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

This is one I haven’t really touched before, except in passing, when discussing other things. However, I think it’s time. Of course, something else prompted it.

I hadn’t heard of the series before, but many Christians (of the far right flavor) appear to be up in arms over the upcoming film His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass. Like I say, I don’t know much about the series, never having read it (though, after reading the descriptions of the books, I do want to read it). It appears to be somewhat similar in nature to the Chronicles of Narnia (another series I want to read), in that a child travels through a portal to another, rather magical world. Lyra, the main character, has to battle through evil, and all that good stuff.

Unlike Narnia, though, the series features multiple worlds (in a multiverse), and a strange, Dark-matter like substance called Dust (that apparently identifies sentient beings, like us).

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God’s Warriors

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

I speak of this three-day mini-series as something of an outsider. I am not really religious, and so I hope that gives me something of a more objective viewpoint on the program.

For those who don’t know, “God’s Warriors” was a three-day mini-series by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour the investigates fundamentalism in the three major religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. I think I already know what most of the fundamentalists of each of these religions would say: that it was biased and hateful toward their religion. They might also say that overall, the program attacks religion.

I’m not so sure on that. Now, I know that CNN isn’t the most balanced of network’s, but what of the big three cable networks can say they are? Certainly not MSNBC or Fox News. On the other hand, I think that for the most part, it was pretty objective. It didn’t seem to try to promote any opinions about certain religions. And it gave both sides of the equation a voice. What I mean by that is while the fundamentalists got a chance to talk about what they do to promote a more conservative following of their religion, it also gave a chance for some of the more moderate, and even downright liberal, wings to say what they see as a theft of their faith by the other side. If anything, the program gave even more time to the fundamentalists.

If I do have any objections to the program, it’s some possibly unnecessary mixing of the true extremists (i.e. suicide bombers) with those that simply see the religion as a way of life. Even then, however, I do think they try to take some lengths to separate those two kinds of followers.

I’m not going to get into the nitpick details of each night. Just wanted to say that I personally found the mini-series a rather illuminating narrative.


Virginia Lawmaker Opposes Using Quran for Swearing-In

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

CNN has run this article about Virgina Congressman Virgil Goode’s letter to constituents opposing the use of the Muslim Quran for the swearing-in ceremony for lawmakers. He also warns that we’ll have more Muslim immigrants in the next century if the U.S. does not adopt tougher immigration policies.

Now, as I’ve said before, I’m for making standards more uniform and tougher, but fair. People coming to this country should be here to live and work and contribute here. I don’t support illegal immigration – they should get in line like everybody else. There’s even Permanent Residency, though I also think anyone wanting to live here permanently should be going for citizenship within 10 years or so.

However, I fail to see what Muslim immigration has to do with a native born citizen lawmaker swearing in. I also oppose his position on the process of swearing in. If someone is not a Christian, I have no problem with them using their own religious document to do the ceremony, any more than why I wouldn’t see a problem with a Jewish lawmaker using the Torah to swear in. Someone shouldn’t be forced to do things the same way when it comes to religion, just because it’s “tradition.” On that note, anybody know what Lieberman used to swear in? If he used the Torah, I’d like to shove that under Goode’s nose. So, yes, we are a society largely defined by Judeo-Christian values. But, we also have a little thing called religious tolerance. No, that doesn’t mean you have to agree with that religion. But, you have to accept that it’s here, and here to stay. So, yes, people following a different religion from yours will do some things differently in terms of being a good member of that faith.

Imagine that. People being free to live their own lives how they see fit. Disgraceful, huh?


Want Small Minded? Look in a Mirror.

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

If there’s anything I hate just as much as people trying to shove religion down someone’s throat, or people who are closed-minded to other ways of living one’s life, it’s people who are closed-minded to the fact that people may have a faith…which I suppose is a subset of the second thing I hate.

On one of the forums I help run, there was recently a debate over whether God exists. As always, these things never come to a conclusion, usually go in circles forty times over, and end up going rotten with the one or two people who get into a fight, although this one did not. Now, this entry isn’t about what I think about the issue (if you’re that curious, I’m somewhere between agnostic and athiest), but about the way people respond to the issue.

Usually, on one extreme, you have the full-fledged bible-thumping believers who make it their mission to preach everywhere they can. Then you have the people who don’t believe, never have believed, never will believe, and scorn those who do believe. Finally, you have everyone else somewhere in the middle. The person in question was somewhere closer to the latter extreme. He called those who believed “fools.” Now, I understand it’s his opinion, but I don’t think anyone who believes in God or attends church should be scorned as such. Doing so is just as bad as a bible-thumper telling someone they’ll rot in hell unless they accept Jesus Christ as their savior.

Luckily, most people are not like either extreme. They’ll respect someone’s choice to follow or not follow a faith. However, people who preach and/or scorn people for their beliefs bugs the living daylights out of me. Debate is good. Scorn is not, and only leads to problems further down the road. I was happy to see that the topic in question lasted without many problems, a first for that type of discussion on that forum.

Remember, tolerance and healthy debate. Not scorn.


The Clash of Civilizations

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

I am back up at school now, and among other classes, I’m taking one called “Culture and National Security.” For our first reading assignment, the professor gave us a text copy of an interview from a television show called Think Tank with Ben Watterberg. The episode, entitled “When Cultures Collide” features an interview with Samuel Huntington, known for his theory that post-Cold War conflicts would no longer feature nation-states, but rather civilizations. The basic thesis is that no longer will two or more nation-states, say the United States and Russia, battle for ideological dominance in the world, but rather that this fight will return to clashes rooted in antiquity, say Christianity against Islam, or Western values against the value system from other parts of the world.

I like to think that Huntington’s theory is starting to prove true. Yes, the current conflicts of our time officially have been the U.S. (and its allies) against Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and to a small extent, Cuba (though we don’t actively engage them in conflict anymore), but for most of these conflicts, I think it represents something deeper. The Korea and Cuba conflicts are still ideological for the most part, but what about that of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran? Here we have three countries where the norms and traditions are very foreign to somebody who lives in a Western nation. There are traditions and laws that somebody coming from the Americas or Europe might consider old fashioned, sexist, racist, or just plain barbaric. The fact that many do not understand the differences and why they exist already place a barrier between us and them, without creating any physical conflict at all. Likewise, people in the predominantly-Muslim nations may view our culture as something they do not understand.
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Polygamy the Next Big Rights Movement?

Posted by Mike Merritt in Politics, Religion, Society on | 3 Comments

Update: I should probably have made it a little clearer that I do not support polygamy people like Warren Jeffs, who force people into it. If polygamy is to be accepted, it must be a consensual relationship between adults.

Ever since a series of articles and news stories flooded the media earlier this year about fugitive polygamy cult leader Warren Jeffs, I’ve noticed an increasing number of articles about polygamy and those seeking to have it supported by society (U.S. society, anyway). I didn’t think too much of it at the time, but then I noticed this article tonight.

CNN has an story about a recent polygamy rally in Utah. The main idea is that children of polygamists were speaking out to have their lifestyle supported by the Utah government, and how they are living happy and free lives. One quote in particular caught my attention:

We are not brainwashed, mistreated, neglected, malnourished, illiterate, defective or dysfunctional,” 17-year-old Jessica said. “My brothers and sisters are freethinking, independent people: some who have chosen this lifestyle, while others have branched out to a diversity of religions.

This appears to be a defense either directly or indirectly related to the flood of media attention on Jeffs. For those who don’t know, Warren Jeffs is currently on the run from authorities for committing statutory rape and conspiracy to commit such an act. Jeffs is the self-appointed leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the major religious sect in the U.S. practicing polygamy. Major polygamist communities tend to be clustered out west, especially in Hildale, Utah.

I believe that the attention on Jeffs has definitely brought about some more negative feelings toward something that has been already viewed highly immoral by many. This rally seems to be the polygamists’ and their childrens’ way of trying to reach out to the community around them. However, this may only be the start. One rotton apple can spoil it for the bunch, as they say. I forsee more functions of this type in the future, as polygamists try to get their lifestyle accepted, especially in places like Utah, where it’s illegal.

It definitely has some parallels to the on-going gay-rights movement. A group of people trying to get their lifestyle accepted amongst a sea of people who may or may not accept it. It would definitely be an uphill battle, perhaps moreso than gay rights. This one may be man and women, but here we have multiple woman or multiple men, depending on exactly what type is practiced. I can definitely see how even some in the gay community would be averse to this, a double-whammy, whereas gays only have to battle against heterosexuals for the most part.

Whatever the eventual outcome, these movements seem to go in waves, with the major actions separated by about 40 years or so (yes, I counted). The women civil rights movement in the 20s, the black civil rights movement in the 60s, and now the gay civil rights movement in the 2000s. Will the polygamists have to wait until the 2040’s for their movement? Only time will tell, but I’m guessing they will be the next major social rights movement. I can’t really think of another group that might be up for rallying for their civil rights, so the polygamists naturally seem to be the next (you can correct me in the comments if you wish). So, where am I on this? Well, I can hardly support the gay right movement without supporting their lifestyle, at least from afar. Neither I’d get involved in, but neither I particularly have problems accepting as a way people can live.

What are your views? I invite you to comment, but remember, no attacks.


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