What century are we in???

… no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

United States Constitution, Article VI

OK, I’m a little steamed. Apparently on June 4 CNN hosted a forum on “faith and values” and invited the 3 leading Democratic candidates to participate. While I didn’t watch the actual event, published reports of the questions asked suggest this was essentially a 21st century McCarthy-style loyalty oath ceremony, wherein each candidate was required (in the sense that McCarthy’s victims were required to swear an oath of allegiance or face black listing) to expound on how faith has helped them in their lives.

Since when has religious fervor become a requirement for being taken seriously as a candidate? Even if the majority of Americans want to see such an exposition, I have a problem with a prime time television show essentially condoning a religious litmus test for public office. The Framers feared this so much they wrote it directly into the core of the Constitution – it didn’t even have to wait for the Bill of Rights.

By posting this blog for some political operative to find in future, am I effectively foreclosing the opportunity to run for state-wide or national office?

OK, off of soap box for now. This is going to be an interesting (or incredibly depressing) election seasion…

For a longer article and analysis on this forum, see this link.

Exploring new territory

(Photo: feet waiting to be glued and screwed onto the legs of my dining chairs. See my web site for more photos)

Well, I’m back in the shop more regularly again. This is the final stretch for the dining chairs – lots of tedious sanding and finishing work, and I still have to make some decorative splats for the backs. Then it’s assembly time! I’m guessing they’re be ready (possibly except for the upholstered seats – gotta find someone to do that) in about a month.

Meanwhile, I’m really starting to get into that “what’s next” phase of life. My job/career is going well enough for now, I’m starting to get back into my groove of exercise and art, my relationship continues to blossom… So what else is there? Ah, that big meaning of life question.

I was talking with a good, wise friend about this “meaning” question, and in her opinion it was religion and children that gave most people the comfort of “purpose” in their lives. That puts us child-free athiests in a bit of a bind. 😉 I totally get how raising a family can be a really satisfying endeavor, having a house full of children to love and be loved by, watching them grow up into adults you can be proud of. For some reason, though, I’ve just never wanted it that badly. I’m sure there are all sorts of deep seated psychological processes at work here, but the bottom line is: absence of desire. Not willing to put up with the costs and effort for it. Not wanting it badly enough.

So, no kids (barring a lightning strike or fall on my head). I’ve also never bought into the standard religion story, at least since I was, oh, maybe 8 years old, give or take? Of course I had to stay closeted with that growing up in a very Catholic neighborhood. As I got older I thought about some of the fun spiritual or metaphysical ideas floating around out there, but at some point I realized it was more wishful thinking. Or rather, I began to separate personal experience from the stories we tell about it. That is, I may meditate or see a beautiful sunset or experience love and feel some profoundly deep experiences. But that doesn’t mean I have to then tell a story about God or Gaia or Cupid to explain them. The experiences just are. Oh, they do have true stories behind them, incredibly complex interactions of neurons and hormones and brain structures we’re just beginning to understand. But the point is, the experience is what counts.

BUT – and this is an important but, at least right now – without the story about “God’s purpose” or “everything happens for a reason” or “karma,” etc., life can seem a little… haphazard? Ultimately, there is no meaning other than what we make of it. That’s taking some time to digest. I think (and I think scientists have started studying this) we’re wired (neurologically or culturally) to need to tell stories about purpose and meaning. I’m sure there’s a community of like-minded folks out there who’ve thought about this much more deeply than I have, but they’re not as “popular” as the Standard Churches. If I want the Christian God narrative I can walk into any of several churches down the street. To explore meaning divorced from that story, though, means I’ve got to find like-minded others.

I just started reading Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. I’ve heard him speak on the radio at several points, and he’s one of the most humorous, articulate, thoughtful people I’ve heard speak on atheism. He’s not particularly belligerant about his point – he just asks some common sense questions about why we should believe this (highly improbable) set of stories as opposed to some other (highly improbable) set of stories (e.g., the Greek Gods). He does, at some point (havne’t gotten to those chapters yet) suggest that choosing to believe the standard myths can lead one down some dark paths, so there are real-world consequences when large numbers of people start to engage in exclusive group-think.

Phew! Lots to write about. So much for a wood-working blog. 😉 These thoughts have been occupying a lot of my free time lately, and it helps to get them down in e-ink. I’d love to hear your comments (if anybody actually reads this?)

Putting D'Souza in his place

This is totally off topic, but I came across one of most eloquently written expositions of atheism and humanism I’ve seen in quite a while. This is a response to Dinesh D’Souza’s despicable use of the Virginia Tech tragedy to score politcal points with his followers. (BTW, I went to college with D’Souza, and he was a hateful attention grabber back in the 1980’s, too. Some people never grow up.)

The full essay by a Virginia Tech professor is here: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2007/4/19/18451/0971