This should be of interest to every person concerned about medial bills mounting regardless if they have insurance—the cheaper policies will certainly bankrupt anyone with a life threatening illness or injury.

Conservatives believe that the health of all citizens-even that of children–should be a marketable commodity on Wall Street. Do you?

And, by the way, I recently had a colonoscopy right here in the U.S.A. I had to wait two months. Good thing that it turned out well. So, U.S. citizens have to wait for non emergency health concerns as well. I certainly don’t mind that. Take a close listen to this video and think about it.

Believe It or Not, the World is Becoming LESS Violent

THE GUANTANAMO DIARY: A Profile of Courage Under a Depraved U.S. Administration

Learn of the man with far more courage, honor, and empathy than the collective soul of a conservative nation:

Let’s Have Empathy for Teachers, but Let’s Rejoice for Parents

Here is a slight deviation from seriousness (well, I reckon it’s serious for some).

I can add nothing to this hilarious clip!

Posted to YouTube by cheyenne Felicia.

The Key Ingredient for Empathy is Understanding: Do Atheists Have Faith?

Do Atheists Have Faith?

tumblr_m81iz6Artd1qdbcn8If I had a nickel for every time someone told me that atheists have faith, too, I could quit my day job. Okay, so maybe that’s an exaggeration but I probably could at least afford a pretty decent steak dinner. It’s very frustrating to hear and it’s not for the reason the person saying it thinks it is.  This assertion doesn’t irritate me because it’s clever or insightful; it irritates me because it’s nowhere near as clever or as insightful as it sounds.  In fact, it’s a logical fallacy called equivocation.  I’ll explain what I mean by that in a second, but ultimately I’m not interested in talking about argumentation (well, maybe I am a little bit). I’m more interested in explaining how faith and reason represent two very different approaches to perceiving the world, and how they operate on very different principles.

Equivocation happens when . . .

read more at Do Atheists Have Faith?.


— Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative, a philosophical novel exploring the nature of biblical, Divine Justice–as opposed to true justice. Was Descartes wrong and God was a deceiver, after all? What would the world be like if empathy, not self interest, were our primary motivating force?

THE ROAD TO PEACE: An Inspirational Video

Reposted from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BG46IwVfSu8&feature=youtu.be

RSA Animate – The Power of Outrospection

I have only one comment on this wonderful video. Introspection is still necessary, but I like the Outrospection (I would call it, “exospection”) concept as an incorporation to the overall empathy message. I think one’s motivations need an occasional house-cleaning.

Religion Verses Atheism: A Misunderstood Debate

religion and science debateRecently on The Daily Tarheel, I posted a comment in support of same-gender marriage in which I chided religion for inhibiting advancements in the human condition. A contributor responded with a few questions which seemed to show that some good, religious folks have misunderstood the roll of atheists in relation to advancements in the human condition. Although I had not mentioned atheism in my original post, he wanted to know what atheism has contributed to humanity. I took this as an opportunity to elaborate, and decided to share the debate here.

I begin with my reply to his questions, which are incorporated below and are marked by <>:

Thank you for the questions. I always appreciate a civil debate. Forgive the lengthy reply, but your questions cannot be answered in a few words.

First, my argument has nothing to do with atheism. It has everything to do with religion-free Reason. Perhaps you could call it humanism. There are atheistic humanists, spiritual humanists, and religious humanists–and every shade within that spectrum. This applies, as well, to scientists the world over.

<>What advancements do you believe the anti-religionists of the 20th century brought to the world and the human psyche?

The question is a straw man argument. Again, I am not arguing atheism v religion. Advances in human societies have nothing to do with atheism, but everything to do with critical thinking. Better to ask what advancements have dogmatic religion brought to the world and to the human psyche. Dogma, by its very nature, is not a result of critical thought. (no condescension meant).

Once science divorced itself from religion and threw off (or set aside) the yoke of religious dogma, we achieved great strides in knowledge. In medicine, for example, we found that illness was not caused by demons, a devil, witchcraft, and/or a god’s punishment, but by organisms too small to see with the naked eye. The religion-free Scientific Method brought us cures for most of those diseases, and it will be religion-free science that conquers the Ebola virus.

For contrast, I researched the effectiveness of prayer and know that it does not work–subjective opinions notwithstanding. See: http://new.exchristian.net/201….

Too, science gave us knowledge that mental illness is not demonic possession, and this advancement led to cures and therapy instead of exorcisms. We no longer burn people to death because Reason has brought us empathy and understanding.

The Enlightenment brought us real astronomy (fought against by the church, fang and claw). Astronomy was nurtured by the birth of physics (where was the church here?)

The short if it is that the exclusion of religion in science has opened up humanity to every advancement known to the world and religion has been dragged along kicking, screaming, and killing. Reject science and you get ISIS (as an example).

<>If theism is out, what reason do you propose for our ability to reason?

My powers of reason (and yours) are a product of evolution. It developed because of its survival value just like most traits of all other species.

I sense that you would not agree with that. I will welcome your thoughtful arguments for Intelligent Design, but before you start, check out the documentary and trial transcripts of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. You can find them athttp://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/e…. Dr. Behe testified, and the judge was a conservative, appointed by a conservative.

<>When you consider world history, how has atheism fared in the promotion of world peace?

Again, it isn’t atheism v. religion. it is about Reason. Unfortunately, partly because of religion, science has had little effect on the human psychological thirst for domination and territoriality, and this, too, is a result of those traits we inherited from our evolutionary past. It is only when humanity realizes its own nature and whence it came will we be able to collectively do something about it. Better to ask what religion has contributed to world peace. Here is an article that will answer this question..

<>What religion(s) do you see killing each other in the names of their loving, merciful gods?

When you realize the real reason you disbelieve and oppose other religions, then, and only then, will you realize why they disbelieve and oppose yours. Muslims of every persuasion believe their god to be a loving god, so long as one is faithful to Islam. Christians believe their god to be a loving god so long as one is faithful to Christianity.

In the Muslim world, however, having rejected the Enlightenment, various denominations are even now killing each other. Surely you’ve noticed. Listen to many fundamentalist Christians who think we should nuke the Muslim nations and kill them all. I’ve debated many who advocate a “finial Crusade.” I suppose you might call that their “finial solution.” It is such a sad view, I think.

<>Where does the “golden rule” come from?

From many religions as well as the ancient sages. I’ve researched this as well: See: https://thebenevolentthou.com/2… for the list and the quotes.

<>How do you know that’s the only doctrine humanity needs?

The last answer lays out the reason.

<>Why do you list “love” as a prerequisite to marriage?

I did not “list” love as a “prerequisite” to marriage. This question is an equivocation on my argument that no one in this nation (U.S.) should be denied the right to marry someone he or she loves. This is not a theocracy. It is a secular nation. No religion has a right to dictate to others in society that they must abide by certain religious beliefs. You may not like what others do because of your religious beliefs, but since their actions bring no harm, they have every right to marry someone they love–the same right you reserve for yourself.

ANSWERS IN GENESIS: A Profile in Parasitism

Full disclosure: I am not a scientist. I am science literate. But I do not have to be a scientist to vet information given by scientists.

From Merriam Webster:

Parasitism:  an intimate association between organisms of two or more kinds; especially :  one in which a parasite obtains benefits from a host which it usually injures.

Sophistry: the use of reasoning or arguments that sound correct but are actually false.

Prosperity Theology - art source unknown

Prosperity Theology – art source unknown

Recently, I came across an article written by Dr. Danny Faulkner of Answers In Genesis (AiG), titled, A Big Belief. As most folks know, AiG is an organization, headed by Ken Ham, that advocates Young Earth Creationism (YEC), which holds that the earth was created just as the Bible says, 6,000 to 10,000 years ago. The article set me thinking about the why people follow doctrine that, by any reasonable measure, has been shown to be false. Why do people choose faith over objective facts?

I understand that most people hold their religious beliefs deep within their being. After all, for billions of people on this interstellar vehicle we call Earth, life is little more than hunger, sickness, sham, and drudgery, especially among the poor. Their religious beliefs give them some comfort and hope for a better world to come, if not on this earth, then in a wonderful life hereafter.

My heart goes out to these people of all faiths, and I do not wish to take away hope for a better life. Yet it must be pointed out that blind religious faith (believing a proposition to be true even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary) makes one vulnerable to deception and fraud by charismatic personalities such as Ken Ham, Pat Robertson, Joel Osteen, Hal Lindsey, John Hagee, Creflo Dollar Jr., Joyce Meyer, Benny Hen–the list goes on. These are seemingly devout personalities who prey on the pious for no other reason than their own economic self interest.

But, how can one tell the impostor from the genuinely-believing minister? They both speak the same religious language, display the same piety, and point to many of the same verses in the Bible.

The face you don't see

The face you don’t see

The first clue is glaringly obvious; their wealth! These predatory charlatans often defend their wealth by what they call Prosperity Theology—the holier one is, the more God rewards him with treasures on Earth. They often put on a glittering, big-stage show, sell many books, and sometimes “lay on hands.” They might point to Job or Abraham as proof of God’s generosity to those of the deepest faith.

For the thinking Christian, this should be recognized as sophistry, and sophistry is the means by which these frauds attach themselves to the mind of the unfortunate believer, inject the poison of a misguided sense of self-worth, and then feed on his hope (sucking it out right through his wallet).

To avoid these fakes, the thinking Christian must ask himself; What is the real message from the Gospels–the message I am supposed to be following?

Matthew 6:19-21

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.


Matthew 19:23  ¶

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 19:24

And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.


Luke 18:22-23  Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.
And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.

Now the Christian must ask himself if his minister, and/or anyone else to whom he contributes, follows the aforesaid prescription. If not, then they are frauds.

Secondly, to avoid harm, the Christian needs to understand that there are true-believing ministers who are delusional and dangerous. They seek not only your money, but your very being as well. These are folks like Jim JonesMarshall Applewhite of Heaven’s Gate, and David Koresh of the Branch Davidians. It is unfortunate, but apparently there always will be lost people vulnerable to these passionate, but insane folks, and I can see little that can be done other than through education and psychological help.

So, what does all the above have to do with Answers In Genesis, Dr. Faulkner, Ken Ham, and their Creation Museum?

Ham’s income at Answers in Genesis is a modest 150,000 per year, but added to that are speaking fees (he’s among the most sought after speakers in fundamentalist circles as well as one of the top spokes persons for the media on the subject of creationism) and book sales numbering in the millions. The man is a millionaire.

A scientist reviews Dr. Faulkner's work

A scientist reviews Dr. Faulkner’s work

Ham’s sophistry (the injection device): The article by Dr. Danny Faulkner is an excellent example of sophistry. Leaving out pertinent details and facts can be as deceptive as simply lying. It amounts to disinformation, or propaganda. Most Christians recognize such deceptions–when they recognize them–as “bearing false witness.”

In his article, Faulkner argues that the Big Bang–the current accepted scientific model of the beginning of the Universe, space, and time–cannot be true because, (1) it is, “fraught with problems,” (2) “different parts of the [Cosmic Microwave Background] CMB have precisely the same temperature.” and that, (3) the model does not agree with the Bible’s account of creation.

The first claim (1) amounts to misinformation, and his use of the use of the word, “fraught” is designed to cast doubt on the entire theory before any evidence is given or vetted. It is true that there are anomalies/problems within the Big Bang Theory, but problems are a normal characteristic of scientific research. Suggesting otherwise is misleading. Science is progressive. The more question solved through research, the more questions those solutions raise. Greater knowledge is gained over time, especially by the advent of better technology–new and more finely-tuned instrumentation.

This leads us to (2), the claim of temperature uniformity in the CMB. The claim was correct when the CMB was first discovered accidentally, but not now. As technology advanced and finer tuned instruments were developed, minute fluctuations in the temperature were discovered, and the explanation was given. Faulkner should have known this.

That the Big Bang theory does not agree with the Bible (3), is an astonishing statement coming from a scientist. It is an atrocity to reason. It is choosing the authority of an ancient, pre-science, unauthenticated story over modern, objective, scientific research. The statement is so far from scientific, that to be spoken by a scientist, it reaches the greatest possible height of absurdity.

Still, statement does lay bare very reason for the existence of AiG. It is the primary argument of the creationist–though often unacknowledged–and it is the very reason why creationism is not science. Faulkner should, and probably does, know this.

What was left unsaid: By far the most salient fact that Faulkner left out of his article was the primary reason for the Big Bang Theory. In my mind, the way to refute the Big Bang Theory is to show that the physics of the Red Shift, or the Doppler Effect, is false. And the likelihood of that happening is infinitesimally small–it ain’t gonna happen, folks.

One last point. Recent advances in theoretical physics are suggesting the possibility that our universe may not be the only universe in existence. Indeed, models now taking shape tend to solve some of the problems within the Big Bang Theory.

— Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative, a philosophical novel exploring the nature of biblical, Divine Justice–as opposed to humanistic justice. Was Descartes wrong and God was a deceiver, after all? What would the world be like if empathy, not self interest, were our primary motivating force?

FREE CHAPTER of “THE EMPATHY IMPERATIVE,” A Philosophical/Theological Novel


What would the world be like if there were no religions and our primary motivating force was not self interest, but universal empathy? How, theologically, could such a world be realized?

Written in tribute to, and in the spirit of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and George Orwell’s 1984

What would our world be like if our primary motivating force was neither self-interest nor religion, but the concept that the sages and most religions suggest; universal empathy? How could such a world be realized?

About the Book

The story opens as the biblical tribulation begins, and even as world disasters increase in frequency and strength, Mark Jefferson Hale, professor of philosophy and evolutionary biology, remains an unrepentant skeptic. He cannot believe it is true. There is too much evidence in support of evolution and against biblical literalism.

Jeff’s primary concerns are neither the growing power of religious extremism in politics, triggered by signs of the End of Days, nor even the ongoing political purge of liberal professors as politicians strive to prove to God that they are worthy of salvation.

His only concerns are to enhance the intellectual maturity of his students and to find a resolution to his romantic ambivalence, all the while fighting against the onslaught of grief triggered by the death of his estranged, fundamentalist father.

 Yet, Jeff knows the answer to a question unasked, and as humanity’s darkest hour approaches, he captures the attention of the greatest power in the universe, the consequence of which will change everything, for all time.

 The Empathy Imperative

 Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must approve the homage of reason rather than of blindfolded fear.

(Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Peter Carr, 10 Aug. 1787, Lower case “g” in “god” retained)


Copyright © 2013 Max T. Furr

ISBN 978-1-62646-322-6

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.

Published by BookLocker.com, Inc., Bradenton, Florida.

Printed in the United States of America.

The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

BookLocker.com, Inc.


First Edition


Preface. vii

Part One

Chapter 1 – In the Fullness of Time

Chapter 2 – Spirits in the Wind

Chapter 3 – Plato’s Lament

Chapter 4 – Corporatocracy

Chapter 5 – Signs

Chapter 6 – Hale’s Epiphany

Chapter 7 – Amanda’s Song

Chapter 8 – Of Inquisitions and Pig Farms

Chapter 9 – Atonement

Part Two

Chapter 10 – The Anomalies

Chapter 11 – The Coming

Chapter 12 – A Court of Answers

Chapter 13 – Creation and Fall

Chapter 14 – The Day of the Great Confusion

Chapter 15 – The Accursed Thing

Chapter 16 – A Question of Justice

Chapter 17 – The Son of Man

Chapter 18 – Summation and Closing Argument

Chapter 19 – Recompense

Chapter 20 – Dining with the Gods


Chapter 9 – Atonement

Chapter 9

(Two years later)

For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. (Leviticus 17:11, AV)

Peter John Latterday was troubled. It can’t possibly be true, he thought as he watched the news in the office of his Florida mega-church. It’s a fantastic coincidence!

On the screen, FCNN’s Ted Robertson was reporting on TiConGlobal’s sweeping acquisition of the last six multinational corporations in existence. The buy-out created one global corporation comprised of seven divisions, including the parent division, TiConGlobal itself.

The beast with seven heads. Surely it can’t be! Latterday thought.

On the screen, Robertson gushed with enthusiasm that TiConGlobal will now control virtually every aspect of human wants and needs in all nations except for Muslim theocracies.

He gave a brief description of the Corporation’s new organizational structure. Each division will continue as before in their particular field of activity: agriculture and textiles, construction, pharmaceuticals and health, transportation and shipping, energy, communications and security. TiConGlobal itself will function as the administrative, financial, and legal arm for the entire corporate body, as well as provide for government interface. Its previously competing functions will be distributed to the appropriate divisions.

Robertson turned to the large monitor behind him that was live-streaming three guest panelists. He began to question each of the three. He wanted to know what impact the merger would have on the world’s economy, and about what changes might TiConGlobal bring to the United Christian States of America.

As the crawler at the bottom of the screen drew his attention, Latterday barely heard the questions. He mouthed the words as they moved across the screen, “Antony Kareen Jordan, President and CEO of TiConGlobal, announced this morning that the Corporation will bring the nations of Islam into the global community as equal members, and there will be prosperity, lasting world peace, and freedom for all nations.”

“A lie,” Latterday hissed at the screen. “The only way you’ll control Muslim countries is to kill all the Muslims, and I expect after they take out Israel, you will!”

He thought of the increasing number of brushfire wars around the globe and the wars still raging in the Middle East, threatening to expand into a regional conflagration centering on Israel.

“The liar talks of peace when anyone with ears and eyes understands that war and hunger are tearing this world apart.”

The war in the Middle East is essentially asymmetric, with the advantage favoring the Muslims. InterSeF’s air force is grounded most days of the month by the ever-present ash cloud. When they did fly, it was at an altitude low enough to come within range of ground fire, which left almost no warning time to evade surface-to-air, heat seeking missiles.

The Muslims claim that the detonation of the Aira Caldera, which created the ash cloud two years ago, is proof that Allah is with them. Never mind that they are having their own share of disasters.

Latterday counted the letters in Jordan’s three names. There were six in each. He flipped open his bible and thumbed to Revelation 13. Skimming down the page, he found the eighteenth verse: “Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.”

“No!” he mumbled at the page. “That really means nothing. Ronald Reagan’s names were composed of six letters each and it meant nothing.” Or did it? He thought. Wasn’t it the Reagan presidency that began the march to deregulation, to globalization, and to an unfettered free-market—policies that made the eventual rise of TiConGlobal possible?

The thought occurred to him that Reagan and Jordan could be the same entity—the beast. He dismissed the thought as absurd and listened again to the interview. They were discussing Jordan.

The male panelist called him a walking mystery, noting that he was wholly unknown to the world just three weeks ago and seemed to have come from nowhere. Indeed, his name came to prominence only when Santerra Ag, the last holdout multinational corporation, acquiesced to TiConGlobal’s buyout offer.

“The deal was reached,” the panelist reminded the viewers, “yesterday morning at an unscheduled meeting of the Santerra Ag board of directors. Jordan was present with a final buyout offer. The meeting followed the apparent suicide of fifty-eight year old Milo Hampton, former president and CEO of Santerra Ag.

“Hampton had been the major obstacle to TiConGlobal’s bid. His son, Ted Hampton, had been an outspoken opponent as well until his father’s sudden death. Although the circumstances and timing of the apparent suicide raised suspicions, according to the InterSeF report, there was no evidence of foul play.

“Milo Hampton’s wife, Monique, said he awoke about twelve thirty yesterday morning and rose from the bed. She asked him if anything was wrong, but he said nothing. He left the room, and minutes later she heard a loud noise downstairs. Investigating, she found him in his study.

“The report did not elaborate on the cause of death, but I got it from an anonymous source that he apparently killed himself with his antique, frontier Sharps buffalo gun. He had a substantial weapons collection, but the Sharps was his favorite.

“After questioning Mrs. Hampton and others, it was apparent that no one had any idea he was depressed.

“The other members of the board,” the panelist continued, “apparently knew nothing of the death until the meeting was convened, at which time it was announced by Ted.

“Oddly enough, a move to postpone merger negations was nixed by Ted, saying that his father would have wanted the meeting to proceed. It did proceed, but didn’t last long. According to my source, the persuasiveness of Jordan’s oration was nothing short of phenomenal, swinging every board member to favor the buyout.”

At first glance, Jordan appeared to be a rather unlikely person to have acquired such a position with TiConGlobal. He was thirty-two years old—astonishingly young—Greek-god handsome, about six foot four, impeccably dressed, carried a toned body of medium build, and exuded a personable manner that could alleviate the deepest of one’s anxieties.

On the screen, one of the women panelist, apparently an opponent of TiConGlobal’s unbridled power voiced her doubts about Hampton’s suicide and cautioned that Jordan’s rhetoric could seduce any and everyone who listened with an innocent ear. “We should beware of him,” the panelist said. “We know nothing of him except what the Corporation released. I can find no record of his past from any independent source. I have a bad feeling about him. He’s too perfect and he’s too smooth. No one can say ‘no’ to him, unless somehow Milo . . .”

She was cut short by the other panelists, all loudly talking at once. They attacked her as just another paranoid liberal, hatching conspiracy theories.

The male panelist bully-voiced the others into silence as he stated loudly and with admiration that Jordan possessed an uncanny ability to remember everyone’s name and the names of their family members. “One person I interviewed—a Jon Wilmore—said Jordan stopped him as they passed in the hallway, called him by his name, put his hand on his shoulder, and asked with obvious sympathy how his son, Daniel, was doing in the hospital.

“Wilmore was mystified at how Jordan knew his name, his son’s name, and that his son was in the hospital. Wilmore said it was ‘downright spooky.’ He said there is no reason why Jordan should know him, because he was not a prominent figure at Santerra Ag. In fact, he was one of thousands of middle managers from deep in the accounting department, and it was the first time he had ever seen Jordan in person. The man is absolutely phenomenal.”

The other woman panelist, an apparent corporate insider, said the most frequent comment she heard from those who made his acquaintance is that they felt as though they had been close friends with him all their lives.

“What’s not to love?” she cooed as she slowly shook her head. “And he’s oh so drop-dead handsome. And by the way,” she said, giggling, “he’s single.”

Latterday watched the presentation with increasing apprehension. One panelist spoke of the Corporation’s Paris celebration. It was obvious that plans for the gala had been in the works for months, because it commenced within an hour after the final acquisition concluded.

The panelist said that it was a celebration, the likes of which were unmatched in the history of the world. All of Paris came alive in merriment. Champagne flowed like a river as men in tails, with carts laden with hors d’oeuvres and wine, appeared on virtually every major street corner. Restaurants threw open their doors. Orchestras and bands played throughout the city, throughout the evening. All of this was provided free of charge, courtesy of the Corporation.

People danced, drank, and partook of all manner of pleasures, even to acts of a lascivious nature in theaters open to the public. The panelist was quick to add that he’d obtained the report from a “reliable source,” who had added that at least one such event broke down into a drunken orgy.

To Latterday, the debauchery was bad enough, but to add to his alarm, the panelist then stated that during the evening the earth experienced an unexpected and intense meteor shower during which many fireballs, at a rate of six to eight a minute, lit up the night sky directly over Paris and all of north-central France. People everywhere shouted with glee that this was a sign that even God was pleased with Jordan.

Latterday thumbed to Revelation 13:13 “And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.”

He looked back at the screen, searching his mind for more evidence. He recalled TiConGlobal’s advertising campaign featuring the latest, erotically beautiful rock star. So brilliantly choreographed were the ads that her skimpily clad body in seductive dance became almost synonymous with the Corporation. Could this be the Whore of Babylon riding the Beast?

Of course not. Damn it! I’m getting a bit daft—beginning to believe my own preaching.

He thought of turning off the television, but could not. He listened again to the panel. Under Jordan’s leadership, a new corporate logo bearing Jordan’s full name would soon adorn almost all clothing—sometimes on an inside tag, but most often as a monogram, embroidered on the outside.

The corporatist female panelist happily reminded everyone of the wonderful fact that from now on, there will be only one credit card, and it will bear TiConGlobal’s logo, as well as the name “Antony Kareen Jordan” in beautifully stylized calligraphy. It will be issued by the World Bank, the financial arm of corporate headquarters.

The move is on to make the card the only means of financial transactions throughout the world. There will be no more need of paper or metal money. Instead, the Corporation will issue Corporate World Credits, held in personal accounts at the World Bank, and people will conveniently purchase, anywhere in the world, whatever they wish.

Latterday’s eyes dropped to Revelation 13:17 “And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”

“Television . . . deactivate!” he forced himself to say. The screen went black. He opened the bottom right drawer of his desk. “I really need a drink,” he said, listening to the anxiety in his own voice. He pulled out a bottle of Jack, plucked up a glass, and pressing the neck of the bottle firmly against the rim to steady his shaking hands, poured it half full.

He took a long sip, closed his eyes, and sat back. Feeling the liquid heat flowing down his throat, he tried to calm himself, to think clearly, to use reason.

He recalled the first event that gave him pause. Two years ago, the Aira Caldera on the island of Kyushu exploded. Over twenty million people died from the initial blast, the tsunami, and from the scalding ash that fell over southern Japan and eastern China, and the earth is still experiencing the devastation caused by the ash cloud—a cloud made worse by volcanoes of lesser size erupting at ever-increasing rates on every continent.

Latterday took another long sip and closed his Bible. He considered these things in concert with other disasters around the world in the past two years, ever increasing in strength and frequency. There is no money left for aide, and too many disasters to address. The tsunami generated by the Japanese super volcano was rather mild once it hit California’s west coast, killing or washing out to sea three hundred sixty-three people.

Then San Francisco was devastated six months ago by an earthquake measuring 8.85 on the Richter scale. Even buildings built to withstand quakes as great as the one in 1906 collapsed into rubble, many toppling over onto smaller buildings. Fifty-three thousand people lost their lives.

At first, he’d passed it all off to natural events and fought against any other conclusion than fantastic coincidences. Yet as the frequency of disasters increased, he felt his own End Times sermons eating away at his skepticism, leaving behind the hollowness of uncertainty.

Latterday was a showman, living the very meaning of divine decadence. He had fine cars, a twenty-million dollar home on the ocean near Cape Canaveral, and a six-million dollar estate in the North Carolina Mountains. He had a corporate jet, a yacht, diamond rings, Rolex watches, the finest clothes, and the most beautiful, voluptuous wife—his happily sad, weeping sidekick—money could buy. Of all he had, he considered her his best investment. The money that flowed into his coffers every time she shed her golden tears on his television network had boosted his net worth several times over.

“God has blessed me,” he would tell his pious flock, and they—many of them poor and needy—marveled at how much he was blessed. They gave him money they could ill afford in hopes God would bless them too. Latterday promised them He would, though if not on earth, then in Heaven. He didn’t think of it as selling snake oil. As he reasoned with himself, he was selling them something they sorely needed. He was selling them hope, and that was priceless.

Every Sunday his mega church would fill with true believers. Latterday knew many of them came seeking a moment’s respite from the sorrows and drudgery of everyday life. He would give them that. He knew others came to satisfy themselves that their past sins were absolved so they could get a fresh start sinning again on Monday. But there were those, too, who came to be healed by faith through Latterday’s laying-on-of-hands. He knew, as well, that all came to placate their insecurities.

He thought of how much he was adding to their faith with what he thought of as his “healing show.” Every Sunday there would be supplicants with a variety of physical woes. His wife would greet them as they arrived at the entrance. Those desiring to be healed would invariably mention their names, ailments and other details, which she secretly recorded. Then she would leave them with some doubt that they would be among those healed, and have them join the congregation gathering in the pews.

During each sermon, Latterday would periodically pause, lower his head, place a hand on his forehead, and then announce to the congregation that God had requested a specific person, whom he would call by name, to come forward. The surprised supplicant would rise and come forward, nervous and awed that Latterday knew her name and specific malady. It was obvious. God was speaking to him. She and the audience just knew it to be true.

But it wasn’t the voice of God, of course, it was the voice of his wife backstage, transmitting to the hidden receiver in his ear. But the tension building in the supplicant, knowing that she had garnered the attention of the greatest power and authority in the universe, ensured that when Latterday shouted, “heal,” or ordered that the “demons depart,” and popped her on the forehead with the palm of his hand, or blew in her face, she would obligingly faint dead away.

Latterday was born Peter Bradford Drummond, and from his earliest childhood, his parents faithfully immersed him in the blood of Jesus. Upon reaching school age, they enrolled him in a Christian academy where, with careful nurturing, he excelled. Upon graduation, he matriculated to a theological seminary from which he graduated with honors—and disbelief.

The disbelief had come as a result of his earnest and uncompromising desire for intellectual honesty. Beginning his seminary schooling as a serious believer, he strove to strengthen his faith with evidence in order to convince others of the Truth.

He studied the religious philosophers and the theologians, and he studied the counter arguments available to him in the seminary library and on the Internet. It was on the Internet that he came across a rogue site allowing the viewer to read banned books. Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion was one of those offered, and he was fascinated. He had heard and read a great number of derogatory remarks about Dawkins throughout his education, and here was firsthand knowledge of what this prominent atheist thought. Not daring to download the book for fear of detection, he read it online, and it shook his faith.

The arguments of the unbeliever forced him to probe deeper into his theology. In his drive to find objective truth, he acquired a working knowledge of Latin, Greek, and ancient Hebrew in order to study translations. His driving force was the unbeliever’s claims of numerous misinterpretations, not the least of which was the mistranslation of the ancient Hebrew word “alma,” which means, “young woman,” in reference to Mary, Jesus’ mother.

He found that Dawkins was correct. In fact, it turned out to be a well-known error. When the old Hebrew word “almah” was translated to Greek, the word “parthenos” was used, which means “virgin.” He could find no evidence whether this was an honest mistake in interpretation or a deliberate deception to make Jesus’ birth a miracle. In either case, the translation was wrong.

Drummond found it difficult to understand why teachers of Christianity didn’t consider this a rather significant error, for it placed in serious doubt a major cornerstone in the foundation of Christian theology. It is quite likely that Mary was indeed a young woman when she conceived, but stating so in prophesy would have been irrelevant and unnecessary. Ancient Hebrew scholars, such as Isaiah, were meticulous in specificity. If Isaiah had intended to prophesize the miracle of a virgin birth, then he would have used the word, “Bethulah,” which meant, “virgin.”

During this period of objective research, Drummond discovered numerous other problems, including factual errors and contradictions. It was all quite devastating. What he was taught as a child simply was not true. It was a fabrication about which theologians and erudite preachers simply do not tell. The obvious next question was; Could any of the details in biblical stories be trusted? How could anyone possibly know with certainty?

Drummond was on the horns of a dilemma. He had a decision to make. Either he could refocus his life in another direction, throwing out all of his expensive theological education, or he could continue to walk his planned path and keep his discovery to himself.

For Drummond, to be a deceiver was unacceptable. Yet he had come so far, and tens of millions of people find abiding comfort in believing as he once had. Still, to continue to pursue a career in Christian theology would have him living a lie. And there was a more immediate and overriding issue to consider. He was deeply in debt to the Corporation for student loans. He simply couldn’t afford to start again.

Deciding to seek help, Drummond took his dilemma to the headmaster. After voicing his quandary, the old professor sat silent for a moment, looking with furrowed brow down at his folded hands. “Peter,” he said at last, looking up, “when I was a student, I made the same discovery as you, and to tell the truth, I’m quite sure all scholars of Christianity have as well. A few chose to disbelieve the translations were in error, and ignore the other problems, devising arguments in defense of what they had been taught—willful self-delusion, you might call it.

“Nevertheless, I accepted the mistranslations, the contradictions, and the invalid historicity, for what they were. I chose, as have, I suspect, most biblical scholars, to perpetuate the deception as a Noble Lie—very much as Socrates suggested.

“Peter, where would the poor, the tormented, the lonely and the down-trodden be without hope of salvation? How would they find their way in the darkness of an uncertain and unforgiving world, without a guiding light? Given man’s insensitivity and lack of empathy for his fellow man, it is obvious that the world isn’t going to change. Should the hopeless be offered no hope at all?

“Peter,” he continued, “it is for us who know these things to hold the lamp of hope high, to strengthen their belief in that wonderful world to come. Think of it. They’ve bound themselves inextricably to their belief in the hereafter and in a Master who truly loves them. They hold that belief deep in their hearts. It gives them comfort in times of sorrow. To tear that belief from them would be to destroy their last thread of hope, indeed, to destroy their very lives. Besides, even if Christianity is wrong, it doesn’t mean there is no God, and the evidence, as I see it, nebulous as it may be, favors a universal Intelligence.

“Thus, we who know, believe it is an honorable thing to perpetuate Christianity. What possible harm can it do?

“Peter, what would you say to a dying person, especially a child, who calls out to you?”

Peter didn’t have to think twice about that. “I’d tell a dying person, especially a child, whatever he wants to hear that might give him comfort.”

“Even if it were a lie?”

“Yes, even if it were a lie.”

When Peter left the office, the decision was made. He opted to continue with his theological education, convinced that he would bring hope to the lonely, the sick, and the hopeless by the propagation of the Noble Lie. It was the highest of virtues, greater even, than truth itself.

After graduating at the top of his class, he accepted an invitation to join the seminary staff. He taught comparative theology for two years, and on Sundays filled in as a substitute pastor for local churches.

Peter found that he had a natural talent for the pulpit and soon there was standing room only wherever he preached. Because he chose to baptize folks in the river rather than the baptismal pool in the church, believers likened him to their concept of John the Baptist. He liked that. In addition, because the bulk of his sermons concerned the End of Days, some folks began to call him Reverend Latterday. It caught on, and he liked that too.

Thus, at the end of his second year of teaching at the seminary, Peter resigned. He changed his name to Peter John Latterday, and began a traveling tent revival throughout the South and West. The positive response from the folks in every town was nothing short of extraordinary.

It was in those days that Peter began to change. He found that the more fire he breathed into his sermons, the more money adorned the plate. Preaching soon became more show than a craft of compassion, and the nobility of his mission diminished inversely proportional to the rising level of his coffers, awakening in him the demon of hedonism—the demon of self indulgence.

He evolved a taste for finer things, and his budding wealth convinced folks that he was a man blessed by God. After all, a man blessed by God is a man God blesses with finer things. It was called Prosperity Theology. The Book of Job was proof enough.

His stage became more posh—red-satin drapes everywhere, a shiny, golden cross on the pulpit, and an ornate throne upon which he sat as the curtain rose at the beginning of each show.

After four years working his traveling faith show—as he thought of it—he arranged to have a church built in Florida on the beach near Cape Canaveral. To garner a much larger audience, he founded his own television ministry.

The church would be large and impressive, such as to inspire a greater number of true believers to swap cash for absolution, and the television ministry would extract cash from a far greater audience.

Once the church was built, he shut down his traveling faith show, purchased a lavish estate, set up his TV ministry, and proceeded to build his fortune.

Now, as Latterday watched the news and thought of the biblical events foreshadowing the End of Days, it seemed to him that it was all coming to pass.

He rose from his desk and paced the floor, considering, reasoning, rejecting, accepting, then rejecting again the possible truth of Revelation. With each thought that it was true came a feeling of foreboding so deep his very soul rebelled against it. “It can’t be!” he said repeatedly.

The phone on his desk intoned a call. Moving to it, he noticed the blinking red light on the receiver, indicating the call was encrypted. He punched the appropriate line button and keyed the speaker.

“Yes? Latterday here,” he said, halfheartedly.

“Dr. Latterday,” came the voice of a man obviously anxious about something. “Thank God I got through to you. I’m Foster Johnston. I’m a Computer Program Engineer at NASA. I’ve been to your church . . . several times lately, but that’s not why I called.

“Have you heard about the mission NASA’s mounting; the one they say is taking supplies to the moon base? It’s on the news, but they don’t know what it’s really about—the real mission, I mean. The secret mission.”

Latterday was interested. He plucked up the receiver. “What’s the secret mission?”

“Uh, I’m not supposed to be telling anyone about this, but I know you to be a man of God and won’t tell anyone . . . but I have a question first. I have to know . . . is this the End of Days . . . I mean, you know, the end of time? You’ve been preaching that it’s very near—signs and all that—that we’re even now in the tribulation with all that’s going on around the world and that something big will happen soon.”

Latterday was becoming impatient. “Yes, yes. I’ve been preaching that. What’s the secret mission?”

“Well, do you recall about two years ago, the robotic mission to the asteroid Apophis? The news release said it was going to make a close flyby for a scientific study of its composition.”

“Yes, I recall hearing something about that.”

“Well, the mission was not to study Apophis, Dr. Latterday . . . it was to study Dolos, another asteroid. The asteroid’s on a collision course with us . . . with earth! They sent the probe to determine its composition and precise trajectory so they could decide how to deflect it.

“They already knew its size—fifteen kilometers in diameter . . . that’s a little over nine miles! The one that killed off the dinosaurs was just a bit smaller, though this one isn’t quite as dense, but it will still be capable of blasting a hole in the earth several miles deep.”

The caller paused, but Latterday said nothing. He was stunned to silence. He no longer doubted that this was indeed the End of Days.

“That’s the reason for the mission,” said Johnston. “They’ve determined how to deflect it. They’re going to try a kinetic impactor deflection. The vehicle now on the pad is the mother ship. It’s going to orbit the asteroid, then launch a one-ton missile to crash into it. If that fails for any reason to move the asteroid enough, the mother ship will move in close and detonate a one hundred megaton, full-yield nuclear device in an attempt to either vaporize it, or shatter it into small pieces.”

Latterday still found no words.

“Sir, if they can’t deflect the asteroid . . . if the mission fails, Dolos will destroy at least a third of everything on earth—humans included—just like the Book of Revelation says. What’s not destroyed immediately by the impact, the rain of fire from debris thrown into the atmosphere will come back down and burn hundreds of millions of people to death.

“Dr. Latterday, this is the End of Days, isn’t it? God won’t allow Dolos to be deflected, will He?”

Still holding the receiver to his ear, Latterday slowly rounded his desk to his chair and sat down hard. His mouth was dry. He felt weak and nauseous.

“Isn’t this the End of Days?” persisted Johnston.

“Yes . . . yes . . . I think . . . I think so,” Latterday heard himself say as his mind sank into the very bowels of self-loathing and remorse. This is the final piece of evidence, he thought. It’s coming! It’s all true, and I have not believed. My God, I did not believe you!

The caller fell silent, waiting for him to say something.

Latterday collected himself. “Thank you,” he said softly, feeling tears welling up. “Thank you for the information. And no, I won’t tell anyone, and I certainly won’t give anyone your name.”

“Thank you, sir,” came back an equally soft voice. “If you need to call me for any reason, I can give you my cell phone number.”

Latterday said he did, and the engineer gave it. He wrote it down.

“I’ll . . . I’ll see you in church this Sunday,” said Johnston.

“I appreciate that,” said Latterday. “I’m looking forward to meeting you in person. Please come to my office after service. I’ll tell security to let you pass.” He heard the engineer thanking him again as he returned the receiver to its cradle.

Feeling numb, Latterday sat back, staring at the phone. After a long moment, he looked up at the gold cross on the wall to his right. It was the one from the podium of his traveling faith show. He’d insisted that it should be polished daily, and it was. Yet, now it seemed to radiate a brilliance greater than ever.

He thought of his riches and his expensive possessions. When did he lose the nobility of his mission, the only possible redeeming fact of his nonbelief? He’d never noticed its departure. He thought of the mansions he built for himself—his treasures on earth. He thought of his lust, not love, for the woman he married. He thought of the arrogance of his disbelief.

He thought of the poor who’d doled out to him what they could ill afford. He did give them hope. He did strengthen their faith. But for him, God would not be pleased. What God valued most was what truly dwelt within one’s heart, and his heart held only himself. His remorse was fathomless.

Tears filled his eyes. As he arose from his seat, a glint from his Rolex caught his eye. Anger and self-loathing overwhelmed him. He ripped the watch from his wrist and slammed it hard against the desktop. Its very presence was yet another testament to his accursed fraudulence.

He looked at the bloody wrist from which it was torn. It hurt, and he was glad. He wrenched the diamond rings from his fingers and threw them across the room. He tore off his coat and ripped open his shirt, sending buttons flying. Tears burst from his eyes as he threw himself prostrate before the cross.

“My God, My God! I have not believed!” He sobbed as he beat his fists against his head. “How can you ever forgive me? My Jesus! I have denied you in my heart. You commanded me to help the poor and the lost, but I took from them to gather my wealth. How can I ever atone? How can I atone for my sins? What will you have me do? I will die for you! Guide me! Give me strength! Make me your servant! Please let it not be too late!”

For a while, he remained prostrate, weeping and trembling. Presently, exhausted, he pulled himself together and began to relax. I must open my mind and my heart, and Jesus will give me the answer.

It came to him slowly, a piece at a time. NASAs mission to Dolos will fail. It must fail. Jesus touched Johnston and had him call me. Why? To tell me about the asteroid. To tell me about the mission. Why would Jesus have him tell me? For atonement? So that I might stop the mission? Yes! That’s got to be it. But, how? “My Lord,” he said aloud, “please tell me how.”

Only a second more elapsed before Latterday found his answer. Johnston is a program engineer, he thought. He can stop the mission with a simple change in an algorithmic sequence—a simple change of a number. Thats it! That’s got to be it!

Latterday leapt up, grabbed the receiver, pressed the “scramble” button and punched in Johnston’s number. Only two rings elapsed before Johnston answered. “Hello,” he said. “Foster here.”

“Mr. Johnston, this is Latterday.”

“Yes sir, what can I do for you, reverend? Ask me anything.”

“You said you’re a program engineer. Do you run programming instructions for missions—for the rocket?” asked Latterday.

“Uh, yeah. I’m one of the programmers.” His voice dropped a bit. He sounded cautious, as though he were anticipating what Latterday was going to say.

“Foster, listen closely. This mission to Dolos must fail, and you will be the tool that God uses to make it fail. Think about it. You are God’s point man to see that this mission fails and the asteroid hits. Jesus is waiting to return, and you, Foster, you will assist Him.”

Except for the faint hum of some device in the background, Latterday was met with silence on the line.

“Foster Johnston. Did you hear me?” Latterday felt his heart thumping.

A short pause followed.

“Uh, yeah. I heard you.” Johnston lowered his voice almost to a whisper, as though someone was close by and he didn’t want to be overheard. “But I can’t do that. I can’t sabotage the mission. There are back-ups for everything, including me. Another programmer will be watching the data. He’d put a hold on the launch and fix any anomalies. And they would know that I was the one who entered the incorrect data. So it won’t work!

“Besides, why would God need me to do His work? Shouldn’t be a problem for a being that can create a universe. If He wants the mission stopped, He wouldn’t need a man, He’d just make a circuit short-out or hit the damned thing with lightenin’ or somethin’. No man can make it succeed if He wants it to fail.”

Latterday was undaunted. “Foster, God uses people all the time to execute his plans. I think you know that. Think about it. Why did you call me? It was God who had you do it. It’s clear that He wants to use you to stop the mission.”

“If that’s so,” reasoned Johnston, “if He really wants me to stop the mission, then why did He have me call you? It seems to me that He wants to use you, not me. No. I can’t do it, and it wouldn’t work even if I tried.”

Latterday paused. He was daunted. Why did God have him call me? If he wanted Johnston to stop the mission, wouldnt He simply move him to do it? Why me?

“Okay,” Latterday said with a tone of resignation, “I understand. I only hope you made the right decision. There must be another answer—another way. I don’t know. Thanks again for the information, Foster. By the way, when is the mission scheduled to launch?”

“Tomorrow morning at 0600 from Launch Complex thirty-nine-A,” Johnston said, allowing his voice to increase in volume. “You should be able to see it go. Can we still talk on Sunday?”

“Sure. We can talk after service, as I said. And, thanks again. Take care and God bless you.” Latterday hung up. There must be another way.

He leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes and prayed aloud. “My Lord, my God, please show me the way.” He let his mind relax. He tried to think of nothing. The image of the mission vehicle on the launch pad came to mind. It was obvious that after launch, there would be no way to stop the mission.

“How could I stop the launch?” He asked himself. “Blow it up? How would I do that? It would have to be hit with something.” His eyes opened wide. “A missile! Milton Baxter!” he shouted to the room.

Latterday recalled that Baxter was a devout member of the church, and the commander of a local militia group. He had told Latterday how happy he was to hear that the United Christian States’ new Constitution had been rewritten to conform to Biblical laws. Latterday had secretly deplored the event, but Baxter had been gleeful, especially because the changes included provisions that could be interpreted to legalize stoning in some cases, as prescribed in the Bible.

The initial plan appeared instantly in Latterday’s mind. He sat forward. “Computer activate,” he commanded. “Internet search, detailed map of Cape Canaveral Space Center.”

The computer obliged and he noted the location of Launch Complex 39-A. “Computer, zoom out, elevation five thousand feet.” He scanned the area, making mental note of the cape’s orientation. He felt success in the air.

Opening the top right-hand drawer of his desk, he retrieved a small phone book of members of his congregation. He located Baxter’s number. After setting the scramble mode, he punched it in. It occurred to him that the computers at InterSeF just might be able to unscramble the call. No one really knows these days, but if God was with him, it is likely they could not.

“Hello,” came a male voice.

“Milton Baxter?” asked Latterday.

“Who are you?” the man demanded.

“Peter John Latterday,” he said. It was his habit to give his full name. He still liked it.

“Oh, hi Reverend. Yes, this is Milton. Sorry, I didn’t recognize your voice. What can I do for you?”

Latterday first reminded Baxter of the End Times events he had preached for years. He concluded by listing the latest world disasters and telling him of the incoming asteroid and NASA’s mission to deflect it. It took only seconds to convince him that the impact would bring about the end of the tribulation—the final blow that would trigger the return of Jesus to collect the faithful from the four winds.

“Milton, the mission must fail, and I need your help to make it fail.”

“How can I help, sir?” Baxter sounded like a private snapping to attention in response to a command from his platoon leader. Latterday felt encouraged.

“You have weapons. Do you have, or can you get hold of a heat-seeking missile and launcher?”

There was no hesitation. “Got three of ’em. Latest Pakistani Stingers—very accurate—even better’n the Raytheon five ninety-two,” said Baxter proudly. He correctly guessed where Latterday was going. “They got almost a three mile effective range, but NASA’s security’s gonna be tighter than a chickadee’s ass . . . uh, sorry, I mean it’ll be tighter than ever. The only way I could get close enough would be from the sea and I’m not really sure even then I could get within range. There’d be fast Coast Guard boats in the water and interceptors in the air. Which pad will it be launched from?”

“Thirty nine-A,” said Latterday.

“Well, I know where that is. It’s certainly within range from the water, but uh, I donno. My unit has an old Swift Boat,” he said, chuckling. “We’ve joined Xe, ye know—the old Blackwater outfit from back in the early days of the Iraq war. They changed their name ’cause of a lotta heat they were gettin’ for . . . uh, doin’ their job. They’re now a part of InterSeF, so we can get pretty much what we want. That’s how we got the boat and the Stingers. ‘Cept ours ain’t faulty.” He chuckled again.

His voice became serious. “It’s a pretty fast boat, Reverend, but they’d see me comin’ and I’d be blown out of the water with a missile or a Vulcan Phalanx before I’d ever get within range. Them new Vulcans can spit out five thousand rounds a minute—sounds like a lawn mower at full throttle and ya can’t even see a gap between the flying tracers. Besides, before I could shoot, I’d have to be completely stopped in the water and fire at the very moment of the launch, or that baby’d be gone.”

Latterday thought quickly, and then it came to him just as though Jesus himself were whispering in his ear. “It’ll work! It’ll be a two pronged attack,” he said excitedly. “I have a private jet and I have my pilot license. You come in fast from the sea—from due east. Be in place ready to fire at exactly 0600. I’ll come in from north northeast, just off the beach, fast and low, under the radar at 0559. Whichever one of us they see first will become a diversion, and the other will follow through and accomplish the mission.”

“Uh, I donno,” said Baxter, backing off. “Security’s mighty heavy and tight. Likely, they’d see us both, especially me, ’cause I’d have to be inside their security zone several minutes before launch. Uh, besides, if God wants the mission to fail, then cain’t He do it Hisself? I mean, He’s all powerful and all that.”

For the next five minutes, Latterday gave Baxter the best glory-sermon he’d ever preached on redemption and atonement. It was also the first sincere one since before his traveling faith show. At the end, both men were in tears, convinced that God was behind them all the way and that they would spend eternity in the loving arms of their savior.

After Latterday hung up, he called the pilot service at the airport to check on the weather. Some days the airport shuts down because the ash cloud is too low. He was in luck. The cloud is expected to bottom out at two thousand feet. That’s low, but certainly flyable. It’s another sign! he thought.

He left the office and stopped off at the bank before heading home. He’d need to call his personal pilot and get to bed early.

Latterday arose well before dawn Saturday morning. Having filed a flight plan for Jacksonville, and having given his pilot instructions to have the jet prepped, fueled, and ready for take-off at 0515, he made his way to the airport as a faint grayness in the eastern sky foretold the coming of dawn.

As he drove, he noticed a bright glimmer of light in the east and after determining it was not an airplane, but the planet Venus, he was thrilled. The ash cloud had apparently thinned unexpectedly, allowing Venus to hang like a diamond in the eastern sky, its true brilliance slightly blunted. Still, it was lovely to behold.

To Latterday, the unusual clarity and beauty of the morning was another sign from God meant specifically for him. He felt another thrill as he strode through the terminal and out onto the tarmac where his jet was waiting, its twin engines whining in anticipation of a rare skyward leap. His pilot stood by the boarding steps.

“Thank you Mike,” he said, handing the man a cashier’s check. “I’ll take it from here.”

“Uh, Yessir,” said Mike, taking the check without looking at it. There was concern in his voice. “But, you’re supposed to have a copilot. You sure you don’t want me to . . .”

“No thanks, Mike. I won’t be up but a few minutes. I want to feel the thrill, alone.”

Just as Latterday mounted the steps, he barely heard his pilot exclaim, “My God!”

Latterday chuckled. Obviously, no one had ever given the man a cashier’s check for a hundred-thousand dollars. He had left his wife a check for three million. The rest he had bequeathed to a children’s charity. At least the money would do some good until the end.

As he activated the step retraction and reached to close the door, he saw his pilot standing in the same place gaping up at him. Latterday smiled and waved the back of his hand as though warding off a fly. The pilot began to back up, still staring at him as the door closed.

Latterday made his way to the cockpit, seated himself and strapped in. He checked the clock on the instrument panel. It was 0515. All was going well.

Milton Baxter was a big man, strong of body, strong of opinion, and strong of will. Having dropped out of school after the ninth grade, he’d worked in various low-wage service jobs until he was seventeen and obtained a general education degree along the way.

It was during this period that the ever-present InterSeF ads hawking the adventure, honor, and challenge of combat, sparked his imagination and tugged at his yearning to go places and to be somebody.

He began to fancy himself one of those soldiers he saw on billboards—those rugged and fearless men with muscular biceps, fighting the Muslims for God and country. This is what a real man does. So, with eyes filled with glory, he enlisted. After basic training, he opted for special warfare school and ranger training—that was what real men did.

He quickly adapted to the authoritarian way of military life. He found that he liked the challenge, the danger and the intensity of blood and guts combat. He felt himself destined to achieve a high place of honor among his countrymen.

Yet, it was not to be. On the first mission of his third tour of duty, he was wounded during an extraction from Babol Sar, Iran. The helicopter had barely risen to treetop level when the Revolutionary Guard broke from the tree line and opened fire. Bullets ripped away his right cheekbone and shattered his right femur. The crippled chopper barely made it back to safety.

It was during convalescence that he met Linda, a nurse on staff at the Veterans Hospital. He was thoroughly smitten with her. It was the first time in his life that he found himself caring deeply for anyone. After a short courtship, they were married, and he left the service. Their son was born a year later.

Baxter worked in construction for a short time, and eventually formed his own company contracting with the Corporation to lay concrete driveways for homes and businesses.

He was doing well for a high school dropout, and for the first few years, he was happy. He had cheered when the neocons regained total power in Washington, and was happy to see the purge of liberal teachers and college professors. He was pleased to see needless and wasteful, socialist programs and governmental departments abolished or privatized.

Yet all those promises of prosperity through smaller government, deregulation, and an unfettered free market proved to be false. Instead of the government, the Corporation had become the oppressor, manipulating the market and forever increasing its profits at the expense of workers and consumers.

Deregulation of the Corporation’s food industry and the subsequent loss of government oversight had resulted in ever increasing mass food poisonings, causing him to be wary of what his family consumed. In spite of earlier promises of lower prices in a market deregulated and united under one, unifying company, prices had been skyrocketing ever since the Corporation became the last man standing in international trade.

Still, Baxter wasn’t too concerned. The Corporation’s buyout of all public institutions of learning resulted in a hefty tuition requirement to place a child in any school at any age, thus driving millions of families from the educational process. Consequently, the boom in available labor became a boon for Baxter’s company. Wages were falling even more, so he had his pick of the best workers, and the wealthy were building larger mansions, which called for longer driveways.

So, he was doing just fine. The plight of others was simply the price of freedom. If people couldn’t make it on their own, as he had, that was just too bad for them. It was their fault. He and the Corporation had to make a profit, and for a while, he accepted the Corporation’s excuse for increasing prices and fees. There were wars to be fought and the ash cloud caused much shorter growing seasons everywhere. Besides, he was among the self-made, fortunate few who could still afford to live an upper middle class lifestyle, send his son to school, and buy the higher priced but safer food from the local farmers’ market and fishing docks.

But then, the police force and the fire department were privatized. His taxes went down significantly, true enough, but the fees for those unregulated services were rising rapidly, far more than wiping out the gain from reduced taxes. Indeed, the Corporation had recently informed homeowners that their insurance would no longer cover the cost of the fire department. They would have to buy a separate fire insurance policy. That made him angry.

Since the Veterans Administration was abolished just a year ago, he was forced to purchase private health insurance for his family from TransWorld Biometrics, now the health industrial arm of TiConGlobal. He could afford it, but the policy would not cover the problems he was developing as a result of his war wounds because the Corporation would not cover preexisting conditions. That, too, made him angry.

Then the Corporation informed him that the price of his construction material would almost double in the coming months, and his family’s health insurance premiums would increase by fifteen percent next year. To boot, his deductible would increase as well, just as it did last year. Yet the corporate elite continued to receive billions in bonuses every year. Baxter couldn’t imagine someone having such an income. That made him angrier.

Thus, even as Baxter’s income slowly increased, at the end of the month, he found that his discretionary cash decreased. And although he had saved a considerable sum in the bank, he finally realized that he was just one serious illness away from bankruptcy. His income was entirely dependent on his health despite the high premiums he was paying for insurance.

So Baxter was frustrated, suspicious, and angry. He was ready to strike out at something, or someone. Latterday not only provided the target, but a promise of an eternal utopia in the hereafter.

He had intended to slip out early without awakening Linda, but things didn’t go as planned. He arose quietly, and in the dimness of the nightlight, slipped into his clothing. He stood by the bed for a moment looking at her. He wanted to lie back down and feel her beside him one more time, but he thought of his mission, and suppressed the emotion.

He left the door ajar as he left the bedroom, flipped on the hall light, and went to check in on Devin, his five-year-old son. The child was asleep. He moved to his bedside and looked at him for a long moment. That was when the first doubt formed in his mind, and it was heavy.

What will happen to him after I’m gone? What will become of Linda? Latterday didn’t say how long it would be before the asteroid hits, and if I’m killed in an attack on the launch vehicle, the Corporation won’t pay off on my life insurance. And we may not even succeed. Dolos might be diverted after all.

He thought of how happy Devin was playing catch with him, and wrestling together on the living room floor. He could hear the giggling. It was a beautiful sound. He thought of the fishing trip they had taken just last week. It was Devin’s first, and he recalled how glad he was when Devin caught the biggest fish. He recalled how much he was looking forward to taking him on his first hunting trip when he turned six. He would teach him gun safety and wildlife conservation. He would teach him how to survive on his own in the woods. Should Devin not experience those things, even if there isn’t much time left?

He felt the hollowness of anxiety deepen as he looked down at his son’s innocent face. He closed his eyes, suppressing the wave of emotion that was bringing him close to tears.

Steeling himself, he thought again of the mission. He thought of Latterday’s words of redemption and the glory of being an instrument of God’s will. He turned and left the room. He’d see his son again in paradise.

Milton returned to the bedroom where his wife lay sleeping. It was chilly outside, and he’d forgotten to get his winter coat. The air would be cold out on the water. He quietly slid open the closet louvered doors and retrieved the coat. When it closed, it bumped. With his mind so focused on the mission, he’d forgotten it always did that. He’d been meaning to fix it for years.

Linda awakened. “Darling, where are you going?” She lifted herself up on an elbow, her eyes squinting against the shaft of light from the hallway.

He moved to the bed, sat on the edge, bent over and kissed her on the forehead. He ran his fingers through her hair. He gazed into her eyes for a brief moment, and then held her face in his hands.

Anxiety returned with a vengeance. “God,” he said, shaking his head slowly. “I love you so much.” Involuntarily, tears seeped from his eyes. After nine years of marriage, he did indeed love her dearly, and never had he felt it more than at this moment.

Her eyes widened. “What are you going to do?” she asked with alarm.

“Just a training mission,” he lied. “The men and I are taking the boat out for training. It’s somethin’ I have to do. Now, go back to sleep.”

He knew she didn’t believe him. He wasn’t given to emotional departures before training exercises and he’d always told her of them well in advance. But as he gazed into her eyes, knowing he may never see her again, he could not contain himself.

She became frantic. “You’re going to do something bad, aren’t you? What are you going to do?” She threw her arms around him and pulled him down to the bed. “Whatever it is, don’t, please don’t do it! It’ll work itself out without you.” She began to shudder and cry. “Please don’t go! I won’t let you go! I won’t let you go!”

“What’s the matter mommy?” came a child’s frightened voice from the doorway.

Latterday felt the usual rush as he set the brakes and powered up for an instrument check at the end of runway 27. After testing the flight controls—the ailerons, elevator and rudder—he lowered the wing flaps thirty degrees to provide additional lift for take-off. Glancing over the instruments, he set the altimeter to zero. Just habit. He really didn’t need to fine-tune it. He would be flying by sight, and after the initial climb-out, he would have little care for what it said. He scanned the instrument panel. The aircraft was flight ready.

He slipped his headphones on, keyed the mike, and gave his tail number. “November Juliet-seven-three-five-Charlie-Tango ready to roll,” he told the tower.

“November Juliet-seven-three-five-Charlie-Tango,” came the voice of controller Dallas Redman, “you’re cleared for runway two-seven to an altitude of one-five-zero-zero feet. Be advised ash altitude is two thousand, winds eight knots northwest, squawk four-two-zero-zero.

“Also be advised extended flight restrictions are in force due to operations at Cape Canaveral. You have a restriction variance for headings no less than two-zero-zero degrees and no more than three-zero degrees after you pass the outer marker. Enjoy your flight, Reverend, and God bless you.”

Latterday took a deep breath as he set his transponder to the assigned squawk frequency—a frequency enabling Air Traffic Control to identify him and his flight characteristics on their radar.

“God bless you, Dallas,” he said softly into the mike, knowing those would be the last words he would ever say to anyone on earth.

Powering up to maximum thrust, he released the brakes and the jet leapt forward, pressing him back in his seat. The runway rushed by. Easing back on the yoke, he felt the instant the wheels left the runway. He flipped a toggle on the instrument panel to retract the landing gear. Seconds later, he retracted the flaps and felt a moment’s decrease in gravity from the reduced lift.

Climbing straight out, he watched the southern end of South Lake slip beneath him. At fifteen hundred feet, he powered back to cruise velocity, leveled off, and set the trim. A light blinked on the instrument panel, accompanied by a series of beeps indicating the outer marker. He banked right to a heading of 30 degrees, toward the ocean. Having cleared the coastline, he turned off his transponder, breaking the electronic link with Air Traffic Control, then pushed the jet into a short dive, feeling the floating sensation caused by the loss of gravity. He leveled off at what he guessed was a safe distance above the waves. He felt proud of his performance.

About five minutes out, he banked left, made a wide arc, and straightened out on a westward heading, back toward land. Banking left again, he came to a heading of 190 degrees, directly toward the cape, and Launch Complex 39-A.

A voice startled him. “November Juliet-seven-three-five-Charlie Tango, this is Titusville Control, do you read?” There was a short pause, then a repeat with increased volume. The voice was laced with anxiety. “November Juliet, seven . . .”

He turned off the radio, removed the headphones, and tossed them to the copilot’s seat. A serene calmness washed through him. The view from his cockpit window seemed surreal as fishing boats appeared, and then vanished to the right and left beneath him. He made slight adjustments in his course so as not to fly directly over the boats, as the wall of air built up by the passage of his jet could be disastrous for smaller ones.

The beach was filling with people early, as many had anticipated the NASA launch. It was likely many of them were there as a result of the conspiracy theories about the mission that have been clogging the Internet. The most popular—spurred by, and linked to a report of unusual activity in the launch of a probe two years ago—was that an asteroid was heading for a collision with the earth and this mission was an attempt to divert it. It had proved a boon for Latterday as the amount of cash in church collection plates had skyrocketed, along with gun sales and survival gear.

That particular hypothesis was augmented by the fact that Russia and China were known to be mounting missions of their own. How much the Corporation was involved no one knew, but it seemed clear that something serious was afoot, and the public was getting nervous.

Back at Air Traffic Control, Latterday knew that emergency operations would already be under way. Search and rescue aircraft would soon be taking off. Did they contact NASA? Would the interceptors be waiting for him? Would Baxter make it through if he didn’t? Was Baxter in place? He looked at the clock on the instrument panel. It was 0558. Baxter should be in place by now.

He looked southeast and strained his eyes across the waves. There were boats on the horizon and one about two miles away, under power and moving in his direction. But in that position, it couldn’t be Baxter. He would have been much closer and not moving. It had to be a patrol boat.

Looking forward toward the cape, he could see Launch Complex 39-A and the mission vehicle, poised for launch. He wondered if the nuclear device would detonate on impact. Tens of thousands, perhaps even a million, would die. Didn’t matter. They would die with him. Can’t be helped. Everyone but the chosen will soon be dead anyway.

He wondered, too, if the launch might be on hold. That didn’t matter either. It would take them a long time to assemble another vehicle, and since God moved him to attack this one, He would move others in China and Russia to attack theirs.

He glanced across the water on his left. Baxter wasn’t there. He would surely see him by now if he were.

Latterday’s heart sank as a solid line of tracer bullets flashed past the cockpit window. Ignoring the tracers, he looked back at the launch pad. It was growing larger by the millisecond.

There was movement high in his peripheral vision. He glanced up and left—to his ten o’clock position. Two black specks moving toward him quickly grew into interceptors. He saw the corkscrewing white smoke of four missiles and at the same time, heard the rapid thump of bullets perforating his fuselage.

He looked back at the launch vehicle, now only seconds away, rapidly filling his windshield. “Oh God,” he prayed. “Oh my savior, into thy hands I commit my . . .”

Want’s the Matter with North Carolina?

The Culture War

The Culture War

How would I go about viewing politics through an empathetic lens? Politics is the second most pervasive subject to grip the human psyche–the first being religion. I am opposed to both, really, at least in the way they are practiced. There seems to be no honor in politics, and each organized religion has its conceptual boundaries, beyond which lies universal empathy–the Forbidden Zone.

I’ve written on both subjects, and at least with politics, I’ve tippy-toed around the ugliness. No more. In viewing politics through the lens of empathy, one must first find the truth, point out the truth and the deception, and then attempt to find an empathetic way to a solution that is best for society. In most cases, I suspect, the solution necessarily would be utilitarian in nature–the greatest good for the greatest number of people. This would include the “least of these” in society. And so I dive into the ugly, with empathy in mind.

In a State known for its class 1 colleges and its Research Triangle, one would think the good people of North Carolina would not be so easily swayed by misinformation and disinformation.

The neoconservatives, decades ago, having lost their beloved Soviet Union “evil empire,” declared a “Culture War” against liberalism. It had been going on since the founding of our republic, but this time it was different.

Right wing movements in a democratic republic must have an “enemy” in order to plant fear in the minds of the people, and then harvest their votes. The enemy must be painted as evil and destructive to society’s “values,” and the best way to do that is through coordinated, party-wide propaganda in the mass media.

The Strategy: in 1996, Newt Gingrich wrote a memo to GOPAC titled, <a href=”http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article4443.htm”>”Language: A Key Mechanism of Control,”</a>, in which he codified the neoconservative plan of political attack that the neocons had been using since before Reagan, but this time it was for all conservatives. This memo provided virtually all conservative politicians and political hopefuls with their tactical marching orders. It had little to do with policy. Indeed, the voter would vote against their policies where they argued on their own merits. Therefore, the strategy was to destroy the public’s view of the enemy and their policies, but never detailing one’s own policies.

Keep in mind that the neocons considered the “Culture War” a real war, and the strategy was to infiltrate the minds of the public, control the message with disinformation (kick up sand and muddy the water), and stamp out liberalism once and for all. But this was not for the benefit of the public, it was for the benefit of themselves.

Arguably (or not) the most potent weapon in any war is “psychological operations” (psyops), i.e., propagation of propaganda as a means to control the minds of the citizens and turn them against one’s enemies. No organization/nation/party can survive long without the support of the people. Therefore, to achieve this end, the conservatives needed a seemingly legitimate propaganda network. Thus was born Fox News and a radio/television nation seeded with right wing, talking-head think-alikes.

Why did this work so well in America? First, it began in the days of pre-Internet, so it was more difficult to ferret out the real truth. Then the message was peppered with emotional words and phrases like “family values,” and “communist liberals,” and “Nazis,” and “patriot,” and “Second Amendment,” and “the liberals have expelled God from our schools and are coming for your guns and Bibles.”

Liberals, unfortunately, were very slow to pick up on this. The conservatives were talking to the nation, but effectively, liberals were not. Thus the conservatives controlled the message.

No conservative voter I have debated has ever noticed the difference in the messages coming from their political camp and that of the liberal, and they have denied it when pointed out. Where the liberals concentrate on policy, the conservatives concentrate on demonization of the left–mostly personal attacks against the person and the person’s family. It actually works.

Few people noticed when the main thrust of conservative politics became less about policy and more about party-wide, unified, personal attacks, misinformation, and concentrated, emotion generating rhetoric. Hate speech! Now, thanks to Newt, et al, it is now the very foundation of conservative politics. Rarely will you hear a conservative politician speak on a policy without a personal attack against the president, designed to spike emotions. It is their deceitful modus operandi–method of operation. One need not present an alternative policy; just a demonization of the enemy and his policies.

So, again, why do conservative psyops continue to work with all the information now available? It works because it is emotional and it works because far too many voters simply do not vet the information (it’s on Fox News, to it must be fact). And it works, too, because of the apparent legitimate “reports” coming out of conservative, corporate funded think-tanks that are accepted as authoritative by the corporate media.

The end-game: The United States is in a precipitous slid into oligarchy (note, in the graph below, the ever widening income gap between the wealthy and the working class).


The United States already is a corporatocracy. Few things will get done in DC without Wall Street’s approval, and they continue to see record profits while the working class virtually flat-lines. With a corporate Supreme Court and multinational corporations (loyal to no flag) mainly funding the conservatives, I see no means of recovery at anytime in the near future.



The illusion of separateness

This is a re-blog from


Life Is Not An Error

My horizons know no bounds, dimensionless I pass through with no sound; through dimensions, vacuous, folded and entangled so I am the golden thread oscillating a heavenly glow, binding strings in a perpetual state of flow. As thick as a Planck are those who insist they are alone and separate from all around them; for once we were all in union and hence forever in communion and unison despite an illusionary range. Believe me not? Then just ask the cat locked inside the box and ignore that sly fox, whom asks that you merely shake the box to hear it meow! Understand the entanglement, the oscillations and vibrations that echo silently and abundantly through all. This Earth and you are but one expression of me but one I love dearly so, so I bring you this message on the illusion of your separateness and the rarity of your sentient glow…

View original post 49 more words

HOMOSEXUALITY: Perception and Fear v. Reality and Reason

I have been arguing that universal empathy is the only path to peace and that organized religion builds walls that block the path. Few subjects make my case better than this one. Around the world in many countries, social and political forces work feverishly to suppress homosexual behavior. In the U.S., religious/social conservatives try to establish laws against same gender marriages.

In at least 10 countries, homosexuality may be punishable by execution. Why are homosexuals so feared? Homosexuality isn’t a disease, communicable or otherwise. It affects no one detrimentally.

Among the most favored arguments is that everyone’s sexuality is a choice. Yet, if you ask, I suspect most heterosexuals will deny they’ve ever been romantically attracted to their same gender (I’d love to get comments in this particular assertion).

Still, I can judge with certainty, only one person–myself. I’ve never been romantically attracted to another male. Am I to assume I am different from most folks? Are all conservatives, who make the choice-argument, really bisexual–equally attracted to both genders? I think not.

I offer four rational arguments that I hope most readers will spread:

1) Natural Law: When their biblical argument against homosexuality does nothing to convince lawmakers to make laws against same gender marriage, social conservatives turn to the deceptive and bogus “Natural Law” argument. They claim that in order to determine how humans are genetically programmed–how they should naturally act (unspoken: according to God’s Law)–we draw our conclusions from nature. Yet, it appears that few religious conservatives know much about nature.

The Catholic Church is a good example, as well as conservative Justices on the Supreme Court of the United States (and most in Congress). The Roman Catholic bishops, when Illinois legislators approved civil unions in 2011, said “Marriage comes to us from nature. . .That’s based on the complementarity of the two sexes in such a way that the love of a man and a woman joined in a marital union is open to life, and that’s how families are created and society goes along. … It’s not in our doctrine. It’s not a matter of faith. It’s a matter of reason and understanding the way nature operates.”

Never mind the thinly veiled and false statement that “it’s not a matter of faith,” just a modicum of research would have told them that their uninformed opinion is not the way nature operates. It took me about five seconds to find the facts. Same gender attraction and sexual play occurs naturally in many species besides Homo sapiens. Among the best examples is the bonobo, sometimes called the pygmy chimpanzee. Research on this can easily be found online.

2) Science: A phenotype is a genetic trait that manifests physically (easily seen by the eye). A genotype is a genetic trait that manifests psychologically–a predisposition to certain behaviors, such as sexual attraction (heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual).

      a. Phenotype: An estimated 1 in 4,500 infants are born with ambiguous genitalia. This is a condition in which the gender of a baby cannot be determined, having both male and female reproductive organs. This situation can become tragic when parents decide which gender they believe, or want their child to be, and then order the surgery. As the child grows, he/she discovers that the parents made the wrong choice. The question now becomes; Would religious conservatives deny that person’s right to pursue happiness by marrying a person of the same (apparent) gender?

      b. Genotype: Recall that “genotype” is really all those genetically predetermined behavioral characteristics of any person. Therefore, the genes predisposition a person to be romantically attracted to the opposite gender, the same gender, or to both genders (think of the indisputable variations in phenotype).

3) Strict Constitutionality: The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment forbids the government from making laws respecting an establishment of religion. This is made applicable to the states by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Anti marriage laws are based solidly in religion. These laws represent government recognition and support of the theological belief of an establishment of religion, and are therefore, strictly unconstitutional. To fully understand the intent of the Establishment Clause, see Thomas Jefferson’s The Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom. This is the document from which the Establishment Clause was crafted.

4) Reason: Religious conservatives are often complaining that the government should stay out of their lives. They call it “intrusive government.” Yet, they are quick to use government as a blunt instrument with which to bludgeon the rest of society into living by their religious beliefs. This should be pointed out by people of empathy at every opportunity.

What is wrong with allowing every citizen, in this “land of the free,” to seek happiness according to the dictates of his or her own conscience–the same right social conservatives claim for themselves?

— Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative, a philosophical novel that brings the true nature of justice, mercy, and love into sharp focus. It must be read with an open mind. What sort of world would a truly benevolent god have created?

When Civil Rights and Libertarianism Collide

Image   What does it take to create a harmonious civil society? Individual rights are extremely important, but so are civil rights. Should individual rights trump civil rights? For me, a recent exchange of opinions with a self described libertarian on the social blog, SodaHead, highlighted this conflict.

First, I understand the position of the libertarian and I do sympathize. Libertarians believe that the individual is the sole arbiter of his associations, and not the government. I agree to an extent, but I argue that for the purpose of building and maintaining a civil society, there must be at least two exceptions, e.g., commerce and religion.

This clash of rights came to light lately when a baker refused his service to a gay wedding. The baker was not required to attend the wedding, but simply to bake and decorate the cake. He based his refusal on his religious beliefs. At first blush, one would tend to agree with the baker. After all, we do have the right to practice our religions. Yet, this practice sometimes runs afoul of law, which is the manifestation of the government’s obligation to guarantee all citizens equal access to commerce.

The government (We the People), have a compelling interest in the promotion of a civil society. While the baker, in his private life, has a sovereign right to association, in his business practices, he does not have the right to select which customers he will not serve. The gay couple’s right to equal access to commerce outweighs whatever right he may think he has for refusing his service.

He who has a business open to the public, must serve the public. Besides, the baker is not being forced to associate on a social bases with them, he is merely obligated to operate his business as usual, even if his cake does have two male or female figurines on top. This case illustrates my argument that religion is often divisive–a major hindrance to peace and harmony. Were the baker to follow the path of benevolent reciprocity–do unto others as you would have them do unto you–empathy would have dictated his actions. We should not be in the business of building walls, but dismantling those we’ve built.

Acts of Empathy

Handling explosive emotions demands five acts of Empathy

Excerpted and edited for ISHN by Dave Johnson

Everybody agrees that empathy is crucial to risk communication. Vincent Covello, for example, argues that caring/empathy accounts for 50 percent of trust; the other 50 percent, he says, is shared about equally by dedication/commitment, honesty/openness, and competence/expertise. He often quotes an old saying to the effect that people (especially people who are upset) don’t care what you know until they know that you care.

So if you do care, showing you care is obviously crucial. What isn’t so obvious is how to show you care, how to express your empathy.

Read more at http://www.ishn.com/articles/handling-explosive-emotions-demands-five-acts-of-empathy


Empathy in Action – Erinn Phelan’s Selfless Act

By Arthur P. Ciaramicoli, Ed.D., Ph.D

We read about the poor character of celebrities every day but acts like Erinn Phelan’s attempt to save the life of her college roommate are buried in pages far from the headlines.

Erinn is a Brown graduate who had found her ideal job after graduation last summer working for Mayor Bloomberg in his new volunteerism initiative.

As Erinn and her college roommate Alma Guerrero crossed a street in Brooklyn this past Sunday they were hit by a car that didn’t stop. . .

Read more at http://www.balanceyoursuccess.com/empathy-in-action-erinn-phelan-selfless-act/


Suffering Unleashes Goodness

By Arthur P. Ciaramicoli, Ed.D., Ph.D

A few weeks ago I was talking with one of my patients about his recent release from the hospital where he was treated for a major infection. He was telling me he had to get home to cook the turkey for Thanksgiving. He was bringing the meal to his elderly parents, his mother is recovering from her second bout of breast cancer and his dad is currently struggling with the effects of Leukemia. Joe also mentioned that he invited . . .

Read this and other articles by Dr. Ciaramicoli at http://www.balanceyoursuccess.com/author/docapc/

The ACLU on Religious Freedom: Watchdog or Attackdog?

triple-goddess-50 (2) zen_symbol-50 agnusdei-standing-wegast-50  arabic-allah-50sikh-khanda  star4-wegast-50   shinto     lotus_white-50   jain-hand-50    crescent-50   endless-knot-50   Eight_Trigrams-pd   earth-witness-50   dharmachakra-mudra-50   dharma_wheel-50

A child is born neither Christian, nor Jew, nor Muslim, nor atheist, nor an adherent to any other brand of religious or philosophical order. A child is born a human being with an ability to learn, and from this raw material society builds her walls of nationalism and religious certitude. (Thoughts of Professor Hale from the novel, The Empathy Imperative, by Max T. Furr)

Note: The following post concerns a highly emotional subject, the effect of which is an impediment to reason and understanding. Most of us have heard the admonition to never discuss religion and politics with family and friends. Yet, these are the very subjects that must be discussed with family, friends and strangers—with civility, empathy and an open mind—if we are serious about our desire for social harmony and, someday far in the future, world peace.

I believe that most of us can agree that the only path to social harmony is empathy with benevolent reciprocity. Real social harmony cannot happen through organized religion, as I shall explain. Social harmony begins when each individual brings about harmony within himself. This is a difficult task because it is within each individual where we find the strongest impediment to reason and understanding; our genetically based sense of insecurity—an inclination to xenophobia (mistrust or fear of strangers and foreign concepts).

So, how do we begin to remove these impediments to understanding? Each of us must come to understand that this roadblock to reason is what builds our walls of radicalism and self-righteousness in matters of politics and religion.

The first step is to realize that, for most of us, what we believe to be sacred truth was a thing taught to us as from tothood. Had I been born a Muslim, I would most likely still be a Muslim and one of radical persuasion had the environment in my formative years been so inclined. Were I born a Hindu or a Sikh, I would most likely be so today. No matter where I was born, I would have been taught the religious truths of my family and society and I would have believed those truths every bit as fervently as others believe theirs. This is the fundamental understanding we must accept for the sake of reason and empathy. Whether or not one’s religious truths are actually true is not in question here. The only appeal is to understand that they are a function of happenstance of birth.

So, what has the ACLU and other such organizations to do with helping us move beyond our impediments to understanding? The argument I pose above is not one that will meet very many eyes and likely not many open to my reasoning. The very existence of organized religion is to placate our genetically based insecurity. Thus it is most difficult for us to move out of that comfort zone and view other beliefs with objective and empathetic eyes.

It is unfortunate that social harmony—such as it is today—must be imposed by law in every nation on earth. The reason is because of our impediments to understanding and empathy. We do not see eye to eye and often passionately so. This is why we must have laws and organizations that help us move beyond our natural, social and political prejudices.

In the United States, it was the brilliance of our founders that provided our nation the necessary Constitutional tool—a means to help us remove the barriers to understanding. That tool is the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Strong resistance to overcoming our walls of self righteousness is to be expected, but those who understand the intent of the clause must continue to use reason and civil debate in its defense. Even in the face of radical Islam we must not let go the means, but embrace it all the more.

It is common for a great many Christians to voice their believe that First Amendment watchdog groups like the ACLU and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State are all about destroying or at least suppressing Christianity. Yet these organizations are the protectors of the means—the tool that protects each religion from the overreach of others by providing a peaceful environment conducive to learning and, hopefully, understanding why others believe differently.

Since Christianity is the predominant religion in the United States, I want to point out some facts, some necessarily approximated, that demonstrate what the Establishment Clause has brought about and what the Constitutional watchdog groups protect.

Not counting all other faiths, we have 350,000 Christian churches/congregations in the United States and thousands more in private homes, old business buildings and defunct shopping centers. By comparison, there are 98,706 primary and secondary public schools. There are, therefore, about 3.55 times as many Christian churches as there are public schools in the United States. The congregations worship in peace and no one is denying them that right.

Five hundred-forty dedicated Christian radio stations fire up daily in the U.S. Thousands of others become religious broadcasters on Sunday mornings. There are 49 dedicated Christian television networks broadcasting the messages of  about 55 televangelists. And, the Internet is replete with thousands of religious websites and blogs. No one has ever suggested that any of these be shut down.

We find a Gideon Bible in virtually every hotel/motel room. In secular bookstores, whole sections are dedicated to religion. Drug stores and truck stops have dedicated Christian book racks. Additionally, there are about 8,000 full-blown Christian bookstores. No one is trying to shut these down or force them to add books on science.

The Campus Crusade for Christ flourishes on our college campuses across the nation. Hospitals and some large corporations have chaplains and rooms dedicated to religious worship. No one as far as I know objects to any of this.

Further, religious organizations, including Christian organizations, enjoy tax and zoning exemptions. It is the general public—whether or not they all agree with the various doctrines—who make up the lost tax revenue.

Some religious organizations are even exempt from health and child protection laws (sometimes resulting in child abuse).

As well, students may carry their Bibles to school and/or pray silently most any time (especially before a math test). Students may gather around the flag pole before or after school and pray. Bible clubs are allowed.

Check your local newspaper daily for religious news, messages and service announcements.

So why do First Amendment watchdog groups oppose prayer and proselytizing in public schools and on other public property? Because few student bodies, especially large ones, are religiously homogeneous—not all students were taught the same religion. It is the right of every parent to teach their children the religious beliefs they, themselves, were taught and which they believe to be correct. It is the duty neither of the state, nor any teacher working for the state, nor any elected official to promote a particular religion.

A public school or any other government agency, therefore, may promote neither Christianity, nor Hindu, nor Islam, nor Catholicism, nor Protestantism. The Establishment clause, then, demands government neutrality in matters of religion.

First Amendment watchdog groups, then, are mainly responsible for protecting and promoting, not destroying, the religious freedom of every individual. Such protections promote the peaceful environment necessary for introspection and understanding—a chance for each individual to remove his impediments to personal and social harmony.


The Virginia Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom:


AmericanChurchList, Inc.

Digest of Educational Statistics, 1999

Religious Broadcasters on the Internet

Scientology & Dianetics


Note: I am open to corrections on any data in this post.

My Journey From Religious Exclusivity: The Birth of “The Empathy Imperative”

Until now, I was not going to post about my novel because I felt it would sound too much like self-serving promotion for monetary gain. Yet, after reading an impressive post by another blogger concerning a similar journey, I’ve decided to post the preface of my novel, The Empathy Imperative.

The preface elucidates not only the reasons I left Christianity behind, but clarifies how I believe all people of faith should view the world around them. It is an appeal to reason—an appeal to look beyond the walls of exclusivity and sectarianism and understand what it would take to make this vehicle we call Earth a much better place to live for everyone.

I am not so naive as to think I could make a dent in the established citadels of theology especially given the deep emotional attachment of billions of people. I only invite the curious minded reader to understand my social philosophy and, perhaps, I can move just a few to begin their journey.


Preface to The Empathy Imperative

In 2008, the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) aired the BBC/WGBH Boston production, God On Trial. It is a play, written by Frank Cottrell Boyce, based on an event told by Elie Wiesel in his book, The Trial of God. It is a story about a group of Jews, imprisoned at Auschwitz, a Nazi death camp, holding court and trying God in absentia.

The charge was that God broke His covenant in allowing Hitler to commit genocide against them. In testimony, they deal with questions of justice and purpose (e.g., if God is just, then why does He allow, not just suffering, but also suffering on a scale such as the inhuman savagery of the Holocaust?).

It is a powerful and riveting play so well written and with such passionate acting, one hardly notices nearly the entire story takes place within one room.

I began writing The Empathy Imperative long before this play aired and found, once having seen it, that many of the questions raised in the film I had included in the pages of this novel, although in greater depth and with a different verdict. They are profound questions that test the parameters of our view of God’s justice, mercy and benevolence, in contrast with our own. What is justice? Is our sense of justice good, such that God, Himself, approves? Is divine justice something other than what we believe to be just?

The Empathy Imperative, like God on Trial, is a theological and philosophical exploration, but goes further in suggesting what would be necessary, theologically or through secular philosophy, to move our world into a future where empathy, not personal gain, is our primary motivating force.

The questions addressed in the following pages are a source of consternation in the minds of many, often exposing popular but strongly held contradictory views. It is no easy matter for one to examine, with objectivity, the religious “truth” he or she was taught as a child, especially those propositions deeply believed by the society in which one lives. Nevertheless, it is something that I feel must be done if we are to move beyond the walls of sectarianism, and view the world with understanding, compassion, and reason.

My journey beyond those walls began during my high school years when Bible class was offered as an elective and I, desirous to be counted among the faithful, faithfully elected to attend. Having been raised a Bible believing, saved-by-perseverance Methodist, I had no doubt that God was in His heaven, that Adam was the first human being, that one of his ribs was appropriated to fashion his helpmate, Eve, and that humankind came by its various languages in one fell swoop at the Tower of Babel. I believed, as well, that two representatives of every species of animal on earth held first class tickets to a cruise aboard the good ship, Noah’s Ark.

For me, there was no alternative but to believe such propositions because the fundamentals of the Judeo-Christian faith were what I was taught from my diaper days. By the time I reached high school, I was vaguely aware of other religions by way of various derogatory comments I heard and condescending movies I saw, but that was about as far as it went.

Perhaps, had an objective, world religions course been offered in my high school my natural curiosity would have spurred my interest, but I will never know because there was no such course. As for human evolution, it wasn’t so much as mentioned in biology or earth science.

It was with poetic irony, then, that my first serious doubt emerged from reading the Bible and thinking about what I was reading.

Late one night after a hearty round of supplications, I was repeatedly opening the Revised Standard Version at random, expecting God to give me a message by way of the first verse on which my eyes fell. I did indeed get a message, but, apparently, it was not from God. The verse that captured my attention was Revelation 13:8;

And all the inhabitants of the earth shall worship [the beast], every one whose name was not written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the lamb that was slaughtered.

It was my first bout with an apparent conflict in my theology. There I was, a teen taught from tothood that I had a choice whether to follow the ways of righteousness and be rewarded with an eternity of blissful paradise, or to follow the ways of wickedness and reap an eternity of unrelenting torture.

Yet, try as I might to rationalize otherwise, the only interpretation I could deduce from the verse was that of predestination. If that were so, I reasoned, then God knew before the existence of humans, that most of them would be destined to eternal agony, no matter how good they may strive to be.

“Why would God,” I asked myself, “condemn souls to Hell before they were born?”

The next day, I prodded the teacher for a different interpretation. After a thoughtful pause she replied, “We’re not supposed to know everything.” I was taken aback as I had expected a bit more than a dodge, but I accepted it. Her answer, however, gave birth to another question. I wondered why a perfect god would not be perfectly clear in words He inspired someone to write and for us to read.

I suppose the verse could have been interpreted as meaning the Book of Life was begun with the first human, and then each name was added as each person came into existence and demonstrated he was worthy of salvation. However, that would be salvation through works, not through grace, and it would cause a problem with the King James Version of the same verse, which states:

And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

This verse seemed to say the “Lamb”—taken to mean “Jesus”—was destined to be slain from the creation of the world. Thus, although the wording was different, predestination was still painfully clear.

For some time thereafter, I pondered and prayed, reread the chapter, and pondered some more. In time, I moved on, but the questions remained resident in my mind.

Not long after high school graduation, I found myself in Army Basic Training. One afternoon on a weekend as I lay on my bunk reading, some friends who knew me to be a devout Christian came in and asked me to assist them in a debate they were having with a professed atheist.

Never one to miss an opportunity to proselytize, I donned my godly armor of faith and sallied into battle. With my friends gathered around, I dodged and ducked every salvo of my foe’s arguments and responded with my own volleys of piety and scripture. The end of the battle came with a total rout—mine.

Thoroughly shaken, I laid out a smokescreen prophesying divine retribution for my faithless adversary and withdrew from the battle. Hastily applying a sturdy brain-splint of seasoned prayer, I retreated for weeks into mental convalescence.

It had been my first contact with the enemy and he had come to the field of battle with an awesome weapon entirely new to me—well reasoned, evidence-based arguments.

His knowledge of the Bible was greater than my own, his knowledge of other religions was far beyond mine and his knowledge of evolution caught my ship-of-ignorance broadside.

Bertrand Russell wrote of Pierre Bayle, French philosopher and critic in the late 17th century, that Bayle would compose lengthy arguments on the strength of reason over orthodox belief, but conclude, “So much the greater is the triumph of faith in nevertheless believing.”

Perhaps such sentiments are necessary to placate the troubled minds of a great many people, but for me, there was something deeply repugnant about willful self-deception.

It was this abhorrence for intellectual dishonesty that seriously weakened the walls of my theology and set me up for the final blow—my own, reasoned argument.

An acquaintance of mine, having noted my air of piety, invited me off post to dinner and conversation at his home. That evening, seated in his living room, he and two others engaged in a concerted effort to convert me to Mormonism. Among other arguments, they contended that baptism into the Mormon faith was necessary to achieve salvation.

Marveling at their confident posture, I asked, “How do you know you are right?”

“We know in our hearts we are right,” they replied.

“Yes,” I responded, “but so do the Jews, the Hindu, the Buddhists, the Muslims, and the Catholics. They all know in their hearts that they are right. Every person of every religion believes himself to be right.”

After dinner, having made no commitment, I thanked them for their hospitality and took my leave. Returning to the base that night, something was bothering me, the cause of which I could not ferret out.

When I awoke the next morning, the insight came in a flash. The rebuttal I had made in reply to their heartfelt belief that they were right, applied to me as well.

The logic was clear; I had no more reason to believe I possessed the sacred truth than did anyone else. I had grasped the indisputable fact that one’s religious beliefs have more to do with happenstance of birth than with truth. A person is most likely to believe the theology taught by his parents, which is most often the predominant religion of the society into which he is born and that belief is often unshakable for the rest of his life.

A cascade of questions followed, the foremost of which was: Could there be a good and compassionate god who condemns billions of souls to eternal torture for having been taught to believe the wrong religion? Since adherents to other faiths believe their “truths” every bit as passionately as the Christian believes his, how do I know I was taught the right one?

I decided, therefore, to place my faith in abeyance and view my beliefs with an objective eye. I would return to school and acquire a much wider breadth of knowledge so vital for sound reasoning.

I vowed to study with an open mind and follow the arguments to their logical conclusion. I promised myself that I would accept the conclusion no matter how uncomfortable it might make me feel, for if I refused to do so, I would live a life of intellectual dishonesty.

Throughout the ensuing years I applied a strong dose of reason to each of my attempts to fashion a new theology.

In pursuit of truth I opened my mind to philosophy, world religions and evolution. I read and contemplated the arguments of current and past theologians, scholarly evolutionists and philosophers.

It was during this process that I came across a famous statement by the German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716). In an attempt to reconcile the existence of evil with the idea that God is omnibenevolent (all loving), omnipotent (all powerful), and omniscient (all knowing), he suggested that God gave this world the best balance of all possibilities, good and evil. So that humans might act as free agents (possessors of free will), He gave us the ability to choose between the two. Therefore, Leibniz concluded, it must be that God blessed us with “the best of all possible worlds.”

Leibniz’s proposition that this is the best world possible stuck in my mental craw where it festered. I recall thinking about the world; its wars, its hungry masses, its disease-infested children (what is more innocent than a child?), the horrors humans inflict on their fellow humans and concluding that Leibniz’s best possible world conjecture was demonstrably false.

It was the age-old philosophical conundrum: If God is omniscient, then He knows of the intolerable suffering of billions of people through no fault of their own. If He is omnibenevolent, then it is reasonable to suppose that He would want to alleviate at least the depth of suffering. If He is omnipotent, then He could act on His desire. He does not alleviate the depth of suffering. Therefore, either He is not omnipotent and can do nothing about suffering, or He is not omniscient and does not know humans suffer, or He is not omnibenevolent as most of the world, astonishingly, thinks Him to be.

It was against this best-world proposition that I debated through my college years, but my post-college profession in quality management occupied so much of my time and raised my level of stress to such a degree that little time or inclination was left to ponder this primary interest.

In time, out of concerns for my health, I resigned from that profession and eventually became a long haul, professional driver. This occupation appreciably lowered my level of stress and allowed me the time I needed to read and ponder my philosophical and theological interests.

It was early in this new career, while again considering the best-world proposition, that I realized neither I, nor anyone with whom I had debated, thought to ask the obvious questions: If this is not the best of all possible worlds, then could it be that we do not have the best of all possible gods? In addition, if this isn’t the best world possible, then what would a better world look like and how could we get there?

These are the questions about which I began to research and write, and which The Empathy Imperative attempts to answer.

I do not presume to believe this book constructs the best of all possible worlds or gods and indeed, I am sure it does not. But I do not need to construct the best of either. I just need to demonstrate that, theologically, better gods and better worlds are possible.

Since any such qualitative construct necessarily deals with ethics and justice, I must deal with questions relevant to the omniperfection of God and it is with this discussion that I feel a word to the wise reader is necessary.

For the purpose of this exploration, I began by assuming the King James Authorized Version (AV) of the Bible was literally true—both the Old and New Testaments.

Obviously, I had to deal with some misinterpretations and inconsistencies in the scriptures, while at the same time trying to remain true to the fundamentalists’ view that the entire Bible is the infallible word of an infallible god. This struggle becomes evident in the progression of the narrative.

I am well aware of considerable controversy in matters of scripture analysis and translation, but my thrust is not to make arguments of interpretation. It is rather to demonstrate that, again theologically speaking, a better world could have been created, and if a better world could have been created, then it follows that the god of the Bible, Yahweh, was not the best of all possible gods.

Therefore, in order for the astute student of theology to appreciate the point of the book, he will need to suspend his urge to fractious debate over scriptural interpretation and tentatively accept my general premise that this is not the best of all possible worlds.

As for the version of the Bible, I chose the King James because it was the one believed and preached by the lead character’s father and because it was the version with which most Christians were familiar, at least during my early years of study.

Another note of interest for the Christian true believer—when the Time of Sorrows begins, the lead character, Mark Jefferson Hale (Jeff), is a politically aware, evolutionary biologist, and a causal determinist.

Jeff’s view of strict, causal determinism (cause and effect) is explained in the second chapter of part 1 as he attempts to avoid dealing with a culmination of unsavory events—the foremost being the death of his estranged, fundamentalist father.

To the Jewish reader, you are already aware that I spell out sacred words. I do this because I feel it is necessary for the integrity and flow of the narrative.

For the politically inclined reader, chapters three and four set up the political condition of Jeff’s time, suggesting what might happen if the political pendulum did not swing back, but became immobile far to the right, caught up in an entanglement of corporate greed and religious fervor, triggered by the beginning of the Tribulation—the Time of Sorrows. This political theme mingles with theology throughout part 1.

Part 2 begins an exploration into our view of the nature of justice in relation to events described in the Old Testament and in relation to the culmination of events described in prophesies.

I am sure many will say that I cannot judge the acts of God described in the Old Testament by modern, ethical standards, but they will be wrong.

I am exploring Christian theology and embracing the popular notion that the god of the Old Testament is the same god of the New Testament whose being and temperament does not change.

I am proceeding with the idea that we believe our sense of morality and justice is good and that it is God sanctioned. Therefore, in order to conduct this theological exploration honestly, I must view events in the Old Testament through the moral lens of modernity.

–Max T. Furr

EMPATHY IN POLITICS: Protecting Freedom of Religion

Note: This blog is a spin-off of my novel, The Empathy Imperative, and it is in tune with my social philosophy, which is laid out in the novel. For those who haven’t read my post, “Bringing Down the Walls, One Brick at a Time,” it would be best to read it before reading this post. It will give you a better understanding of my approach to the various issues.

In previous posts, I have written about the meaning of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, but it is clear that there is a great deal of misunderstanding throughout society about how our U.S. Constitutional rights are protected. Below, I’ve begun a list of sites dealing mostly with the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. I will be updating this information (adding to or changing) frequently.

I welcome comments from all sides on any subject.


The ACLU Fights for Christians, too

The ACLU fights just as hard for INDIVIDUAL free exercise of religion as the ACLU fights against GOVERNMENT endorsement, sponsorship, or establishment of religion. Despite this fact, many people spread misinformation about the ACLU around the internet, innocently and maliciously, falsely claiming the ACLU is anti-religion or anti-Christian.

This list of FACTS counteracts that misinformation. These links represent just a few of the many examples of the ACLU defending the free speech and free exercise rights of Christians (for purposes of this list, the word “Christian” means a person who self-identifies as “Christian”).

In every example, the ACLU is defending the right of a Christian to speak as a Christian or to practice Christianity.

Find the list of links here: http://www.aclufightsforchristians.com/


ACLU issues warning on Bible distribution in Kentucky

by Associated Press

LEXINGTON, Ky. — The American Civil Liberties Union has sent a letter to superintendents in Kentucky advising them to start following federal guidelines on distributing Bibles at public schools.

The Aug. 19 letter from ACLU attorney William Sharp says districts that don’t abide by the guidelines will face a court challenge.

Follow this link to the story.


Muslims Blacklisted for U.S. Citizenship Under Secret Program, Says ACLU

LOS ANGELES — A government program to screen immigrants for national security concerns has blacklisted some Muslims and put their U.S. citizenship applications on hold for years, civil liberties advocates said today.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California said in a report that the previously undisclosed program instructs federal immigration officers to find ways to deny applications that have been deemed a national security concern. For example, they flag discrepancies in a petition or claim they didn’t receive sufficient information from the immigrant.

Follow this like to the full story.


ACLU sues to remove Oklahoma 10 Commandments monument

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma has filed a lawsuit seeking to have a monument that bears the Ten Commandments removed from state Capitol grounds.

The Tulsa World reported that the civil liberties group filed suit in Oklahoma County District Court on Monday and names the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission as the defendant.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/08/22/aclu-sues-to-remove-oklahoma-10-commandments-monument/?test=latestnews#ixzz2cswCW8mW


Conservative Group Files Lawsuit Against N.J. ‘ex-gay’ Therapy Ban

By Chris Johnson on August 22, 2013

A socially conservative group on Thursday filed a lawsuit in federal court in New Jersey that seeks to overturn the state’s ban on widely discredited “ex-gay” conversion therapy that Gov. Chris Christie signed into law this week.

The Liberty Counsel filed the 46-page complaint before the U.S. District Court of New Jersey against Christie, who signed a law on Monday barring sexual orientation conversation therapy for minors within his state, as well as other state officials.

Follow this link to the story.

Understanding the Establishment and Religious Freedom Clauses of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

Those among us who, with good intentions, want their religious beliefs spread among society with the help of, or complete absence of, government intervention and who believe the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment does not require the federal government to restrict religious activities from government property have a fundamental misunderstanding of the Thomas Jefferson’s intent in creating the foundation of the Establishment Clause.

While the First Amendment does not explicitly say that there must be a “wall of separation,” its underlying foundation is quite clear. There must be a wall and it must be untraversable in both directions.

In order to understand that this was Jefferson’s intent, it may be necessary for reader to read “The Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom. This document lays out what Jefferson meant by the term “religious liberty.” Secondly, one should read his Letter to the Danbury Baptists, where he states that the Establishment Clause has established a wall of separation between church and state. I have provided the texts of both documents below:


The Virginia Act For Establishing Religious Freedom

Thomas Jefferson, 1786

Well aware that Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do; that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time; that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporal rewards, which proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labors for the instruction of mankind; that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, more than our opinions in physics or geometry; that, therefore, the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to the offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which in common with his fellow citizens he has a natural right; that it tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing, with a monopoly of worldly honors and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it; that though indeed these are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles, on the supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency, will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own; that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order; and finally, that truth is great and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.

Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

And though we well know this Assembly, elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of legislation only, have no powers equal to our own and that therefore to declare this act irrevocable would be of no effect in law, yet we are free to declare, and do declare, that the rights hereby asserted are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right.


Jefferson’s Letter to the Danbury Baptists

The Final Letter, as Sent:


To messers. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.


The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.

Th Jefferson

Jan. 1. 1802.


Thus, the intent underlying the Establishment Clause and the Religious Freedom Clause is clear; the government must remain neutral in matters of religion.

But, how does this create the right of government to restrict religious activities from public property?

In 1971 the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) handed down its decision in  Lemon v. Kurtzman. In that decision, the Lemon Test was established. I will not go into details of the case or the decision, but simply restate the test:

1. The government’s action must have a secular legislative purpose;

2. The government’s action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion;

3. The government’s action must not result in an “excessive government entanglement” with religion.

In a debate recently, my interlocutor implied that the Establishment Clause does not prevent government from establishing “a governmentally endorsed Church.” I pointed out that this assertion flies in the face all three parts of the Lemon Test.

Too, it is argued that the law should not be applied to the states.

The 14th Amendment says that no state may deny any citizen “equal protection under the law.”

Were a State or local government to establish/recognize a particular religion, then it is by that act recognizing an establishment of religion and raising its public status above all others. As well, the government would not be providing its citizens who adhere to other religions (or adhere to no religion at all), equal protection under the law and thus, the government is entangling itself in matters of religion. This has been upheld by the SCOTUS time after time and this is what establishes the government’s obligation to protect the right of all U.S. citizens to have their religious beliefs viewed as equal to all by any governmental organization. Otherwise their status would be unlawfully diminished in their community.

The logic behind disallowing any particular religion to have government endorsement has been established since America was first settled. Our schools tend to leave out certain aspects of this country’s history, leaving students with the impression that when settlers came to this continent to escape religious persecution, they found it. Omission of the details leaves students with a false sense of American Religious history.

Here is probably the first bloody religious conflict on the North American Continent:

Long before the Mayflower sailed, the French, Protestant Huguenots settled in Florida seeking religious freedom. The Catholic Spanish, already there, were incensed. They attacked, overcame the Fort Caroline French colony and then proceeded to hang every person left alive. The reason? As the Spanish commander wrote to King Philip II, “they were scattering the odious Lutheran doctrine in these Provinces.”

This was an example of bloody religious intolerance on this continent and there was much more as the centuries past, but I will spare the reader. Such factual history can easily be found online.

Still, even though such warfare no longer occurs in the U.S. (barring radical Islam, of course) there is an incessant cold war fought by Christian fundamentalists against those who understand the Establishment and Religious Freedom clauses of the First Amendment.

Most fundamentalists are open about their desire to promote Christianity in schools, and even Christian creationism in science classes. Many want to eradicate the teaching of evolution altogether. Some fundamentalist teachers impose their views on their students. But do we really want our schools divided, where Christian students and teachers tease and bully the obviously non Christian students (evidence of this can be found online)? Do fundamentalists  really believe Christians have a right to proselytize and coerce non Christian students? Do we want non Christians to remain silent and “go along to get along?” If you are protestant, would you want a Catholic teacher indoctrinating your child or vise versa? How about Wicca or Islam? The Establishment Clause protects all citizens and their children against such insensitivity and intolerance.

Parents of other religions (or no religion) have the right to bring their children up according to the dictates of their conscience without government interference, but with government protection.

Finally, secularism can indeed be carried too far by officials who don’t understand what expressions students are allowed with respect to their religion. I don’t object to–and I don’t think there is any law against–religious clubs in schools holding the same status as philosophy clubs. Such students cannot, however, in any way foster their beliefs on other students and teachers cannot show support for any particular religious club. This means, as well, that Muslim, Wiccan, and atheists students may have their clubs, and all of society may worship in their holy places or not worship at all, according to the dictates of their conscience.

This is true religious freedom, and this is empathy for every citizen’s beliefs in matters of religion, brought to us courtesy of Thomas Jefferson’s Wall of Separation–the Establishment Clause and the Religious Freedom Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.

Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative

Malala Yousafzai’s speech to the United Nations

Video by ABC News

Malala Yousafzai is the Pakistani girl shot in the head by a fundamentalist Muslim for the crime of attending school and speaking out for equality and women’s rights in society.

This young woman’s attitude, courage and determination is the very spirit of universal empathy. She wishes no ill will even for the person who shot her, yet she refuses to be silent. She pushes fear aside and continues to speak out for freedom and education for all people.

May she come to no more harm. It would be a great loss for the world.


Hallmarks of a Good Person: Homosexuality, Reason, and Empathy


***Max is author of The Empathy Imperative***


I believe two of the greatest hallmarks of a good and (almost) complete person are the attributes of empathy and understanding. By “almost,” I mean that although empathy is a mark of a good person, universal empathy does not exist. That would make a person, “complete.” I don’t think, however, that the attainment universal empathy is quite possible yet, but it should be our goal.

Why can’t an individual have universal empathy? Because of our attributes gained through evolution, such as the impulse to xenophobia and aggression. Therefore, I think universal empathy is something that can be achieved only by a few thousand years more of social evolution based on reason.

Far back on our evolutionary path, xenophobia (fear or suspicion of strangers, foreigners, and people who are “different”) and aggression were survival instincts we had no choice but to follow, but now they are impulses controlled by reason, more or less, in each individual.

Regarding homosexuality. empathy will dictate to a good person of understanding that:

1) No one would choose a lifestyle that a large segment of society hates and taunts, and some want to kill,

2) Homosexuality is far more prevalent than most people think,

3) Intellectual honesty would dictate that, for heterosexuals, their sexual preference is not a choice, therefore, neither is that of homosexuals,

4) Understanding that some babies are born with ambiguous genitalia, it is quite logical that many babies are born with a heterosexual predisposition, some are born with a homosexual predisposition, and there are babies born at every predisposition in between,

5) Homosexuality hurts no one, and even though some homosexuals are promiscuous, so are heterosexuals,

6) Even though some homosexuals are pedophiles, so are some heterosexuals,

7) From a religious standpoint; “Judge not that ye may be judged”),

8) For the establishment of a just society, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

9) Homosexual marriage does not “redefine” marriage, because marriage is supposed to be the religious and civil bonding of two individuals who love each other, and homosexuals are just as capable of love as any heterosexual,

10) If a heterosexual does not want government intruding into his personal social life dictating whom he may marry and whom he may not, then he should not want the government intruding into the personal lives of anyone else,

11) No one should dictate to others how they may or may not be happy, and no one should strive to deny others the right to seek happiness according to the dictates of their own conscience.

Previous Older Entries

john pavlovitz

Stuff That Needs To Be Said

Religion in Public

exploring the mix of sacred and secular


The sage of Baltimore lives on

Free to express

thoughts, experiences, travel, feelings, stories, diaries and many more...


Because we’re all recovering from something.

With My Face To The Rising Sun

Diary Of A Mad God Woman

The Free-Thinking Human

Just Another Former Christian on the Internet

Lama Surya Das

Spiritual Masters of Asia

The Charnel-House

From Bauhaus to Beinhaus

Friend the Cat

Everyone Needs A Friend.

Toad's Great Adventure

"I will, then, be a toad." -- Stephen Crane

Notes from the U.K.

Exploring the spidery corners of a culture and the weird stuff that tourist brochures ignore.


A broad blogs broadly on women’s & men's psychology: sex, relationships, equality

العاب بنات ماهر

العاب بنات ماهر العاب فلاش ماهر ttt4 العاب سيارات ماهر العاب تلبيس بنات ماهر العاب فلاش ماهر 2015

My Holistic Table

The Art & Science of Cooking. Recipes free of gluten, sugar, dairy, yeast

The Arm Chair Pontificator

Satirical & Poetic Musings Of A Self-Proclaimed Nobel Prize Winner

A Narcissist Writes Letters, To Himself

A Hopefully Formerly Depressed Human Vows To Practice Self-Approval

Ben's Bitter Blog

"We make bitter better."

All Romance Reads

Get Your Swoon On


Independence and Freedom Blog

A Holistic Journey

Finding my way back out of motherhood -- while mothering

Ben Garrido's Author Page

Literary Adventures in South Korea

Victoria NeuroNotes

Into the Gray

%d bloggers like this: