themselves for this tragedy. It’s not just us atheists who are offended. Many decent Christian folks have also taken exception.

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