A chance to learn: 9-13/14-2008
Faith's funny side: 9-16-2008

The elixir of freedom: 9-15-2008

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- As part of last week's celebration here of the 100th anniversary of the founding of my alma mater, the University of Missouri School of Journalism, we saw a performance of "Freedom Sings."


As you can see at the Web site to which I've linked you, this is a musical performance having to do with the First Amendment. Naturally, at a journalism school, the part of the First Amendment that gets the most attention is freedom of the press.

But to someone like me whose journalism centers on religion, the freedom of religion and press join together in importance. Let's not, however, forget the other freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. Can you name them? If not, here's the amendment: 

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

In some religious traditions, freedom of inquiry seems limited. That is, adherents are not encouraged to or liberated to ask hard questions, to walk publicly through doubts, to challenge authorities.

I've always believed that any religion that's healthy and whole can stand all the questioning and doubters possible. Each time the freedom to ask questions and seek answers is curtailed, the religion is wounded, it seems to me, just as our government is wounded when it seeks to limit dissent and censor critics.

Politics and religion can be messy things at times. But they can be much healthier because of that very messiness.

* * *


A reader called me the other day after she'd found a DVD called "Obsession" about radical Islam as an insert in a Sunday edition of the New York Times. She was disturbed by it, but wasn't quite sure what to make of it. She told me it was from the Clarion Fund, but couldn't find much information about who was behind that fund, though she said it also was connected with a Web site called Radicalislam.org, an effort created by the Clarion Fund. (I am always skeptical about Web sites that don't tell you who is behind them. This one doesn't.) I told her I'd try to find out what I could about it but I haven't had time to do that. Now I find that Editor & Publisher, a good publication that covers the newspaper industry, has just published this column criticizing that DVD distribution. The media should take great care in writing about any aspect of religion, but especially in distributing information (whether in news stories, columns or advertising material) about fringe elements. Any paper that distributed this "Obsession" DVD without previously having devoted lots of resources and space to examining the phenomenon represented by al-Qaida and other violent approaches to Islam and other religions was acting irresponsibly, in my view.

* * *

P.S.: If, like me, you enjoy Terry Gross' NPR program, "Fresh Air," you might be interested in a new CD that contains her interviews with lots of people on the subjects of "Faith, Reason and Doubt."

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.


Just Thinking

God is punishing the U.S. with all the hurricanes, tornados, floods and fires because the U.S. launched an unjust war against Iraq and will not repent. This is how God treats those He onced loved who will not repent:

Proverbs 29
A man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes
will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.

God brings disasters upon unrepentant nations and people until their stiff knecks are broken, without remedy. He denies them favor, destroys their commerce, and brings plague after plague upon them if they will not repent of their evil toward others. If this nation will not repent of its sin against Iraq and her people, then God is going to bring more and more destruction.

George W. Bush knows that we are engaged in an unjust war against Iraq. He knows that Iraq never had weapons that threatened the rest of the world, certainly none that would warrant a full-scale invasion and take-over. He knows that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with Al Qaeda, and he knows that Hussein was not behind 9/11. George W. Bush knows that North Korea is a serious nuclear threat, but he ignores North Korea. Why? Because there is no oil money there. Greenspan told it as it is: this war was about oil.

George W. Bush willfully defied God's law when he did deliberately bear false witness against his neighbor. He deliberately fabricated lies to push us into a war. He helped his buddies shamelessly profit in no-bid contracts. When Joe Wilson tried to investigate George's claims that Iraq was trying to build nuclear weapons, Bush's cronies exposed Wilson's wife Valerie Plame as a CIA agent. Why?

Proverbs 29
Bloodthirsty men hate a man of integrity
and seek to kill the upright.

Joe Barone

Bill, I saw some ties in the parts of your column today. As I'm sure you know, in some ways the MU school of journalism is struggling. They are trying to decide what to do with the Columbia Missourian the local newspaper put out of J-students. It is hemorrhaging money. And yet the DVD incident shows why strong training, even in newspaper journalism (newspapers are struggling, if not dying) is crucially important. There is an ethics to all this, an ethics which needs to be taught somewhere. So, in a way, I'm sad about what's happening for the Missourian (which, of course, I don't subscribe to). Oh, well.


"God is punishing the U.S. with all the hurricanes, tornados, floods and fires because the U.S. launched an unjust war against Iraq and will not repent."

Just Thinking,

How would you react to someone who stated that the 9/11 attacks were God's punishment on the U.S. for homosexuality and/or abortion?

Unless God gives me direct revelation (which I don't think will happen), I hope I never make a statement that God is punishing someone else for some sin unless it is an obvious direct consequence. I think that is presumptive. However, I do think the Bible is clear that God does send punishment on sin, including natural disasters and enemies.

On a mission trip to Romania, I was very impressed with the Christians there who were concerned about the passage of a law that would negatively affect freedom of religion there in several significant ways (I believe portions if not the whole law did eventually pass). Their response was to consider that this law may be God's punishment on themselves for not being bold with the Gospel, and they called themselves to repentance.

When we see bad things happen around us, perhaps that is a good question to start with - is God calling ME to repent of something?


Thanks so much for the notice of "Freedom Sings", Bill. The subject matter of banned music is fascinating. I happened upon information and a link to a new book on the Hutchinson Family Singers. They were a large NH family, most of whom sang together at concerts in the 19th c. They have been dubbed the first American protest singers, being driven by religious ideas that made them devout abolitionists.


Regarding the film, "Obsesssion"......There's been lots of scuttlebutt in the film community regarding this project. There's no doubt that it's a clear case of political propaganda. The argument from those who support it is, "What's the big deal? If Michael Moore can do it, so can we."

The difference is that a Michael Moore film pretty much lets the viewer know upfront that it is an opinion/editorial piece by the author. AND the viewer has to pay her bucks upfront at the theater to see the piece.

Because legitimate news organizations have chosen to distribute the conservative propaganda, it lends it an air of legitimacy and news worthiness that it does not deserve.

This is identical propaganda to that distributed against the Jews, in order to get the public to accept genocide. Material that perpetrates a religious war of sorts.

This is a blog piece that links the money for the project to a conservative neocon. I want to issue a disclaimer, in that the writer looks legitimate and quotes the highly regarded Israeli newspaper, Haaretz. However, I have not been able to find the source article on Haaretz and once one dirty trick like "Obsession" has been launched, there can be others used to counter. So read with all your critical thinking resources in place.


A P.S. The link I just posted cites the blog "Jews on First". I think this is a fascinating site and right on target with today's topic. It is concerned with religious freedom in America and also has an article on the DVD, "Obsession". http://www.jewsonfirst.com/

Just Thinking


I don't worry about people who don't victimize others. God tells me that it's none of my business. I have no commision to judge those outside the Church who don't victimize others:
1 Corinthians 5
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."
Bush is a WICKED MAN who wears the Christian name.

What consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedrooms is between them and God, unless they victimize children. God will deal with people according to who they are. But God has a CLEAR, UNMISTAKABLE history of SEVERELY PUNISHING those who WILLFULLY VICTIMIZE others and REFUSE TO REPENT. This country has victimized Iraq. No question about it. God makes it clear that he will not tolerate such unrepented victimization; we will pay.

For far too long people have had the idea that God does not cause bad things to happen to you. Where in the hell did such stupid ideas originate? That's nonsense. Of course He will cause bad things to happen to PROUDLY, DELIBERATELY EVIL PEOPLE! There is no question that they will be punished. There is no question that those who once tasted the things of God and then deliberately walk away will be SEVERELY punished.
Hebrews 6
It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.


And a P.P.S......For those who have bought into the Republican hype regarding Obama's tenure as community organizer, you might be interested in the posting I made last night on yesterday's blog.

Dolores Lear

GOD, nor God our Human Ancestors, Punish. These thoughts in the Past and Present, were written by Humans without High Tech Science Knowledge, in the Scripture and Myth.

Humans without High Tech Knowledge translated the Past History of Before the Flood, the best they could and Called it God. They could not Know about Atom/Nuclear bombs, that were used at Sodom and Gomorrah, by the Noah/Atlantis Society.

Or other destruction caused by their Unbalanced Elements, that caused the Planetary Flood. Many Nature Catastrophes said to have been punishment by God.

Today we have again Experienced an Unbalanced Element High Tech Science Explosion, and some in the Green Revolution, Know what our Pollution has done to our Atmosphere. We also have Atom bombs, we used on 2 cities in Japan, just as Noah/Atlantis did.

We are also setting up the 'Planetary' Fire Judgement Day, not God our Ancestors. Humans have Blamed God ever since they were Reproduced by Heterosexual Body Birth, the Original Sin that is the Blame for All Killing and Catastrophes.

GOD that made the Elements, nor Our Ancestors, Control our Unbalanced Elements.

It is Time for Humans to become the Caretaker Species of the Life on Earth, instead of the Killers.

With our High Tech Science we Can Know Adam and Eve Clones were Humans, not reproduced by Body Birth. They caused all these Problems on Earth when they Reproduced Killer Children by Body Birth, and lost their High Tech Science.

Eternal Human Life is for the Living, not the Dead, on Planets and in Spaceships.

Dolores Lear

Asexual Human Male and Female Clones, had Free Will, and the Elixir of Freedom to Live by God's Two Rules. 'Love GOD', and 'Love your Brother/Sister Clones'.

They have not been understood as the Freedom, from the Human Bondage of Heterosexual Birth. So instead of God's Rules, we live in Bondage to the Ten Commandments for Fallen Humans, and Government Rules.

The World has Human Bondage by Lust of the Flesh, and the Pride of life's 'things'. With High Tech Asexual Reproduction with No Flesh Lust, All Resources and Things are Shared Equally. Pride in having More, is not part of the Equal Living Lifestyle.

1 John 2:15,16. KJV. "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."

How do Humans Abideth forever? By High Tech Science Reproduction, Regeneration, and Space Travel. Humans can have Eternal Physical Life, After Birth, on Planets and in Spaceships?

Until the 1900s, Humans had lost their High Tech Science Knowledge of Eternal Physical Life After Birth, and taught it happened After Death.

When the Bible and Myth is translated with High Tech Science, The Truth will set us Free from Physical Death.

What Rules do we Train up a Child, as he/she should go? "Love One Another, Do Not Kill, Turn The Other Cheek"? Where did these teachings come from? God and Jesus, or Government? How can Humans Serve Two Masters, God and Government, with Free Will?

Robert Ingersoll

Dear Just Thinking,

You wrote, "God is punishing the U.S. with all the hurricanes, tornados, floods and fires because the U.S. launched an unjust war against Iraq and will not repent."

For what was the U.S. being punished before the escapade in Iraq? I mean, our fair nation has encounted worse hurricanes, tornadoes, floods & fires well before Iraq was even a nation in its current incarnation.

Could it simply be that these are natural phenomenom? Hmm. I'm "just thinking."

IGGY - www.KCFreeThinkers.org

What was the US punished for when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor? What was Europe punished for when WWI and WWII begain? What was LA punished for during the infamous earthquake there? What was New Orleans punished for with Katrina?

Following JustThinking's line of thought (which is circular) we have to look for god's wrath imposed on us.

So, what are all the innocent children were punished for by drowning during the Pacific tsunami a couple of years ago?

Can you find a quote for that in the comics called the Bible? Oh, it's already been all written up - it's the Flood all over again and every year, every month, every week, every day somewhere in the world.

Because these INNOCENT CHILDREN ARE PAYING/PUNISHED FOR THE SINS OF THEIR PARENTS who are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace BCEAUSE THEY HAVE NOT FOUND HIM YET.

Or something close to that.

Just Thinking

Like it or not, KCFreeThinker, God punishes sins. You can look around at the Universe and know that there is such a thing as good and evil. And you can daily see that evil is punished. And you can daily know that evil should be stopped. There may be a season in which it goes unpunished, but we all innately know that our own evil should be punished. We have set up institutions to punish evil, too. Our institutions reflect God's demands for blind justice, justice that does favor the poor or the rich, justice that does not favor the Jew or the Gentile.

It is this knowledge of good and evil, and of fair and righteous judgment that points to God Himself, to an ideal from which we have been cut off, but for which we desparately search.
Romans 1
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth BY THEIR WICKEDNESS, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are WITHOUT EXCUSE.

Everyone innately knows that they are deserving of punishment for their own evil. We rejoice when evil perpetrators are stopped. Though we may not rejoice in the punishment, we know that punishment is deserved. This is part of discerning the divine nature of God. This is part of knowing what God expects. This is part of knowing that nobody measures up.

Sometimes God stops nations. God offers eternal justice to children, even if their lives are not spared (just not your idea of justice.)

adam harrison

Just Thinking, well said. You should know that KCFreethought and Ingersoll are our old friend Iggy. (Those of you not familiar with him can view his "best work" in the December and January archives.)

He is currently bragging about it at the Atheist Nexus.

adam harrison

Tell me, KCFreethought, do you have concern for the millions of INNOCENT CHILDREN that are aborted every year? Or are they just "subhumans."?

IGGY - www.KCFreeThinkers.org


It not Iggy who posted as Robert Ingersoll. It is another person, X... who is a member of the KCFreeThinkers group as indicated in the e-mail below posted to KCFreeThinkers discussion group.

--- In KCAtheists@yahoogroups.com, T... wrote:
I replied to the guy who claims to be "just thinking." My response is as Robert Ingersoll, of course. ;)

If you can prove otherwise, you are more then welcome. Also, if you can prove you are "adamh" and have children this would be helpful too.

Don't forget your irrational behavior bans you on discussion blogs where otherwise "normal and logical" individual will continue without you.

adam harrison

I am not adamh, that is another person who is a member of a group I have participated in.

If you can prove otherwise, you are more than welcome. As for children, I am much too young for that!

As to proof that you are Iggy, you have bragged about it at the atheist nexus, and anyone who cares to review your work in the December and January archives can see that you even make the same spelling mistakes.

And I don't know what discussion blogs ban me, but if you can prove otherwise, you are more than welcome.

(Just Thinking, you will note that this pattern of denial on "freethinkers" part is exactly Iggy's modus operandi.

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