Archive for the Christianity (General) Category


Well boys, the German Pope has stuck both feet in it. Every person who ever lived on a farm where cattle were pastured will recognize the “it” in the previous sentence. George Herbert Walker Bush, our preppy former president, never lived on a farm, but he refers to the “it” as “deep doo doo.”

Old Joseph Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict the Sixteenth, made a pronouncement this week at Regensburg University in Germany in which he quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor. The Emperor said, as quoted by Ratzinger, that the Moslems spread their faith only at the tip of a sword. I am amazed that the German Pope would make such remarks reflecting so poorly on the Moslem faith. Has the Pope forgotten the Crusades when Moslems were also put to the sword? Has the Pope forgotten the Inquisition when Jews in Europe were burned at the stake for their failure to convert to Christianity? Does Herr Ratzinger remember Joan of Arc? Does Herr Ratzinger also remember Galileo?

But in addition to the Pope’s onslaught against the Moslems, we now have the august George W. Bush proclaiming that much of the Moslem faith is given to “Islamic fascism.” Can anyone blame the Moslems for detecting another Crusade sponsored by the Vatican and by the Republican party of the United States? And then, should we wonder why Catholic Churches around the world will become targets of suicide bombers? And what about such a bomber appearing in St. Peter’s Square when the Pope waves from his window periodically?

Ratzinger and Bush have put the entire Catholic Church at risk from those “Islamo-Fascists.” In the meantime, neither has the Pope made a convincing case with respect to his joining the Nazi Party during World War II, nor has Bush explained his copout to the National Guard during the Vietnam War. Perhaps these men were made for each other.

And while we are at it, please do not dismiss the German Pope’s addiction to meddling in political affairs. In 2004, he meddled in American politics by advising that communion could be withheld from John Kerry, a devout Catholic. Kerry’s sin was that he did not oppose abortion in every possible case, such as rape or incest. Consider also that the Pope asked that Turkey be denied membership in the European Union because it is a non-Christian secular country. And consider Ratzinger’s interference this year in an Italian election having to do with birth control devices.

If George Bush had read history, he would find that the Fascist movement was established in the 1920’s by Benito Mussolini as a political party. Its members wore black shirts. I suspect that in Iraq and in the rest of the world, if you see a man with olive skin wearing a black wool shirt in 120 degree temperature, he should be tortured and beheaded on the ground that he is one of those Islamo-Fascists. All of this should be done while singing, “Onward Christian Soldiers.” With Bush and Ratzinger hard at work, it makes grabbing the third rail extremely tempting.

This week the Guardian of London reports that during his reign over the Catholic Church, the Pope has called Buddhists “Masturbators of the mind.” Remember, this comes from the celibate Vicar of Rome. This non-believer is going to rely on prayer to relieve his astonishment.

The point that must be made here, is that every religion tells its worshipers that it is a religion of love. That assertion has oxymoronic qualities to it. While the adherents to the religion claim that it is a religion of love, the fact is that it is often a matter of hatred and war. Consider also the Moslem hatred for Christians and for the Jews. Consider the mutual hatred in India between the Hindus and the Moslems. Consider the intra-Moslem debate between the Shias and the Sunnis which is now proceeding to a civil war in Iraq. And consider the Christian onslaught as represented by the United States and its allies against the Moslems who reside in Iraq. Are all of these acts exhibits of peace and love?

Likewise, in this country, there seems to be no love lost between the various branches of the Christian faith. They rarely hold inter-denominational congregations preferring to claim that those other religionists who call themselves Christians, can’t possibly get to heaven because they don’t worship exactly as we do.

But all of the dislike and hatred among the religionists pales in comparison with their denunciations of those of us who are non-believers. They call us agnostics which we freely admit. When we are called atheists we plead guilty on all counts. They call us godless which is precisely the case. While all these things are true – and the nonbelievers make no apologies for them – the godless ones generally speaking are good citizens. They pay their taxes, they vote, and they serve their country in wartime, which is not the case with the current Christian President and Vice President of the United States.

Those of us who are nonbelievers contend that our beliefs are based solely on logic. Those who adopt faith appear to have abandoned logic. The dictionary defines faith as a belief in something unsupported by facts. But be that as it may, I would hope that there is a common meeting ground in the principles enunciated by the Bible hundreds of years ago. I am fully aware that for a nonbeliever to cite the Bible as his reason for his conduct may fly into the face of believability. Nonetheless, let me give it a try.

In the book written by Isaiah, which predates the Christian era by several hundred years, we find this passage: “Come, let us reason together.” (Isaiah chapter I, verse 18) If God or Allah or any other celestial creature, such as the so called Intelligent Designer, gave man the power of reason, man would have to reject, for example, the thought that Joshua could stop the sun in its tracks. Furthermore, Galileo, who believed that the earth circled the sun, almost paid with his life when the Inquisition insisted that it was the other way around. He recanted, but as he left the court he said under his breath, “nonetheless it moves,” meaning the earth. Similarly, the man of reason would have grave doubts about the stories of Jonah in the bile juice of the great fish, the parting of the Red Sea, and the legend of loaves and fishes.

If God or Allah or the Intelligent Designer or whatever gave men the ability to reason, it must be comprehended that making religious war, one on the other, is an exercise in self defeat. America seems to get along reasonably well with the Hindus in India and with the Buddhists who occupy a large part of the world. I suspect that if we were to treat the Moslem nations with respect that they too could become our friends. And please do not forget that the Arabs are sitting on our oil supply.

Bill Clinton has made the point that the settlement of the Israeli Palestinian dispute is the key to peaceful relations with the Moslem countries. We ought to take his advice immediately. It is one of the hallmarks of his current thinking. It holds that people who think well of you are more likely to grant you favors rather than if you adopt a hostile attitude toward them. This is elemental. The overwhelming point is that man has the capacity to reason and if he uses that facility, he will enjoy peace and prosperity. If he does not, man will be plagued by war, disease, poverty and general ill feeling. Isaiah was completely correct.

Now let us turn to another Biblical author called Micah. In the Book of Micah, in the sixth chapter, there is a sixth verse which holds, “What does the Lord require of thee; to love mercy, to do justly and to walk humbly with thy God.”

Micah wrote this some 800 years before the Christian era began. If I might try to improve upon Micah, I would say that, “The Lord also requireth of thee to admit error and to grant forgiveness.” I know it is presumptuous of me at this late date to try to improve upon Micah who is described as a minor prophet, but my additions seem worthwhile to me and I have heard no objection from my old friend, Micah.

It appears to me as an elderly citizen and as an old soldier, that if we were to offer the rest of the world mercy and just treatment instead of offering domination and warfare, and if we were also to walk humbly with whatever God there might be, the prospects for the United States would be greatly and enormously enriched. This nonbeliever, atheist, agnostic, godless or what have you, has had Micah firmly imprinted on his mind for several years. I hope that Micah has guided my conduct just as I hope that it guides the conduct of the United States of America.

I am fully aware that writing on the subject of religion is the third rail of American public discourse. And I am aware that I will be denounced by preachers and politicians. But it is those preachers and politicians with their fervent embrace of holy symbols that have largely failed. (See Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Carl Rove, et. al.) Preachers and politicians will almost always decline any enlightened thought. But it seems to me that relying on the words of Isaiah and Micah might be eminently worthwhile.

Here is my thought. Let us reason together which will lead to acts of mercy. Let us reason together which will cause men to do justly one to another. And let us walk humbly while we admit error and grant forgiveness. I am an old man and I do not expect to see all of these things happen in my limited lifetime. But I hope that they come to pass before my children and grandchildren leave the scene.

Now may the congregation stand and sing the first, third and the seventh verse of Hymn number 341, “Blessed Assurance.”

September 16, 2006


Who picks a fight with Buddhists, honestly? And why? I guess the same guy who wanted to deny Turkey EU membership on the grounds of being too secular, despite the EU being an overtly secular organization.
Anyway, I think that the operative concept here — anyone you treat like an enemy will eventually become one, so let’s try to get along — is clearly sound. But like Pop mentioned, there’s no moving forward until we admit that we were wrong and take steps to make amends, and it’s hard to picture that happening. The American political scene tends to demonize anyone who changes his or her mind as a waffler, so apologizing for past mistakes becomes a sign of weakness.


As a general rule, Gentiles who profess a religious faith tend to claim that they are Christians of one sort or another. While Christianity requests that it adherents subscribe to various rules, a good many rules are ignored or are deliberately violated. A case in point is the Catholic teaching that use of birth control is a major sin. If that is so, why do so many Catholic couples call it quits after having two or three children? Are these couples leading celibate lives for the bulk of their marriages? Probably not.

There is also a Christian rule found in the third commandment of the Ten Commandments barring the use of God’s name in vain. As in the case of birth control, this dictum is often ignored or violated. This immutable fact underlies the use of the expression, “Oh, Good Jesus.” This is simply an expression. It is not a cry for Jesus to scoop them up and comfort them. This expression occurs when a statement is made that violates all the accepted principles of credulity. For example, when someone tells you that poor people who do not have enough to eat are ecstatic with their circumstances, the common reaction is generally, “Oh Good Jesus.” The same expression applies when the grand dragon of the Republican Party tells us that the war in Iraq is being fought to make American homes and citizens more secure. Precisely the opposite is the case.

This essay is largely about the abuses of the Bushies in the New Orleans disaster which makes it eminently appropriate for Jews, Buddists, Pagans, Seventh Day Adventists, Hindus and Zoroastrians to join in the chorus of “Oh, good Jesus.”

The actions of the Bush people about the calamity that was visited upon New Orleans are instructive. Barbara Bush must have enjoyed a terrible fit of anger when she conceived her oldest son, George W. The virgin birth that followed was sanctified 55 years later by the law firm of Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas when they anointed him the President of these United States. When Barbara Bush visited the evacuees from New Orleans in their current home in Houston, she said the following:

“This is working out very well for them. Almost everyone I’ve talked to says they’re going to move to Houston. What I’m hearing is they all want to stay in Texas. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this – this (she cackles slightly) is working out very well for them.”

Marie Antoinette is alive and well in Barbara Bush.

She was speaking about people who had lost everything back home in New Orleans. Barbara says they were underprivileged anyway, so obviously, things are working out well. They are broke, with no job prospects, often separated from their families and 350 miles away. So for Barbara Bush, who more or less said “Let them eat cake,” it must be said:

Oh good Jesus! Barbara, are you nuts?

Her prosperous son, George W. announced in a photo op cabinet meeting that HE, PERSONALLY, was going to find out “what went right and what went wrong.” This, of course, is nothing more than a whitewash. The New York Times says, “We can’t imagine a worse idea.” To that eminent investigative sleuth, we say:

George, good Jesus. Shades of John Ashcroft in the Valerie Plame outing. The MAN himself is going to investigate his own Administration and his own mistakes? Give me a break!

In April or May, when George W. paid a condolence call on Cindy Sheehan and others who had lost their sons in Iraq, he stepped in the room and said, according to Ms. Sheehan, “And who are we honoring today?”

The President of the United States with a support staff numbering in the thousands, cared so little that he ignored, out of laziness, the work done for him prior to his meeting with the bereaved parents. Simply put, he cared not at all. “So who are we honoring here today?”

George, Oh good Jesus is insufficient in this case.

While we are on the deplorable subject of Bush, he is quoted everywhere as saying, “Who knew that waves would top the levees?” The reason those waves topped the levees is that the Bush Administration stopped the work of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer and used the money for tax cuts and for Iraq. Any more questions?

This brings to mind Bush’s girlfriend, Condoleezza who said that prior to September 11, 2001, “NO ONE ever thought of planes flying into buildings.” Madame Secretary was absent from school on the day when Kamikazi crashes in WWII were discussed. That happened in 1943, 1944 and 1945. The World Trade Center happened in 2001. Madame Rice was uninformed for 55 years.

To Bush and his paramour, we say, Oh good Jesus in spades!

More on George W. Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives met with Bush in the presence of others. She asked him, in view of everything that went wrong in New Orleans by FEMA, why didn’t Bush fire Michael Brown, head of FEMA. She said that Bush replied, “Why would I do that?” According to Minority Leader Pelosi, Bush said he was unaware of things going wrong in New Orleans. Figure that one out. It must be supposed that the debacle in New Orleans was only a Democratic plot.

On Thursday, the 8th, the Bush Administration starting with Scott McClelland, tried to peddle the line that there had been no colloquy between Pelosi and Bush. Plainly and flatly, the White House was calling Pelosi a liar even though there were several other witnesses.

For this we say, “Oh, sweet smelling good Jesus.” Does anyone see the hand of Karl Rove in this mess?

Dennis Hastert, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, said, “It makes no sense to spend the money to rebuild New Orleans.” Perhaps in Hastert’s view, Bourbon and Canal Streets and all the surrounding New Orleans territory would become a parking lot. This came after he promoted the pork heavy highway bill that donated $200 million to Hastert’s district in Illinois, for his “Prairie Parkway.” That same bill appropriated something on the order of $1 billion to build a bridge in Alaska to connect an outlying island to the mainland. The bridge exceeds the cost of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and connects the 50 residents of the island with the rest of Alaska so that cars do not have to take the ferry. But to rebuild New Orleans? No way. That is good money chasing bad dreams. For you, Dennis Hastert, we say:
Oh good Jesus! Hastert has no shame at all.

When the inept Michael Chertoff who supposedly runs the Department of Homeland Security and his completely incompetent helper, Michael Brown of FEMA said, after two of three days of national television pictures of the squalor in the New Orleans Superdome, “We just found out today about people in the Superdome.” They must watch no television news programs. To them, we say:

Michael and Michael, Oh good Jesus to both of you lying fools.

The Associated Press had a dispatch picked up all over the world. It said that Brown of FEMA had waited – in spite of warnings – until after Katrina had struck the coast. Hours after the disaster, Brown asked Chertoff to dispatch FEMA employees to the region and said that they should arrive “In the next two days.” He wrote that “they should convey a positive image” about the government response. Two days to get there with the thoughts that they were no more than shills for the government’s image. To you, Chertoff and to you Brown –

Oh double good Jesus.

At the photo op cabinet meeting, our Commander in Chief is quoted in the New York Times as “sneering” when he said, “One of the things that some people want us to do here is to play a blame game.” This is the fellow who blamed the lowly enlisted personnel at Abu Ghraib for the nightmare there – and no court-martials or anything else for officers or for Rumsfeld. Only Brigadier General Janet Karpinski, a woman, was censured. This is the fellow, along with Karl Rove, who is contriving blame for Mrs. Blanco, the female Governor of Louisiana – who is a Democrat – to accept responsibility for the Federal government’s failure. For the criminal actions of George Bush, we can only say –

Oh good Jesus! This Administration makes no mistakes.

Even in the early days of the Katrina disaster, there are dozens of other examples where the Bush people failed to take action. George himself took two days to cut off his five week vacation. Then he donned his Air Force #1 jacket to fly over the misery. From 20,000 feet, there is not much that anyone can do.

Tom Friedman, who writes op-ed pieces for the New York Times berated the Administration in scathing terms on September 7, 2005. His two closing thought was:

“If Mr. Bush goes back to his politics as usual, he’ll be thwarted at every turn…Katrina will have destroyed a city and a president.”

If Katrina delivers us from the inept George Bush by destroying his presidency, even this old non-believer will say, “Thank you, Jesus” in place of “Oh good Jesus.”

Final thoughts at this time some ten days after Katrina hit. A poll among Republicans disclosed that 74% of the Republicans polled approve of Bush’s handling of the emergency. This must mean that 74% of the Republican base has no understanding of the poverty that was the lot of New Orleans residents. It must mean that compassion for black people

is something we talk about occasionally – but we do nothing about it. It must mean that the New Orleans disaster makes interesting commentary
during our Republican polo games played at our country club. In a nutshell, it means that Barbara Bush’s attitude of “Let them eat cake” prevails from the boy-king down to the precinct leader in Louisiana. To all of them, every American should say:

Oh, good Jesus! And the Republicans claim to love God and Jesus and the Holy Ghost!

September 8, 2005


Waiting until after a massive hurricane makes landfall to dispatch aid is inexcusable. Sure, if the hurricane is a week away, don’t dispatch FEMA. But if it’s a day away, or twelve hours away, you can be faily certain that it will land, and fully certain that people will need help. The idea that 74% of Republicans thought that that as “good enough” is horrifying.


Those of you who have read these essays may recall my long term high regard for the intellectual achievements of H.L. Mencken, reporter, editor and commentator of the Baltimore Sunpapers as well as the editor and publisher of the Smart Set and the American Mercury magazines. Mencken was also the author of some 80 books including the monumental three volume work on the “American Language.”

When it came to biblical miracles and the state of the American electorate, Mencken was ordinarily acerbic. Fifty years have now passed since Mencken’s death. As an observer of the passing American political scene, the reasons for being acerbic have now increased exponentially.

The American electorate is terminally uninformed – by its own choice. Readership in newspapers and news magazines has fallen dramatically. At the same time, there is a gigantic increase in watching tasteless television shows. Gossip and “reality” shows are everywhere. At a time of great national debate about such things as the ill-gotten war in Iraq, or stem cell research, much of the American electorate was absorbed in the Michael Jackson trial or in trash TV shows such as “Desperate Housewives.” The Fox TV network is nothing more than an outlet for the propaganda of the Bush Administration.

Two observations of Mencken made in the 1920’s continue to have relevance today. In the first, Mencken wrote, “No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.”

The second Mencken quote was made in 1920 and had to do with the American presidency. In it, Mencken writes, “As democracy is perfected, the office of the president represents more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their hearts desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a down right moron.”

There are a good number of observers, American and foreign, who have long since concluded that that day arrived in 2001 with the inauguration of George W. Bush.

It is my long held contention that the decline in the perception of the American electorate is due largely, or exclusively, to the effects of religion. There are those in the conservative movement such as Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, who contend that there is no such thing as the separation between church and state in this country. George Bush has given U.S. government grants of more than one billion dollars to religious organizations in his so-called “Faith Based Initiative.” Bush and the conservatives have moved this country from a democracy toward a Fascist Republican theocracy. Under Bush, there is an ever increasing limitation of our civil liberties.

To the extent that Americans embrace evangelic concepts, there will be grave disenchantment among intellectuals here and abroad where secular concepts are well established. The plain fact is that as the American electorate embraces religious concepts, it is committed to accepting ideology over reality. The fantasies of Bush and Tony Blair impose religious belief over reason, faith over facts. The conservatives live in an Alice-in-Wonderland faithfulness. For example, they believe that Bush wants to get to the bottom of the Karl Rove “outing” blunder.

The dictionary defines faith as “Firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” American GI’s used to say that faith applies when the facts or the brains run out. Not a very convincing prospect for running democracies such as the U.K. or the U.S.

My basic premise is that to the extent that the American electorate believes in Biblical myths, fantasies and impossible miracles, that same electorate will be willing to accept the lies, half truths, distortions and the inverse logic of the Bush administration.

If, for example, you believe that the Bible is the word of God, it is likely that you will, indeed, believe that Joshua stopped the sun and the moon in their tracks. (Joshua X:12 and 13) If any religionist accepts that thought, it will be easy for such a person to believe the war in Iraq is going swimmingly and that the insurgency is “in its final throes,” according to Chaney.

If, in accepting the word of God as reported by the Bible, you actually believe that Jonah spent three days among the gastric juices in the belly of “a great fish,” it should give you no trouble in believing that the war in Iraq is being fought to “lay the groundwork for democracy.” (See Bush at the G-8 meeting in Scotland earlier this month.)

If you believe in demons and witchcraft which can only be thwarted by fervent prayer and making contributions to the church coffers, you should have no trouble at all in believing that Terri Schiavo was afflicted by demons placed there by her husband.

If you believe as a matter of conscience that the recent tsunami was not the work of God but of Satan, then you are a prospect for fighting to do away with the “morning after” pill and all contraception in the name of holy abstinence.

If you believe that it is a fact that Jesus could cure dropsy and leprosy, then you must be willing to accept the ban, by Bush, on stem cell research. More than 70% of Americans believe the ban is ill conceived.

If you believe that Jesus could control a violent storm by yelling at it, then you must believe that there is no such thing as global warming. Small note: On July 24, 2005 the temperature in Chicago, the Windy City, was 103 degrees. On that same evening, the St. Louis Cardinals hosted the Chicago Cubs in an evening game. The temperature was 96 degrees. Global warming, the subject of the Kyoto Treaty, is a fact regardless of what Bush thinks.

If you believe as a matter of fact that Jesus could walk on water, then you are a candidate to believe that Karl Rove and “Scooter” Libby did nothing to “out” Valerie Plame. It was simply a matter of divine providence.

Blindness is a matter of special interest to me. If you believe that blindness yields to divine power, then can we be told why there are so many seeing eye dogs and white canes? Are all blind people unremitting sinners?

If you believe that impotence and a case of high fever can be taken care of by appeals to preachers and saints, as stated in the Bible, then why do we have Medicare and thousands of specialists and hospitals? And what about Cialis and Viagra? Do they have divine approval?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which is usually referred to as the Mormon Church, believes that Joseph Smith uncovered a secret tablet buried in the outskirts of Palmyra, New York. Mormons believe that Smith was given a special pair of spectacles so he could read the sacred tablet, which became the Mormon Bible. Now if you believe that preposterous myth, then you should have no trouble in believing that God, himself or herself, asked or directed George Bush to be the United States president. Bush would not have accepted the direction from anyone else.

A report in the July 30, 2005 issue of the Newark Star-Ledger says that a plaster statue of Jesus, in Newark, winked at some viewers. Others said the statue closed its eyes and other said it wept. All this from a plaster Jesus rescued from a trash heap last year. Now it you believe that the statue winks, closes its eyes and sheds tears, then you should have no trouble believing that Bush is indeed, a uniter not a divider.

Finally, if you accept the thought that Jesus fed a multitude with a fish or two, please call him to deal with Bush when in a matter of two or three years, our budget surplus has turned into an enormous deficit. Our financial future is in the hands of Chinese bankers. As Chaney said, “Deficits don’t matter.” Our children and grandchildren will find out about that preposterous thought.

There are hundreds of examples which demonstrate that as belief in myths, fantasies and impossible miracles imprison the American electorate, they will tend to accept the lies of the Bush administration and as they did in 2004, they will vote against their own self interests.

Bush is a divisive influence. His interests are in the wealthy and in big corporations, certainly not in people trying to make it from one paycheck or one welfare check to the next one.

It pains me greatly as a patriot and as an old soldier to see what Bush has done to this country, which is becoming a fascist state through the imposition of laws restricting civil liberties.

Bush and Blair loudly proclaim their devotion to God, which primarily accounts for ignorant rubes voting to violate their own interests. Bush has always maintained that the “enemies” of the U.S. are motivated by jealousy of our freedom. Blair has now followed with a series of statements calling the London bombings are the product of a “vile philosophy.” Bush are Blair have terminal cases of ineptitude. As long as the U.S. and the U.K. occupy an Arab land, there will be continued insurgency and more bombings on our home territory. They are deceiving themselves with talk of jealousy of our freedom or a “vile philosophy.” We are brutal occupiers, which earns us every hard knock that the Arabs can launch on us.

Now for a geography lesson. The Red Sea covers 170,000 square miles. Its width is 225 miles and its trough is 7000 feet. It connects the Gulfs of Aqaba and Suez in the north with the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea in the south. There is a local preacher who often refers to the parting of the waters of the Red Sea so some children of God could walk across. If you accept that as a fact of history, you will have no trouble with Bush claiming he has found the WMD’s, as he claimed in Poland, or with his desire to “get to the bottom” of the Karl Rove scandal. Again the American electorate, particularly in the South, is a willing victim of belief in miracles that have never happened. But they believe.

Before leaving the subject of miracles and the American electorate, it may be well to consider the role of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Mary’s alleged “bodily assumption” into a place called Heaven.

In the Catholic Church, Mary holds the rank of the “Perpetual Virgin.” Specifically, it means that having borne Jesus, she is still somehow a Virgin who is untouched by Original Sin.

Now if the Perpetual Virgin is accepted by large segments of the American electorate, how does it square with the Gospel of Mark? In Chapter 6, Verse 2, he speaks of the wisdom of Jesus’ teachings.

Verse 3 then says: “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joses and of Juda and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.”

The Bible says Mary produced at least seven children. How does that square with her “Perpetual Virginity”?

In Galatians, Chapter 1, Verse 19, we find: “But other of the apostles saw I none, save James, the Lord’s brother.”

In the Missouri Ozarks where tall tales come from, selling Mary as a normal virgin, much less as a perpetual virgin, would take salesmanship to its outer limits. And yet people who believe this myth are full fledged members of the American electorate. Mencken, where are you now?

Speaking of the Missouri Ozarks brings up some uplifting further points about Mary’s virginity or lack thereof. My recent reading has taken me to John Shelby Spong, the retired Episcopal Bishop of Newark. Spong is a learned man who has written 24 books. His latest is “Sins of Scripture” published earlier this year. With respect to Mary’s alleged virginity, Spong has this to say about apologists who supported the idea of Mary’s perpetual virginity:

“The holy womb which bore the Christ child, could not have been contaminated later by other babies…
Suddenly, the brothers and sisters of Jesus, mentioned in Galatians (1:19) and Mark (6.3) had to be reconfigured: They became half siblings, cousins or perhaps Joseph’s children from a prior marriage and thus no kin at all of Jesus.

“Later they saw in the Johannine story of the resurrection an account in which Jesus came into the room even though the windows were shut and the door locked, another indication of the ability of Jesus to pass through the birth canal without destroying the virginal hymen. Tales actually began to circulate about Jesus being born out of Mary’s ear.”

So you see, Bishop Spong, a holy man, has written an account of Mary’s virginity that even the tellers of stories in the Ozarks could not top. And the Mary supporters are often Republican stalwarts.

Now to take the legend of the virginity of Mary one step further, we find that on December 8, 1854, the Vatican declared her to be immaculately conceived without original sin. On November 1, 1950, the Vatican announced that the bodily assumption of Mary into heaven. Some 1950 years after Mary expired, the Vatican proclaimed that her body left earth and was received in heaven. Bishop Spong has this to say about bodily ascension:

“Of course stories of bodily ascensions are mythological. One does not get to heaven by rising off the ground and heading into the sky. One might end up in orbit instead. That would present an interesting portrait: Jesus circling the earth in eternal orbit. Failing that, one might rise into the infinity of space. It would be a long journey. Of the ascension of Jesus could occur at the speed of light, approximately 186,000 miles per second, it would still take Jesus more than 100 thousand years just to escape our single galaxy to say nothing of the other two hundred billion or so galaxies in the visible universe.”

So it must be assumed that Bishop Spong must doubt Mary’s alleged ascension to a place of eternal ecstasy far above the clouds. The point here is simple. People who accept the Mary myth as a fact must believe that Bush, who claims he is a man of God, has the best interests of Christians and Moslems and Hindus and Buddhists and non-believers at heart at all times. That is some stretch.

In this essay, we started out by referring to Henry Mencken about the sad state of American democracy. We ended with the writing of Bishop John Shelby Spong, one of the most influential Protestant churchmen in the United States. Mencken and Spong are both realists, which accounts for their attraction to everyone with a modicum of intellect.

This essay would not be complete without a reference to the Evangelist Pat Robertson. When we speak of the deficiencies of the American electorate and the influence of religion on its thoughts, Pat Robertson is one of the preachers we have in mind.

In 1992 in a fund raising effort, the apostle Pat Roberson wrote these lines:

“The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”

We know that the American electorate is motivated largely by religious concerns no matter if those concerns are based on myths, fantasies and impossible miracles. To the extent that the views of Pat Robertson and his kind are reflected in the American electorate, rational people will be repulsed and the march toward a Fascist theocracy will continue. As for Henry Mencken and for most objective observers of the American electorate, acerbic is still the operative word.

This essay has been written with the hope that sanity will eventually replace the myths, fantasies and miracles that now prevail. It may be a forlorn hope, but it’s all we have at this juncture.

July 27, 2005


It should be noted that all of these essays have that Copyright line in there, which I don’t tend to include. I’m not sure he ever actually got such a copyright registered, but it’s always on there. I wonder if I’ve been in violation by failing to include it.
Essays like this also remind me to be thankful that Tom DeLay is no longer a thing that I have to think about. Take what you can get, you know?

OH, DIDN’T HE RAMBLE | Meditations: Chapter 17, Verses Amu to Emu

For good reasons, New Orleans remains in the news. Its prominence in the news may go on for years. Two events account for our attention to New Orleans these days. The first is the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. The second is a presumably powerful prayer released by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian who claims that he is responsible for the insurgency in Iraq.

So that there is no mistake of any kind, the author of this essay is no Methodist Bishop. He is unaffiliated with any religion and accepts the discipline of no faith. Accordingly, his views on religious matters are offered as distinctly objective observations. The questions that are asked herein are intended to fill in the holes of a non-believer’s intellect. And so we start with Abu Musan al-Zarqawi.

This past week, al-Zarqawi announced that Hurricane Katrina came about as the result of prayers directed by himself and other Muslim faithful to Allah, who presumably resides in Paradise. While Paradise seems to be located somewhere in outer space, it would seem to occupy a different location from the Heaven that Christians aspire to. For example, Roman Catholics insist that their church is the only true church. Joseph Ratzinger, the Bishop of Rome and the current Pope, probably would take enormous objection to having an Islamic Paradise located anywhere near the Heaven that is presided over by the Christian Trinity. It is possible that outer space may become cluttered with Paradises and Heavens when the Buddhists, the Hindus, the Seventh Day Adventists and other faiths construct their final resting place.

Al-Zarqawi insists that his praying to Allah brought Katrina to New Orleans. He may have been inspired by a group of militant branch of the Jewish faith who invoked an ancient prayer to have Itzak Rabin assassinated. Currently, the Jewish radicals are praying for the assassination of Ariel Sharon because of his removal of Jews from Gaza. As you can see, the air waves are filled with prayers including those importuning the various Gods to kill their enemies.

As an objective observer and as a former AT&T employee, it would seem to me that there is a high likelihood that such prayers may well arrive at the wrong destination. Consider the Bishop of Rome, a celibate old man, mistakenly asking Allah to reserve 50 young virgins for his arrival. Even AT&T in its heyday could not fully guarantee that every call would always reach the desired party. So the Bishop of Rome has to expect a wrong number now and then.

So your author finds himself in a state of total confusion. New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are located in what most people would consider a Christian country. Even the underclass consisting mostly of black people is similar to the days of slavery described in the Christian Bible. The question that must be answered is where was the Christian Trinity when Katrina set out to destroy the homes, the lives and the jobs for so many Christians? Did the Trinity agree that New Orleans and the Gulf Coast would be destroyed? Or was it a case of not caring about the people of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama one way or another?

Could it possibly be that al-Zarqawi and that miserable SOB Satan were in a position to answer the prayers of the Muslims? If that is the case, it would appear that Allah and/or Satan is more powerful than the Trinity. That would seem to be the case when logic is applied.

A similar case happened last January when 2,000,000 people lost their lives in the tsunami in South East Asia. Most of those people were Muslims, if they had any religion at all. Did the Christian Trinity take a pass on that non-Christian tragedy or was it, as in Katrina, overpowered? It would be good to have a reasoned discussion on these events.

These are age old questions. It seems to me that if death is unavoidable, which it is, there is no better place for it to happen than in New Orleans, hence the title of this piece. It seems to me that New Orleanians often share a philosophy that enhances my life. Dying is part of living. In my view, life ends after a time and thoughts of endless ecstasy in a Heaven or a Paradise are no more than figments of a lively imagination by preachers.

In New Orleans, when a person dies and is to be buried, often in above ground cemeteries, there is ordinarily a parade to the cemetery led by a brass band. The procession to the cemetery is accompanied by slow steps to hymns played by the band. When the burial is accomplished, the work of the band really only starts. On the way to the cemetery, the band plays such old time hymns as, “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” or “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder, I’ll Be There.” These are religious pieces, of course. Ah, but on the way back to town, the band will probably play, “Struttin’ with Some Barbeque” and certainly, “Oh, Didn’t He Ramble,” neither of which would be played by a proper Yankee church organist.

W. C. Handy wrote the words to “Oh, Didn’t He Ramble.” Louis Armstrong added some lyrics. The two versions are similar in most respects. It may be instructive to quote a verse or two. The first is from Louis Armstrong, the second is from W. C. Handy.

“He slipped into a cat house and made love to the stable
Madam caught him cold….said I’ll pay you when I’m able
Six months passed…and she stood all she could stand
She said buddy when I’m through with you
Old groundhog gonna be shaking yo’ hand.”

by Louis Armstrong

“He rambled into an Irish wake one St. Patrick’s night,
They asked him what he’d like to drink, they meant to treat him rightly
But like the old Kilkenny cats, their backs began to arch,
When he called for orange phosphate, on the seventeenth of March.”

by W. C. Handy

The chorus is:

“And didn’t he ramble…he rambled
Rambled all around – in and out of town
Oh didn’t he ramble – he rambled
You know he rambled – till the butcher cut him down.”

The words may not make perfect sense, but for goodness sakes, this is a New Orleans jazz song written for a brass band. If al-Zarqawi came to New Orleans and died, it would be my guess that a brass band would play “Struttin’ with Some Barbeque” and “Oh, Didn’t He Ramble” with an Islamic lilt. As W. C. Handy wrote, “They meant to treat him rightly.”

When all is said and done, this old soldier-essayist does not believe
al-Zarqawi’s prayers to Allah caused the catastrophe in New Orleans. No way. Nor did his prayers cause Hurricane Rita.

The same thought applies when Christians of the U.S. importune Jesus and the Holy Ghost to grant us success in the occupation of Iraq and the torture of prisoners there and at Gitmo.

Prayers exist to please the one who prays. As far as anyone can find out, prayers seem to change nothing. Maybe that is enough and maybe it is not.

A case in point is Rose, my sister-in-law. She and my eldest brother, Charles Halley were married about when the Hoover Depression hit. Charley was dogmatic about most things in life. Rose assumed his dogmatic attitude was intelligence, so she accepted Charley’s views on everything. When Charley went off the deep end on Christianity, Rose followed him.

Some time around the age of 60, Charley died. Some time later a fatal illness overtook Rose. It was clear that she would never leave the hospital alive. It was my duty to help good old Rose. When a Person-to-Person call was placed from my office or residence, the person who answered was told by the local operator that “New York is calling Rose Carr.” Word got around that Rose had a well wisher in New York who called her St. Louis hospital. It may have given her some pleasure and prestige in her final days.

In my last call, Rose, a fervent believer in prayer, notified me that she had succeeded in “getting three churches” to pray for her. The prayers in those three churches may have pleased the ones who prayed, but Rose died a day or so after our last conversation. The prayers seemed to be unanswered.

So the message is clear for al-Zarqawi in Iraq or for some evangelical Nazarenes in St. Louis. Prayers may make the ones praying feel better, but they have no effect at changing the course of events in our lives. But if people feel better by praying, please let them do it.

September 17, 2005

Prayer for health is a little tricky. It turns out that not only is there no correlation between prayer and better results, if you tell someone that people are praying for him, he’s likely to do worse than he would do normally.

But in addition to doing nothing for the victim (in a best-case scenario), I think prayer also has an adverse impact on the person praying. I don’t like it for the same reason that I don’t like other token, meaningless gestures of support — it makes you feel like you’ve done your part even though you haven’t. If there’s a really important cause out there, people who post a token supportive Tweet and people who send out a prayer are making the same mistake; they’re tricking their own minds into thinking that they’ve Made a Difference. In reality this creates a sort of compassion fatigue, wherein these same people are less likely to actually go to a protest, write to a congressperson, etc; they feel like they’ve already contributed toward this goal, so they don’t need to take additional measures of support. That’s bad.

So I guess the takeaways here are that if you’re going to pray for someone, by no means tell them that you’re doing so, and if you’re going to pray for something, remember that God helps those who help themselves. As soon as you’re done praying, go try to make an actual change.


Stretching the truth may well be a common failing among run-of-the-mill mortals as most of us are. When an auto salesman goes to work on a prospect, he says the engine moves the car from zero to sixty in record time while it burns almost no fuel at all. He may say that when there are six people aboard, the car can pull a ten ton trailer. The vacuum cleaner salesman says his brand will clean everything and keep beer cold. The people who ask for donations will say that you are supporting a cause that will bring world peace. Soldiers have been known to exaggerate as have politicians. So it is fair to contend that those of us who have our share of failings may exaggerate from time to time.

In this little essay, we are going to be discussing gross exaggeration from men who are supposed to be icons or imams of the truth. There are those truth stretchers that will surprise some or many of you. One is Bill Stern, a sports commentator on radio and television several years back. The second is a pastor of a large Presbyterian church near here. The third stretcher is – or was – the Attorney General of the United States. For the time being, the Chief Executive of the U.S., the champion prevaricator of our time, will be ignored.

Now to Bill Stern. Fame in the sports world is a fleeting phenomenon. People may chant your exploits today, but in a period of months, those same fans may have trouble recalling your name. Stern appeared on weekly network radio and television from 1937 through 1956. As television grew more popular and widespread, my recollection is that Stern moved from radio to television around 1952. Television consumes mountains of material. Stern soon faltered as he tried to present one miracle after another.

Bill Stern often employed the device of where-are-yesterday’s-heroes-now. In this case, it should be recalled that during the period when Stern’s career was at its zenith, the Kentucky Derby was one of America’s major sporting events. Today it doesn’t grab nearly as much public attention unless an unknown horse wins the races preceding the Kentucky Derby. Earlier, it was one of the most anticipated sporting events.

It might be imagined that the story of a winner of the Derby hastened the end of Stern’s career. In this case, Stern said he was in Paris. After a long night of eating and drinking French wine, he strolled on the Champs Élysées on the way to his hotel. Stern said that a horse drawn garbage cart was collecting refuse from the street. Any objective observer would question why Paris, one of the world’s great cities, was using horse drawn garbage carts in an age of large, motorized trucks. Stern was not bothered by this failing in factual matters.

Stern said he watched the horse with great fascination because he thought the horse’s gait seemed to be familiar. Finally, like a thunder clap, Stern remembered that the gait of the horse pulling the garbage cart was identical to the winner of the Kentucky Derby some years earlier.

My memory of that broadcast was that Bill Stern asked the garbage man to stop for a minute or two. He looked at the horses teeth which led him to believe he was on the right track. Then, in English, Stern called the name of the horse. The horse responded affirmatively. Perhaps he winked his eye or wiggled his ears, but Stern had his story. The Kentucky Derby winner of a few years ago was now pulling a garbage cart in Paris.

With stories of exaggeration like that, it is a wonder that Stern lasted as long as he did. In the minds of sports fans such as myself, Stern was marked off as a deceitful prevaricator who told impossible-to-believe stories. The fact that the horse in question was retired in Kentucky, eating large quantities of organic grass and oats and accommodating lady horses in his capacity as a stud, did not seem to bother Stern when the facts were uncovered. Stern had moved on to the next story.

The Radio Hall of Fame has this to say about Stern: “He told tales of sports legends and strange occurrences waiting for the climax. Although some of his reports stretched the limits of credibility, no one doubted that Stern was a master story teller…”

Bill Stern died in 1971 and has moved on to his heavenly reward. It may possibly be that his fellow angels may not have heard about the Kentucky Derby winner and the Paris garbage cart. When one thinks of heaven and angels, this writer of essays also thinks of a young preacher of the Presbyterian persuasion who has Stern’s inclinations.

This fellow calls himself “Reverend Rich” which was shorthand for Richard. His last name is of German origin and would take up too much space in what is envisioned as a short essay. His last name is neither here nor there in any case. Reverend Rich came in 2001 to preside over the affairs of the Presbyterian Church in Summit, New Jersey, an affluent town. Today, March 6th, Reverend Rich preached his last sermon in as much as he “had answered a call” to perform his priestly offices in San Antonio, Texas. Your old essayist is largely or totally unaware of ecclesiastical gossip, so it is impossible to tell you whether he “answered a call” or whether he was pushed. In any case, Presbyterians in Summit, N.J. will no longer be led by the likes of Reverend Rich.

Prior to the hiring of Reverend Rich, the church in Summit had been without a permanent pastor for at least two years. One way or another, the pastor picking process of the Presbyterian Church produced the name of Reverend Rich after a lengthy search. When he came to Summit, he was barely 30 years old. It could be argued that members of the church were anxious to end the pastor search, so they accepted a young Texan who had attended the Princeton Theological Seminary.

The members of this household are not affiliated with any church; however, they are interested in good choral music. As things have worked out, the services at the Summit Presbyterian Church are telecast starting at the curious hour of 9:45 AM on Sunday mornings. We usually get a late start on Sundays what with wrestling the New York Times, so we often listen to the proceedings mainly involving the choir.

When Reverend Rich begins to preach his sermon, it is possible only to listen to the opening bars until contempt and disbelief set in and the television set is turned off. Our main observation is that Reverend Rich’s sermons are juvenile in content and character. Perhaps for a preacher in his early 30’s, who seems to have no other work experiences, that is to be expected. It seems to me that as a child, Reverend Rich would want to play being a preacher. In effect, he is still at it.

For example, Reverend Rich and his wife became convinced that people served by their church were so debt ridden as to invite poverty or bankruptcy. To solve this monstrous debt problem, the Reverend and his wife offered a plan for “the Biblical” management of money. For a year or so, the congregation was encouraged – or harangued – to meet with the pastor and his wife and to lay all their financial cards on the table. A “biblical solution” would then be produced after fervent prayer, and it must be supposed, a dedication to tithing.

It made no difference to Reverend Rich and his wife that they were serving in an upscale church in one of the most affluent towns in the New York City suburbs. His congregants would most likely have included representatives from the New York banking and investment community. And here were Reverend Rich and his wife, with no financial credentials at all to their credit, telling captains of industry how their financial fortunes would prosper if they adopted a biblical system of management of their assets. All it took was laying all your financial assets out to two young people with no credentials of any kind.

This endeavor went on for about a year. From all appearances, the congregants had no faith in the biblical management of assets. It was a gross misreading of his congregation.

The misreading of his congregant’s debt situation may have set the scene for Reverend Rich having a Bill Stern moment. At his age, with so little experience behind him, the Reverend sorely lacked gravitas. His sermons and his remarks lacked maturity. In one recitation of his past accomplishments, he sought to tell a story that would resonate with his listeners as wisdom gathered by Reverend Rich as he intended to bring the gospel to every willing ear.

According to the Reverend, he recalled an incident from his early preaching days. In this case, he was preaching to an audience that included some homeless men. If my understanding is basically correct, the homeless men were to be fed after hearing Reverend Rich’s sermon. He told us of the hours he had spent in preparing and rehearsing the sermon. But once it had been delivered, he felt it had missed the mark, somehow.

With the sermon delivered, Reverend Rich took his disillusioned self to join the line waiting to be served food. My recollection is that he asked the homeless man standing next to him what he had thought of the sermon. Instantly, the homeless man told Reverend Rich, “You should have talked more about Jesus.”

Old Rich’s ears shot up as he asked the homeless man why he had offered this comment. Now here is the Bill Stern moment. The homeless man said, “I know a little about preaching. I am a graduate of the Princeton Theological Seminary.” That, of course, is Reverend Rich’s alma mater. So on his next trip to Princeton, he looked up the man’s record and found that indeed, the man was a graduate of the Seminary, or so we were told.

Bill Stern found a Kentucky Derby winner pulling a garbage cart in Paris while Reverend Rich found a homeless man eating handouts who shared his own educational background. Reverend Rich dropped the story after meeting the homeless man in the line for food. He did not say if he joined the man in the handout meal. Nothing was said about how a student can attend Princeton Theological Seminary, where tuition fees must be substantial, only to wind up walking the streets shelterless. And for a man apparently well educated, whatever happened to the admonition of St. Luke, Chapter 4, Verse 23, “Physician, heal they self”?

Old Reverend Rich has gone back to Texas. If he knows whatever happened to the homeless man, he is not saying. Was he real or was it an imagined meeting? We just don’t know. All we can say is, “Reverend Rich, please meet Bill Stern.”

When our elaborate Commander in Chief – Chief Executive was elected by the Scalia-led Supreme Court back in the year 2000, he expressed great admiration for one of Missouri’s senators. Unfortunately in the 2000 election, the incumbent John Ashcroft was opposed by Mel Carnahan who was killed in a plane crash. His wife took Carnahan’s place and defeated Ashcroft who had been eyed by Bush as a
Vice Presidential possibility.

Ashcroft served in the first Bush administration. His tenure was marked by the most asserted assault on American civil liberties in history. When the first term ended, Ashcroft was told his services would no longer be needed. In effect, he was fired so that Bush could put his lackey Alberto Gonzales into the Attorney General slot. Gonzales, you may recall, was one of the main movers of the effort to torture prisoners caught up in Bush’s Iraqi invasion.

Ashcraft was fired. There is no polite way to state this fact. In that circumstance, the thing to do is to pack your desk set and memo pads and head back to Missouri. Ah, but that’s for ordinary people. Clinging to some hope of respectability, Ashcroft hand wrote a five page letter of resignation. To say his resignation letter was superfluous is a gross understatement.

But Ashcroft is not to be outdone by the likes of Bill Stern and Reverend Rich. In the sixth paragraph of his longhand letter, Ashcroft makes the following mystical statement:

“The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved.”

Old Ashcroft is off his rocker. If the “securing of safety” is a fact, why do we read every day about impingements upon our tranquility? If we are secured “from crime and terror,” why are we fighting an ill gotten war in Iraq? Ashcroft’s own department is prosecuting crimes from Tyco to MCI to Enron. Free from crime? Ashcroft is smoking something.

And so, faithful readers, Ashcroft has my fervent nomination to enter either the Liars Hall of Fame or heaven as a triplet entry along with
Bill Stern and Reverend Rich. It is inspirational to me to know that exaggeration is still in style. In the WorldCom case just last week,
Bernie Ebbers, the Chairman, said he knew nothing about technology or finances. When he was reminded that he approved a two billion dollar write down for WorldCom stock, he had great difficulty in recalling that event. So as you can see, exaggeration works well going up or going down. That fact is of great comfort to those of us who say, “Did he say that?” Well yes, he really did! When Bill Stern died, we thought we had seen the last of the dubious and deceitful exaggerators. Apparently, this is not the case.

March 7, 2005


Why bother with boring, everyday reality when you can invent your own reality? Trump’s reality has millions of immigrants swarming over the borders and voting in our elections by the millions. He swears it was a sunny day during his inauguration speech, while the cameras say differently. He claimed for years that Obama was a Muslim. And now, after this and much more, his newest call is to distrust the entire media, with the exceptions of Breitbart and Fox. If those are his main sources of information, god knows what he’ll believe tomorrow. I’d love to hear him tell stories of Kentucky Derby winners in Paris, or even claim “Mission accomplished” in the war on terror. Instead he’ll be pointlessly spinning the government’s wheels to investigate non-existent election fraud, and building a multi-billion dollar wall. Trump’s delusions are about to get pretty expensive. I guess the bright side is that he hasn’t declared war on anyone yet?


Judging from the numbers of recent aggressive articles and angry letters to the editors of newspapers, it is my probably biased judgment that old Satan is getting a bum rap. Fair play is fair play. He is being accused of such dis-similar events as the spread of AIDS, purse snatchings, fixing the football playoffs, and trying to inject secular ideas into the Christmas spirit. Fortunately, the $63 million Inaugural went off without a hitch, so Satan got a pass on that one.

My research holds that in the King James version of the Bible, in Revelations 12:7-9, that Satan and other so called fallen angels became the tempters of men and the source of evil in the world. The Christian church also holds that the fall of man was the result of Satan’s actions. So Satan leaves the starting line under a tremendous handicap.

As an uninvolved observer of religious affairs, it seems to me that old Satan has been accused of just about all the sins of mankind. There are some fair minded people in New York City who speak a smattering of Yiddish, who might say, “Enough already.” Perhaps those who don’t speak Yiddish would express the same sentiments. But it now appears that Satan is being blamed for the tsunami disaster. This is on top of shoplifting, stealing kisses and other heinous crimes.

My thoughts about the tsunami disaster would be for the world, and especially Americans, to demonstrate sympathetic understanding, not to fix blame so soon. To a dismaying degree, however, some Americans have said to the Southeast Asians that it serves you right because you are Muslims or Hindus or Buddhists. This old essayist was not prepared for such a response. What ever happened to compassion? What ever happened to live and let live? Christmas religious activities also seem to provoke some angry sentiments, even if it was only a non-partisan editorial in a local newspaper. It is becoming more difficult every day for non-believers to believe that Satan has had a hand in just about everything that turned out wrong in the past year. So this old essayist says, “Enough already!”

Let us take the tsunami matter. Being born in the American Midwest, my education about tsunamis was largely minimal. Of course, the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers flooded from time to time, but the floods rarely killed anyone in contrast to the 220,000 residents of Southeast Asia who appear to have recently lost their lives. With my Midwestern mindset, it was assumed that tsunamis are a secular development and can be explained by science. But from all appearances, some Americans see tsunami disasters as a religious matter devoted largely to Satan of Revelations fame. So it appears that tsunamis have both a secular as well as a spiritual aspect to them. That is, if you believe the angry letter writers.

Susan Agee, who writes a column for the Detroit Free Press, wrote an article in early January, having to do with whether any God was involved in the tsunami disaster. Ms. Agee wondered, “We raged at terrorists who killed a much smaller number of people on 9/11, but we feel only sadness at what is called an act of God. If God is all powerful, how can he, she or it wash the earth with such trauma and grief?”

Ms. Agee did not have to wait long for responses from her readers. Lori Stuit of Royal Oak was convinced she knew exactly what had caused the tsunami to occur. Ms. Stuit declared, “God did not cause the recent tsunami to occur. Satan did. While there is an all powerful God of this world, there is a God who is all evil: Satan. I am surprised at how many people don’t take time to think about this. I feel bad for people who are lost and confused.”

Do you think in matters of evilness, Satan can trump God? If God did not cause the tsunami, did he permit it to occur? Did he care one way or another, or was it a case of yielding to a higher power in old Satan? Ms. Stuit seems to say that Satan is “an all powerful God.” Is that where the matter rests? Is Satan the most powerful person in the universe? Ms Stiut seems to concede on that point.

Richard (Skip) Parker had a good bit of ecclesiastical information to share with Ms. Agee. Parker said, “God does not cause bad things to happen. He is in control and has the power to stop anything if it is his will to do so. Therefore, if bad things happen, he must have allowed it. What God does is always in our best interests even when we can’t understand it.”

In effect, Brother Parker contends that God could have stopped the tsunami if he or she or it had wanted to do so. And we are told that maybe the tsunami was in “our best interests” even if we don’t think that is the case right now. Many people will gag at Skip Parker’s reasoning. On the other hand, Skip did not blame old Satan outright, but we all know, he reserves the right to hang the tsunami on the main fallen angel.

Tim Long took a different tack. He wrote, “So you think God killed those people? I thank God that he gives me life every day. I am a National Guard soldier in Iraq. God protected me from harm. Are you a Christian or not?”

When Susan Agee asked Tim Long, “Why didn’t God protect your dead comrades from harm?,” Long did not reply. Tim only wanted to get his two cents worth in on the tsunami issue.

Do you suspect that Long believes that being a Christian is a safeguard against harm? Do you think God protects Christians and says for everybody else, “You are on your own.” Is that the way it works? How is this all going to work when the Iraqi troops are trained. They are virtually all Muslims. Will George Bush’s God protect the Christians but not the Muslims? Do the Iraqi troops know that they are unprotected by the Christian God?

Long’s sentiments are close to another reader who did not sign his or her name. That respondent said, “The Bible tells us that countries who forget God will pay a price. These countries that just got hit are almost exclusively Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu, religions that worship pagan Gods and ignore the one true God. It won’t be long until this country pays a price as well, and we will have people like you (Susan Agee) to thank. The tsunami is just another sign of prophecy being realized. Maybe someday you will get it, but I doubt it.”

The reader who did not sign a name must have been an angry person. From all indications, he or she must have confused his beliefs with historical facts. We will see some more of this attitude when we deal with the Christmas editorial. In this case, Susan Agee who posed a question about the tsunami was judged by some readers to be a full fledged infidel because the question was posed in an objective fashion which reporters use. In every case, it seems to me that, one way or another, old Satan is the culprit. There are those of us who believe he or she or it is taking a bum rap for an undersea earthquake over which Satan has no control. It must be suspected that Susan Agee has had enough of the tsunami business for awhile.

But that did not prevent one angry television commentator, Michael Savage, from offering a December 31, 2004 broadcast wherein he cleansed himself of these thoughts:

“You could take the argument that it’s God’s will, it’s too bad and let’s move on. And then let others help them. They’re not in our sphere of interest. Primarily, they hate our guts in plain English. All right, well the argument is, well, if you send them money, they’re gonna like us, show ‘em we’re not anti-Muslim. That is such rubbish. That is such rubbish. They’re gonna hate you anyhow, no matter what we ever do.”

“If you are a God believing, God-fearing person, I am sure at some point you ask yourself, wait a minute: The epicenter of this earthquake and the resulting tidal wave was adjacent to the sex-trade island of Phuket, Thailand…and then it knocked out many, many regions of Indonesia, some of which are the most vicious recruiting grounds for Islamic terrorists…”

“Many of the countries and the areas in these countries that were hit by these tidal waves were hotbeds of radical Islam. Why should we be helping them destroy us?”

“We shouldn’t be spending a nickel on this, as far as I’m concerned…I don’t want one nickel of my money going over there…I am sick of being bled to death by every damn incident on the earth.”

Source: Media Matters for America at

Well, many of us believe with the scientists that an undersea earthquake took place with a resulting shifting of the plates of the earth’s surfaces. Shifting the plates caused tremendous waves to occur and hence, the tsunami. Scientists don’t think Satan had much to do with it. In none of their reports have we seen his name mentioned, nor is the CIA looking for him. So while there is no love for Satan in this corner, it is disturbing to see an innocent bystander get side swiped, even if it is the evil Satan. My book says Satan had nothing to do with the tsunami and that Michael Savage needs psychiatric advice.

So much for the tsunami. Let us more on to a Christmas editorial.

In spite of family feuds and fights, Christmas is generally believed to be a time of joy. Allegedly, the sentiments of peace surround us. For Christians, it is the time to celebrate the birth of Jesus to what we are told, was the Virgin Mary. Joseph, Mary’s husband, is often overlooked at Christmas time, but he was the other half of this couple.

Christians at Christmas have visions of eternal life spent in ecstasy in a heavenly kingdom. With all that to look forward to, why are some Christians so defensive? It is a wonderment, but John P. McGee of this town is a pretty good example of my wonderment.

Millburn is a town with Catholics, Protestants and a large serving of Jews. There may even be some non-believers. Attracted by the excellence of the school system, property is now being bought by the Chinese and Indians. Some day soon, we may have temples devoted to the worship of Hindu and Buddhist gods to go with our churches and synagogues. The editor of our weekly paper, The Item, is painfully cognizant of the religious diversity of Millburn. As far as is known, the various religions reside here in peace with a little harmony thrown in.

The Item never denigrates any religious observance. However, when the editor composed her Christmas editorial, she included these fateful lines:

“…more and more Americans are questioning the place of religion in

Clearly, her reference was to the commercial aspects of Christmas when we are deluged by ads to buy diamonds, fancy watches, fur coats and expensive cars.

But John P. McGee took offense. Reading those lines must have incensed him as he said, “I realized it was time to take up the pen and express my resentment at the demeaning description of Christmas….”

Now some nay-sayer may believe that Mr. McGee “took up the pen” under the influence of holiday alcohol. Far from it. He reports that with all the shopping done and with his house appropriately decorated, he looked forward to some down time on his sofa as he read The Item with the inflammatory editorial. He reports, “I could now relax and enjoy the final approach of Christmas Day. I fixed myself a soft drink, settled on the sofa and started to read…” So you see John Barleycorn had nothing to do with his angry response. The villain at work was decaffeinated Coke or Pepsi, or most likely, old Satan.

His letter goes on at some length to site his religious beliefs as historical facts. There is a juxtaposition between the McGee letter and the thought expressed earlier that religious beliefs had much to do with the tsunami. Perhaps, it comes under the heading of, if we believe it, it must be a fact. Nice try, but historical facts are one thing; religious beliefs are quite another.

Well our neighbor, Brother McGee ends his diatribe with the thought that, “If the silent majority would sit up and speak out you would find that the facts are otherwise.” All of this over an editorial in a neighborhood paper aimed at offending no one.

It is fairly clear that McGee would tend to blame old Satan for writing the offending editorial. It must be suspected that he would find Satan’s hand in the tsunami disaster as well as in the fender benders that take place in the darkness of the Christmas season.

No one has arranged for me to meet John McGee. His name suggests he is a fellow Celt and in the end, he may appeal to me. But in the meantime, if McGee states his case for the “silent majority,” it is clear that Satan will never be reformed enough to satisfy some folks who see the world only in black and white terms. Can Satan be reformed or redeemed? Around here, not on your life, even if he is being unfairly maligned. Satan should accept the unfair accusations coming his way with good grace and humble gratitude. And he should refrain from saying, “Merry Christmas.” If Satan adopts such a forgiving attitude, he may, in time, emerge as one of our national heroes on the order of Santa Claus or Bernie Kerik. Then he will be fully redeemed.

January 25, 2005


Every mention of theodicy reminds me of this comic, and more specifically the phrase “God works in mysterious, dickish ways.” Because how else do you pretend that a tsunami is ultimately in everyone’s best interest? I also love how these same people, when tsumanis and hurricanes hit Christian nations, are likely to then turn it around and blame it on gays in those countries. (Bonus comic)

So basically the argument goes “so long as >5% of a given population is not exactly like me in every respect, that population deserves to get hit by a hurricane.”


Sunday evenings were never meant to be enjoyable. People go to bed early after a weekend of eating drinking and other assorted activities. Monday mornings come soon enough.

During the summer months, ESPN has Sunday baseball at 8PM Eastern Time. That is often a life saver in a desert of non-entertainment. As a general rule, the announcers are Joe Morgan, the old Hall of Fame second baseman, and Jon Miller. Morgan is black and is pretty straight forward with his analysis. Jon Miller is a white fellow and has been around the announcing business for a long time.

These two men seem to like each other. Jon Miller is often playful, but that does not deter Joe Morgan from delivering the most trenchant baseball analysis on television or in the newspaper business, as well.

Morgan was a teammate of Pete Rose when the Cincinnati Reds led the National League for several years. He was never involved in any scandal whatsoever. Rose, on the other hand, has courted scandal with his long time gambling addiction. After 15 years, Rose finally admitted gambling on baseball. He claims that he never bet against the Reds. Simply put, this 75 year observer of major league baseball does not believe Rose. When Rose chose to admit he gambled on baseball, a cardinal sin against the game, he elected to include it in a book by a Pennsylvania publisher called Rodale Press, in which he and the publisher hope to make a lot of money.

But Joe Morgan has nothing to do with Rose and his gambling. Joe has made his living by telecasts since he retired from the game. My ball playing grandchildren have been told to listen to Joe Morgan. From him they will learn solid baseball. It is a pity that there are not more teams broadcasting baseball like Joe Morgan and Jon Miller.

But after a time, when two uninspired teams are playing in the games broadcast by the Morgan-Miller team, there is a need to look elsewhere for information and occasional entertainment. And it should be born in mind that the baseball season lasts only from April to October. That leaves an enormous void to fill during the Winter months.

As a general rule, books are the choice here. But from time to time, some of the charlatans on religious TV broadcasts on Sunday evenings need checking out. When you read what the charlatans have to say, it is my belief that you will agree with my assessments that they are frauds and fakers. This is entertainment, pure and simple. It has nothing to do with religion.

Let us start with a preacher who appears on Sunday evenings and maybe two other evenings during the week. There is no record of this fellow ever attending a seminary for formal religious training. His name is Womack. In recent years, he eschews using his regular given names because he calls himself Bishop Shammah Womack. In other words, as a Bishop, Womack started at the top.

His meeting place is in East Orange or a similar Newark suburban location. Womack never seems to refer to his place of worship as a church; he refers to himself. From what can be observed over several years of TV viewing, there is no choir and no prayers seem to be offered. His services consist of him haranguing his listeners about subjects that he knows very little about. Often, he will put an article on the lectern and will read from it. This past week, he read about the nature of man and his emotional side. He claims to understand all this information, but it is very doubtful that he has much of a clue about it.

Womack got his start from his father, Donald Womack, a run of the mill TV evangelist. He established the church Womack inherited when his father died a few years back from a heart attack. In his formative years, the current erstwhile Bishop was a morgue attendant in Newark. He put his foot in the door in a venture with his father into fruits, nuts and vegetables in a market near the church.

Young Womack announced the cure for nearly all diseases. He contended that heart trouble could be cured by eating pears because pears are shaped like the heart. Do you have a brain tumor? No problem. Eat walnut or pecan halves whose shape, according to young Womack, is exactly like the brain. Unfortunately, this inspirational market had a short life as the authorities cited lack of licensing. There is no record of how many cases of heart trouble or brain problems were alleviated by the ministrations of young Bishop Womack.

When his father died, young Womack became the leader of the congregation. Dissatisfaction with his given name, led him to adopt the name of Shammah. Apparently, he adopted a Biblical name of Jesse’s third son. Chronicles and Samuel of the Old Testament list at least four or five different spellings, but scholars agree that they are referring to Shammah, Jesse’s third son.

With his new name, Womack began to wear collars like priests wear. No one knows what they signified, but after a short time, plain old Shammah Womack became Bishop Shammah Womack. All this is done in a small black church in the suburbs of Newark. Bishops usually have other churches to look after. But it appears, the East Orange church, the only church in his diocese, will have to be it.

Bishop Womack has given up priestly collars for now, but he retains this new found given name and the Bishops title he awarded to himself. And he continues to harangue his listeners to get right with God. His saving grace, is that he does not seek contributions from his TV viewers. There would be no reluctance on my part to send him a few dollars for the entertainment he provides. He dresses in stylish clothing so any contribution might be used for extensions to his large wardrobe.

Further out in the suburbs, in Whippany, New Jersey, is the home of the Abundant Life Worship Center. The preacher doesn’t use his name on his telecasts as Bishop Womack does. His name is Joe Arminio and he is the main attraction on his Sunday evening broadcasts. It is not fair to include Pastor Arminio under the heading of charlatans where, my next example of charlatans, Mike Murdock, clearly belongs. It would be a pleasure to have Joe Arminio living next door to me.

Aside from my fascination with his four button suits, Joe Arminio keeps me interested because of his animations. For example, when he reads a scriptural reference to Jesus walking on water, Pastor Arminio wades around the pulpit as though he is walking on water. When he urges his followers to aspire to heaven, he uses an imaginary ladder. He spends a minute or two climbing this imaginary ladder. This past Sunday, he was a helicopter with his arms in motion around his head.

The theology of Pastor Arminio escapes me because my mind is pre-occupied by his animations. But my thought is he is a big hearted, Italian guy and if he lived next door, there would be some compulsion to see if my neighbor needed something.

Now we go to a TV preacher who calls Denton, Texas his base of operations. Denton is a town with 66,000 inhabitants, according to the most recent census figures. It is a town maybe 50 miles north of Fort Worth. No one has ever considered Denton or Fort Worth as media capitals in the United States.

The Reverend Mike Murdock who uses Denton as his home base claims to have published 1500 books and to have written 500 religious songs. Whether all the books and songs were published in Denton is not clear, but with this volume of material, Denton must be accorded some sort of prominence in publishing circles. Those 1500 books seem to include many pamphlets which Murdock calls books.

Murdock’s theme is promoting his “Wisdom Keys.” The books and the songs are all in keeping with his Wisdom Keys. He is willing to send you some of this philosophy providing those of us in the audience send him some cash. Listening to his Sunday night cable TV pitch, it is clear that he wants to hook his viewers with weekly contributions over an extended period of time. My memory tells me that one such proposition was for $20 per week over a 50 week period. The 50 week period was chosen because it had some religious significance. Well 20 bucks a week for 50 weeks is, in the end, one thousand dollars, no matter how you cut it. Clearly, it is better for Murdock to ask for $20 than for $1,000. The people snared in his schemes apparently do not figure these things out.

Now what is offered in exchange for your $1,000 gift is some of Murdock’s Wisdom Keys and the near guarantee that things will improve in your business and in your love life. Every week Murdock prints letters with no surnames or towns that tell how a contractor who had no money suddenly was awarded a million dollar construction contract after he was in the 50 Week Club. All of this great good fortune is ascribed to adopting Murdock’s Wisdom Keys. If money is sent to Murdock, good things will happen to you. Maybe not immediately, but some time soon.

There are so many schemes offered by Murdock that it is difficult to keep track of them. A week or so ago, Murdock announced some new books and pamphlets which discloses – for the first time ever – the 48 secrets of Jesus. Only Murdock knows the secrets of Jesus and he will be willing to tell you about them if you send him $20, plus sign up for a series of future disclosures, all at a cost to the ones who want to know the secrets. As always, his followers are promised great rewards for investing in Murdock’s schemes.

Murdock is a car enthusiast which he has made known to his viewers. The bigger the car, the more he likes it. His cars are all painted black on black. There is no way for the uninitiated to know what black on black amounts to. But Murdock claims that in his garage are three cars with this paint job. One is the largest model from BMW. Another one is a similar model from Mercedes with the third one being something like a Jaguar or a Rolls Royce. You will notice that none are of American manufacture.

Murdock claims that these black on black cars showed up unexpectedly at no cost to him from viewers who were blessed by good fortune after enrolling in one of the Wisdom Key schemes. Without being asked, these viewers bought cars costing in excess of $100,000 and gave them to Murdock due to the excessive blessings they had received from Murdock’s promotions.

It is my belief that if Murdock is telling the truth about the cars and his other good fortunes, he has a racket going that is somewhat better than stealing. Murdock has my admiration for his obvious rip-off schemes. As for his listeners who contribute to his success, one can only shake your head. It has been said that there is always a sucker for every such scheme to get rich. And now we see charlatans like Murdock using it to fleece their listeners all in the name of religion. Wringing hands is about all that can be done about Murdock’s propositions because it is clear that Texas authorities have no intention of intervening. So we wring our hands and cluck our tongues and the rip-offs continue.

Well, there are three thumbnail sketches of some Sunday night preachers. The Muslims go to mosque on Fridays and people of the Jewish faith attend synagogue on Saturdays, so they are unrepresented here. And as far as can be determined, neither faith appears on television broadcasts, so they are not being intentionally overlooked. The three preachers we have considered so far appear to be Protestant Christians. If they belong to a denomination on the protestant side of things, they have failed to make such designation known to this casual viewer.

But having dealt with the Protestant viewpoint, it appears, in the interest of fairness that Catholics be considered. To a large extent, Catholic broadcasters are in one group known as the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). The Catholics present a wide set of personalities on EWTN, but not a single word has ever been uttered in the two years of the priestly scandals involving young children. No criticism is ever offered. Cardinal Law of Boston may lose his job, but there is no comment. There are now something like 800 complaints about the clergy in Los Angeles, but not a single word of comment. The Bishops meet to talk about things including charges of priestly misconduct, but EWTN has no comment whatsoever. And in the future, there seems to be no proposal of any analysis or comment. Members of the faith seem to be unguided in their reaction to charges of misconduct.

But EWTN presents some interesting personalities. One is Father Frank Pavone who runs a group he calls Priests for Life. When all the rhetoric is put aside, Pavone is rabid on the subject of abortion. He claims that his Priests for Life is a vast organization; but he seems to be the only priest who appears on his telecasts. Pavone often conducts an interview with a woman who is identified as an employee of Priests for Life. There is no indication of any other employee.

Interviewing this woman employee about her views on abortion is about as illuminating as interviewing a fireman on fires. Of course, he is against fires just as the woman employee is against abortion. On top of all that, she is being interviewed by her boss so it comes as no surprise that she opposes abortion.

Pavone went off the reservation at least once in talking about Purgatory. How Pavone came into this knowledge is beyond my powers of imagination. According to Pavone, apparently a newly dead person was sent to Purgatory. He ran across some people who had died many years before who were also in Purgatory. The newcomer was condemned by an attack from one of the long term residents of Purgatory saying, “You guys did not pray hard enough for me to get out of here.” Again, it is hard to say how Pavone came into this knowledge, but he is a TV priest on EWTN and perhaps that is enough for him to know these sorts of things. At least, he had my attention.

Another EWTN mainstay is Mother Angelica who had something to do with the establishment of the so called network. It is a so called network, because it only embraces one station. It is not like CBS or ESPN.

When Mother Angelica was active, she was all over the EWTN programming selling religious figurines or reciting the rosary with her nuns from Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville, Alabama. Fortunately, her sales pitches and her endless recitations of the rosary were recorded and are played again over and over on EWTN broadcasts. Mother Angelica suffered a debilitating stroke on Christmas Eve two years age, but she appears now with no explanation that this is a broadcast of an old tape. But at Christmas and other religious holidays, Mother Angelica shows up to hawk figurines and crosses and rosaries for sale, all taped of course.

Some months ago, Mother Angelica stopped her rehabilitation and speech therapy sessions saying she is content to live her life in whatever condition the Lord wills for her. She is missed because she lent spark and life to otherwise dull broadcasts.

With Mother Angelica out of commission, her place has been taken by Father Mitch Pacwa. Pacwa is a pleasant sort who is having trouble filling the void in programming left by Mother Angelica’s departure. For many of of his broadcasts, Pacwa uses a large book which must come from the writings of the Pope. Pacwa will read a sentence and then set off to explain it to his viewers. This is a monstrous book. In one broadcast, he only deals with six or eight sentences so it gives him a script for the next 100 years. In the meantime, Mother Angelica has recited the rosary so many times, that this old non-Catholic and nonbeliever can now recite it. “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, etc.” With that, it is time to go to Johnnette.

Johnnette has a last name. It is Benkovic, but she seems to favor her given name. It had been my impression that this approximately 50 year old lay person, who wears the latest fashions, was the consummate, uninvolved virgin, but then one of her interviewers caused her to say that she has a son of 26 years. It had always appeared to me that a man would be below her lofty thoughts. Whether she still has a husband or a lover is not for us to determine. Johnnette is the ultimate when it comes to Catholic decorum.

She runs an effort called “Living Life Abundantly.” Her book and pamphlets are hawked under the Living Life Abundantly label.

When one of her guests used the word “Hell” on two occasions, Johnnette said, “Oh, you mean the place down there,” pointing down to the floor. Her view of decorum would not permit her to utter the word “Hell” in any form. It is a pity that Johnnette never tried to spread her doctrine to Lenny Bruce.

Johnnette takes about four breaks in her hour long broadcast. Those breaks don’t go to waste as Johnnette appears on tape to sell her latest books and pamphlets. When a break occurs, there is applause, but there is no audience. Such fakery does her lofty image no good. When interviewing a guest, she never says tell us about what happened or tell us about your views. Tell us has been banned. In its place is “Share with us” your views or what happened.

On endless broadcasts, Johnnette who regards Evangelical Protestantism as a mortal danger, interviews a like minded person who writes a column or is involved in schools. In any case, there is extended discussion of the mortal danger of New Age Philosophy. No one has told me that Evangelical Protestants are into New Age thought, but Johnnette and one of her female friends think this is absolutely the case.

Johnnette and her cohort claim to know all about the New Age movement and they are here to warn that it is perilous. The philosophers of the New Age, according to these two women, are Carl Gustav Jung and Sigmund Freud. Here we are in the year 2004 worried over Jung and Freud who are long since dead and gone. Freud cashed in his chips in 1939. Jung followed in 1968.

Well, there is hope for the world. If you watch EWTN at 10PM on Monday evenings, there will be a chance to buy one or more of Johnnette’s inspirational books and pamphlets. Old Johnnette is issuing books and pamphlets about as fast as our author in Denton, Mike Murdock. Murdock has been divorced once and he owns these classy black cars. It is hoped that he will form a perfect union with the ultimate prissy cat of EWTN who refers to “hell” as that place down there.

There is one more EWTN character whom you ought to meet. He is Doctor Professor Scott Hahn of a Catholic college in Stuebenville, Ohio. Some of Hahn’s religious claims are largely outrageous. He often conducts an exchange with a person who may be on the staff at Stuebenville. In any case, this person is in charge of lobbing soft ball questions to Hahn who seems to have made a study of the Bible and its history his life’s work. On two occasions, Hahn had his wife as the third person at the table.

Not long ago the subject of living in an obedient Catholic marriage came up. With his wife there, he seemed to lecture on the superiority of men in a marriage. According to Hahn, God created MAN who was given dominion over all things on earth. Apparently, according to Hahn, the game began and ended with man.

Later, we don’t know how much later, this gentleman whom we assume was Adam, became lonely. Hahn says God put Adam to sleep on a Monday or Tuesday until he awoke on Sunday morning to find he had a playmate – now get this – a WO-MAN. Hahn says Adam assumed dominion over this WO-MAN just as he had enjoyed dominion over animals.

Hahn explained that God named the female a WO-MAN because she was constructed from a man. Hahn contends and instructs that WO-MAN embraces the name of her creator, man. Man gave her the title. From what Hahn said, the same relationship is destined to appear through out the ages, the WO-MAN takes her name from MAN.

Apparently, God spoke only English when he created Adam’s companion. Woman appears to embrace man as the second syllable only in English. In German it is MANN and FRAU. In French, it is HOMME and FEMME. In Italian, it is UOMO and DONNA. In Spanish, it is HOMBRE and MUJER. In Czech, it is PAN and ZENA. As we must deduce, God spoke only English. It is unknown how Hahn in his doctoral studies could have made such a discovery that God spoke only English.

There was one other case where Hahn got carried away in front of his wife. While his program on this interview segment is called, “First Came Love,” love has very little to do with his teachings. The love part is directed toward God or to the church. On this occasion, somehow or another, the subject of family planning and birth control came up and as usual, Hahn spouted off at length about it. Apparently in the early days of his marriage, Hahn used the Catholic manner of birth control which calls for complete abstinence during a woman’s fertile period. The name for this is “Rhythm.” Some observers have concluded that the Rhythm system works perfectly if one or both partners are sterile. Hahn has a houseful of kids, which may tell you a little bit about the Rhythm system.

With his wife sitting there and with the TV cameras rolling, Hahn says he and his wife have now adopted the practice in their intimate relations, a means that always provides for the transmission of life to occur. It must be assumed that no birth control system is used, not even the Rhythm system. He describes their current intimate sexual life as “thrilling beyond belief” because it is always open completely to the transmission of life. Hahn says his wife joins him in the “thrilling beyond belief” description. He spoke for her even though she was sitting at the table with him. She did not speak.

Well, perhaps we ought to mark that one down to man being given dominion over women, and animals as well. It is suspected that no woman who heard the “thrilling” episode would want to take part of such an adventure with Hahn. And what would Mother Angelica or Johnnette Benkovic say about this dalliance and the broadcast of intimate details being heard on EWTN? All that can be said by this old EWTN viewer is, don’t ever send your kid to Steubenville College to be educated.

At the beginning of this essay, it was said that some charlatans would appear to greet us. In Pat Robertson we have a consummate charlatan and a fraud to boot. Only Jerry Falwell exceeds him. Robertson runs the 700 Club on morning television and was involved in a gold mining scheme in Liberia in partnership with Charles Taylor, the ousted dictator of that rundown country.

Robertson made the news this past week, because he said that he had “heard from the Lord.” Bush will win the 2004 election in a “blowout” because “the Lord blessed Bush.” He went on to say, “It makes no difference what he does, good or bad. God picks him up because he is a man of prayer and God has blessed him.”

This will come as great news to the Democratic hopefuls wading in the snows of Iowa and New Hampshire. Think of all the money they will save.

God may bless George Bush, but Robertson is still a charlatan and a fraud. Let us hope we are spared any more messages from God via Pat Robertson. If God has something to say about the 2004 election, he or she ought to communicate with each American voter individually. That, my friends, is the American way.

January 12, 2004


That’s it for the 2004 essays — all of them are now up on the site. Onto 2005!

For the record, this is the 659th essay published on this site so far. Given that the absolute total is somewhere around the 700 mark, it’s really not far to go now. Feels weird to think about the first essay was published here way back in 2012. At the time, I thought that completing the site would take “one to two years,” which in retrospect was a Bush-esque misunderestimation. It will be very strange to get to the end of the line.

On the topic at hand (and I think I’ve expressed this before) I do have to wonder why Pop would steadfastly refuse to consume any fictional media, but would spend hours watching people who he hated talk about subjects that he didn’t believe in. What did he get out of that?


When my mind is absorbed in trying to solve a problem or remembering where my glasses might be misplaced or trying to recall a pungent quote, it often comes up empty. Remembering to call the pharmacist occasionally leaves me prescription-less. Forgetting to turn off the lights is now another failure of mine.

Generous friends suggest that my forgetfulness is nothing to worry about as it is my age that produces the unintended oversights. Age is a double edged sword as it is also a reminder of approaching mortality.

Shaving is the saving grace in this matter of forgetfulness. While my mind is totally vacant, thoughts occur to me that seem worthy of my comment. Those thoughts rarely tell me about the location of my glasses or the quote that has escaped me, but there are often other thoughts that intrigue me. Perhaps if there were a few examples of transient shaving thoughts, the idea might become clearer to the reader.

Religion – Islam and Christian Scientists

My thoughts rarely stray into ecclesiastical matters when performing the tonsorial effort of shaving. My shaving instrument is a battery operated electric shaver. Perhaps if lather and an old straight razor were used, my thoughts on religion would occur more often and might have greater philosophical impact. But my experience with an electric razor goes back to the late 1940’s, so my religious thoughts have some historical context to them.

Currently, my concern has to do with an alleged misinterpretation of Islamic sacred texts and my wonderment about what has happened to the Christian Scientists.

In the Islamic case, several scholars now say sacred texts of the Islamic faith have been misread and misinterpreted for centuries. It has long been the belief of observant Moslems, that if a religious man is killed in a noble act – such as protecting the faith – he will be admitted as a martyr to Paradise. That is only the beginning. Various divisions in the Islamic faith say that such a martyr shall be entitled to 20 or 50 or even up to 100 virgins at his disposal.

In previous essays, several ancillary thoughts have been expressed. For example, will the martyr have a voice in picking out his virgins? Can a martyr trade one or more of his virgins to another martyr as would be done among professional sports teams in this country? The implication has always been that the martyrs will be furnished with young virgins. What will happen as the virgins age and become less attractive? Is there a provision for older virgins? And one must ask, what provision will be made for gay martyrs. Equality would seem to demand that gay martyrs be treated as other martyrs are treated.

But all this business about virgins is now under sustained attack. There is a school of eminent scholars who have studied the sacred texts of the ancient Islamic faith who now conclude that martyrs will be rewarded by white table grapes rather than by various numbers of virgins. Apparently, in ancient times among the Islamic faithful, white table grapes were objects to be greatly prized. A mistranslation in Islamic sacred texts had mistakenly rendered white table grapes as virgins. That is some mistake!

Moslems are forbidden from making and drinking alcoholic beverages, so the grapes must be only eaten. Fermenting them into wine or champagne is barred by religious fatwas. In Paradise, martyrs enjoy an eternal life. It might be supposed that eating white table grapes every day for 3,000 or 8,000 years might become boring, but boys, that is what we have to eat in Paradise.

It is probably a fortunate idea that my razor is an electric model. If this misinterpretation of texts had occurred when people used straight razors, it is obvious that throat cutting would be found in every corner of the civilized world.

So much for the Moslems. Let us now consider what has happened to people who embrace the faith of Christian Scientists. That sect was founded and promoted by Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910).

My curiosity was caused by what some people believe to be a large lack of activity in the work of Christian Scientists. On the main street of Summit, New Jersey, there is a prominent church and a reading room further down the street. In nearly 50 years of my occasional curiosity, no one seems to be using the Christian Scientist reading room. And there seem to be no hordes of people attending the weekly services at the church.

Encyclopedias state that the religion is founded upon principals of divine healing and laws expressed in the acts and the sayings of Jesus Christ as discovered and formulated by Mary Baker Eddy. Christian Scientists deny the reality of the material world. They argue that illness and sin are illusions to be overcome by the mind; thus they refuse medical help in fighting illness. It is unknown if they refuse help in fighting sin.

Principia was a private high school founded by the Christian Scientists in the St. Louis suburbs. In a baseball game in the 1930’s, a Principia infielder was accidentally spiked by an opposing player. There was a fair amount of blood, but the Principia player refused medical attention and claimed that it would all be overcome by his mind. That never struck me as something the mind ought to be doing, but it was not my call, so the game went on.

An expert in theological matters who is not affiliated with the Christian Scientists, has said that their support is off 40%, presumably from its peak. This expert comes from Defiance, Missouri and speaks the truth about sacred matters. As was said earlier, no one seems to be using the Christian Scientist’s reading room on the main street of Summit, N.J., a thriving and a prosperous town. Taking 40% away from patronage at the reading room would put us into negative numbers. That is something that must be pondered as we continue to shave.

Finally, as the whiskers are lopped off, there is a disturbing advertisement placed in the pages of “The Item,” a local weekly newspaper serving Millburn and Short Hills, New Jersey.

In reading The Item for 35 years, the paper seems to avoid controversy on all occasions. The deer who live in the woods around here became more aggressive a few years ago and residents of Short Hills found their flowers, shrubbery and vegetables eaten by the deer. So for a time, The Item adopted an editorial policy of suppressing the deer, even endorsing a professional deer hunt with rifles. Then a resident or two who were opposed to cruel treatment of the deer protested, and The Item has now adopted an editorial policy of passive thought with respect to the deer problem. Unfortunately, the deer don’t read The Item and have produced new herds which now eat even greater amounts of flowers, vegetables and shrubbery. But the Item seems to take a very muted policy toward the deer and toward other matters of interest to its readers.

And so it was a new experience to find this small ad in a newspaper which seems to avoid controversy whenever possible.

The Item serves an affluent community which seems to support several churches and synagogues. The Millburn-Short Hills township is a live and let live community. It is not like Southern communities where laymen admonish potential sinners by saying, “We didn’t see you in church last Sunday.”

Examination of Tennessee road maps show that Athens, the home of the ad placer, is only 35-40 miles from Dayton where the 1925 “Monkey Trial” took place. In that case, Scopes, a high school biology teacher was convicted of teaching evolution instead of creationism. H. L. Mencken wrote extensively about this trial and the surrounding Bible Belt. Naturally, Scopes was convicted, but served no time.

It has been my practice for more than three quarters of a century to avoid involvement with religious matters. Nonetheless, my curiosity was sufficiently aroused that when my last shaving stroke was finished, my mother’s Bible was consulted with respect to “The Beast” referred to in the Athens ad.

The Red Dragon

This is a straight reporting job. Any editorial comments will have to come from the reader. In the King James Version of the New Testament, we find the “Revelations of St. John the Divine.” In Chapter XII, verse 2, there is a woman. “And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.”
Verse 3 says, “And there appeared another wonder in Heaven and behold a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns upon his heads.” Presumably, the woman in verse 2 delivered the red dragon in verse 3.

The Beast

In Chapter XIII, verse 1, we learn, “As I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea having seven heads and ten horns and upon his horn ten crowns and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.”

The Beast and His Mark

In Chapter XIV, verse 9, we find that, “And the third angel followed them saying with a loud voice, If any man worships the beast and his image and receive his mark in his forehead or in his hand.”

Babylon Falls

In the previous verse, we have Babylon fallen, “because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.”

So this little ad from Athens, Tennessee, warns us about red dragons and a beast all of whom have seven heads and ten horns and about Babylon’s collapse. Because the ad was placed in our local newspaper, it becomes clear that Millburn-Short Hills had better avoid the “wine and wrath of fornication” or all its residents will receive a mark on our foreheads or on our hands.

On the other hand, it could be argued that the wine referred to that causes fornication comes from Israeli bottlers. That would say Millburn-Short Hills will probably avoid Babylon’s fate because consumption of Israeli wine in the United States is somewhere near zero. One final thought. Revelations does not tell us what mark the beast will leave on our foreheads or hands. My hunch is that it will be an upper case capital “B.” Anyone disagreeing with that idea can write to Athens, Tennessee.

As time goes on, it is my plan to catch and bottle a few more Thoughts While Shaving. They vary from the old prohibition of rigidly concealing bra straps to the Wild West traffic patterns that occur in New Jersey’s roundabouts. My shaving takes about eight minutes per shave, so you can see my mind is hard at work nearly all the time. In the meantime, there is much work to be done so that Millburn-Short Hills will not follow in the tragedy of Babylon.

Well, there you have the first edition of shaving thoughts. There is no intention to do anything about the table grapes issue or Mary Baker Eddy’s folks. And finally, there will be no intention to support the fundamentalists in Athens, Tennessee. But it is hoped that the Moslems, the Christian Scientists and the neanderthals in the Bible Belt know that someone is thinking about them.

August 29, 2004


“Tonsorial” is a fantastic word, and one that’s new to me. One has to wonder how a man with aphasia pulls that one out. I guess a lifetime of reading will do that. It means “of a barber or barbering” but most sites note that it is “often used humorously” — which means that it’s a pretty perfect fit.

In other news, it’s sort of surprising that Christian Scientists haven’t been evolved out of the gene pool by now. If you have a group dedicated to staying sick, you kinda think that you’d have less and less of those people as time goes on. I wonder if the recent anti-vaccination movement has swelled the ranks a bit.

In other news I think I now hold some sort of record for “grandson officially commenting on grandfather’s discussion of virgins in the Islamic afterlife” because it’s come up in no less than ten essays now. I go into it most in-depth here.


This short essay is undertaken with a sense of fear and trembling since it involves religion. When one person or one sect or one country calls another infidels and apostates, it would almost always be a slur. Generally speaking, my religious involvement is minimal because this ancient non-believer would seem to have no dog in this fight among religionists. As a man who is uninvolved in religious matters, it would seem to permit me to ponder why ostensibly holy people hurl such strong words at other people of great faith. Non-involved men like me are entitled to a strong sense of bafflement.

In my limited involvement in any religious affairs, it would seem to me that when one person or a religious group attempts to fasten the label of infidels or apostates on another religious group, those words spring more from hatred than from love or compassion. These words are not inspirational words; they are more like fighting words, it would seem to me.

There is a supreme irony here. Virtually all religions known to me, bill themselves as beacons of love and understanding and great compassion. The Jews, the Christians, the Hindus and the Buddhists all claim that their tenets of faith are ones of love. Are we missing something here? Is it possible for a man or a group to have so much love and so much compassion that they fling the charge of infidels and apostates at another group as an exercise in sympathetic understanding? If that is the case, we may have stumbled onto something here, but that most likely is not the case.

As much as we would like these essays to contribute to understanding among all people, it is feared that this essay will probably solve nothing. What is involved in this piece is a series of troublesome questions that occur to an outsider who has no stake in who is an infidel or who is an apostate. Remember, this old essayist who claims to have no dog in this fight, is within hailing distance of his heavenly reward and he would not want any partisans to cast a thumbs down vote against him when it comes to who will wear angel wings in the hereafter.

The questions that are asked in this piece are asked in an innocent desire to learn more, particularly if my non-conventional views cause me to be called an infidel or an apostate. If that is how my views affect others, it seems a matter of elementary fairness to find out why such strong words or slurs are invoked in religious matters where it is claimed that peace, justice and understanding love are the hallmarks of every expression. Again, my sense of bafflement becomes apparent, particularly when my efforts are as a non-combatant who aspires to being a peacemaker.

It might logically be asked why do religious thoughts occur to a man who disassociates himself from the mysteries and the fantasies that permeate organized religion. The simple answer is that, in history, more wars and more cruelty flow from religious disputes than from any other cause. Bush calls our ill-conceived efforts in Iraq a “crusade,” which arouses the absolute deepest Arab and Islamic anger. Then there is the long-standing dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians which has religion at its core. The evangelist Pat Robertson said today (10-5-04) that if Bush tries to give East Jerusalem to the Arabs, who have an historic home there, born again Protestants will vote against him. This is of vital importance because Robertson says he regularly receives messages directly from God. It is assumed that the originator of those sacred messages is the Protestant God or Goddess. Perhaps Allah or Nirvana and all other Gods have different messages, but fire-eater Pat ignores them.

Historically, persons who subscribe to the faith of Islam have long considered Jews as infidels and apostates. As the United States continues to be drawn into the affairs of Islamic countries, we also find repeated references to Americans being infidels and apostates because this country, regardless of its diversity of religious expression, is considered a Christian country by the Muslim world. And by Bush as well. Now we have Moqtada al Sadr who wishes to achieve respectability by becoming involved in the Iraqi political process, calling Kurds, his fellow Iraqi citizens, apostates.

Mr. Al Sadr is an Islamic cleric who seems to rank professionally below those who are called “Imams”. He may not have much of a command of the English language, but it is my duty to inform him of a tautology in that it is very difficult to distinguish an apostate from an infidel in the language used by English speakers such as England’s Queen Elizabeth. This is a fairly minor offense and should not be counted against his record when he applies to enter Paradise where the virgins and/or the white grapes are said to be in residence.

As a non-involved participant in religious matters, it would seem to me that religions have made a mess of things. So just about every religious individual or group has grievances against other religious organizations. Some people would say the job has been badly botched.

Now, a fundamental question. Iraq was pre-emptorily invaded by what Bush calls a coalition. There was Great Britain, Australia, Spain, Italy and the United States, among others. All of these members of Bush’s grand coalition are considered by Muslim adherents to be Christian countries. It is widely known that Buddhists, Hindus and Shintos reside in those countries and who practice religion that is greatly at variance from that prescribed by, for example, the Reverend Doctor Billy Graham. Are these non-Christians exempt from the label of infidels even though they reside in a so-called Christian country?

If Hindus and Shintos and Buddhists throughout the world are subject to the slur of being called infidels and apostates simply because they reside in a country that is not considered to be an Islamic one, the Muslims are inviting these sects to register strong protests. In India, for example, this may very well result in retaliation against those who want to practice the Muslim faith in a predominately Hindu country. If the Islamists insist on “Our way or the highway,” they may find themselves in some sort of war.

Now if Islamists are persuaded to quit calling Hindus, Buddhists, et al, infidels and apostates, where does that leave Americans, for example, who are non-believers in every organized religious faith? My own personal view is that the Islamists will not accept any claim of non-belief. You are an American; therefore, you are a Christian. In some respects, it reminds me of the Muslim view of homosexuality. They claim that homosexuality does not ever occur in Islamic countries, thus, they have no gay or lesbian problem. They are pure. The flip side of that sort of thinking in blinders is that every American is a Christian and richly deserves to be called an infidel. Non-believers are thinking Americans who may resent being called an Islamic slur, and not a very imaginative one at that.

As for Israel, the slurs about faith go back to the year 570AD when the Prophet Mohammed was born. His followers now seem to assume that many people – Jews and Christians and perhaps others – are to be hated as infidels. Whatever happened to those many people who contend that the Koran is a book that preaches love and understanding for all mankind?

But the juxtaposition of the Jewish faith and Christianity brings up another poignant question. What would the Imams and Ayatollahs say about the infidel American Christian who marries a Jewish spouse? American sportscasters would call this a “twofer.” Here we have the hated Christian marrying a reviled spouse. This must set the Islamic faithful aflame with passion – all done in the name of love and understanding, of course.

If the Muslims find the Christian-Jew marital relationship repugnant in the extreme, what do you think Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani would say about an American Christian who marries a Muslim spouse? Sistani, who is recovering from cardiology work that was done in London, might wish to ask, “Are you trying to kill me?” This may well be a way to peace however. As the number of Muslim-Christian spousal relationships increase, the radical, right wing insurgents in the Islamic faith may kill themselves at such an outrage. It is my unshakeable belief that Sven and Ella Lernevall who live in Sweden, will use my advocacy of this innovative position, to promote me for a Nobel Prize in Peace.

Now let us turn to some military matters and the Grand Commander in Chief of American forces – George W. Bush. He says he is our wartime president. The fact that he started the pre-emptive war which makes him a wartime president is never mentioned.

A story appeared this week about the 2004 election. The dispatch claimed that Bush is now avidly courting the votes of black preachers. Walter Humphrey of Akron, Ohio, heard Bush and said, until recently, he had doubts about the fairness of presidential election results in 2000. Now he says, “I don’t see an election being stolen. I see that as the providence of God.”

Lt. General Boykin, who works as one of Rumsfeld’s top assistants, says in his talk to churches, that God put Bush in the White House. For his own part, Bush believes that his gut hunches come from God whom he said wanted him to be president.

If all these figures believe that Bush is acting in God’s name, how can anyone – Muslim or otherwise – call him and his soldiers infidels or apostates? From my viewpoint, Bush is Americas greatest infidel when it comes to uniting the people of this country.

Now let us examine the troops who make up the American military. Clearly, not every soldier who wears the American flag on his sleeve will sing “Onward Christian Soldiers” at Sunday services. There are soldiers who are devout Muslims who pray five times a day in a consecrated mosque. On holy days, he may ceremonially cut the throat of a sheep or a goat, all in the name of Allah. Given these circumstances, do you believe that the ordinary Imam in Mosul or Basra or in Riyadh would call such an American soldier an infidel? But he is serving a commander in chief who regularly proclaims his devotion to Jesus and the Christian Evangelic faith. This must be a close call for the Imams of the Arabic world who see the American soldier trying to serve two masters.

If you think my foregoing example of the Muslim soldier serving the Army of the so called Christian country is unimaginable, please consider the case of Captain Yee. The good captain was a Muslim who was a Chaplain in the United States Army. He was born in New Jersey, his parents were Americans, which most observers would say would make him an American. He was raised in the Muslim faith. From the beginning, he was an adherent to the cause of what we used to call Muhammadism.

Because the Army was holding something like 650 prisoners in a prison in Guantanamo, Cuba, Captain Yee was sent there because most or nearly all those prisoners claimed to be Muslim. Somewhere or somehow, the Army concluded that Captain Yee was illegally involved with the prisoners and said it was going to court martial him. He was held in solitary confinement in a Navy brig in South Carolina where Army officers informed him the court martial proceedings against him would include the death penalty. Pretty serious stuff. After more than two months of solitary confinement, the Army released him, but restricted him to the base. Simply put, the Army who had experts in the field and in Washington trying to make a case against Captain Yee, failed to find any significant evidence against him. In the end, Captain Yee was accused of having an extramarital affair with a female military person and the Army claimed he had pornographic pictures on his computer.

That is all the brass could come up with after months of work. No treason, no working to undermine the mission of the United States. If everyone who has been engaged in an extramarital affair runs the risk of the death penalty, it is clear that the coffin industry is the place to put your money. In the end, the Army surrendered and offered Captain Yee a discharge. He had to fight to make it clear that he would not leave the Army unless he had an honorable discharge. In the end, Captain Yee’s demands were met – but the grand U.S. Army, conqueror of Baghdad, refused to accompany the discharge with any sort of apology. Now my query to Grand Ayotallah Sistani and all other members of the Islamic faith, is whether Captain Yee should be called an infidel or an apostate because he served in a religious capacity with the U.S. Army? If he is called one of those slurs, it would seem to me a monumental case of piling on with no good reason.

This essay has gone on longer than intended. My thought here has to do with the mindlessness of calling another person an infidel or an apostate. You may differ, but in my vocabulary, those words spring from hate, not from love. In my own life, those words have been used against another sect or faith during the years that my parents forced me to attend their fundamental and primitive Protestant church services. The preachers, for example, were generally unschooled and would have no idea whatsoever if someone mentioned Mecca or any other basic Islamic practice. So they turned their wrath (read hatred) on other Christians. For example, according to the preachers who pastored these churches, no one could aspire to heaven unless he or she had submitted to full immersion during baptism. The translation of this interpretation is that Catholics and other sects who were anointed on their foreheads, would be condemned to hell and, it may be supposed, to being an infidel or an apostate during their lifetimes. My reaction to this state of affairs was one of total repulsion.

And so my long standing non-involvement, or non-belief if you will, in all the affairs of organized and unorganized religions suits me well. It is hoped, as has been expressed before in these essays, that your faith or lack of faith pleases you as well as mine suits me.

To be on the safe side though, my television listening habits sometimes take me to marvel at the offerings of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Franklin Graham (Billy’s son) and the Catholic programs on Eternal World Television Network. My occasional listening to offerings of these prominent religious figures together with my non-involvement or non-belief in sacred affairs might be called playing God across the board. That may be true, but for an ancient soldier essay writer in the eighth decade of his life who still aspires to angel wings, you clearly can’t be too safe.

October 6, 2004


I think there’s just a big misunderstanding. When a given sect or religion claims to be a religion of peace, that means that there’s generally peace among all those who hold that identical belief. Every religion would like to get to a state where everyone on the planet was an adherent of that particular religion, even for non-proselytizing ones like Judaism. Any Jewish person would jump at the chance to live in a version of Earth where every Christian and Muslim is instead also a Jew, and for good reason. There would be peace! This gets around the infidel problem, and if you are finding that you’re still upset with someone who nominally shares your religious beliefs, just keep going down the rabbit hole of increasingly specific sectionalism until you find a difference.


In this essay, it is my intention to give consideration to the importance of the religious vote to the recent re-election of Bush, particularly to the Jewish element of that choice.

The title comes from a sentence of a proclamation by the “Provisional Government of the Irish Republic to the people of Ireland.” The proclamation was written in 1915 and has been preserved by the Irish National Museum in Dublin. A facsimile copy has been in my possession for many years.

Among the aims of the Provisional Government of Ireland was the solemn promise to “Cherish all the children of the nation equally.” You may recall that at the time the proclamation was written, England had dictatorial control over the Irish nation.

As a descendant of Irish forbearers, it seems to me that the vow to “cherish all the children of the nation equally,” is inspirational in its concept and lyrical in its choice of English words. The vow imposes a sacred duty on the men who signed the Proclamation to treat all Irish citizens equally. By 1916 after the Easter Uprising at the General Post Office in Dublin, nearly all the men who signed the Proclamation had been executed by the English. The Irish said they intended to control their own affairs. John Bull said such people were unruly rebels and deserved to be shot – which was done.

The Proclamation came back to me this week as the Bush re-election is being celebrated. It came back to me because the “children” of this nation who subscribe to the Evangelical Christian faith are being treated with great favor, while the so-called elitist’s children who live on the East and West coasts of the United States are to be treated with considerable disfavor. Contrary to what Bush and John Kerry may have said during the campaign, there are no prospects for the “children” of this nation being treated equally. Now, the prospects for inequality of treatment are increasingly greater. Looking at the distribution of recent tax cuts going almost totally to the richest Americans, is one example that comes immediately to mind.

My comments in this piece have to do with the seeming confluence of views between Evangelic Protestants, far right Catholic prelates who seem to be hung up on abortion and same sex marriages, and people of the Jewish faith who have recently discovered desirable qualities in George Bush.

To comment on this three-way confluence takes some bona fides. My bona fides certainly do not come from a seminary of any sort or from a university that offers courses in religious appreciation. Unfortunately , my bona fides come from forced attendance at the marathon church services offered by the Southern Baptists, the Nazarenes, the Pentecostals and finally the Free Will Baptist church which banned all organ or piano music to accompany the hymns. It may be that Satan himself sponsors instrumental music.

My reaction to the primitive inanities of all these churches was outright disdain which soon became an intense dislike bordering on hatred for their ignorance of obvious facts. And to think that my mother had hoped and planned for me to become a preacher. She had not succeeded with my older brothers, so as the youngest child of the family, she had ordained me as her final hope for a preacher who would follow in the steps of the Blessed Billy Sunday. She was increasingly aware of my gross disenchantment with divine services so her disappointment was muted as my attendance at Protestant churches of her choosing came to an end at the time of my attaining the age of 13 years.

Since that time, there has been an active intent to keep up with some developments in religious life largely as a result of my on-going interests in affairs of the United States and the world. The television fulminations of such ill-informed and ignorant know-nothings as the Graham-Falwell-Robertson combine are occasionally followed with curiosity that flows from my disbelief that they actually believe the tripe they are preaching. Did the sun stand still, was the Red Sea actually parted and did Jesus walk on water? The Catholic channel, EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network), has only recently acknowledged that there MAY POSSIBLY have been some unseemly moral behavior between priests and altar boys. As a general principal , the performers on EWTN make it clear that non-Catholics are going to have one hell of a time to get to purgatory, much less to the eternal ecstasy of heaven.

So my bona fides come from exposure to the right wing evangelic sects as well as to watching Catholic preaching on EWTN. Over the years, my exposure to members of the Jewish faith has been through secular contacts. Jews don’t seem to preach on radio or television. It seems to me that Jews have an inordinate capacity to produce articles and papers that offer cogent comment on the affairs of the day. And on top of all that, it seems to me that the Irish and the Jews seem to get on well together. One of the reasons may be that the Jews have no apparent legislative agenda which would force other groups to accede to the principals of the Jewish faith. For example, the Jews were never behind Prohibition. It is doubted that Jews are enthusiastic to overturn Roe v. Wade. It is also doubted that Jews would subscribe to banning birth control devices or the teaching of creationism to the exclusion of evolution in our schools.

In the case of the recent presidential election, there was a communion of sorts between Bible thumping Evangelic Protestants and Catholics who seemed to believe that abortion and same sex marriages were a greater threat to the Republic than the deaths in Iraq, the assault on civil liberties, and the record deficits that will have to be paid by the children of our grandchildren.

For Catholics to overlook what Lancet, the respected British journal, calls 100,000 Iraqi civilian deaths and the loss of over 1220 deaths among our own soldiers is astounding to this former soldier from World War II. Now, election results point out that some Jews joined in this crusade to elect Bush over a pious Catholic who was a hero in the Vietnam War. You will recall that Bush and Chaney avoided service in that conflict with Bush fleeing to the Texas Air National Guard and with Chaney saying he had “other priorities” rather than to serve as a military person.

Based upon my experience with Evangelic Protestants, it is my unshakeable belief that the concordant with the other Christian groups will be short lived. The Protestant-Catholic dispute goes back to the year 1517 when Martin Luther, a Catholic priest, posted 95 theses to the castle church in Saxony, Germany. Luther was offended by the authorities in Rome granting indulgences that spared church officials the inconvenience of going to purgatory after their deaths. Of course, money was involved here. As a result of Luther’s protests against the Roman Church, a new Christian sect or faith was established. These were the Protestants as the protestors against indulgent practices were called. The passage of nearly 500 years has not mitigated the separation of the Protestants and their former church, the Catholics. Among other beliefs, Protestants reject priestly celibacy, the bar against females in the Catholic clergy and the idea of purgatory. Protestants have no ban on the use of birth control.

The Catholics maintain that theirs is the one true church of God, regardless of the establishment of all other religions. It must be assumed that adherents to the Catholic faith reject Protestantism as well as the Islamic, Hindu and the Buddhist faiths. Simply joining hands with the Evangelic Protestants to support Bush will do nothing to erase 500 years of disagreement and displeasure between the Catholics and the Protestants.

When it comes to the evangelic fundamentalists congregations in the right wing of the Protestant denomination, there is a sense of being “aginners.” In spite of the fact that Catholics are fellow Christians, the “aginners” will assure you in no uncertain terms, that Catholics can never aspire to what the right wing religionists call, “The Kingdom of Heaven.”

It has never been made convincingly clear to me why the Protestant fundamentalists believe that Catholics are headed for the eternal damnation of hell. Perhaps it is bingo games in the basement of Holy Rosary Catholic Church. Perhaps it is that Catholics do not submit to total immersion when being baptized which the Protestant religious right holds sacred. Perhaps it all has to do with being “aginners” but the Nazarenes and the Baptists and the Pentecostals say that God himself has made it clear that they will enjoy the endless pleasures of heaven while Catholics will be sent to eternal damnation and torment. There is no meeting ground.

Does anyone, Catholic, Protestant, Pagan or Jew, believe this chasm on the Christian side of things may be papered over when Sadie Liebowitz marries Suzy Brown, simply because there is an imminent threat to the Republic that only George Bush can master? He has mangled so much so far in his first term, that bringing Catholics and born again Protestants into the same tent will be an accomplishment that will avoid solution for the next 500 years. In the Christian faith, dislike for other sects bordering on fanaticism or hatred is a component that will probably exist forever.

When a Jew from any branch of his faith would contemplate joining with the born again Protestants and the militant Catholics in support of Bush, he should give a thought or two to Martin Luther and realize the depth of the disagreements that exist within the Christian faith. It is for this reason that any long term support for Bush is problematic and the Jew who gets involved in intra-Christian disputes is bound to be burned.

On the Protestant side of this arrangement, a little more is known to me by virtue of my forced exposure to the incoherent primitive services of the Baptists (Southern and Free Will), the Nazarenes and the Pentecostals. Every prejudice was cited or invented to claim that other Protestant sects were never going to enjoy the exquisite pleasures of heaven. According to the preachers my parents forced me to hear, anyone who danced or played cards, or owned gold jewelry, or enjoyed worldly things such as baseball games would receive a one way ticket to hell. Remember, this is one Protestant sect making such claims against competing Protestant groups. While the Protestants fight among themselves, they all harbor ill feelings against their ancient rivals, the Catholics.

The same preachers who denounced dancing and card playing claimed that more sophisticated sects such as the Presbyterians, the Episcopalians and the Congregationalists would be barred from heaven because they did not submit to the primitive beliefs of the born again sects. In effect, the fundamentalists said the uptown church goers would be ineligible for heaven because their beliefs were too uppity.

When the preaching and the conversation in the fundamental sects, turned to the more sophisticated sects, the word “infidel” would soon surface. The point is that many born again Protestant sects seem to be comfortable with their holiness only when other Protestant sects are diminished. They have to put down competing sects to make themselves feel superior and more holy.

Here is what is being said in the born again circles. Peter Wallsten writes in the Los Angeles Times of November 12, 2004, about his interview with Jerry Falwell. Two short paragraphs tell us all we need to know about the Reverend Doctor Jerry Falwell:

“Jerry Falwell — is so concerned about harnessing his movements power within the GOP and national politics that this week he formed the Faith and Values Coalition, which, as he put it, aimed to be the 21st Century version of the Moral Majority.

“The group will seek to register millions of additional voters, starting in January, to ensure that supports of abortion rights, such as former New York Mayor Rudolph Guilani, or backers of gay rights such as Arizona’s Senator John McCain, don’t win the GOP presidential nomination and that Republicans retain the White House in 2008.”

Guilani and McCain are both Christians, but their right wing credentials leave much to be desired in Falwell’s eyes. Also, it must be assumed that his new Faith and Values outfit deplores divorce. Unfortunately, divorce is much greater in Falwell’s Bible belt state when compared to the states that voted against George Bush. Maybe Falwell ought to devote some effort to healing traditional marriages rather than to harp on same sex unions.

Guilani is a Catholic politician who is now involved with his third marriage. McCain is believed to be an Episcopalian. Does anything in Falwell’s diatribe strike you as conciliatory or conducive to preserving the loving arrangement with the Catholics or the Jews?

To my Jewish friends, it must be said that any agreement on political or religious matters with the Christians will perforce, be short lived.

James Dobson is another of the Christian moguls. Dobson runs a religious enterprise in Colorado. “He has compared recent steps toward gay marriage to Pearl Harbor and likens it to D-Day,” says Michael Crowley in an assessment in the New Republic published on November 12. When Dobson got a thank you call from the White House, he told the caller that Bush “needs to be more aggressive” about pressing the religious right’s pro-life, anti-gay agenda. Crowley calls Dobson a “Republican kingmaker.”

Once more, my Jewish friends must be asked if they intend to place their trust in a born-again Christian who fancies himself a Republican kingmaker. What is in it for any Jew? Any Jew must ask whether the fanaticism or Dobson or Falwell or Robertson has elements of anti-Semiticism in it.

The fraying of the embrace between Christians is not confined to debates between Christian sects. James Hatfield in an Online Journal dated April 24, 2001, says this about Bush:

“Dubya often talks the talk, but seldom walks the walk of his faith.
“Dubya and I have one thing – and only one thing – in common.
We are both members of the United Methodist Church.
“You might think the election of the third Methodist to the Presidency would be a source of pride.
“Think again, folks.”

Hatfield has filed a long report which excoriates Bush for his actions as a human being and as a Methodist. So the Protestant squabble is inter and intra-sectual. (That may be a neologism.) Is this the sort of arrangement that Jews would be pleased to find themselves within?

Now when this essayist says a concordant between Christians will be short lived, my point is hammered home in the November 3, 2004 congratulatory letter to Bush from Bob Jones III, the president of Bob Jones University. You may recall that this school banned interracial dating until national attention was called to it as a result of Bush making a campaign speech at that institution. Excerpts from the congratulatory letter follow:

“In your re-election, God has graciously granted America – though she doesn’t deserve it – a reprieve from the agenda of paganism. We the people expect your voice to be like the clear and certain sound of a trumpet.

“Don’t equivocate. Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ.

“The student body, faculty and staff at Bob Jones University commit ourselves to pray for you – that you would do right and honor the Savior. Pull out all the stops and make a difference. If you have weaklings around you who do not share your biblical values, shed yourself of them.

“We could not be more thankful that God has given you four more years to serve Him in the White House never taking off your Christian faith and laying it aside as a man takes off a jacket, but living, speaking, and making decisions as one who knows the Bible to be eternally true.”

Now, the people at Bob Jones University are the gung ho supporters of Bush. In the congratulatory letter to Bush, do you see a scintilla anywhere that might even suggest that Jews might be welcome in the George Dubya arrangement? It would be a failure of great proportions to see Jews being taken in by Christians of this born again stripe. What the Dobsons, the Falwells and the other born-agains are saying is that our faith – not the Catholic or the Jewish faith will get us to heaven and all you elitist readers of the New York Times will be condemned to enjoying eternal torment. Hell, here we come.

Now a further thought about Christianity. In the red states of the 2004 election, 70% of those citizens believed that Saddam Hussein was working closely with Al Qaeda. One third believe that the majority of world opinion supported the U.S. led invasion of Iraq. These folks are by and large, Christians. A goodly proportion, perhaps a majority, of them believes that in ancient times, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, that Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus. Their clerics have told them so. Does any Jew anywhere believe that he or she will be welcomed as a full partner with the born again Protestants and the Catholics when he/she pledged support of Bush?

No matter how you cut it, intense rivalries and arguments on theological grounds permeates the Christian faith. When the Jew approaches this enduring fact with an endorsement of people like Bush, is he prepared to live with permanent animosity? If the Shias and the Sunnis were to unite within the Islamic faith, would the ordinary Jew want to be the third party in that arrangement? In my estimation, the Jew would have more success in joining with the Islamic agreement than he or she would with the short lived agreement within the Christian faith.

Now if a Jew became a leader establishing a sect called Jews for Jerry Falwell, it might be necessary for me to tuck my tail between my hind legs and seek a hiding place. On the other hand, it is my belief that Bush will use the forces of religion as long as it is of use to his political career. Jewish support is important to Bush’s career, therefore, he courts Jews. But all Jews should bear in mind the example of Vincente Fox, the President of Mexico. When Señor Fox declined to send troops to the hell holes of Iraq, a distinct coolness developed in our relations with Mexico. Fox no longer speaks to Bush; he is obliged to converse with lower levels in the Bush administration. All this comes after Bush once promised that the United States and Mexico were inseparable.

When Jacques Chretian, the Premier of Canada refused to endorse the fool hardy pre-emptive invasion of Iraq, he was cut off. In his four years in the Oval Office, Bush has yet to visit our neighbor to the north.

Is this mean-spiritedness toward our two closest neighbors what Jews wish to support? Do they understand what “born again” means? In the recent appointments to Bush’s cabinet, the Jewish names are distinguished by their absence.

My relationship with Jews is very important to me. My life has been enriched by having an active relationship with male Jews that could only come from a genuine liking for each other. Take Larry Friedman, who married Doris Woodward, a lovely lady who is much too good for a guy like Friedman. Larry said he had a kosher butcher on Bleeker Street in New York City who could perform cut rate circumcisions on goys like me. Some of us goys responded by inviting Larry to lunch at a place that served only oysters, eels, cockles and mussels. This turned out to be a bad deal because Larry was an observant Jew except when it came to eating. He would eat anything. But the kosher butcher was located on Houston Street, not on Bleeker at all.

My older passports carry stamps that show my work took me to Israel perhaps 15 times on communications business. My Israeli counterparts received me with uncommon courtesy and friendship. Aryeh Ron, Jake Haberfeld and Gideon Lev had left Europe as the Nazis took over. Aryeh Ron was called Lee Ritter in Vienna when storm troopers ordered him to bring his toothbrush to clean the sidewalk. He got the hint and took off for Palestine.

Aryeh appointed himself as my guide to his new country. On one occasion, we were driving in the northern part of Israel and my host driver seemed to be in no hurry. He suggested that we stop for a drink of Israeli orange juice at the cafeteria of the University of Haifa. He said we both might learn something. A member of the university administration joined us. When he innocently inquired about my academic credentials, he was laughingly told that, in terms of college work, there were none. He said, “That can be fixed.” So he escorted me to many departments of Haifa University. Upon leaving, he told me that my tour of the University and my long friendship with Aryeh Ron qualified us both as honors graduates of Haifa University. That academic achievement is not one that is worn on my sleeve, but there it is nonetheless.

As it turned out, Aryeh was killing time until his granddaughter finished her first grade class in Haifa. His meeting with that little girl was a sight to behold with kisses and hugs flying everywhere. Aryeh’s guest was not overlooked in the affection department.

Jake Haberfeld, a refugee from Poland, was an important figure in the Israeli telephone industry. In business meetings, Jake presented himself with great dignity, but always with a sense of humor. On one occasion when Israel was in a dispute with Syria over the Golan Heights, your author told Mr. Haberfeld that the U.S. Government would support Israel on the Heights question, provided that Israel would agree to returning Miami Beach to us. Instantly, Jake said, “That is the trouble with you Americans. You always want a package deal.” Everybody roared. That round went to Jake Haberfeld.

Now we turn to the thought that got us here in the first place. That thought has to do with whether the Bush administration backed by the Protestant born again right and by evangelical Catholics and by some Jews will indeed, treat all the citizens equally. It goes without saying that most of the 55,000,000 voters who supported John Kerry do not think so with, for example, with tax breaks going to the most well off Americans and with rampant favoritism being shown to heavy contributors to Republican Party coffers. In my experience, Jews have almost always supported fair treatment for all of us.

Many Irish people contend that Ireland’s only debt to their long term oppressors flows from teaching English to the Irish. Of course, the title of this piece is a part of a Proclamation written by Irishmen in the English language. The rest of the sentence from which the title of this essay was lifted is instructive and should guide every politician who is given the responsibility to run a government. The rest of the sentence says:

“The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally, and oblivious to the difference carefully fostered by an alien government which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.”

Of course, my forbearers were Irish so some may say my thoughts are a bit prejudiced. On the other hand, there is much to ponder over in that marathon sentence from the Proclamation of the Provisional Government of Ireland, particularly on the minority-majority question.

The lyricism and the harmony of these words continue to be impressive after nearly 90 years. When electorates of this country elected to go in the election of 2004 with faith over facts, when it elected to go with ideology over reality, when it decided to endorse belief rather than reason, there is no reason to believe that there will be any desire to cherish the citizens equally.

Sandra J. Sucher of Waban, Massachusetts summarized it this way: “The officials who perpetuated these untruths and those who believe in them, despite evidence to the contrary, lead us down a path in which no reason can be brought to bear on matters on which our lives and the lives of millions around the globe depend.”

It is painful to say that the ensuing years will be a time of great trial. This country doesn’t deserve the fate that faith and ideology have brought us. It is my belief that upon reflection, our Jewish friends would agree with that conclusion.

November 16, 2004


I feel like I was missing something in this one until I saw the publication date. I suppose the whole piece is a reaction to Jews somehow contributing to the election of Bush? Did this happen? I don’t remember reading much about the role of the Jewish vote specifically, but I was fourteen at the time and don’t remember reading much news at all. So I guess this essay becomes some sort of cautionary tale to Jews, on the grounds that religious difference with the GOP mean that they’ve elected someone who won’t watch out for their interests.

I can’t recall any Bush-era policies that encouraged discrimination against Jews or singled them out specifically, but I can appreciate the message sent here anyway. This election cycle, the same sort of logic would apply to all the working-class Americans who elected an unsympathetic demagogue billionaire — precisely the sort of person who they would normally decry. But they elected him anyway because he spoke in language they could understand and promised to turn their xenophobic hatred into national policy.

The gist of this essay is that Republicans aren’t great about being compassionate human beings, so you probably shouldn’t ally yourself with them unless you are sure they’re going to support you. This time it was the US’s the poor and working-class white Christians who got duped, and my prediction is that they’re going to get burned by this change in leadership almost as much as their minority counterparts who they were seeking to attack. If Obamacare gets repealed, for instance, Appalachia is going to feel that every bit as much as inner-city Detroit. It’s going to be hard to feel sorry for them when the other shoe drops in a few years.