You tell me that it’s evolution (Well, you know)

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Despite straying from a traditional Christian upbringing, I still enjoy commenting on religion. Because, no matter what you say, there’s no chance of ever offending someone. (Ha! Get it?)

(It’s funny because it’s not true)

I enjoy discussing religion because it fascinates me. In it’s purest form, it has been the guiding force of civilizations since the dawn of mankind. I respect faith in the sense that it is necessary for a functioning society. As well as the fact that many Americans take it for granted. It’s easy to become a non-believer in the U.S. due to the fact there are far less daily existential threats (disease, famine, war, etc.). But in places like the Middle East, Africa, and Texas, I believe people truly need spirituality as a crutch. That’s what faith is for. And that’s fine. But it’s not fine when religious beliefs nullify logic. It’s not fine when conclusions are made based on blind faith. Not when it infringes on the beliefs of others. Especially not in American politics.

In a recent Pew Research poll titled “Public Views on Human Evolution”, 64% of white American evangelical Protestants believe in creationism (the belief that “God” created man). Now, you’re probably asking, how is that related to policymakers in D.C.? Here’s another poll by the Pew Research Center, illustrating The Religious Composition of the 113th Congress. 57% of the House identifies as protestant, as well as 52% of the Senate. How does that relate to Republicans? According to the first poll, 48% of Republicans deny evolution (a 9% increase over 4 years) (astonishing). The majority of protestants in both the House and Senate are Republican. So, basically, there’s a chance that the majority of policymakers in D.C. believe science is a lie.

evo house evo senateIn America, policy decisions on a federal level are normally unaffected by the religious beliefs of policy makers. However, state and local governments are more vulnerable. In November 2013, the Texas Board of Education delayed approval of a widely used biology textbook because of concerns that it presents evolution as fact rather than theory. (For the record, a “theory” is defined as a collection of facts intended to explain something) (but that’s beside the point). According to the New York Times,  Ide P. Trotter, a chemical engineer and financial adviser, was a member of the review panel chosen to evaluate the textbook. He raised concerns, citing “[the book] gives a misleading impression that we have a fairly close understanding of how random processes could lead to us.” If you told me that same quote was from someone referring to the Bible, I would have believed it.

It sounds alarmist but it’s unnerving when the majority religion in Congress is also (overwhelming) the majority religion of evolution-deniers. Now, I doubt that the majority of Protestants in the House and Senate are creationists. Where they fall on the spectrum of conservative evangelical and mainline Protestant is unclear. But their faith (regardless of denomination) is still relevant.

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My generalization is that Protestants likely vote for fellow Protestants to represent them in congress. These congressmen and congresswomen probably have similar beliefs if they were able to convince their constituents to elect them in the first place. So, where do their beliefs align? The thought of someone in a position of power who denies evolution is concerning. Because to deny the theory of evolution is to deny truth. Denying truth is to embrace blind faith. And blind faith, as we know, can be dangerous.

The majority of my childhood was spent in Catholic school. I’ve not only read the “The Bible” but I’ve studied it. I’ve also studied “The Origin of Species”. One is a book of parables that can be loosely applied to someone’s life in order to better themselves. The other is a foundation of a theory supported by indisputable facts. That’s the difference between a creationist and myself: objectivity. I’ve seen both sides. As much as religion fascinates me, it equally frightens me. Because despite being responsible for so much good in the world, religion is equally responsible for so much evil. As long as organized religion exists, extremism will exist, and there will never be world peace. To believe otherwise is to assume the sentimentality of a child.

But is that not why people choose to have faith? To be childlike? To be a child is to shed responsibility. To have faith in god is to shed the burden of choice. When you have faith, you don’t need to make choices. Choices are made for you by others. There’s no reason to think critically. There’s no reason to question your existence. There’s no reason to do anything besides kneel when you’re told and stand when you’re told. Our childhood is easy in the sense that it is absent of free will. Life is simpler when our choices are predetermined.

We choose to believe in creationism for the same purpose. Because it’s easier to believe there is someone watching over us–someone who created us–a parent or guardian. It’s more comforting to believe that than to believe we’re responsible for every choice in our lives–while at the same time–our life is ultimately random. It’s easier to believe that than to believe we’re alone in the universe (and descended from apes). It’s easier because having faith in a greater purpose is inherently human. It is instinctual. Religion is instinct.

“The very essence of instinct is that it’s followed independently of reason.”

-Charles Darwin

UPDATE: Texas charter schools teaching creationism (Slate)

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America: Through the Eyes of Pop Culture

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Some argue that the idea of American “culture” is nonexistent. Some say we are simply a disorganized homogenization with no true identity. I attempted to debunk this assertion through extensive online research, combing the daily minutia of the internet–specifically, entertainment news. What I discovered is that pop-culture illustrates more than just the over-glorification of celebrity. It also serves as a mind-numbing reflection of American values.

The following images represent a vignette of American culture–albeit a vignette of disappointment and embarrassment. Nevertheless, it is a reflection of culture indigenous to America. It begins on a holiday, on the night of Halloween, in the Hills of Beverly:hugh hefner miley cyrus On October 28th, 2013, Hugh Hefner tweeted this photo of himself with 27-year-old wife, Crystal Harris. Hugh Hefner is 87, by the way. He was 60 when she was born. I’ll let that sink-in…

Crystal was dressed as Miley Cyrus from her now-infamous VMA performance, while Hugh was dressed as…I don’t know. He looks like a Madam Tussauds wax sculpture of a death row inmate. No. Wait. Sorry. He’s supposed to be Robin Thicke. Now I see it.

First of all, let’s start with Hugh Hefner. Essentially, this man’s entire career justified what Miley Cyrus did on stage at the VMAs. He made promiscuity acceptable in society. He turned the Hollywood image of empowered women like Marilyn Munroe into sex objects. We’ve grown to celebrate this type of “freedom” in American culture. Some might call that “empowerment”. But I dare those same people to watch one episode of The Girls Next Door and try making an argument for feminism. I’m not saying women in this country should be wearing burqas but there has to be self-conscious limitations on freedom of expression.

While it’s true that “progressive” values have ushered much-needed social change throughout history, America’s idea of “progression” seems to be limitless in certain aspects. Because as far as we’ve progressed, we’ve also taken steps backwards in terms of cultivating intellectual culture. We have completely lost sight of our moral boundaries. We’re becoming culturally desensitized to what is right and wrong.

Even our childhood institutions are no longer sacred. Look at Disney. Look what they did to Miley.

And Vanessa Hudgens. And Selena Gomez.

And Britney Spears. And Christina Aguilera.

And Bambi’s mom! WHY?! I was just a child, Walt! You twisted, bastard!

Over the past decade, Disney went from this:

before

To this:disney gals 75

[Side note: It was Nickelodeon who discovered Emily Ratajkowski (below), who, coincidentally, was one of the topless models in Robin Thicke’s controversial “Blurred Lines” video, which, subsequently, facilitated the controversial Miley Cyrus VMA performance, thus, culminating in the controversial aforementioned Halloween outfit of October 28th, 2013]

The circle of life:

emily r

The second image comes to us from Nashville, Tennessee. It’s Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood singing a scathing duet about Obamacare during the Country Music Awards: rednecks First of all, I don’t identify as a Democrat nor as a Republican. I’m not trying to defend the president here. But I bet 90% of people in attendance/watching the CMAs, couldn’t speak intelligently about America’s healthcare system for more than 5 seconds (and that’s being generous). So, why make the joke? Why involve topical political commentary? What’s the point? There is none.

That’s my point. Ask yourself, how many in attendance at the CMAs are likely Republican? Not to generalize but considering most country music comes from the south and most southerners are Republican, logic dictates that it’s probably a correct assumption. Let’s say a majority are Republican. Also ask yourself, how many people in attendance at the CMAs likely have health insurance? I would also guess, a majority. If you have the financial means to be a country music star, you probably have the means to be insured (e.g. millionaires like Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood).  Their motive is clear. They’re pandering to rich, white Republicans who already have healthcare and who already hate Obama because he’s a Democrat. For the producers, it’s a win-win. Everyone in the audience laughs while at the same time grasping the opportunity of a national stage to criticize the president.

However, from an outside perspective, an out-of-context parody about healthcare doesn’t appear tongue-in-cheek. Instead, it appears to be cheap banter for a like-minded audience, most of whom are probably hoping Obamacare fails, if for no other reason than out of spite. It’s pathetic how desperate the producers were to politicize an issue and turn it into entertainment in the name of petty dissonance.

I don’t recall Toby Keith ever getting on stage and singing a parody about the Iraq War during the Bush administration. Of course not. Because, according to country music, supporting your president for waging war is called being “patriotic”. But criticizing your president for trying to offer healthcare to millions of uninsured Americans? That’s worthy of cheap laughs and “Yee-haws!”.

Miley Cyrus “twerking” on stage while wearing a confederate flag bikini would have been more appropriate than singing a song about a failing healthcare system in a country whose government was recently shutdown because the people running it forgot how to be civil. There’s nothing funny about that. Accordingly, country music stars have no right to criticize something for being shitty. That’s hypocritical. After all, they’re country music stars.

The “joke” offers no alternative nor solution. There’s no productive discourse. It only contributes to an increasingly polarized public sphere, solely intent on being controversial for the purpose of ratings. The producers decided pandering to their predominately Republican viewership was opportunistic given their audience demographic. And they were right. Because, for the majority of attendees at the CMAs that evening, the reality of millions of uninsured Americans was nothing more than a laughable inconvenience, whose blame can be placed entirely on the people whose viewpoints they oppose. It’s too convenient for them not to laugh. It’s this same combination of stubborn ignorance and unashamed idealism that contributes to the ineffective bureaucracy in American politics. It’s the same thing that shutdown our government. Both sides must stop.

Last but not least, Miley Cyrus (who has somehow become the focal point of this essay) (dammit):

miley joints

After Miley’s provocative twerk-filled performance at the 2013 VMAs, it was presumable we could expect similar antics from her at the more liberal EMAs (European Music Awards). Because Europeans are floozies. That’s why our ancestors left and came to America in the first place.

The 2013 EMAs were held in Amsterdam. Which, as we all know, is famous for their scones (as well as prostitution and marijuana). Accordingly, when Miley Cyrus was accepting an award on stage (dressed as a prostitute), she pulled a joint from her purse and smoked it in front of everyone.

The fact that Ms. Cyrus smoked “drugs” on stage is irrelevant. If you’ve ever seen VH1’s Behind the Music with Motley Crue, you’ll understand that everything that Miley has ever done, only scratches the surface of inappropriate things musicians have done throughout American history. But that didn’t stop broadcasters from censoring the entire EMA pot-smoking incident from American viewers.

Seriously?

For weeks after Miley Cyrus’ controversial VMA performance, media outlets across the country shamelessly replayed images of her simulating sex onstage, barely wearing clothing. Yet, the image of her smoking a joint is too offensive for our delicate sensibilities? Our priorities are in need of serious reevaluation.

It has nothing to do with whether legalizing weed is right or wrong. It’s about how American society dictates what is right and wrong–with an unreasonable disregard for common sense. A new poll suggests 60% of Americans support legalization. Nearly half the states in the U.S. have legalized weed in some form or another. What purpose does censorship accomplish? What is it fulfilling besides accordance with arbitrary FCC laws? Nothing. It only intensifies the idiocy in American culture, surrounding the debate between what we deem moral and immoral.

I don’t know what the future of America holds. If our culture is any indication, it doesn’t look promising. We constantly bear witness to the loss of innocence, the loss of decency, and the loss of common sense. At times, it seems as though we’ve lost our minds. America is one of the most perverted, opinionated, self-righteous, and greatest countries in the world.

If only we were more self-aware.

Obama Skeet Shooting Photo Released By White House

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The New Republic: “Have you ever fired a gun?”

President Obama: “Yes, in fact, up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time.”

In a recent interview with The New Republic, President Obama made brief remarks on his history of gun use. As the above transcript suggests, the President admitted to firing a weapon “all the time” at Camp David. Accordingly, the public sphere–fueled by the emphatic mainstream media–dissected this particular quote as a lie. Because “all the time” would suggest Obama is pro-gun, which in turn, would suggest he ISN’T actually a warlock who can disassemble an assault rifle simply by using black magic. If the President had only redacted the words “all the time” perhaps there wouldn’t have been an impending controversy. Alas, this is American politics. Taking things wildly out-of-context is the name of the game.

The fact that the White House thought it was strategically necessary to release this photo is demoralizing. It’s the same pandering that the White House obliged “birthers” with, when they released Obama’s long-form birth certificate. Will the Democrats ever learn that there is no satisfying their accusers? More importantly, will they ever learn to stop allowing radical ideologues from taking U.S. politics for ransom?

Strategically, the release of the photo coincides with a wave of fervent accusations that President Obama is strictly anti-gun, amidst talk in D.C. of expanding regulations on firearms in the U.S. Pro-gun supporters are convinced Obama is hell-bent on diminishing their 2nd amendment right–the right to bear arms. The truth is, they couldn’t be more off-base. But that’s besides the point. The fact is, the White House perceived this zeitgeist as posing a threat to the administration. Releasing this photo is essentially the equivalent of a surrender. Sure, they proved Obama actually fired a weapon before, but the White House was coaxed into the release. They were coaxed, not by a majority of rationally concerned citizens, but instead, by bigots and imbeciles. Not to mention, the White House has already released a photo of Obama carrying a gun during 2011, at his daughter Sasha’s birthday party:

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If it can’t kill someone, it doesn’t count. Duh.

The ostensible figurehead of the pro-gun rallying cry is Wayne LaPierre. The executive V.P. of the NRA (National Rifle Association) is an advocate for 2nd amendment rights as well as a staunch opponent of the Obama administration (the NRA donated $15 million to Republican candidates in an effort to oust President Obama from office in 2012). LaPierre and his cohorts suggests that limiting the rights of citizens is an overreach of executive power. They would be correct, if that’s what the Obama administration was planning. However, in contrast to what the far-right believes, the anti-gun measurements would basically accomplish only two things: 1.) a stricter assault weapons ban (including high-capacity magazines), and 2.) universal background checks.

The purpose of universal background checks is to help restrict citizens with a history of mental health issues from purchasing a firearm. A reasonable statute, considering most perpetrators of mass shootings have a history of mental health issues in one form or another. However, the NRA has argued against this, stating the mental health lobby and federal laws have prevented the names of people with potentially dangerous mental health problems from being put into a federal database. A reasonable argument. The nature of the Hippocratic oath deems the possibility of a national database impractical. The argument is certainly justified.

What isn’t justified is the resistance to the assault weapons ban. Let’s break this down. First, list as many rationale purposes you can think of for owning a firearm in the U.S.: hunting, protection, law enforcement/military. Personally, I cannot rationalize any other purpose. Next, list as many purposes you can think of for owning an assault weapon: law enforcement/military. I think that’s it. I’m not convinced you need an automatic weapon for protection since there exists a plethora of semiautomatic weapons on the market that will do just that (protect you). And I’m certainly not convinced, in the United States, that one would ever require an automatic weapon to hunt for sport (unless it’s Bigfoot).

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“Let’s kill some fuckin deer!”

Some Americans have trouble understanding the definition of freedom in the context of their guaranteed civil liberties. They don’t understand that freedom requires rules to realistically function in society. Freedom without limitation is anarchy. Yet, some remain feeling entitled to believe that “freedom” in this country is black and white: all or nothing. These same people will try and convince you that the exaggerated melodrama they propose is the hard truth. They will have you believe that a president, acting responsibly in the face of an epidemic in America, is a fascist. When in reality, the far-right pro-gun advocates are simply using the relevance of a national tragedy to advertise their polarized political viewpoints. It reveals an uncompromising selfishness in the administration’s opponents–that speaks volumes of their character.

The United States accounts for more annual firearm deaths than any other country in the entire world. There has never been a more appropriate time to realize that “freedom” in America is not boundless and requires concrete, longstanding limitations. Regulation cannot be nonexistent. It is a necessity in a democratic society–not a causation of our government devolving into a dictatorship, as some would like to believe:

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Ted Nugent: pioneer of American freedom

In the end, it doesn’t matter what is or isn’t justified. There is no amount of justification the Obama administration can muster that will appease their opponents. The administration enacted federal regulations in response to Sandy Hook, so the far-right called them anti-gun. Obama claimed he shoots skeet, so the far-right demanded photographic proof. The administration offers proof, so the far-right alleges the photo is fake because there doesn’t appear to be any ‘kick-back’ when the shot was fired, nor was there any eyewitness account (true story).

There is no winning this game. The functionality of our government is structured by a symbiosis of partisan bullshit. Still, we wonder why American politics rarely accomplishes anything besides incompetence anymore. Allow this to offer insight.