Monthly Archives: September 2013

Free Speech

     Free speech is an issue which gets a lot of attention from the fringe, but is rarely seriously dealt with by those whose right to speak freely is always well respected. In an AP US History class, my teacher was discussing the Bill of Rights, and the discussion of free speech for unpopular opinions obviously surfaced. I was surprised to hear so many people saying that they didn’t think unpopular groups deserved to have the right to speak or assemble.

      The Westboro Baptist Church came up, among other groups, and the teacher said that no one would be upset if somehow they lost their right to say the things they say. I was first confused by his extremely loose interpretation of the first amendment, but I would not in fact be glad to hear that their rights had been usurped. I am fully in support of gay rights and gay marriage because I feel it isn’t anyone’s business but those involved with the marriage (I also oppose the idea of the federal government infringing on state business), but I also think that someone who wants to criticize my view should be able to.

      I am not claiming some kind of slippery-slope argument whereby the government will take all our rights if they are allowed to take the rights of the extremists, I simply believe that everyone should be able to say what they want, short of (possibly including) libel. Freedom of speech is something that most people take for granted because they do not use it. Those of us who speak our minds on the internet to be viewed by five or ten people are just barely using this freedom. I speak from the standpoint of an American, but most reasonably developed societies have similar, if not identical, ideas on this subject.

      By ignoring the potential of our ability to speak our minds to the government, our religions, our employers, or one another, we are throwing away the right to guide our way of life and its growth. Free speech and reasonable, productive dialogue go hand-in-hand, and maybe the lack of respect for free speech is what is leading to the decline of reasoned dialogue on both the internet and the national (and international) stage.

Check out my small political group over on Facebook

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New Beginnings

Psalm 25:4-5

Make me know Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; For You I wait all the day.

Our lives pass fleetingly from act to act,

Guided by orderly underpinnings,

We are faced today with the brutal fact

Of a constant stream of new beginnings.

Each morning shines with life renewed,

Each evening breathes a closing sigh,

And another day passes for one more to rise.

The dawn does not care to exclude

Any gaze from hopeful eyes,

Upon new potential guided from on high.

-Michael Sweeney (The Cave Troll)

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Positives and Negatives of Religion

A reflection on Chapter 5 of “Faith, Religion, & Theology: A Contemporary Introduction” for my fall semester religion course.

     Upon reflecting on the chapter “Religion: Why Bother?” from the book “Faith, Religion & Theology: A Contemporary Introduction” by Brennan Hill, Paul F. Knitter, and William Madges, I have had a chance to see the bigger picture of the benefits and problems presented by religion and religious interaction in the world for my Religion class. These are presented in a more organized way than they are usually shown during research and media attention regarding religion. When researching or reading into this topic, personal biases, inaccuracies, and fallacies in argument can obscure the understanding of the real situation. Though it is shown through a decidedly Christian, theological, “pro-religion” view, it still serves a valuable purpose in highlighting the main points of the arguments against religion and its study.

     Two attitudes are presented in the first part of the chapter, the “ho-hum” and “watch out” positions. These are shown, through the admission of the author, to be potentially legitimate positions for the layman to take in his view of religion. The idea of the “ho-hum” position is an unenthusiastic idea of religion. It tends to be visible in the attitudes of many modern people who feel they don’t have the time to reflect upon the spiritual or to participate in religion. It is less a critical position and more an apathetic approach to religion, while the alternative “watch out” position is openly critical of religion and religious institutions. Without knowledge of the alternative views of religion, or of religion’s potential for good, these views are potentially well reasoned and not entirely without merit.

     The problem with both of these positions is that they result in a restriction of dialogue about religion. The apathetic observer sees no reason to study religion, or even to keep it alive. Someone with a serious dislike of religion will aggressively oppose the maintenance of religious conduct, perhaps even of its study. If religion is a “crutch” or an “opiate” as Freud and Marx stated respectively, then it is something to be disposed of. This thinking may result in a refusal to hear the alternative position of religion as an emotional tool for self improvement, or even to pay attention to it as a fascinating social construct to be studied.

     Greater issues of self understanding are where the greatest personal benefit of religion can be found. Many people, myself included, feel the need to grasp the meaning of their existence. Religion, for good or bad, fills that role for someone who doesn’t have the free time to mull over the greater questions of the universe. It provides a platform from which to become better people, and in many cases it succeeds. The dangers of religion are present, but the positives can result in psychologically healthy individuals capable of dealing with larger philosophical and moral problems, without being philosophers themselves.

Works Cited

Hill, Brennan, Paul F. Knitter, and William Madges. “Chapter 5 – Religion: Why Bother.” Faith, Religion & Theology: A Contemporary Introduction. Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third Publications, 1990. 133-58. Print.

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An Ode to Seasons’ Passing

A short Keatsian Ode inspired by nostalgic feelings as another year draws into Autumn.

You chilling choke on Summer’s lazy haze,

You marching herald of death’s universal scourge,

I both love and dread these inevitable Autumn days

Which slowly crush all youthful urge.

But does not Autumn bring

Beauty in the turning of the leaves?

Though changes swiftly come to strike,

The Summer’s exploits do yet sing.

Perhaps Summer and Autumn find ground alike,

For may not the glory of life shine most at death’s eve?

__

The seasons change with passing ease,

Our dwindling lives of little note

To eternal forces guiding these,

As we traverse life’s widening moat.

As Autumn glows in Summer’s splendid light,

Might our passing years not also bask

In tearful gaze upon years long past?

I awaken each morn in a terrible fright

To see another day has seen its last,

But memory’s light makes the new day an easier task.

                                                                -Michael Sweeney (The Cave Troll)

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