Nel's New Day

February 1, 2015

U.S. Closer to a Theocracy

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 4:12 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Evangelical candidates are circling the wagons, readying themselves for presidential candidates against attacking infidels. One prime fundamentalist Christian in this position, Mike Huckabee, has declared that no school shootings would occur if public schools provided Bible readings, daily prayers, religious assemblies, and “chapel services.” In the good old days—according to Huckabee—people brought Bibles to school, not guns “except for the deer hunters who left them in their trucks.” His big-government solution would use legislation to force religion on public school children in flagrant violation of the First Amendment.

Huckabee is missing a few facts. Gun violence in school occurred before the Supreme Court ruling on neutrality toward religion. Bibles aren’t prohibited in public schools. And the presence of Bibles doesn’t stop wrongdoing in hotel rooms, and people still steal money although it’s all been printed with “In God We Trust” since the 1950s.

If he were elected president, Huckabee said if he were elected president that he would have “God’s blessing” to fight the “secular theocracy” imposed by atheists. According to Huckabee, the United States needs to become a “God-centered nation that understands that our laws do not come from man, they come from God.”

Other wishful presidential candidates are trying to force their religious beliefs on U.S. citizens. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s rally last weekend hosted, among others, the Christian Dominionists who believe that every part of everyone’s life, from politics to wearing apparel, should be directed by their religion. George W. Bush’s administration funneled billions to their cause and employed a large number of Dominionist believers. At the rally, Dominionist Gene Mills said, claimed that the rally was a vital part of the effort “to reclaim territory that rightfully belongs to God [because] these seven spheres of influence are under enemy occupation right now.”

Jindall wrote to 100,000 pastors stating that the event was to train “the men and women of Issachar.”

“There is a great need for the kind of leaders we read about in the Old Testament, ‘The Men of Issachar’ (1 Chronicles 12:32). We need such men and women of wisdom today who will accept the challenge to restore our Judeo-Christian heritage in America.”

US_ARMY_SANDWICH_BOARDChristian control is already in effect in the United States. The U.S. Army, funding for by U.S. taxpayers, is recruiting soldiers in Phoenix (AZ) in the name of a Christian god using graphics of shoulder tabs from the U.S. Special Forces: Green Berets, Rangers, Delta Force, Airborne, etc. Using the phrase “On a Mission for Both God and Country,” it follows other religious positions of the armed services such as the threat of “lockdown” if service members didn’t attend “Christian Rock” concerts, Trijicon riflescopes inscribed with New Testament Bible references, and the mandatory “Jesus Loves Nukes” indoctrination course to train USAD nuclear missile launch officers.

The mayor and city council of Winfield (AL) have declared that God the “owner” of their city by calling it a “City under God.” Their rationale is that they are no different from the coins that state “In God We Trust.” Mayor Randy Price said that the nation is an “awful condition” and that Winfield residents might become more religious if God owns the city.

Price justified their decision in a secret meeting by claiming that “our forefathers said ‘One Nation under God.’ ” These forefathers were Congressional members who added “One Nation under God” in 1954 to the Pledge of Allegiance—written by a Socialist in the 1890s. The Winfield ownership resolution:

 “Whereas we acknowledge God is the owner of the City of Winfield and that it is a City under God. We acknowledge that at all times, He is in control.

“Whereas, we acknowledge that through His leadership, the Mayor and City Council will seek his wisdom and knowledge to be good stewards of the city.

“Whereas, we acknowledge that though prayer, with His guidance and presence, that we will be able to trust that no problem will be too large or too small to overcome.

“Whereas, we acknowledge that the City of Winfield is where it is today because of God’s grace and mercy.

“Whereas, we acknowledge that at all times and in all circumstances, His will shall be done.

“Whereas, we acknowledge that to God be the glory.”

No one knows if the mayor and city council consulted God about his owning the town, but at least one Winfield resident said he was sending a complaint to the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF). Price admitted that he might “step on a lot of people’s toes,” but he believes that  “there’s not but one God.”

Other governments are trying to establish theocracies. Oklahoma legislators have introduced a bill limiting marriage to only Christians and Jews—and only married by priests, ministers, rabbis, or ecclesiastical dignitaries. State Rep. Todd Russ said that the bill protects court clerks and other officials from being forced to participate in same-sex marriages. Todd said, “[People other than Christians and Jews] don’t have a spiritual basis for a marriage and don’t want to have a clergy member or a priest or someone involved in the spiritual aspect, then they can file an affidavit of common-law marriage.” Oklahoma law doesn’t recognize common-law marriages.

Three Mississippi legislators, including one Democrat, have introduced bills to make the Bible “the state book.” State Rep. Tom Miles (D) said, “The Bible provides a good role model on how to treat people. They could read in there about love and compassion.” Bills’ supporters claim that they aren’t trying to force religion on the rest of the state.

Missouri lawmaker Elijah Haahr (R) has devised a way for universities to get federal funding even if they ban LGBT organizations: just ban all LGBT people from belonging to groups based on the members’ religious beliefs.

“No Gays Allowed.” Virginia’s lawmaker Bob Marshall wants any provider of service in the state to have the right to post such a sign. Marshall has wanted to exclude LGBT people from the state National Guard and block a gay judge’s appointment because, according to Marshall, “sodomy is not a civil right.” Michigan and Mississippi have passed “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts” that allow denial of service to anyone—pregnant women, people of another religion, etc. instead of just LGBT people. Over a dozen other states are moving in this direction in the 24 states controlled by both GOP legislators and governors.

Twenty-six percent of people in the United States—80 million people!—think that the God-favored team will win the Super Bowl. Twenty-seven percent of the nation’s sports fans have that belief, and another 53 percent of respondents to the survey think that God rewards faithful athletes with good health and success. Thirty-three percent of football fans pray for their team’s win, 31 percent think that God has cursed their team, and 25 percent perform pre-game or game-time rituals.

Proof to some of these believers is that quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the losing Green Bay Packers said, “I don’t think God cares a whole lot about the outcome (of football games). He cares about the people involved, but I don’t think he’s a big football fan.” The winning Seattle Seahawks went to the Super Bowl. Russell Wilson, Seahawks quarterback, gave God full credit for the win. Devout Christian Tim Tebow wasn’t as lucky. The Patriots went to this year’s Super Bowl after they fired Tebow.

Maybe the religious faith in “the church of the NFL” is the reason that it doesn’t have to pay taxes—just like other churches. Would that happen to the people of the United States if it turns into a theocracy?

February 2, 2014

Super Bowl – Expensive, Deadly

The highest annual worship of football started at 3:30 pm today in New Jersey, as the Seahawks battle the Broncos in New Jersey. Lest you wonder about my use of the word “worship,”  the event represents religion for many of its fans. A national survey from Public Religion Research reveals that about half of the people from the United States who watch sports are under the impression that supernatural forces are at work in the games’ outcomes which are susceptible to prayer, curses, and/or rituals.

“As Americans tune in to the Super Bowl this year, fully half of fans–as many as 70 million Americans–believe there may be a twelfth man on the field influencing the outcome,” said Public Religion Research Institute CEO Robert Jones. “Significant numbers of American sports fans believe in invoking assistance from God on behalf of their favorite team, or believe the divine may be playing out its own purpose in the game.”

Football fans are most likely to resort to prayer; 33 percent of them ask God to give them the winning team. They are also more likely to think their teams were cursed (31 percent compared to 18 percent) and to take part in rituals before or during games (25 percent to compared to 18 percent). The same survey found that a plurality of Americans (48%) believe religious athletes are rewarded with good health and success.

Team members join the fans in these religious beliefs, holding prayer circles before, during, and after games. After the Super Bowl, as any other football game, expect players to say “God was with me” or “I give thanks to God.” As for health, the average life expectancy for NFL players is 58 years, compared to 78 for the general male population in the U.S. The suicide rate of NFL players is six times the national average.

The NFL is the real winner of the Super Bowl and pro football. Host cities of the annual event see less than a $60 million increase in their economies while the NFL rakes in big bucks from NFL-generated events and NFL-branded memorabilia. The NFL makes $9 billion each year and pays no taxes because it is declared a non-profit organization.

One person is fighting NFL’s extortion. When New Jersey resident Josh Finkelman found that the cheapest price for a $500 seat is $2,000, he filed a class-action complaint in federal court. According to New Jersey law, tickets can be sold for only 5 percent more than “all available seating for the event.”  Only 1 percent of the 80,000 seats are directly available to the public; 75 percent are distributed among the NFL’s 32 teams, and the NFL keeps the others for officials, media, and important corporate sponsors. Last week seats cost between $2,900 and $962,000 for corporate suites. New Jersey law would dictate that 95 percent of the tickets would be directly available to the public for the tickets’ face value. A class-action suit could involve tens of thousands of people.

The biggest problem with football, however, are the brain injuries. For over a century, there have been whispers about the physical dangers of playing football. In November 1905, 17-year-old Vernon Wise was buried on the field by a number of Hyde Park opponents. The fourth casualty of the game happened when Wise’s replacement was kicked in the head. Wise regained consciousness, told his mother he would give up the game, and died two hours later of a broken back.

Alarmed by the large number of deaths from football that year, President Theodore Roosevelt worked to make the game safer. Over 50 years later, significant equipment and rule changes tried to make the game safer again after an increasing number of head injuries. Greater safety from these changes was short-lived because regulations provide little protection against concussions. The skull may not fracture, but the brain bounces around and hits bone, a worse impact than fracturing.

The NFL makes money on spectacular high-impact play. As players became bigger, stronger, and faster, the danger of concussion grew worse. It is common for players to endure hits that are the same as a 25-mph car crash. Although individual hits cause injuries, the biggest problem is the quantity. Concussions come from a totality of blows, according to a Purdue study.

The danger isn’t only at pro-football level. Neurologists surveyed several hundred high school football players in 2002 and concluded that athletes with three or more concussions were almost ten times more likely to experience persistent amnesia. A 2004 study revealed that football players with multiple concussions were 7.7 times more likely to experience a “major drop in memory performance” and that three months after a concussion they continued to experience “persistent deficits in processing complex visual stimuli.” Athletes with two or more brain injuries demonstrate statistically significant lower grade-point averages than students without concussions.

The damage to the three-pound organ in the skull isn’t determined by the severity of the hit: players can walk away from vicious hits while getting felled by incidental impact. No one knows the length of time the brain requires to heal although the latest surmise is 10 days for adults. Adolescents need longer. During restoration, the brain damage’s side effects are painful bright lights, fragile memory full of holes, and impossible focus. With even a secondary impact during this time, the damage to the brain can be permanent. Teenagers are far more susceptible to these problems because their brains are still developing, particularly in the frontal lobes responsible for self-control and abstract reasoning.

The biggest danger from frequently smashing the brain into the skull is chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Symptoms can be indistinguishable from Alzheimer’s—memory loss, mood disorders, and depression. CTE can be definitely diagnosed only after death through dissection of the cortex. A 2009 study, however, found that former players between 30 and 49 have severe memory-related diseases nineteen times the rate of the general population. Ann McKee of Boston University autopsied 15 former players who suffered from various mental conditions, including memory loss and depression, and found CTE in fourteen of them. She also found the irreversible CTE in a multiple-concussed 18-year-old football player, the earliest evidence of CTE ever recorded.

Although more than 60,000 concussions are diagnosed among precollegiate players every year, the true incidence may be approximately 50 percent higher. According to a 2009 study, more than 40 percent of athletes go back on the field too quickly. Sixteen percent of high school football players who lost consciousness went back on the field the same day.

Current equipment can’t stop concussions. Jeffrey Kutcher, chair of the American Academy of Neurology’s sports section, told U.S. Senators, “No current helmet, mouth guard, headband, or other piece of equipment can significantly prevent concussions from occurring … It is extremely unlikely that helmets can prevent concussions the way they prevent skull fractures.” He criticize claims by helmet manufacturers suggesting otherwise, noting that even Riddell’s specialized anti-concussion helmet has only been shown to reduce the rate of concussions by 2.6 percent. Even with better helmets, players would respond with even riskier behavior.

The past whispers of brain injuries from football are developing into a muted shout. The Fox network is broadcasting today’s Super Bowl to a possible 110 million people, but two of their leading athlete/employees, Troy Aikman (Dallas Cowboys) and Terry Bradshaw (Pittsburgh Steelers), have gone on record about the game’s dangers. Bradshaw concluded he wouldn’t let a son of his play football, and Aikman said he wouldn’t “be real inclined to encourage” a 10-year-old boy to participate. Boxing faded after people noted its dangers.

Tony Dorsett, Cowboys Hall of Fame running back, was diagnosed with CTE last November. He is 59 and has the same buildup of the protein consistent with what dissection reveals in the brains of players with CTE. Former player Dave Duerson committed suicide, leaving a note asking that his brain be examined. He was 50 and had CTE. The same thing happened with linebacker Junior Seau. He was 43 and had CTE. Offensive tackle Rayfield Wright told the New York Times that he is suffering from dementia. He is 68. A year ago, Truth-Out published an article profiling Duerson, Seau, and seven other victims of football CTE.

Dorsett and Wright are among 4,500 plaintiffs suing the NFL for not revealing what it knows about the dangers of repeated head hits. The NFL agreed to settle for $765 million, but a federal judge put the settlement on hold, for fear that it won’t be enough to settle all claims.

Pop Warner football membership is down almost ten percent from 2010., and head injuries are the top reason for decline in participation. Patrick Johnson II, 12, is still playing. His father, president of the North Texas Pop Warner program, said, “Kids are kids. They can get hurt anywhere.” NFL rookie Ryan Swope, 22, has far more sense than Patrick’s father. After three concussions he retired, citing his history with head injuries.

While the NFL tries to get information about CTE quashed, the Major League Baseball (MLB) is working to reduce the number of collisions between catchers and base-runners at home plate. Fans aren’t happy about trying to reduce CTE: 61 percent of voters in an ESPN.com poll said that they are “not OK with” these reforms.

The sports fans of the United States are part of a violent culture.They aren’t interested in the skill of sports and will be satisfied with nothing less than violence. For more information about the result of football violence, check out these Frontline reports.

Now I’m hoping for a roar about the unwarranted deaths of football players.

February 3, 2013

God & the Super Bowl

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:22 AM
Tags: , , ,

Today San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens face off for the 47th Super Bowl played this year in New Orleans. A 30-second ad on the broadcast costs $3.8 million. Last year over 111 million people watched the game. Last minute ticket purchases are still possible—from $1,322 to $136,380.

The Public Religion Research Institute decided to find out how many people thought that God could help their side win in a football game. More than one-fourth of people in the United States think that God will help them win. Twice that many think that God rewards athletes with good health and success if they have faith.

More Protestants than other religions believe in God’s support for football victory, and other one-third of people in the South are convinced that God determines the winners.

God-on-the-Field2

The PRRI poll concluded, “Americans say religion is significantly more important to their lives than their fan affiliation, but they are about as likely to watch sports each week as they are to attend religious services.”

Sports illustrated cover Sports Illustrated had the same fascination with the Sunday service of sports. Mark Oppenheimer, religion column for The New York Times, tackled the connection between “church and pro football.” NFL players point to heaven, pray on their knees and thank Jesus in post-game interviews. Ray Lewis, featured on the cover, will wear his customary black T-shirt that says PSALMS 91, and 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, if successful on a big play, will kiss either his tattoo of the words GOD TO GLORY or the one that reads FAITH.

The question that both Oppenheimer and I have, however, is whether the violent lifestyle of many wealthy NFL players contradicts Christian philosophy. A conflict also comes from biblical passages emphasizing the weak over the strong and the poor at the expense of the rich while it directs people to keep the Sabbath holy.

Many religious leaders state that football builds character and thereby makes a man more of a Christian—a commingling of faith and football now accepted by fans.“God loves us just the way we are” says Les Steckel, a former NFL head and assistant coach, who now is president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, “but at the same time he does require excellence. And in the NFL, performance is ultimate.”

Those who see someone like Ray Lewis as depicting excellence might want to consider that he was involved in a double murder 13 years ago. The extent of his involvement was not made public, but he pleaded guilty to obstructing justice. The suit he wore at the murder was never found, and he has never spoken to the families of the victims. The transcripts of his dispositions were never made public. Ray Lewis was involved in a double murder in January of 2000. While no one knows the extent of his involvement, he did plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice and the suit he was wearing was never found.

In a time when the country has a high incidence of gun deaths, an increasing number of children go to bed hungry, the streets fill with homeless, the incidence of domestic violence grows, and the United States increasingly ignores people in need, we pay for $3.8 million 30-second spots and $100,000+ tickets. And allow celebrities to get away with murder.

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