Tag: Peace

Belief in Special Creation is Not a Harmless ‘Difference of Opinion’

It probably doesn’t surprise you that less than half of Americans believe in evolution by natural selection. (According to this piece, it’s actually 48%, with much smaller percentages of conservatives accepting what has long been accepted science.)

By way of comparison, only 9-17% of UK residents believe creationism is the correct explanation for human life. Similar numbers, though trending somewhat lower, prevail elsewhere in Europe. (For a detailed analysis of the state of this belief situation in 2006, check out this piece.)

Until recently, I’ve dismissed these ignorant-by-choice citizens on the grounds that it’s basically harmless whether or not they buy into evolution, unlike the colossal worldwide and nearly universal damage that is being caused by their scientific cousins, the climate change deniers.

I think I was wrong.

If you believe that a God (who is only accessible through a specific spiritual path) created everything in the Universe — or at least on Earth — specially and individually, then you believe that mankind is unique and that it stands at the pinnacle of that creation. By creating a completely fictional disconnect between mankind and the entirety of remaining creation, you remove from homo sapiens any obligation to nurture, care for or even care about any other animal or plant life on the planet. This makes you believe you live outside the ecosystem that is planet Earth. In that name of that superiority you can justify slaughter, deprivation of habitat, extinction, enslavement and other abuse of fellow creatures of all varieties.

Creationists_ReadOneBookToon450OBut it is even more dangerous than those observations would indicate. If you are the result of an act of special creation by God, what of those who are different from you in your own race (by which I mean humanity, not ethnicity)? Are they also equal and superior? Broad evidence fails to support that hoped-for observation. Western Europeans who invaded and colonized North America slaughtered millions of natives who had lived on the land with various degrees of peacefulness for many centuries before their arrival, all in the name of superiority and by demonizing and declaring savages those who stood in the way of their expansionism, to which they felt Divinely entitled.

Do American conservative Evangelicals and Republicans believe, e.g., that all Muslims were also specially created by God? That we are all part of one humanity under God? Again, broad evidence suggests the contrary. The same may be said, of course, of those fanatics who form the lunatic fringe of any religious grouping.

A belief in special creation is completely incompatible with a belief in our inherent and Divine Oneness as a species. And, as I’ve written many, many times over the past decade or two, until we grasp and integrate our Oneness, we cannot solve the myriad of problems we face as humanity, problems which transcend national, cultural, racial and religious borders. Resisting Oneness is another insidious effect of the belief in special creation.

It really is essential that we begin working together as humans to eradicate this unfounded mythological belief. So much good will derive from such efforts.

Aren’t They Missing the Point in Obama’s Address?

Maybe it’s just me but it seems to me that a quick sampling of mainstream and Lefty media following the President’s speech on Syria this evening suggests that everyone is burying the lead.

To me, the most essential part of his message was that he has asked Congress to postpone the vote on his request for authorization to use military strikes to respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons. In other words, he’s back-burnering what was until less than 48 hours earlier his primary thrust in favor of a brand-new diplomatic initiative.

Yet there was the same bloviation going on. Some of my favorite commentators — including MSNBC’s Chris Hayes — were clearly stuck in their own egos and surrounding their “observations” with a lot of dancing around the issue.

Let’s be clear.

The President blinked. He shifted course. Most of the pre-speech commentary I heard conjectured that he would acknowledge the new initiative’s potential but demand that Congress give him his authorization to attack as continued leverage to ensure the diplomatic means would succeed. There was none of that. Zip. Put my earlier plan on the back burner and pursue this diplomatic effort full time. Full stop.

Why isn’t that the headline?

Kucinich Ousted. Bad Day for True Liberals

Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a Quixotic Democrat who was my personal choice for President both times he ran unsuccessfully for the nomination, got trounced in a Democratic primary yesterday. The political career of the fiercely consistent pro-peace Kucinich is probably over, at least as far as elected office is concerned. I am saddened by this turn of events and both the party and the nation are worse off because of it.

Kucinich founded a movement attempting to get Congress to establish a Cabinet-level Department of Peace, a feat achieved by a number of other Western democracies but notably resisted in these constant war-footing times in the U.S. He was a constant and consistent voice against fighting unnecessary foreign wars. His voice will soon no longer be heard in the debates over new wars such as the one President Obama seems hell-bent on dragging us into in Iran.

The Republicans engineered his defeat as sure as if they'd backed a crossover pseudo-candidate. They combined the key portions of his Ohio district with those of a Democratic colleague Marcy Kaptur, who ran a bit of a nasty campaign against her former colleague. That approach will also have damaged the Democratic Party in Ohio, though certainly not fatally.

I hope Kucinich continues his career in unelected politics and finds a platform from which to continue his reminders to the American people of the futility and horrendous cost of foreign adventurism. 

Does a Killer’s Religion Matter?

The recent mass murder in Oslo and the extreme reactions among some members of the U.S. media have brought into sharp focus an issue that comes up periodically for me. The apparently confessed perpetrator of this calamity, Anders Behring Breivik, has described himself on Facebook and in other places as a Christian. Many in the U.S. media have taken umbrage at that characterization, suggesting that anyone who could do what he did isn't a Christian. Yet these same commentators are quick to paint Muslims who commit crimes against the Q'ran as exemplars of Islam and thus, in their eyes, representative of a religion that advocates violence.

Apart from the easily provable fact that Islam is no more violent in its teachings than is Judeo-Christianity if you see them through the lenses of literal interpretation of ancient texts, the deeper question is, "What does it matter from a news perspective?" I'm sure that Breivik, like many others who have committed crimes and proclaimed themselves to be Christians, was also a blogger, a reader, a bicyclist, maybe a stamp collector, a fan of some specific movie star or style of music. Why, then, aren't the media referring to Breivik by one of those equally irrelevant labels? Because none of those labels gives rise to antagonism and passion, perhaps? I've read some of Breivik's public writings and I don't see anything in his "manifesto" that makes his embrace of the label of "Christian" nearly as relevant as his anti-multi-culturalism or his anti-Muslim bigotry. 

Add to this the grave difficulty associated with attempting to define for someone else his or her Christian nature, and you have the makings for entrenched and potentially violent defenses of cherished beliefs. To say, as some commentators have, that, "He couldn't be a Christian because his actions are contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ" is to suggest that anyone who behaves contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ cannot be called a Christian. That would, by the religion's own definition, disqualify every single Christian as worthy of that label because "All have sinned and fallen short of God's glory." This in turn demonstrates the absurdity of anyone saying that anyone else is or is not a Christian.

But the really important bottom line here is simply this: using religious labels — particularly when to do so is almost always to misuse them, however subtly — to identify someone and expect that simple act of identification to brand all others who also bear that label as guilty of the same behavior, is practically a textbook definition of prejudice,.

The real story, the real tragedy in Oslo, is not about whether the perpetrator is or is not a Christian according to any standard. The real story is that dozens of people, most of them budding youth, are dead because a single individual believed others needed to die at his hand because they acted, looked, behaved or believed differently from him. Bigotry is the point. Not religion. Not spirituality. Not even politics.

Ending War is the Only Fitting Tribute to the Fallen

For the benefit of you who don't know me, I'm a military veteran. I served two tours in Vietnam. I have had comrades die in my presence, one in my arms. Like many of my fellow vets, I became unalterably opposed to war by the very act of helping prosecute it. Not all veterans draw that conclusion. That is their right. As it is my right to voice opposition to state-sponsored violence.

With that background and caveat, let me commend to you the audio posted by my friend Tony Seton yesterday on his SetonNotes audio blog. Responding to the hue and cry of the Right Wing that President Obama was unpatriotic in his decision to spend Memorial Day in Chicago with his family rather than pontificating at Arlington National Cemetery, Tony recorded a sad and insightful commentary on the matter. His own summary reads, "There seems to be some confusion between the idea of showing our profound respect and gratitude and the equally powerful tearful courage that calls on our better selves to rise up against the carnage of strangers killing strangers."

I don't know if Tony's a vet. I don't really care if he is. His views on this topic are sound and wise. Humanity is on the verge of extinction. If we don't kill ourselves off with bullets, we'll do it with poison through global warming. The time for nationalism and parochialism is long since past. As a race, we must unite against a deadly common foe: our own ignorance and fear that keep us killing each other off while the larger invading army of climate crisis marches us inexorably to our death.

We can do this. But we first must want to do this. That we become so willing is my Memorial Day prayer.

Peace Mandala for Season of Non-VIolence

From now until April, all over the nation people will be celebrating the annual Season for Non-Violence. The season celebrates the lives of Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Cesar Chavez.

Among the other activities this year is an online mandala experience of a key word and thought for each day of the season. Make a note to visit the mandala every day during this period of deliberate peace focus.

Soft, Moving Peace Video by My Friend Rick

This movie by my friend and 10 Million Clicks for Peace colleague Rick Beneteau deserves your attention for a few minutes today. It is soothingly meditative and gives pause for reflection on how important peace is in and to our world. Particularly as we look to Haiti and send our thoughts and prayers there, this little video will help focus those thoughts and prayers on the bigger picture of world peace through inner peace.

Please take a few minutes now to watch it and reflect on it and thoughtfully consider incorporating its message into your daily walk.


Kucinich Crystallizes the Anti-War Argument for Me

Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who was my first choice for the Democratic nomination for President in the last election and who is one of a handful of lawmakers who understand the critical importance of world peace, made the case for diverting the billions of war dollars being targeted to Afghanistan to the emergency economic needs we face at home.

Here are the salient portions of his remarks:

"America is in the fight of its life and that fight is not in Afghanistan – it's here. We are deeply in debt. Our GDP is down. Our manufacturing is down. Our savings are down. Our trade deficit is up. Business failures are up. Bankruptcies are up."

"The war is a threat to our National Security. We'll spend over $100 billion next year to bomb a nation of poor people while we reenergize the Taliban, destabilize Pakistan, deplete our army and put more of our soldiers' lives on the line. Meanwhile, back here is the USA, 15 million people are out of work. People are losing their jobs, their health care, their savings, their investments, and their retirement security. Trillions in bailouts for Wall Street, trillions for war; when are we going to start taking care of things here at home?"

 It's time to call a time-out on war.

The Last One to Die in Afghanistan is 13 Years Old Today

Tony Seton today has one of the most eloquent, moving pieces about why we should end the travesty, the ginormous error that is America's folly in Afghanistan, right now. He points out that the odds are that the last American to die in Afghanistan is probably 13 years old today. This one really is a must-listen. Please do. And then please take some action in support of world peace, like join Ten Million Clicks for Peace and get your own personal Peace Impact Meter so you can see how much affect you're having on the globe.


Afghan War is Not Justified and Must End

A reader asked me recently what I thought about the Afghan War and what I thought ought to be done about it. I spent considerable time thinking about and writing my response and felt it might be of broader interest, so here it is.

As a pacifist. I do not believe war is ever the answer. I do not believe war is ever justified. War in strict self-defense is the only possible exception my philosophy allows and that only if it's clearly the only solution. War should always be a last resort. I am a fan of Dennis Kuchinch's views in this regard.

So that obviously colors my views of the Afghanistan War.

On the other hand, the emergence of the stateless aggressor such as al-Qaida poses a special problem for pacifism. If a country attacks us, we can defend ourselves in a way that limits our response to actions that restrain or punish the aggressor. With a terrorist organization that is obviously not as obviously or readily feasible. Are we then at all justified in carrying out a war against recognized nations that sponsor or support the activities of the aggressor group? I tend to think we are, so that the same principle that applies to an attack by a nation applies to an attack by a sponsored terrorist group. That means that war, as a last resort, might be acceptable and palatable though never preferable.

Against that backdrop, to the extent that the U.S. had proof that al-Qaida was operating from Afghan territory with the official knowledge, consent, sponsorship and support of that country when it planned and/or launched the 9/11 attacks against the United States, we had a moral right to pursue Afghanistan as an enemy state. I'm not sure that proof was all that solid, but let's leave that question aside for the moment.

The bigger question, for me, is whether an offensive war was the only avenue open to us. And I think it is clear that it was not. In fact, we didn't even try any peaceful alternatives and, unlike the case with Iraq, we had never tried them before, either.

So I judge the mission of the Afghan war — the disruption and elimination of al-Qaida as a terrorist organization threatening the United States — as legitimate but I don't view the war as ultimately justified.

I would like to see a timely, orderly, safe withdrawal of our forces from that part of the world. The larger picture of a seriously global nuclear or conventional war is much more threatening to our safety and security and to world peace than anything the tiny splinter group known as al-Qaida could carry out. We are, in a sense, cutting off our noses to spite our faces.