To Losing Friends Over Differing Visions of Reality

This is a post to off-guardian.org lamenting the divide between those that have no trouble seeing the rise of tyranny and the bio-medical police state, and those that do not. In this case it is COVID, as opposed to 9-11 and war two decades ago.

The Price to Pay for Paying Attention

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10408398.2020.1741505

While this research posits that abstaining from meat can be detrimental to your mental health, there is mention of factors that can muddy that a bit. Keep in mind this publication deals in research before published peer review.

Perhaps it is the ever present mental and physical stress of our ‘profit over people’ system. The mental issues they blame on lack of meat may have been there already and were the source of the change in diet. Might just be the result of a reality based outlook. The anxiety of being overtly aware of the plight of most people on the planet. Those with severe enough cases have a strong impulse to actually do something about it. Some just live with, either not knowing what to do or figure it is the price of being a normal caring person in our current self destructive world.

Many people choose to eat substantially less animal products because of negative factors associated with meat as part of the ‘normal American diet’. Might be the massive animal harvesting industry and environmental factors associated with it. Might be the death and cruelty. Maybe it’s the reality that most meat, food in general for that matter, available today is not produced in a sustainable and healthy way and does not contribute to good health. Much of this death and destruction ends up in the dumpster behind your favorite junk food eatery. Or absorbed into a market that produces far more food than is needed.

Whatever it is, some people are just naturally aware everyday of the depressing, joy killing, and otherwise soul crushing reality of the way our society operates. In a big way indicated by its continuing tacit approval of the continuing destruction of the planet we need to survive.

Much the same, I think, as the idea that those that don’t believe in god(s) are not as happy as those that do. Maybe non-believers just see a natural world where we have the ability to create a well adjusted highly functional society and it has nothing to do with the supernatural. It is up to us. There is no reason to think we will be rescued by some benevolent species that takes pity on our stupidity. Likely just the opposite, I afraid. It is a reality that can certainly effect your mental state everyday, like it or not, know it or not.

There is a mental and emotional price to pay for keeping honest reality in the forefront, in order to fight for a better world.

Just some thoughts.

Sorry To Hear About Your Religious Symbols

I don’t think religions are going to appreciate having these symbols relegated to historical status.

Sympathies go out to religious people I know, since the Supreme Court ( SCOTUS ) determined the Christian Cross and the phrase ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’ to be secular symbols. In the case of IN GOD WE TRUST and UNDER GOD in the Pledge, “lost through rote repetition any significant religious content.”. An interesting read from a past SCOTUS Case. Establishment Clause cases are complicated, that’s why they make it to the top of our justice system on a regular basis. It is a gamble to force the government to choose between religion and the Constitution. While it may look like they favored religion, by allowing once religious symbols like the Christian Cross and the phrase ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’ to be put on public property, I don’t think religions are going to appreciate having these symbols relegated to historical status. While it is likely that some will be delighted with the additional public exposure, regardless of the cost, I think Religion will realize what a bad deal they got.

The court could have directly upheld the Constitution and recognized the symbols as substantially religious, and erected with the purpose of promoting a specific brand of religion. I suppose in a way, they did uphold the Constitution. They declared the symbols secular, so the issue of religious entanglement was moot. Dilemma solved.

It’s not all bad though. By deeming the symbol and phrase as secular, they helped to maintain the padding around the Constitutional line between religion and government. That means religious institutions can continue to get away with things like not having to report financial information to the IRS and reduced ( if any ) taxes on billions of dollars worth of church property. Well, not bad for Religion, the rest of us have to make up the tax shortfall. This is also briefly addressed in the link above. Like I said, complicated.

If Religion does not want to see its symbols and phrases treated in such a fashion, they could take the bold step of removing these symbols from spaces paid for with public money, in order to preserve whatever meaning they had before the Government was invited in for its 2 cents. There are countless private spaces for these symbols to occupy, in order to preserve their integrity. Or they could leave them up as a public secular symbol of a bygone era. I would advise the former. Either way, Religious symbols no longer on property paid for by all taxpayers.

Sorry for your loss, Religion. But, it is the government, what were you thinking?

John McClean

Midlothian Freethought

Another Midlothian Mirror LTE Rejected. (201909)

I submitted another ‘Letter To The Editor’ (LTE) to The Midlothian Mirror at the first of September. While the person I sent it to did respond thanking me for the submission, I have yet to see it appear in print or on the website. That person did not respond to my email inquiry to find out if it had been published.

My expectations were pretty low that it would see the light of day, but I wanted to give it a chance. The latest ‘Letters’ on the website ( that I could see) were from the first of this year. The print edition usually does not contain local LTE’s even though we live in a community that does not mind speaking up and the paper actively seeks submissions ( via a PO Box – how quaint ). What does appear in the print edition looks to be purchased from one of the news services. Only guessing either there is a shortage of local letters to publish or the letters that do come in are not published because of subject matter. It must be so bad that they fill the space from other papers. The last 2 weeks must have been especially bad, since the print edition from Oct 3rd and Oct 11th have the exact same letters printed from out-of-town sources. I am reminded why I only buy a few issues a year.

I can only guess that while they actively seek LTE’s, they censor what to accept to the extent that most people don’t qualify. Wonder what news we are missing, that may pull too many people out of their comfort zone?

Anyway, here is the apparently rejected letter.

Courage Comes In Many Forms

Reprint of a L.T.E. from 2005, response to those that felt pride in pushing their religion on a captive audience.

I can understand the pride that Elaine Davidson felt for the “booming voice that led the class in prayer” during the graduation ceremony (Opinion – Midlothian Mirror 8/31/05). It takes courage to stand up for ones principles. It also took courage to stand up to the majority with the American ideal that we respect others beliefs, don’t push our religion on a trapped audience, and reject the notion that ‘might makes right’. This event should have been an all-inclusive celebration of 12+ years of hard work and a moment to remember for everyone. Unfortunately many were made to feel excluded. This country is not about majority rule and I hope it never gets to that point. I feel pride for those that took the real risk and stood up against the majority for a principle as old as America. Courage does indeed come in many forms.

John McClean

Midlothian

EV’s and Road Taxes

Several states around the nation have started creating legislation to put an extra registration tax on EV’s ( Electric Vehicles ). The main fuel being electricity, although many states are struggling with the road tax on Natural Gas vehicles.

While many of the solutions appear to be punitive and created to discourage EV use, many are actually trying to create an equitable system to insure all vehicles pay their fair share for maintaining public roads.

Instead of adding a tax for EV’s, my suggestion would be to eliminate all road taxes on fuel. There is substantial evidence that the fund created and funded by the gasoline tax, is only partly ( not mostly ) being used for roads. Politicians are always using money for things they weren’t intended for, and I suspect this fund is no exception. Just another revenue source. Let’s clarify for them.

Eliminate the tax on fuel. While they are at it, remove all taxpayer subsidy for vehicle fuels of all kinds. Offset that revenue source by the existing annual registration. Increase the annual registration to make up the difference and restrict the fund to be only used for roads, bridges, and like infrastructure. The amount will be computed on weight. If improving air quality is an issue, and it should be, take into account fuel efficiency and pollution generated.

The price of petroleum will increase. Heavy and destructive vehicles ( weight and pollution ) would become more expensive and those costs would have to be evaluated by the consumer, based on whatever value those vehicles are providing.

End any special emissions classification for Special Use Vehicles, if indeed we do still have more lenient pollution standards for certain class of vehicles. This would be more of a related fairness issue. Since a tax on weight and capacity would be equitable across the board.

When you go to renew your registration. You will be taxed on weight and carrying capacity. If pollution is important, include efficiency and emissions.

Granted, those that use the roads more will pay the same as those that use them less, for a given weight class. Perhaps buy a smaller lighter car if you don’t do much driving. Another solution would be payment based on miles driven. Certainly a last choice for those that value their privacy. Perhaps some would be willing to forgo that privacy in favor of a lower tax. I realize we already give the government our mileage when we get the vehicle inspected. Just whether you want to officially allow use of that piece of information. Assuming the government can be trusted, subject for another time. I suspect in another 10 years, where you go and which roads you use will be tabulated by the many many traffic detection systems we have. More so if your vehicle is part of the Internet Of Things.

Sound fair. Taxpayers no longer pay for what others choose to drive. Everybody pays for the infrastructure based on what damage their choices do.

I have no doubt that the system they come up with will be far from fair, reward all the wrong choices, and in some ways be really stupid. But, at least different ideas were out there.

I’m sure there are quite a few angles I have not considered. Just trying to get ideas on the fair way to pay for public roads. Ideas?

Public School and Creation Museum

I may submit a ‘Letter to The Editor’ to Midlothian Mirror when I want to spend more time on their website looking for the place to post it. I suspect it is easier to find in the print edition. The original blurb is from, what looks to be, an outside news service. It was about FFRF sending letters to public school districts warning them of the unconstitutional nature of official trips to ‘Creation Museum’ and Ark Encounters’. In response, the ‘Parks’ are offering free admission to official school trips.

——

Thanks go out to Freedom From Religion Foundation ( FFRF ) for reminding Public Schools that school sponsored trips to religious theme parks are not Constitutional, free admission or otherwise. ( Midlothian Mirror 2019-02-07 Faith Section ).

While a trip to the attractions mentioned ( ‘Ark Encounters’ and ‘Creation Museum’ ) could certainly be used as a learning process, we should leave that choice, and cost, up to the guardians of the individual student. Public School money should not be spent indoctrinating children to religion.

We could save a trip and have an open discussion about how likely or unlikely these exhibits are to depict actual events. We could openly and honestly debate which laws of nature would need to be overturned in order for the events depicted in the exhibit to actually be real. A forum where students are allowed to question those things that don’t make sense. That would be educational. Unfortunately I doubt an honest and open discussion is the intention of these particular attractions. Another reason not to use public money, there is little reason to think that either of these exhibits depict anything that is actually true.

John McClean

Midlothian Freethought.

Yes, That would be a Wonderful, Yet Imaginary Place.

This is a response to a friend that was basing his reality on powerful people doing good for us all and that if that were not the case, they would be punished.

Man o man would I like to live in that world. Where powerful, wealthy, greedy people don’t successfully conspire and collude to make sure they stay on top of the heap. Where those same powerful people don’t spend a good deal of that power and wealth to undermine the laws and agencies set up to police them. Where the agencies that are there to give us voice and protect our interests, were not under the control of the aforementioned ruling class. Agencies that are not starved of the needed money and power, to actually do the job they were created to do. A place where those that are kept in check by strong laws and powerful government agencies did not have the power to render those tools useless. A place where our leaders have humanity’s best interests at heart.

Yep, that surely would be a wonderful, yet imaginary, place.

Sadly we don’t live in that place.

To your point. We know the technology exists to fill our skies with chemicals, whether it be weather modification, warfare, climate change remediation, or simple communications enhancement. The patents are there. The government manuals are there. The potential for gaining or keeping great power and wealth are there. They openly talk of this technology. The ONLY thing, the ONLY thing, that keeps them from doing it, is the honesty and humanity of those that make the rules. If that fails, and we know it has, then the laws and agencies that protect us are our last hope. (See first paragraph).

As with any technology that would not be popular, but benefits those described above. They will employ it when they can, and tell you about it when it’s safe for them to do so. If they tell you the truth at all. What it does to humanity and our planet are not on the top of the list.

We live in a place where there is a substantial divide between what those on the top of the heap can get away with, compared to those on the bottom. They have the power to do illegal things and buy the justice they need or change the rules in their favor.

We live in world where most people know what’s going on, or worse, what could be going on, based on visible reality. They simply do not have the freedom to change things without running into the above described class of greedy humans. Dissent, even in large groups, will be penalized and/or marginalized one way or another. Don’t forget who makes the rules, hint – it’s not us.

Neutrality, Our Government and Religion

“Nothing stands behind the Court’s assertion that governmental affirmation of the society’s belief in God is unconstitutional except the Court’s own say-so, citing as support only the unsubstantiated say-so of earlier Courts going back no further than the mid-20th century,” Scalia wrote.”

What the courts have said, and yes their ‘say-so’ actually has weight of law, is that the government cannot show favoritism toward one religion, or another, or no religion, unless it passes certain tests, usually requiring some secular purpose. I suspect the justices would argue the accusation of ‘unsubstantiated’. Interpreted from the Constitution and quite substantial in its own right.

Justices can and have been on the wrong side of issues many times, that is the nature of interpreting founding documents when the founders are all gone. Times change, and it is up to them to decide what stays and what leaves.

The phrase “respecting an establishment of religion” is not so clear cut that it only comes into play if the government wants to actually create ( or sanction ) a national religion. In which one particular belief system is ok and the rest are second class, or worse. It has been interpreted to mean that the government cannot support or favor any particular belief system, it must remain neutral in those matters. It cannot promote or hinder the individual with respect to religion or lack of religion. The courts have the job of deciding what that neutrality should look like. The common sense answer would be to not support, either with money or power, any particular belief system. Neutrality. No religious symbols on public property, no religious reference on the money, no tax dollars supporting religion, no special privileges or tax breaks for religion, and certainly no religious coercion of children in publicly financed schools. I suspect if the public schools were to offer a true objective course on comparative religion, it could do so. I also suspect it would be the last thing the dominant religion(s) in this country would want. Talk about a generation of freethinkers.

Families are free to exercise their belief system at whatever institution they wish, teach their kids, give their money and time, etc. But the government should stay neutral. That is to avoid ‘respecting the establishment of religion’.

“Historical practices thus demonstrate that there is a distance between the acknowledgment of a single Creator and the establishment of a religion,” Scalia wrote in McCreary. “Publicly honoring the Ten Commandments is thus indistinguishable, insofar as discriminating against other religions is concerned, from publicly honoring God. Both practices are recognized across such a broad and diverse range of the population — from Christians to Muslims — that they cannot be reasonably understood as a government endorsement of a particular religious viewpoint.”

Justice Scalia may be right with respect to most religious observances in this country, but publicly honoring God and The Ten Commandments ( surely he can’t say that with a straight face ) only applies to the majority and that is exactly what the Constitution was trying to avoid, the majority deciding what religion is acceptable. He only reinforces the reason why the government must remain neutral. The Justice may have unwittingly became the poster child for the principle he was trying to refute.

And given the Establishment Clause is followed directly by the Free Exercise Clause (“or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”), one might also infer that the Founders felt that the ability to exercise one’s religion freely is a fundamental natural right. If that is the case, when it comes down to disputes over public displays of religion, it seems that the FFRF are the only party in these disputes actually threatening anyone’s constitutional rights.

Just the opposite, organizations like FFRF are working to make sure everyone, non-religious and religious, can practice their beliefs freely without government coercion.

The notion that the Constitution guarantees “separation of church and state” is an insidious myth, employed by militant atheists to keep Christian communities and individuals from celebrating their faith publicly.

The myth here is that this concept is to keep anyone from practicing their beliefs. Rather it is to keep that freedom safe. Perhaps a little reading on the works of Thomas Jefferson and others on their interpretation of the establishment clause. An ideal to keep everyone safe from the dominant religion using the government as a sponsor. Neutrality, plain and simple.