Copyright

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Monday, March 25, 2013

Compassionate Lives

I am much more willing to entertain changes to my life when I view someone living theirs in a way that seems compassionate and interesting on a day to day basis. When I see someone only paying lip service to something they purport to believe in, however, I am completely turned off. For me, it comes down to the actual actions versus the reality of those who claim to be religious.

Honestly, I am not an overly religious person. While I have beliefs, and some of them correspond with teachings of some churches and faiths, I do not go to church and I do not claim association to any of the formal religions. I have studied and attended a number of religions and religious services of various sorts throughout my life. I try to keep an open mind to spiritual things, but I also believe firmly that any faith that asks me to stop thinking and questioning is not a good fit for me.

Too often, I am disappointed in those I know who claim to be religious. They do not act in accordance with their religion's belief system, they are not practicing their religion's tenets, and they do not come across as overly faithful or spiritual people. It seems that the more traditional the religion, the less likely they are to follow the precepts and tenets. Yet, I know many who say they are only spiritual, or who follow a less conservative or traditional religion, and they often have the most faith, the most happiness, and the best lives (in whole or part).

When I first moved to where I live now, I met someone who claimed to be a Buddhist. Yet, his actions indicated otherwise as he consistently didn't actually follow any of the Buddhist teachings I was aware of and seemed to constantly ignore some of the foundational tenets of the belief system. I have known a number of Christians who seem incapable of following even the Golden Rule let alone any of the Ten Commandments. I have personally been harmed by people bearing false witness against me or those I know (9), and I frequently see Christians coveting (10), taking the Lord's name in vain (3), dishonoring their elders (5), and committing adultery (7). The only two that many Christians seem to find easy to follow are not stealing and not killing. But those are the easiest for a reason. I have known Muslims who had sex out of marriage, who consorted with those not of the faith, and who did not pray five times a day. I have known Jews who didn't follow many of the tenets of the faith, including the prescriptions against certain foods, ignored the commandment to keep peace within the family, to do good acts, to make the world a better place, etc. I know atheists that do more preaching and sermonizing on the topic than any Sunday religious leader and who espouse science in such a way that it is synonymous with "God." Do not get me wrong, I also know people who follow traditional religions and are upstanding people who follow their beliefs. I'm disappointed at those people seeming to be the exceptions instead of the rules.

On the other hand, I have known Wiccans who faithfully celebrated the Solstices and the seasons, who lived happy, outward-centric lives, and made the world around them a better place. Most of the Mormons I have known seem to be happy, healthy people who want to make the world better for everyone. If you don't agree with them, they are happy (usually) to let you believe differently and they will continue to strive to be the best they can be. I have known atheists and agnostics who followed more of the Ten Commandments than many of the Christians I know, but they do so because the rules are solid and make it easier for people to get along and be good neighbors not because some external force compels or suggests they should. I have even met people who follow philosophies from books and movies and lead more positive, caring lives than many of those who profess to be religious.

It all comes down to the actions you perform, not the lip service you provide.

You read about people like Mother Teresa, who questioned her faith and her religion on a daily basis, but still went out there and strived to make her world and herself better. Day in and day out her actions showed her to live a compassionate life and she tried to build up those around her. On the other hand, you also read about religious leaders lying and covering up abuse scandals, or performing them. Their actions are those of the faithless and immoral, yet they pay lip service to the religion every Sunday morning during services. I know which one I find better and which one I want to strive to be more like.

In the end, I am left thinking that all religions, philosophies, and belief systems have something to offer anyone. The point is to find the one that helps you to be a better person, to make yourself and those around you happy, and to be a good citizen of the world around you. I don't care if you are an atheist who follows the Boy Scout creed, a Roman Catholic, or a Jedi, as long as you believe fully, live compassionately, and adhere to that belief and try to make yourself and the world better. The point is to believe it and then to live it, honestly and faithfully.

An amusing Addendum to the above, just found:
http://theoatmeal.com/comics/religion

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Paul Ryan is an Idiot

Paul Ryan is the Republican's "best and brightest" budgetary thinker. However, his last few budget proposals have a number of errors in thinking that show that he is, apparently, an abject idiot -- or, if we use the definition of 'doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result,' insane. You be the judge as to which applies.

Mr. Ryan just released his latest budget proposal and it, too, has a number of flaws. One that he consistently and egregiously makes is using an "infinite horizon" philosophy when discussing Medicare and Social Security without also applying the philosophy to the rest of the budget. He used it throughout the election cycle, even after, literally, dozens of economists and politicos pointed out this mistake. He also doesn't seem to understand how Social Security actual works (or that it is funded well into the future) or that rising medical costs are the reasons why Medicare is floundering.

I finally found an article that summed up all of the mistakes. It points out his many factual errors, some of which I mention above. I also stopped researching "entitlement" program errors when I found that the same author conveniently summed up all of those errors that Mr. Ryan, and Republican leadership in general, keep promoting to the general population.
(Aside: The word "entitlement" has two meanings, and the Republican leadership always takes the wrong one when discussing these programs. The actual meaning of entitlement for these programs is: You paid into SS and Medicare and, when you reach the appropriate age or retire, you are entitled to the benefits/money you paid for. Why can't Mr. Ryan figure that out?)
Another LA Times article also managed to sum up something about Mr. Ryan's philosophy, and Republican leadership in general, that I simply don't understand:
As the GOP's top budget thinker and its 2012 vice presidential nominee, Ryan acknowledged that he and Mitt Romney lost the election after running on these principles.
But Republicans believe Americans are ready for the GOP's tough-love approach to reining in deficits.
"The election didn't go our way. Believe me, I know what that feels like," said Ryan, surrounded by more than a dozen Republican colleagues. "That means we surrender our principles? That means we stop believing in what we believe in?"
While the vote doesn't explicitly state that Republicans should surrender their principles, it does indicate, as do the plethora of polls since the election concerning the fiscal situation, that the American people are not buying into and do not want what Republican leadership is selling. They want a balanced approach that includes stimulating the economy, cuts, closing of taxation loopholes, and tax increases on the wealthy. Since we live in a Democratic Republic, that means our elected officials are supposed to listen to the public they were elected to serve and do what the majority has requested. Instead, the Republican leadership keeps proposing the same things they have that a) got us into this mess and b) ignores what the majority is requesting. They keep fighting when Independents, Democrats, and even some of the more moderate Republicans bring this up or make proposals that are in line with the majority opinion.

As has been repeatedly pointed out, the budget cannot be balanced on cuts and closing loopholes alone. The numbers are simply too big. Taxation and stimulus is absolutely necessary, yet Republican leadership refuses to commit to those and fights them every step of the way. If Mr. Ryan is, in fact, the Republican party's best and brightest budget guy, he should know this!

If I were still a registered Republican, which I was for the first fourteen years of my voting life (I am registered "Declines to State" now, or Independent), I would be appalled, disappointed, and angry over my current Congressional leadership. I would be contacting them and telling them to stop the obstructionism, stop the filibustering, and stop the idiocy. If I were one of the silent majority of more moderate Republican Congressmen, I would be quietly talking with other Republicans and seeing about a vote of no-confidence and removing John Boehner and others from their leadership positions and getting people who want to work toward solutions in there (I also think the more moderate Democrats should be doing the same and getting rid of Nancy Pelosi, who is nearly as bad).

Why can't Republican leadership acknowledge what the American people want, work with Democratic leadership to come up with a compromise that gets spending cuts in many areas they want, closure of tax loopholes they originally proposed and Mr. Obama has agreed with, AND allows for stimulus and tax increases in areas that, while they may not like, are willing to stomach? Compromise is what the American system of government is founded on, but we have seen little of that for at least 12 years now. First it was the Republicans having both the Presidency and the House refusing to compromise and steam-rolling over the Democrats, then it was the Democrats having the House and then the Presidency and steamrolling over the Republicans, and now it is the Democrats having the Presidency (and Senate), and the Republicans having the House and no one can get anything done.

It is time for a revolution. We need to vote these people out of office, insist on changes to the rules of Congress, and we absolutely must have term limits!

#revolution

Addendum: Just saw this and thought it summed up what I was writing here very simply.