Bible Study

Posted by Mike Merritt in Religion on | No Comments

I wasn’t raised in a particularly religious household.  My father is more or less a deist and takes issue with the theological positions of the more religiously devout.  My mother, like myself, was baptized as a Congregationalist Protestant, and holds slightly stronger religious views than my father.  Yet, except for a short period during some tough times many years ago, I have never known her to attend church.  She’ll give a prayer ever now and then, but no more than that.

I wasn’t raised with any religious guidance and that’s how I live my life today.  Day-to-day, I’m an atheist.  I don’t live my life in a religious way and see no reason to do so.  However, philosophically, I’m an agnostic.  I believe that the question of a deity’s existence or non-existence cannot, and may never be proven.  It’s this mix of atheism and agnosticism that allows me to believe that both religious and atheist alike should (civilly) debate the issue, based on well thought-out argument.  It’s also this mix that makes me believe that both parties should just accept the other’s way of life.  Debate on it, sure, but don’t harp on and ridicule people for their belief.  This, I believe, is the wrong way to approach things.

I’ve participated in many religion-based debates between atheists and theists.  I feel I have at least a basic understanding of the Old Testament and the New Testament, and some of the core principles of Christianity.  Yet, my religious education is lacking.  This is my own fault; I’ve never read the Bible (though I have a book of stories from it).  Well, at least, not cover to cover.  This is odd for me since my fascination with religion knows no bounds.

So, I’m remedying this situation.  From Amazon today came a copy of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, complete with the Apocrypha (the Deuterocanical Books, including the Books of Maccabee).  I know that even a reading of the Bible won’t make me understand all of, say, Catholic or Methodist teachings, but it’s a start.  After the Bible, I’ll continue on with the Book of Mormon (a copy is already in my possession).  After that will come other scriptural texts.

And no, I don’t intend on seeing my own personal beliefs change.  This is academic for me.  I wish to understand more about religion, so I’m going straight to the source.  My goal is to become as knowledgeable as possible; at least enough to be able to hold up my end in a truly theological debate.  Most of what I’ve debated so far has skirted around the edges of hardcore theology.  Obviously, such an endeavor to understand religion is the work of a life time.

I have no problem with that.

Which leads me to this blog.  It’s been gathering a lot of dust since I joined Poligazette.  I had hoped to transform it into discussion of my profession, video, where I’d discuss the latest in the field and give some useful tips on video filming and editing.  I still hope to have some of this material here, but it’s been slow to come, seeing as how my first post related to editing was made only late last month.  I’d also hoped to showcase other works, such as writings and video material.  However, I haven’t done much creative writing as of late (and that which I’ve done I can’t show as it’s for work).  I haven’t gotten a copy of Adobe CS4 yet, so video material won’t be here for a while.  Eventually, though, I hope to find time to do all this.  Whatever I can squeeze in between work and writing about politics, I guess.

Yet, this new project of mine provides a perfect opportunity for re-invigoration of this blog.  As I go through my religious studies, I can make some commentary on the text I am currently reading.  I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to do it.  Perhaps once a week, but I’m not going to set a solid goal.  I’ll just let them come naturally.

So, on to the studies!


The Freeman Withdrawal and the ‘Team of Rivals’

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Former Ambassador Charles Freeman withdrew his name from consideration yesterday after controversy arose regarding some of his positions on Israel, and financial ties to Saudi Arabia and China, through his position on the board of a Chinese oil exploration company and an allegedly Saudi funded Middle East policy group.

More change in Washington, I see.

Yea, I’m in the dissent on this one, but not because I’m some rabid always-blame-Israel anti-semite.

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Clarence Thomas and the Drug Company Ruling: Not Exactly Liberal

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(Cross-posted from Poligazette)

Liberals are shocked!  Shocked, I tell you.  Why?  Well, a recent Supreme Court concurring opinion to a ruling that will allow patients to sue drug companies for injuries related to the drugs was written by none other than Clarence Thomas, that avowedly conservative justice.

Of course, without even having to read his opinion, this LA Times article tells you all you need to know about why Thomas supported the right to sue.  In short, he supports state law:

Four years ago, for example, the court, with Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony M. Kennedy in the majority, upheld the power of federal agents to raid the homes of Californians who grow marijuana for their personal use — legal under state law but not federal law. Thomas disagreed. […]

“If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything,” Thomas wrote in dissent. ” . . . Our federalist system, properly understood, allows California and a growing number of other states to decide for themselves how to safeguard the health and welfare of their citizens.”

Basically, Thomas is a federalist, a supporter of limited federal government interference into state affairs.  So, knowing this, his concurrence with the majority isn’t so surprising.

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Where the Funny Is, Will the Comedians Go?

Posted by Mike Merritt in Humor, Politics on | No Comments

(Cross-posted from Poligazette)

There has been some concern, and rightly so I think, that the late night comedians: the Jon Stewarts, Stephen Colberts, and David Lettermans of the world would fail to criticize and satirize the new President once he got into office.  Jazz Shaw, writing for Pajamas Media, thinks that although the pace has been slow to pick up, the funnies at the expense of the new President are starting to appear:

Were they frightened? Had they simply spent so long attacking the Republicans that the idea of criticizing a Democratic president was beyond the scope of imagination? Or were they truly liberal, partisan hacks as so many of their critics had suggested? Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton were still being abused on a regular basis and the never-ending tale of Blago was a movable feast for all, but the digs at President Obama failed to appear. Instead, Stewart pilloried Fox News for having the audacity to criticize the White House and Letterman ripped into Michael Steele’s rocky start as RNC chairman. My hopes for bipartisan comedy goodness began to fade.

That may have begun to change this week, however. The first encouraging sign came when Stephen Colbert examined Obama’s new health care initiative and expressed his hopes that it would “cover him for the stroke he was going to have when he filed his tax return.” There may have been some veiled cynicism in that critique, but the real breakthrough came on The Daily Show when Jon Stewart heard about Obama’s plans for Iraq over the next few years. After railing against the war since before it began, this was clearly a bridge too far and Stewart came out swinging.

A few things that Jazz wrote at the end of his article make me think he’s hoping for a little much.

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My Kind of Atheist, Part II

Posted by Mike Merritt in Religion on | No Comments

I’ve always felt that in order to be able to effectively join the debate on religion (no matter which side you support), you must at least try understand both sides.  It makes you appear more credible if you know what they’re talking about.  One atheist, Cambridge professor Matthew Kramer, has spent a better part of his life studying the Bible (and, I infer from the text, the Old Testament and the Koran), trying to make sense of it all.  He feels it gives him a better understanding of not just these texts, but Western society as a whole:

My original aim of improving my understanding of Western philosophy has been realized. Though I don’t write on theology or the philosophy of religion, my study of the Bible has significantly shaped my thinking about a number of issues in the areas of philosophy on which I do write. Over the years, however, that original aim has come to be supplemented by other reasons for my avocation as a Biblical scholar. Such an avocation not only improves one’s understanding of Western philosophy, but also greatly enhances one’s understanding of Western culture more broadly. While the Bible has heavily influenced many philosophers, it has likewise heavily influenced countless artists and writers and composers (among others). Some of the richness of Western art and literature and music is lost on anyone who does not possess a good knowledge of the Bible.

Kramer makes a good point.  One of my history professors in college would often say that the history of Western society is the history of religion, and largely framed his class that way.  And when you consider the influence of the Christian church on Western society, you can see it to be true.  Even the more secular developments coming on after the Reformation can be seen as influenced by religion.  Basically, Luther’s and Calvin’s ideas ended up leading to people thinking about governing themselves rather than being the subject of a monarch.

There are a few things in the speech (this post was transposed from it) that believers may cringe at, but it’s well worth the read.

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Connecticut Legislator Introduces Bill to Re-organize Catholic Parish Administration

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This one is interesting if only because it’s happening in my backyard.  Via The Secular Right, a state legislator (technically, a whole committee, via a Connecticut General Assembly procedure) has introduced a bill that would effectively strip administrative control of Connecticut’s Roman Catholic parishes away from their bishops and transfer it to a board of lay-parishioners.  The boards would have control over all administrative, financial, and legal matters of their parishes.  All religious matters would remain the purview of the bishop.

Who introduced it exactly, and for what reason, were a little fuzzy at first, but further investigation by the Greenwich Time reveals that it was apparently requested by members of a Darien chruch after their former priest stole $1.4 million to spend on lavish luxaries for himself, such as limousines, vacations, fancy clothing and jewlery, and a condo.  The bill is said to be introduced by State Senator Andrew McDonald, a Democrat.

There’s no question in my mind that the bill is unconstitutional, and if the General Assembly is smart, it won’t even make the floor.  It’d completely undermine state/church separation.  A vendetta by one church’s members over a bad apple of a priest shouldn’t change things for everyone else.


Mother/Doctors of Pregnant Nine Year Old Excommunicated from Catholic Church

Posted by Mike Merritt in Religion, Society on | No Comments

I’m so glad the Catholic Church has got its priorities straight here.

A nine year old girl from Brazil was raped by her father and became pregnant as a result.  The mother opted for an abortion at 15 weeks as her doctors believed her life to be in danger.  Then the church steps in and excommunicates the mother and the doctors.

While I understand the Church’s position on abortion, I just can’t agree with them here.  Instead of excommunicating them, perhaps the church should have praised the mother for saving the life of her nine year old daughter.

Of course, this poses another question: What exactly are they putting in the water that a nine-year-old can even get pregnant?  I remember when everyone was going wild about 12 year olds developing faster than they used to.  A nine year old shouldn’t ever have to worry about the distinct possibility of becoming pregnant.


Wait…Moderates are Suddenly Surprised?

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I’ve spent a little bit of time these past couple months lecturing liberals for their whining about President Barack Obama’s foreign policy.  They didn’t pay attention to his campaign, I said, hoping that all his tough talk about Afghanistan and Pakistan was just that: talk.

Now, as much as I don’t want to, I feel the time has come to turn my attention toward the moderates who voted for Obama and are now suffering buyer’s remorse after seeing the stimulus package and his budget.  So, as I said to the liberals: WERE YOU PAYING ATTENTION!?

One thing I noticed, particularly during the debates, is that Obama didn’t seem serious about cutting spending.  Just the opposite.  Despite that fact that we were going through some tough times, he had a long list of spending.  I didn’t tack McCain as too serious on the spending cuts, either, but Obama’s wish list seemed particularly lengthy.  I also found him fairly specific on his tax increase plans: $250,000 and above.

These are the kind of things that Obama talked about often and with great certainty, so I’m not entirely sure how these moderates missed them.  Or maybe they noted what he said but hoped that it was all rhetoric, just like the liberals on his Afghanistan and Pakistan foreign policy.  Yet, aside from a couple things, I’ve thought Obama to be pretty honest with his intentions.  It was this honesty that led him to tell Joe the Plumber to his face that he was going to tax people making more than $250,000, and to do what even John McCain couldn’t and say that an attack on Pakistan’s tribal region wasn’t off the table.

If you’ve been keeping track, you’ll notice that since the election both of these things have happened.  Hey, I also thought that a bunch of Obama’s policy initiatives made sense too, but if you got so wrapped up in the hope talk that you ignored what he was saying on policy, maybe that says more about you than it does about Obama.


Rush at CPAC

Posted by Mike Merritt in Politics on | No Comments

Ah nothing like my lunch hour during a work-at-home day to blog.

So I finally got an opportunity to listen to Rush Limbaugh’s speech at CPAC.  I haven’t heard much Rush before, so going into it I was prepared to hate it all.  Coming out of it, I didn’t hate it, but also didn’t find much to which I could nod my head.

To me, his overarching message was basically that of “remain steadfast to core conservative principles,” “oppose bi-partisanship no matter what,” and “Democrats are destroying America.”  While I’m flexible on the first element, and might be able to somewhat believe the third (when you add Congressional Republicans to it), the second I believe is the wrong approach for conservatives.

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