Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Religious Freedom or Discrimination?

April 23, 2015

Things change.

Not that many years ago, homosexual sex was against the law.  It was listed as a mental illness.  It was a sin.  Gay marriage was unthinkable.

Now, those laws have been either rescinded or forgotten.  They certainly are not enforced.  It has been taken off the list of mental illnesses.  Some churches have embraced it as an alternative lifestyle.  Many states have legalized marriage of same sex couples.

There are still a few holdouts.

Some people of religious faith continue to hold to their view that it is a sin, that gay marriage is a sin.  They want no part of it.  They base their beliefs on a few scriptures.

Leviticus 18:22

 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.

Leviticus 20:13

 If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.

I Corinthians 6:9-10

 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.

I Timothy 1:8-11

But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.

Romans 1:18-32

 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

There are actually still quite a few people who believe that homosexual activity is sinful.  Some of these people are in business.  They believe that it is wrong for them to support a gay marriage by providing services such as photography, baking, or catering.

Is the refusal of these services criminal discrimination, or an exercise in religious freedom?  Should the people newly in power force compliance upon those who have been slow to change?  Or who will not change?

Recently Indiana had a law passed that was meant to protect people of conservative religious views.  It was poorly written, being far too broad in scope. There was an uproar of protest.  The law was quickly changed.  I would like to suggest something more specific to be considered.  Something like:

“Business people who have strong religious convictions against gay marriage will not be forced to provide services to support a gay marriage ceremony so long as those services are available by another business within a fifty mile radius.” 

This type of law would protect the right of the individual’s religious conviction while still allowing the desired services to be obtained.

Of course, maybe we have become a society that will not tolerate disagreement or noncompliance.

 

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How to Survive an Encounter With Police

March 5, 2015

The headlines of our local paper yesterday chided the Ferguson police for racial bias.

A homeless man was shot in Los Angeles.  The public is outraged.

Perhaps we should look at the other side of the issue.  How should we behave in an encounter with police?

Michael Brown assaulted the police officer.  The bruises and scrapes are clear in the photos.

The police claim that the homeless man was grabbing for the gun of one of the officers.  After the incident, an officer’s gun(one who did not shoot) was half-cocked, with a bullet partially ejected.  It is cited as evidence of the struggle for the gun.

In addition to questioning police action, we should focus on our action.  We should not punch police officers.  We should not try to take their guns.  In all of the articles that I saw after the Ferguson incident, I only saw one comment made about how the public should act in an encounter with police.  It was an African-American police chief who said that the advice that he gave his own children was simple.

Cooperate with the police and move slowly. 

In the last year three men who have died at the hands of police have made national news.  The focus has always been on the action of the police.  The fact is; the police have a dangerous job.  In our area, a while back, a deputy sheriff was shot in the face and killed while serving an arrest warrant.  In the months since these three men have died at the hands of police, I wonder how many law enforcement officers have died?  Their deaths do not often make the national news.  Their job is to protect and to serve, but they must also protect themselves.  We do not often see the footage of police officers being killed in the line of duty, but I am certain that they are used in training police officers.  They want to be able to go home at the end of their shift and they want to be able to live with themselves.  I am certain that the vast majority of officers are not looking for an excuse to kill someone.

Cooperate with the police and move slowly.

It could save your life.

 

Minimum Wage

February 19, 2015

People like to suggest that raising the minimum wage is in response to inflation.  I would suggest that raising the minimum wage causes inflation.

If a gallon of milk cost one dollar ten years ago, and today a gallon of milk costs four dollars we recognize that the gallon of milk has not changed.  Rather, we look at it as inflation and consider it to be a bad thing.

When minimum wage changes, the product itself, a basic hour of low-skill work hasn’t changed.  The cost has been inflated.

Another way of looking at it is to say that what two dollars used to purchase, now requires seven dollars to purchase.  The thing being purchased hasn’t changed.  The value of the dollar, what the dollar will buy, has changed.

When we increase the minimum wage, we devalue the dollar.

I am not an economist and I am not going to go back over the last fifty years and see the precise changes in minimum wage and the effect on the economy.  I have, however, been living through the last fifty years, and in my observation, raising the minimum wage causes economic turmoil.

The minimum wage is meant to be a starting point for employment.  As workers develop skills and demonstrate a solid work ethic, they may be rewarded with higher paying jobs.  New workers entering the job market take their place and the process moves onward.

When the minimum wage is raised it has an affect on what other employees are paid as well.  People often view their pay in relationship to the minimum wage so to keep employees, wages across the board need to go up.  Higher wages means higher operating costs.  These costs are passed on to the consumer, resulting in inflation.

Currently, people who make minimum wage may be eligible for a variety of assistance programs from the government.  These include food stamps, rent assistance, utilities assistance and other programs.  These programs help people to live a better life while making minimum wage. Perhaps we could add an option of financial training.  We should help to teach people how to live on their income, rather than beyond their income.

People should look to better themselves by finding better jobs, not by trying to force employers to pay more for an hour of basic labor.

Raising the minimum wage is a bad idea.

Plans, Promises, and Truthfulness

February 12, 2015

Years ago, when I started this blog, I wrote an article four times a week.  Those articles were about all kinds of different topics.  For quite a while now, I have been simply posting sermon notes.  I am going to try to get back to writing articles on a variety of topics.  The sermon notes will still come out on Mondays.  On Thursdays, I will be writing something different. At least, that is the plan.  Please feel free to make comments on anything that I write.  I enjoy interaction.  Thank you. 

Have you ever wondered what the world would look like if everyone was truthful?  If everyone kept their word?  If everyone kept their promises? This world would be a better place.

A number of years ago, I told my philosophy class that I tried to always tell the truth.  They laughed.  Apparently, they thought that I was lying, because, of course, everyone lies, at least in their minds. That memory has stayed with me as a sad commentary on society today.

I do not mean that we have to share every thought that goes through our minds. Some things we can keep to ourselves.

Sometimes, it is important to use tact when speaking the truth.  If we speak the truth with the right attitude, in the right way, at the right time,  it is a very good thing.  This is not always easy to do.

Wouldn’t it be nice if people kept their word?  If we tell someone we are going to do something, we should do it.  This is especially important in the business world.  If we hire someone to do some kind of work and they take the money but don’t do the work, then we are cheated.  On the other hand, if someone does the work, but isn’t paid, then they are cheated.  Unfortunately, this sort of thing happens far too often. It makes us suspicious of people.  Until someone has proven themselves, we may not trust them.

Promise keeping is especially important.  When my children were young, I wanted to impress on them the importance of keeping promises.  One way that I did that was to use promises very sparingly.  I would tell my children that I was planning to do something, but that sometimes plans have to change.  That way if something came up, and I had to change my plans, I was not breaking a promise.  When I did make a promise, I made sure that it was something that I could keep.

Incidentally, wedding vows are a form of promise.  For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, and in health, forsaking all others for as long as we both shall live.   This is not something to be taken lightly.  There may be bad days, but your commitment to each other should bring you through them.

Maybe we cannot transform the entire world, but we can change a little part of it.  May we learn to be truthful people who keep our word.

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Justice and Forgiveness

April 10, 2014

Last night in our Bible study at church, we were discussing the Lord’s Prayer and the emphasis on forgiveness.

And forgive us our sins,
For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.  (Luke 11:4)

We were in agreement that it is necessary for us to forgive those who have wronged us.

Then someone asked about justice.  Just the day before, a family had observed the one year anniversary of a tragic event.  A baby had been shaken by his father, causing severe damage.  The child went through months of seizures, and has lasting damage that, unless miraculously healed by God, will likely be permanent.  While the baby fought for his life, and while the mother and family dealt with the multiple treatments, seizures, and ongoing effects, the father moved out, and was free to go about his business while the justice system went through the various steps leading eventually to conviction and confinement.  The family was, and is, concerned about justice.  A wrong had been done, a penalty should be paid.

How do we reconcile forgiveness and justice?  This blog does not claim to present the final solution to that problem, but rather, a starting point for thought, and perhaps discussion.

I would suggest that forgiveness is an act of an individual, while justice is a function of society.  Forgiveness is an attitude that allows us to let go of the anger, resentment and hatred that poisons our hearts.  Justice is a necessary component of society that punishes wrongdoers, thus preventing us from taking matters into our own hands.

It would be wrong to think that God only supports forgiveness.  The Mosaic Law set forth laws, and punishments for those that broke the law.  These penalties were considered to be just.  It would be wrong to think that the God of the New Testament, with the emphasis on forgiveness; and the God of the Old Testament, with an emphasis on judgement, are incompatible, or different Gods.  God is both just and forgiving.

There are consequences to wrongdoing.  These consequences can be both temporal and eternal.  God is both merciful and just.  We can be forgiven the eternal consequences of our sins, and still face the temporal consequences of our actions.

For the believer who has been wronged, it is important for us to forgive the wrongdoers and leave the consequences for their actions in the hand of God.

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:19)

Clearly there is a tension between justice and forgiveness.  As individuals we must forgive those who have wronged us.  As a society we must pursue justice for those who have been wronged.  The Holy Spirit can help us have the ability to forgive in our hearts,  and the wisdom to pursue justice in our land.

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Protecting a Minority

March 13, 2014

Gay rights have come a long way.  Within my lifetime, they have gone from being an illegal activity and a psychological disorder, to a widely accepted alternative lifestyle.  In an increasing number of states, they have obtained the right to legally marry.

The primary opposition to gay marriage stems from religious people that continue to accept certain biblical values.  Of course, not everyone shares the same  values.  How should we react when there is a conflict of values?  When a gay couple is planning their wedding, and they contact a church, a florist, a caterer, a photographer and so forth: do those businesses have a right to refuse their services?  Are we not willing to allow people to live out their own values in this area?  Are we going to force the will of the majority upon the minority?  Or will we allow people to continue to live by their personal convictions in this matter?

There is an increasing number of people who will gladly accept the business generated by gay weddings.  People who feel strongly that gay marriages are wrong should be allowed to refuse service.  They should be able to live by their moral convictions.  They should however, be required to suggest a business that is open, to providing that service.

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Syrian Involvement

August 29, 2013

I am gravely concerned about the action that our country may take in response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria.  Earlier this year, I read a newspaper report that Russia believed, as a result of the chemical analysis of the earlier attack, that the rebels had used gas in an attempt to provoke the US into joining the fight.  They had reached this conclusion because the analysis showed that the chemicals used were of an inferior quality than what the Syrian’s have in their arsenal.    I consider this to be a very real possibility.  The rebels have much to gain by American involvement.  There may be someone among the rebels who has the capability to manufacture and to use gas, and who could justify this action to their own satisfaction.

I am very concerned that military action on our part will have grave consequences for us.   I am concerned that it is a cost that we cannot afford.  I am concerned that we may find ourselves backing a group that we will later regret backing.  I am concerned about what response Russia, and the Muslim community,  will make to our involvement.

This is not our fight.  It is a civil war.  It does not involve us.  Neither party is innocent.  I believe that we should stay out of this conflict.  I do not believe that we should be supporting either side in any way.

Big Brother?

June 13, 2013

Apparently we are being watched.  Well, not all the time, but our online visits and our phone calls are being monitored.  By this, I do not mean that they are actually listening in to our phone calls, or reading our emails, but rather they are tracking what sites we visit, and where we  place our calls.This has upset a lot of people.  It is considered by many to be an invasion of privacy, an act of spying on the American people.

For whatever reason, this particular action by our government does not bother me.  Certainly our government does other things that bother me, and maybe this action should, but it just doesn’t.  I have always known that our internet servers, and our phone companies have had this information in their records, so I have never considered it to be truly private.  You know, just a secret between me and whoever-it-is at the corporation.  You can’t lose what you never had.

I also understand that it can be beneficial.  That it is one more tool in the war against terror.  It is an act of diligence.

Of course it could be misused.  Instead of seeking out terrorists, it could be turned against any interest group.

Like any other weapon in our arsenal, or tool in our tool bag; it needs to be used wisely, carefully, and with supervision.

 

ACA Loophole

March 21, 2013

I was reading in my local paper an article about changes that the County Conservation Board would be making in the future.  They regularly employ individuals for seasonal work.  These employees work forty hour weeks, some of them for more than four months.  Under the Affordable Care Act the county will be required to provide health coverage for these individuals.  Some of these people are actually retired, covered by Medicare.  The county will still be required to provide health coverage under the ACA.  Anyone working more than thirty hours a week for more than four months  must be provided health insurance or the employer will face penalties.

The solution is likely to be either limit the employee to four months, or more likely, reduce the weekly hours to less than thirty hours a week, and hire more people to make up the hours.  This will allow the county to still get the work done and not have to provide coverage.

I strongly suspect that there will be a lot of companies that will take advantage of this loophole.  Instead of providing health care, they will simply have more employees, working less than thirty hours.

This, of course, will mean that their employees will make less money, and be legally responsible for their own health care.  This health care will be made available at lower rates, subsidized by the government, adding to the financial burden placed on our country.

In addition, the workers will most likely need to find additional employment, working a second job to provide enough income to meet their needs.

I am concerned about the future for workers, employers, the medical field, and our government.

The Morality of “Bodies Revealed”

March 7, 2013

Bodies Revealed is an educational exhibit that is traveling around the United States.   It is a unique display of human bodies in various stages of, I suppose you could say, dissection.  The bodies of people who had donated their remains to science have been disassembled to various degrees, preserved so that they will not decompose or smell, and then posed in various positions.  Some body organs are available for people to handle, so that we can literally hold another person’s heart in our hands.  It is claimed that it demonstrates the workings of the human body in a powerful and unique way.  The hope is that it will inspire a new generation of doctors, scientists, etc.

They are obeying the letter of the law.  The bodies were donated for educational purposes.  The end result may be positive in that it may result in people pursuing careers in the medical field.  It is possible that the driving forces behind the exhibit really do have motives that are more honorable than simply making money.

Even so, it just seems wrong to me.  I recognize that I am primarily relying on an intuition that other people may not share, and so there may not be many who agree that it is wrong.  It is not possible to argue from intuition, all we can really do is see how many other people share our opinion.  We can also challenge some of the claims that provide moral support for the exhibit.

I do not have a problem with the use of human bodies for medical education and research.  However, the  vast majority of people who will be viewing this exhibit will not be  pursuing anything other than a morbid curiosity to see real human bodies.

Yes, people donated their bodies to science, without many restrictions.  I wonder if they would have donated their bodies if they were made aware previously that they would basically become preserved and publicly displayed?  In some regards, they are the subjects of human taxidermy.

Although some will be inspired to pursue medical careers, will some merely have their imaginations further excited?  In a time when we regularly see human bodies in all states of decomposition regularly displayed on our television sets, are there some people who want to see the real thing?  Will this lead some down the right path of medical research?  Will it lead some down a more sinister path?  What will be the true lasting consequences of this morbid display of human remains?

The exhibit has done very well at the places where is has been on display.  I suspect that revenue is up.  That is not a bad thing, our museums do need to meet their operational budgets.  It does make me wonder whether the motivation behind the exhibit is indeed, public education, or does it simply come down to profitability?

Were the scientists/artists who put the exhibit together motivated by a desire to share knowledge, or were they more excited about working with a medium that was taboo throughout most of human history?

As I said earlier, this might all be a perfectly moral enterprise.  I do not know any of the people involved.  They might all be wonderful people, working from pure motives.

It just seems wrong to me.

What do you think?