Trump is right, women should be prosecuted for aborting

 

Trump is right when it comes to prosecuting a woman for having an abortion. I have very rarely used that sentence. For once, he is being consistent when he declared that if abortion is made illegal, which would take a Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, a woman should be prosecuted.

Let me be very clear, I am completely pro-choice and I believe Roe set the appropriate safeguards. As I pointed out in my book, The Non-Religious Christian, I have four beautiful daughters. Should any one of them be in a position where they had an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, it would be an extremely difficult decision for them to decide whether to keep the baby in spite of the incredible challenges, to give it up for adoption, or to have an abortion. Currently those are all viable options and I wouldn’t want to make that decision for them; it would not be my choice to make. The one thing I am completely certain is that no one else should should make that decision for them.

Everyone whom I have encountered that is so-called pro-life, or more appropriately anti-choice, explains to me that “abortion is murder.” For those who oppose abortion, there is no grey area here. They believe that life begins at conception, a concept that I don’t endorse, but I do respect their opinion. If that is what you believe then you must follow this to its logical conclusion.

The outcry against Mr. Trump from the anti-abortion forces claim that the woman should not be prosecuted whatsoever. Some, like Ted Cruz, going so far as to decry that the woman is a victim.  The woman is absolutely a victim in instances of rape and incest, but that is not what we are talking about.  In fact, many who are now saying that the woman is a victim, do not make an exception in their anti-abortion position for incest, rape or even the life of the mother.

The question posed by Chris Mathews to Mr. Trump dealt only with the scenario that all abortions would be illegal and asked if they were illegal, should the mother be prosecuted. Mr. Trump’s answer was that since it was illegal, yes there should be some punishment. If the act of aborting a fetus is murder, as many of you claim, and the woman seeks out a physician or Nurse Practitioner, or Physicians Assistant to perform the procedure, wouldn’t that be the same as a person hiring a hit man to murder her child?  She arranged the meeting, paid for the procedure and traveled to make certain that the fetus was terminated.  She is hardly an innocent victim in this process. It seems to me that at the very least she is an accomplice as are her parents or the father if they helped in any way to facilitate the action. I’m not a lawyer, but I am unaware of any other “crime” where the person who initiates the action and actively participates is not implicit in the crime.

This is part of the problem with labeling a simple procedure with minimal health risks a murder. If you choose to call this murder, then be consistent enough to call for the prosecution of all the participants – you can’t have it both ways.

Love, Vern

“There are no atheists in foxholes”

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Raised in an evangelical household, I heard this phrase repeatedly while growing up.  To put it more plainly, when in a life threatening situation, everyone resorts to prayer.  It is their contention that everyone believes in god in the last moments of his or her life.

In my personal journey from my evangelical upbringing to my current status of born again agnostic, I have never experienced a life threatening experience until today. Today, without any advance planning on my part, I had an opportunity to put this theory to the test.

I do not lead a sheltered life. I, and two of our daughters and their husbands, recently climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. Irene and I travel to dive in some of the most incredible reefs in the world. Put simply, I live a life that challenges me beyond what few ever dare.  Diving has always been a relaxing and fascinating part of our lives. Fortunately, most of our children are eager to join me on these adventures.

Today’s dive was a tourist dive in Looe Key, in the Florida Keys.  Irene and I have spent winters here for the past six years and it always includes a beautiful dive here two or three times for each visit.  The water is clear, the dive is very safe with a maximum depth of 20-30 ft. and there are still some wonderful corals, a great variety of fishes, lots of Barracuda, a variety of sharks, and often some Sea Turtles.  This, to me, is an ideal dive.  Today was different.

As a single diver, I was paired up with another single, a lovely woman from Iowa, named Mona. Mona let me know that she initially may have an anxiety issue, which is common upon first entry into the ocean.  We talked about a gradual acclimation to the water, and a very slow pace to observe as much on these reefs as possible in our short time in the water.

She also told me that she is very good about conserving oxygen. Very good to know as I am moderate in that category, meaning that I will most likely need to surface before she does.

About 25 minutes into the dive, approximately halfway from normal oxygen use, Mona let me know that she had lost one of her weights, which meant that she wasn’t able to descend. However, she had plenty of oxygen and we were quite a distance from the boat. She said she would stay on the surface while I dove beneath her as we worked our way back to the boat. I checked my oxygen levels on my dive computer which indicated a level over 1700, well above the warning level of 600.

The sound of exhaling while diving is very relaxing.  Easy breath in, releasing a stream of bubbles out and watching them float to the surface is awesome. As I watched a couple of blue parrot fish feed on the bottom I heard a large bubble release from behind me. I knew that Mona was slightly behind and on the surface and I assumed she was adjusting her buoyancy compensator, or BC. My fascination with the beautiful fish distracted me enough to continue.

I immediately caught a glimpse of a shark to my left, and my instinct told me to follow this amazing creature. Sharks and turtles are my weakness – I need to follow them. This time, it nearly cost me.

As I turned to follow the shark, I began to realize I was not drawing oxygen in through my regulator.  There was nothing. I looked at my wrist dive computer and it was flashing a message: “failure.” I didn’t have time to ask what was failing, and acted immediately.

Fortunately, I was very near the surface, fewer than twenty feet. I swam to the surface and took in a welcomed inhalation of oxygen. My first instinct was to try to inflate my BC vest, however, there was no response. The oxygen tank, which supplied my oxygen to breathe, was also the tank that filled my vest to allow me to float on the surface. It was empty.  I was now over two hundred yards from the boat into the strong current, with a steel tank on my back, weights in my vest, and four foot waves crashing into me as I explained the situation to my dive partner Mona. Mona was great; she immediately understood the situation and we both decided to swim as fast as possible back to the boat. I immediately regretted the decision to leave my snorkel back on the boat, it could have made this process much easier.

I began kicking as hard as I could while trying to keep my head above water with the waves and current fighting me. I sensed that I was losing this battle, as the effort to keep my head above water was equal to the energy used to try to propel myself forward. The downside to losing 15 lbs and building more body muscle for the Kili climb was that I was much less buoyant than before, which was not helping at this time. At this point, my training kicked in. The best option is to immediately let go of your weight pockets. I fill my pockets with 14 lbs. of weight to make me sink in the salt water with a full tank of oxygen. These weight pockets are relatively expensive, but I had no problem letting them go. A note to the diver that finds them, “You’re welcome.”

I continued to kick as hard as possible as I inched back toward the boat, but I began to realize that making it back to the boat was an incredible challenge with my current status. I was nearly exhausted, my legs were starting to cramp and I still at least a hundred yards to get to the boat.

Mona began to yell for help and I was giving the distress diver signal during my pauses from swimming. Even with all of these obstacles I was still swimming much faster that she was and even with her arriving to help, I’m not sure how much she would have helped my cause. Her yelling did bring about the desired response and I thank her for this.

I was ready to jettison my BC vest, which I had relied on for many dives, and the tank to make me much more buoyant, when a crewmember arrived with a flotation device to help me get back to the boat.  Arriving at the boat, the rather simple task of taking off my fins became a challenge as I was literally drained.

For a period of about 25 minutes, drowning was a very real possibility. I thought about many things during this time.

First, I thought about what I had to live for. Irene was foremost in my mind. I couldn’t stand the thought of being without her for one moment, let alone forever. I could not quit. She is the driving force in my life, and I love it. Even as I write this, my body aches from the strain I have put on my back, stomach, arms and legs to get back to the boat, back to Irene.

Secondly, I thought about my training.  Charles Larsen, you taught me well. I went through the checkpoints you taught me, and it saved my life.

As I relaxed in the pool at our rental home in Summerland Key, it struck me. As an agnostic, or as I like to say, Born Again Agnostic, I never pray. Here I was, clearly not facing bullets from enemy fire but facing the very real possibility of drowning, prayer was never on my mind.

Sorry Pastor Demorest, you were wrong again. For those of you who pray, I understand that it may bring you comfort and solace. As for me, I’ll continue to revert to knowledge, training and determination with a goal.

Love, Vern

 

Why are you so obsessed with praying out loud?

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First, I want to make it very clear that I am not anti-theist, and I completely respect a person’s right to worship any god they deem worthy of praise. While I don’t pray, I understand for many people praying is a way to speak directly to their god. What I don’t understand is the obsession with public prayers.

Last weekend we attended the funeral of a family member. During the service, there were six prayers in its forty-five-minute duration. While growing up in our Baptist church, I remember prayers that lasted well over five minutes given by some of the guest evangelists. While attending the hilarious musical Kinky Boots this past weekend, we were entertained by various individuals outside the venue praying for our souls on the street. This morning, like many mornings, I received another Facebook post from a friend proclaiming that everything was better when organized prayer was allowed in public schools.

As a student of the Christian Bible, and a fan of many of the teachings of Jesus, I am confused by the need to demand public prayer even though I see no example of that from Jesus. In fact, other than teaching the disciples exactly what to say in a prayer, his only directions about of how to pray is found in Matthew 6; 5-6 when he said:

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (for a more in-depth discussion on this topic, I recommend that you read Fred Hood’s The Religious Right vs. Right Religion we at Principia published a couple years ago. Fred is an ordained Presbyterian minister who disagrees with the need for public prayer).

In all of the lessons Jesus taught, and in his sermon on the mount, he didn’t lead or end in a prayer. When Jesus went to pray prior to his arrest, he followed his own advice and went to be alone.

I respect a person’s devotion to pray, but when I’m forced to listen to public prayers, I agree with Jesus — that it appears self-serving and all about being seen as righteous.

Love,
Vern

The Born Again Agnostic

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Throughout my early years, is spite of going to church multiple times per week, I had no idea if there was a god (nor did I think much about it). Then, through the efforts of my Sunday school teachers, our minister, my grandparents, and my parents, I was converted to the Evangelical Baptist faith. Over the years, my faith was challenged as I studied the sciences along with the writings of many of the great skeptics and apologists.

That journey led me to write my first book, The Non-Religious Christian, which was how I described my evolving faith. At the time, while I didn’t believe in the reports of a miracles and the existence of a heaven or hell, I did believe that Jesus probably arose from the dead, though not exactly as reported. It seemed to be a logical explanation for the rapid growth of this new religion throughout much of Europe and the Middle East, driven by a few loyal followers and a convert that never met Jesus. However, upon further research, I now doubt that the resurrection ever occurred.

My belief, over time, became much more aligned with those of Thomas Jefferson. And like Jefferson, I began calling myself an Agnostic Christian. Even so, many evangelical Christians openly refuted both of these terms saying I clearly didn’t pass their litmus tests of what they believe define a “Christian.” They were also quick to say that by me not accepting their core dogmatic beliefs of the virgin birth, infallibility of the Bible, a god that interceded in our lives, answered prayers, and condemned sinners to hell, prohibited me from using the title of Christian regardless of the adjective attached.

Though I still enjoy some of the teachings of Jesus, I have now found a more accurate description: I am a Born Again Agnostic. I was born an agnostic, just as toddlers and young children are – they don’t know or care about the existence of a god. Growing up I was taught to repeat phrases and sing songs which eventually led to my conversion and baptism into the Baptist faith at age eleven.

Now I have reverted or (as the Baptists say), I was aorn again into a state where I no longer believe in a god. I’m agnostic in that I do not know that there isn’t a god, yet I see no evidence whatsoever and seriously doubt that it exists. Certainly not one who intercedes in the activities of humans. I know that many people of faith will find it difficult to believe, but I am now more at peace with who I am and how I fit into this incredible world than ever before.

Love,

Vern

To My Climate Change Denier Friends

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Far too many of my friends are client change deniers. Let’s be very clear: your comments challenging this science make you a denier, not a skeptic. Challenging the fact that the overall global temperature  has steadily  increased over the past 100 plus years is like challenging that the month of June is warmer than the month of May.

Climate change is simply an accumulation of data from thousands of locations across the globe and then standardized by making calculated adjustments to account for variations in the way the temperatures are measured such as where the  data was accumulated (hilltops of valleys- surface temperatures vs. engine intake, etc.) and when it was collected (morning, noon, or evening).  Making these adjustments is a critical part of any valid study where data is collected from independent sources.  This data is then charted, and the dramatic upward “hockey stick”-looking graph is obvious to the average third grader. Which way is the graph going?

Your denial is the result of either being uninformed or ill-informed. I just finished watching videos of two vocal deniers, both of which are defending the indefensible. Fox News host Dana Perino spent a tremendous amount of time screaming about a report published in the British newspaper The Telegraph which accused the Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN) with manipulating data to make the climate  change appear greater. Had Perino, or the Telegraph actually read the report, they would have realized that while it is true that the adjustments that I discussed earlier had increased the raw data in  some cities, it lowered them in others. In fact, more temperatures were lowered than raised. So if you take the raw data, the climate temperature is rising faster, not slower as these people are inferring.

The second denier is from a far more dangerous source, the chairman of the Senate’s Environmental and Public Works Committee, Senator James Inhofe. Sen. Inhofe’s staged an incredibly ignorant demonstration showing that there was snowfall in Washington D.C in February, which he believes proves that climate change is a hoax.

Inhofe’s denial is not the result of misreading or misunderstanding data, it is necessitated by his religion. He proudly proclaimed that, “God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.” Sen. Inhofe is joined by a host of evangelical politicians to the point that three states have now prohibited the use of the term “climate change” in their official documents.

The idea that burning fossil fuels and clear-cutting our rain forests could alter the delicate balance of an enclosed system is basic science challenges their basic religious belief that god controls everything. If man’s actions could alter god’s creation, then god is not in control as our ultimate protector. Man-made climate change challenges his entire natural order of the world, therefore it cannot be true.

Both sides believe that there is an incredible worldwide conspiracy of thousands of scientists throughout the world risking their hard-earned reputations to promote this terrible lie for…..what? What possible motive would these people have to encourage us to alter our current course of action? Do they not enjoy the same conveniences that you and I enjoy? Do they not desire the bigger homes, the bigger cars, and all the meat they wish to consume?

On the other side, who are these 2 percent of the world’s climatologists that are not convinced that humans are contributing to the warming and what could possibly be their motives?

Willie Soon, a researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, is a frequent guest on the Fox News channel and is quoted extensively by Sen. Inhofe to support his claims. Freedom of Information filings recently revealed that he has received a total of $1.25 million from Exxon Mobil, the American Petroleum Institute and Southern Company.  Unlike his colleagues, he received no grants from traditional funding sources such as NASA or the National Science Foundation; his work was funded almost entirely by the fossil fuel lobby. Strangely enough, Mr. Soon did not disclose his funding sources as required by most peer review publications. It is very clear what these 2 percent have to gain, personal wealth, unquestioned funding for their pet projects, national notoriety as their face is all over the Fox News channel and prominently testifying in front of Sen. Inhofe’s committee which leads to profitable speaking engagements.

I understand why Mr. Soon would want to continue to burn as much oil and coal as possible, it’s very lucrative for him, and I understand Sen. Inhofe refusal to turn his back on his religion.  What I don’t understand is those of you who have neither excuse. Why would you take a position of about 2 percent  of the experts in the world on such an important issue?

Tuesday evening at 9 PM EST, the Weather Channel will be airing another segment of Changing Planet. On this segment, Anne Thompson, NBC News chief environmental affairs correspondent, accurately states; “Climate change is not a religion. Climate change is science.” It is not something we should believe, it is something we need to address.  She goes on to say, “There is plenty of evidence that the earth is warming, that the chemistry of the oceans is changing, that growing zones in our country are creeping northward. The question is not ‘do you believe in climate change?’ but what, if anything, are we going to do about it?” I would add some additional question such as; how do we transition to other renewable energy sources as quickly as possible without destroying our economy? Why wouldn’t we be interested in long-term job creation in the newest technologies while cleaning our environment at the same time? And most importantly, why are you insisting that we continue to subsidize the 19th century technologies of coal and oil?

In the meantime, I will continue to completely ignore your stupid jokes about global warming on a cold day in June and just attribute it to an Inhofian moment on your part.

Love,
Vern

Photo courtesy of DoSomething.org

How dare President Obama ask a Christian to be humble!

To all of the Right Wing Evangelicals who are outraged that President Obama had the audacity to ask Christians to refrain from making the war with ISIS a religious war, maybe you should actually read or listen to the presentation and then review your history. So many people from Bill Maher on the far left to Pat Robertson on the opposite end of the spectrum, want to make this about religion. Are there radical Muslim sects? Certainly. Is it possible to take portions of the Koran or the Bible to justify your zealotry? Absolutely. However we cannot allow the zealots to define an entire religion. As an agnostic, it would be easy to condemn all religion, as does Mr. Maher, and overlook the good that is done in the name of organized religion, but that would be just as offensive as overlooking the evil that is perpetrated.

I agree with the President when he described ISIS as, “a brutal, vicious death cult” that slaughters innocents in the name of religion.

President Obama then made a call for religious tolerance and humility for all Christians when he stated, “Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

Some were quick to condemn these statements, although the video I watched showed a standing ovation by those attending the President’s speech.

“When you have to go back that far for an example, you’ve made the point that Christianity doesn’t engage in such behavior,” R.D. Brewer tweeted.

Jim Gilmore, the former Republican Governor of Virginia stated; “The president’s comments this morning at the prayer breakfast are the most offensive I’ve ever heard a president make in my lifetime. He has offended every believing Christian in the United States.”

First, I would like to mention that this paragraph is completely, historically accurate as I have discussed in my book, “The Non-Religious Christian”.  Secondly, Irene and I went to see the incredible film “Selma” yesterday. Throughout the movie we watched white southerners from the governor, hundreds of law enforcement officers, and hundreds of private citizens line up to denigrate, beat and kill blacks simply for peaceably requesting the right to vote. As I watched, I couldn’t help but ask myself, what religion do these people profess to follow? I have a guess.

As I listened to the dialogue and the justification for their atrocities, I remembered not one, but several sermons I listened to during the 60s from our Baptist minister here in Michigan. He frequently used the term “nigger, ” not negro which was acceptable at that time, and he repeatedly cautioned against allowing integration of our schools and even befriending “niggers” as it would lead to the mongrelization of the human race. In his mind, Caucasians were the pure breeds in the human race.

To be fair, many religious leaders and Christian denominations arose to correct this injustice and they are to be commended. However, to pretend that the Christian faith was not used to justify enslavement, brutality and murder is disingenuous.

The President ended his speech with this call for humility.

“Today we give humble thanks for the freedoms we cherish in this country. And I join you in seeking God’s grace in all of our lives. I pray that His wisdom will give us the capacity to do right and to seek justice, and defend the oppressed wherever they may dwell.”

I am just grateful that the President didn’t go overboard and say something really radical like; “Every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”

Love, Vern

“Cherish those that seek the truth, but beware those who find it”

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The words of wisdom that is the title of this blog post is from Voltaire. I love Voltaire. I haven’t read him a while, and fortunately while thinking about what to title this blog, this quote came to mind.

My last blog about prayer received some very interesting responses, which I always appreciate. The comment that surprised me most was a family member asking me if that was my “coming out” blog as an agnostic. In my book The Non-Religious Christian I repeatedly, stated that I do not claim to know the “truth” about the existence of a god, but that I clearly did not accept the god presented in the Bible, Torah or the Koran.

I also repeatedly stressed that the faith that I wrote about at that time, was a journey rather than a destination as I doubt humans will ever be capable of either proving, or disproving, the existence of god.

At the risk of spoiling the ending to my next book, the working title is The Agnostic Christian, The Journey Continues.  I have stolen this term from another great thinker and writer, Thomas Jefferson. Like Jefferson, at the time I wrote my first book I did not believe in the miracles attributed to Jesus, the virgin birth, nor most of the quotes attributed to him. I did however believe that Jesus was a living person that probably arose from the dead. Through my continued studies, my faith has evolved to the point where I am no longer certain that Jesus actually lived, and I doubt the reports of his arising from the dead.

I cannot however, envision ever being certain that god does not exist. Personally, I find it equally as inappropriate to pretend to possess the “truth” that there is no god as proclaiming that there is. My logic precludes the existence of a god, certainly the one presented in the Bible, but I don’t “know” it to be true. Therefore, I am an agnostic. As my hero Voltaire also said, “Doubt is an uncomfortable condition, but certainty is a ridiculous one.”

For me, the existence of a god doesn’t change how I live whatsoever, and not knowing doesn’t cause me any discomfort. The golden rule that I try to follow is very simple, and is not derived from the Bible, it is simply: Do Good.

Which leaves me to another wonderful Voltaire quote: “Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.”

Do your values meet this simple challenge?

Love, Vern

I love you, I won’t be praying for you

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Like many of you, I have been following the recent story about the Rossiter family in Oregon. According to reports, their daughter Syble died in their home from complications of a chronic and undiagnosed case of Type 1 diabetes which could have been treated with an injection of insulin and some fluids. She died because her parents were followers of a faith-healing fundamentalist Christian sect. Instead of taking her to the emergency room as she lost control of her bowels and had repeated episodes of violent vomiting, they instead chose to kneel and pray that God would intercede. While most of you would be repulsed at the apparent cruelty of the parents, I simply reverted to a habit my parents taught me; go to the Bible for answers.

For those of you who have read my book, you know that my parents believed, and I was taught that all of the answers to every question were found in the Bible. I thumbed through the text for a clue as to why these people would harbor such an extreme theology. Just as my parents and grandparents promised, I found the answer. Not just once, but repeatedly.

Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it will be given to you seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

Matthew 21:22 “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

Mark 11:24  “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

John 14:13-14 “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

In fact, the author of Mathew explains that healing, or in this case causing a fig tree to wither, is a rather mundane request of God in prayer, and he went so far as to declare;

Matthew 21:21 means:  “if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea’, and it will be done.”

Instead of asking who could possibly believe that prayer could heal a sick child, I wonder why more fundamentalist Christians who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible don’t place their faith completely in god in times of illness as god repeatedly instructs them.

Through social media or e-mail I frequently am requested to pray for a someone, a loved one, one who is sick, dying or merely facing a stressful day.

While I completely agree that the Rossiters are guilty of manslaughter and one of the worst possible demonstrations of child cruelty, at least they are following the teachings of their holy book. The Bible repeatedly teaches that Christ healed the ill and even the dead by a simple touch and the unrelenting faith of those that were healed. He then instructed his disciples to go out and do the same. No reliance on the physicians or medicines that were available at that time.

While I admire their devotion, the prayer-only treatment program seems incredibly ineffective. In the local cemetery used by this sect, of the 604 people buried there, 208 were reported to be children, more than 35 percent of all deaths are children and autopsy records show that the 11 children which were buried since 2011 died from medically preventable conditions. I have to wonder how in the world you could maintain this faith after watching your child suffer and die.

Obviously, most fundamentalists avail themselves of all of the current medical advances. While asking for prayer, they see the best surgeons, utilize the finest hospitals and take advantage of the most advanced diagnostic instruments available. Quite frankly, I’m glad they do, as many of them are my friends and family whom I love and respect. I personally find it peculiar that when the treatment is successful, they typically give all credit to the prayers and the god that “answered” them.

It is fine to ask me for my prayers, but as an agnostic, I will let you know that I really am hoping for the best possible outcome and express confidence in your physician and the treatment he/she prescribes.

Love, Vern

Climate change denial for the love of oil

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I have tried to understand the arguments against climate change but I still don’t get it. Some seemingly very intelligent politicians as well as some friends with above average intellect continue to choose to deny not only the scientific projections, but they are actually denying the actual measurements being collected by scientists worldwide. Glacial melt, water temperatures warming, and annual worldwide temperature increases should not be debatable. Please stop telling us you’re not scientists which makes you incapable of making a decision on something science based because that would render you incapable of making nearly any decision on our economy (you’re not an economist), or our infrastructure (you’re not an engineer), or our military (you’re not a security expert), etc.

Intelligent people rely on individuals with more knowledge on a given topic to help us form our opinions. For some reason, they suspend this intellectual response to maintain our reliance on fossil fuels. They profess to hate our reliance on foreign countries for our oil, yet repeatedly commit our military to long-term, virtually unwinnable wars to maintain our oil supply.

We cling to our 20th century business models based on burning coal, oil, and natural gas for our energy supply instead of making investments toward a new economy. According to Forbes Magazine, between 1994 and 2009 the US Government provided over $446 billion in oil and gas subsidies. During those same years, subsidies to renewable energy totaled less than $6 billion.

Most of us are aware of the epic failure of the solar energy company, Solyndra, which went bankrupt after receiving federal subsidies exceeding $500 million over several years. The outcry in Congress was deafening that the President would make such a terrible mistake. Other than the lone voice of Sen. Bernie Sanders, when was the last time you heard anyone decry the fact that we continue to subsidize multinational oil companies that are making ridiculous profits? Exxon Mobil declared a 2014 third quarter profit of $8.07 billion and Shell Oil declared a $4.46 billion profit. To be clear, I have no problem with profits, in fact, I kind of insist on that for my companies. Nor do I blame the companies–if the offer were made to me, I too would accept the gift. I simply don’t think they need the help.

The reality is that we, as a country, are competing with China, which is heavily subsidizing companies involved with clean, renewable energy. I really want these new “green” jobs to be created here, we really need to win this war, and right now, we aren’t really competing.

Right now, for every dollar we are investing into clean, renewable energies, the U.S. is investing $74 into an aging industry which indisputably pours carbon into our atmosphere. Could you imagine where we would be today if those numbers were reversed?

This is my suggestion–how about if we simply split the investments equally between renewables and fossil? Does anyone doubt that we would be nearly energy self-sufficient in a very short time if we invested $226 billion in renewable energy? At the same time, we would let you keep your love affair with oil and coal, and while their profits may shrink slightly, I think they would do just fine with “only”  $226 billion in subsidies.

Love, Vern

Six Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Sodom

John_Martin -- Sodom and Gomorrah

As you know, there are only a few references in the Christian Bible that appear to denounce homosexuality, and the most common reference is to the story of the two cities, Sodom and Gomorrah. When I was growing up in our evangelical Baptist Church, ministers repeatedly told a shortened version of this story focusing primarily on the “sin” of homosexuality. However, when we read the story, there are some serious issues with using this story as a model for morality. Here is the real moral lesson from this story. Did you know:

 

1. The 90-Year-Old Parents

God decided that he would change the name of  Abram, to Abraham and his wife Sarai to Sarah and that these two, who were both over 90 years old at the time, would have a child. Let’s pretend for a second that in an era where the average lifespan was probably less than 40 that these two actually reached this advanced age, and that it would be possible for a 90 year old woman to conceive a child.  How cruel would it be to ask this couple to raise a child at this advanced age? My wife and I adore our grandchildren, but we are both exhausted after a sleepover, and I’m in great physical condition in my early 60s.

2. God Loves to Bargain and Negotiate with Man

…And in some instances, with Satan (see the book of Job). In this instance, God wants to destroy both cities unless he finds 50 righteous people. At this point the newly named Abraham begins his negotiations. He starts at 45 and gradually works God all the way down to just 10 righteous people. Pretty shrewd  negotiations, since his nephew Lot lived there with his wife, his two young daughters, and his soon-to-be sons in law. He needed to find only four more righteous people in two different cities. Even as Lot, his wife, and two daughters were running away from the burning city of Sodom, Lot negotiates with the angels because he doesn’t want to run up into the mountains as instructed, but negotiates to stop at the city of Zoar.

3. Sodom May Not Have Survived Anyway

It wasn’t that there was homosexual activity in Sodom, according to the story, every man in the entire city of Sodom, both young and old preferred homosexual sex. They all unanimously rejected sex with two virgins and threatened to rape Lot for getting in their way. One has to wonder how this city would have survived anyway with only same-sex intercourse.

4. Lot Offers Up His Daughters to Be Raped To Save Himself

Lot, confronted with an entire city of sex crazed men at his door, decides to do the logical thing that any father would do. He offers to give these lunatics his virgin daughters so that they could, “do what you like with them.” To recount briefly, God has decided that he is going to save one man in this entire city, and he picks a man who begs every man in the city to rape his virgin daughters.

5. Lot’s Incestuous Children

Most of us know that Lot’s wife was also killed by God, who turned her into a pillar of salt, because she dared to look back toward the burning city, which is apparently a greater sin than offering your daughters. But did you know what happened to the “father of the year candidate” Lot and his daughters, the only three people in this entire region deemed “righteous” by God? It turns out that the three decided to settle in a cave in the mountains. These two righteous girls decided that life was pretty lonely, and they were probably devastated at being rejected by every man in the city. They each developed a plan to get their father drunk and then to have sex with them. I’m not kidding. They took turns getting the father so drunk that he “was not aware” that his daughter got in bed with him and had intercourse. This allowed them to each become pregnant, and preserve this lineage of righteousness.

6. Is Sodom’s Homosexuality Actually a Sin?

Later in the bible, the author of Ezekiel summarizes the “sins” of the people of Sodom which caused God to destroy the city. The author states they were, “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty (self-righteous) and did detestable things before me.” Did you notice what “sin” was missing? If you believe that God wrote this entire book, or caused this author to write these words, isn’t it interesting that God didn’t include homosexuality in His list?   If the only issue you find disturbing about this horrible story is that some people are sexually attracted to individuals of the same sex, I understand why we have trouble finding common ground on morality.