Sunday, January 27, 2013

Does Religion Breed Hatred, Bigotry and Violence?

I have always thought religion was a belief in a higher being or a set of principles which guided a person through life. I was raised a Catholic and I was taught to love God and everyone else. I knew people of various Christian sects as well as people of the Jewish faith. From my friendships with these people I learned , that they too were taught to love God and their neighbors. I went to Catholic schools and was familiar with the teachings of helping others, especially the poor, sick and disabled. Sure some of these teachings, looking back, were bigoted and hypocritical, but never were they advocating violence. When I became older I met people who were Buddhists and I learned that they too held similar views and espoused a life of peace, love and charity. So as a child and adolescent, religion to me was, to sum it up, love, peace, charity and harmony.

The older I got I learned that this is not always true. I now know that with some religions, or with some religious people, there is a caveat to what I had always thought. That caveat is that their religion is one of peace, love, charity, and harmony, only if everyone believes as they do. Harboring slightly different beliefs or cultures or lifestyles then not only becomes unacceptable, but dangerous. If anyone seriously studies history they will learn that the multitude of wars were fought over religion, ideologies, politics or land. Some people say that more people have died in religious wars than any other types of war. According to Bookrate approximately 809 million people have died in religious wars while 209 million have died in non-religious wars.

People have died in the name of religion during the Crusades, the spread of the Ottoman Empire, The Spanish Inquisition, the Spanish Conquest of the New World, the colonization of the British Empire, Indian Wars of the US, Northern Ireland and the Irish Rebellion. If we take a closer look at the past we can see that in most cases true religion was never involved in these incidences. Aside from some ignorant and bigoted missionaries there were other reasons for the killing of millions of people. In the New World the Spanish massacred the indigenous peoples of the area, not to spread the word of Christ, but for gold and territory for Spain.  This was the case in just about every war which was waged in the name of religion.  The Catholic Church was for many years the most powerful institution on earth and the popes did everything they could to retain and extend that power, even if it meant people would die. As the Catholic Church split into many different Christian sects, these new sects continued the violence. The oppression of religious minorities or any minority for that matter, has it's root causes in greed, power, bigotry, hatred and politics.

And it continues today. If we look at history, disregarding wars involving religion, we can see religion in a different light. At times the Catholic Church even encouraged science and the arts. Islam in the middle ages was noted for advances in science, mathematics and architecture. The mysticism of Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism fostered a new way of dealing with science and self awareness and mental and physical health. What went wrong? Well I think to answer that all I can say is humans went wrong. Religious extremists hijacked what was normally a peaceful and loving creation of man. Today we see the results of a tradition of hatred, fear, and prejudice being passed down to human misfits.

Today we are fighting a "war on terrorism", which I believe should be called a "war on religious extremists". Islamic extremists seem to be the most prevalent, but they are by no means alone. Many Muslims still harbor a fear and  hatred of Christians for the atrocities of the Crusades and wish to go back to the times when Islam was a powerful political and cultural force. This really has nothing to do with religion, only hate. Religious tensions are again boiling over in Northern Ireland, between Catholics and Protestants. Once again this really has nothing to do with religion, but has everything to do with hatred, fear and politics. Throughout history the Jews have been hated and slaughtered, because they were different or successful. All throughout many of the new African nations Christians and Muslims are fighting for power and supremacy, with many innocent people being killed. In Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan Muslims are killing Muslims, out of age old hatreds and differing views on their religion. Some Christian sects, such as those in the US and Uganda are espousing hatred and even the killing of gays. There have been a number of people who have left their religion to start a new sect of their own, telling their members they have been told by God to to preach a new message to the world. Often these messages include the taking of many wives or what happens too often, the sexual abuse of children. Their followers believe they are following the will of God, instead of allowing a mentally ill pervert live his fantasies.

Old traditions of religious hatred are still alive and well in all areas of the world. Even in England, where hatred and discrimination of Catholics is part of parliamentary law, the monarchy is fighting a change in this tradition. Because King Henry VIII was not allowed, by the Pope to divorce his wife for not bearing a male heir, he split from the Catholic Church and made himself head of the English Church. Catholics were not allowed to ascend to the throne and members of the royal family were forbidden to marry a Catholic. As the British Parliament is ready to change succession laws, which will allow a female to take the throne, Prince Charles, intervened to assure that no Catholic could ever become a member of the British Royal Family. So even members of royalty are still living in the 17th century and continuing a tradition of fear, hate and bigotry.

Religions, for the most part, do not breed hatred, bigotry and violence, but they are sometimes havens for degenerates and just plain evil people to live and act with security and often impunity. If these same people, for instance joined a fraternal organization such as the Lions Club or Elks, their behavior and ideas would cause them to be expelled. But if they are practicing a religion they are protected. In the world's war on terrorism, countries and armies have taken up the task of defending, those who have become targets of terrorism, the non-believers or certain minority groups. The primary responsibility should not fall on these armies or countries, but should fall on the religions themselves for allowing an atmosphere where this extreme negative behavior and preachings  can flourish. Oft times the religions do not even criticize their extremist members, much less actively fight against their views and activities. Some religions feel that is not right to criticize or harm fellow religious members, regardless of how violent or murderous they are. The extremists even enjoy monetary support from their religions.

Just as alcohol, guns, or automobiles, in themselves are not dangerous, they do become dangerous when they are in the hands of mentally ill or evil people. Religion, as a belief in a higher being and a belief that we should love and care for our fellow man, is a beautiful concept. But when people with alterior motives, suffering from mental illness and extreme hatred and bigotry, are allowed to take over a religion and run amok, that religion must be helt accountable and must exert control or punishment on its members.If this doesn't happen I am afraind mankind will be doomed to destruction from a final war over religions, which think they are the one and only true religion. I believe every member of every religion should ask themselves one question. "What happens if I am wrong and my religion is not the true religion?"





Sunday, January 20, 2013

How Low Can the Republican Right Go?

I guess we have all learned from the past presidential election, just how contemptible most of the Republicans are towards minorities, the poor and anyone who isn't a rich, old, white, Christian male. I know it's difficult, but we just have to accept the fact that they are racist bigots and that is just part of their personality and character. It's part of being human, I guess.

They have the right to hold there own degenerated and hateful beliefs, but as members of Congress and the government, they have no right to legislate their bigotry and racism. As obnoxious as that may be, the GOP is doing something even more obnoxious. They are spending taxpayers money to fight minorities.

In 1996, Christian Conservatives and Right Wing Republicans managed to pass DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act. This was done in reaction to the actions of some states allowing gays to marry or allowing gays to enter into legal same sex unions. The bigots in Congress wanted to make sure that people in committed same sex relationships could not receive any benefits from the Federal government, which straight members routinely enjoy. Examples of this are Social Security and Immigration benefits. Since the passage of DOMA, support for it has dramatically declined and in every case where lawsuits against it were heard by US District Courts, it was held to be unconstitutional. In June of this year the Supreme Court will make the final decision on DOMA. Many people believe that it will be struck down. President Obama has directed the Justice Department not to defend DOMA in the courts.

Since DOMA was originally passed more states have legalized same sex marriages and given benefits to those involved in these unions. Recent polls show that support for same sex marriages is growing in the US, especially among younger people. Regardless of this the GOP is digging in to push against the rights of gays. Republican leaders in the House of Representatives have agree to spend $3 million do assure that DOMA remains the law of the land. That $3 million comes from taxpayers, many of whom are gay and many of whom support gay marriage. How can they take money from gay people to make sure that their rights will be denied?

While the Republicans are spending $3 million to make it a law to discriminate against gays these morons have also voted to deny relief money to victims of Hurricane Sandy. They also have voted against spending money for food stamp aid for poor families. They've also tried to deny benefits to the unemployed and oh yes, they still don't want to spend money on health care for the poor and middle class.

Can you see a theme in all of this reprehensible and irresponsible behavior? Well first of all the victims of Hurricane Sandy come from Blue States of the Northeast. Secondly they are still pissed off that Obama is Black and won a second term and they want to punish his supporters, including the poor, minorities and gays. Thirdly they want to insure the supremacy of conservative, Christian, old, white guys in this country. Fourthly they are just a bunch of pathologically immoral racists and bigots, still living in the 17th century.

At this point a normal person would encourage people to contact their congressional representatives and tell them to stop spending taxpayers money to further their hatred, racism and bigotry. They are so entrenched in their hatred and fear they cannot change. The only thing to do is vote them out in the next election. The problem is that they Republicans have redrawn their congressional districts to ensure that the majority of their fellow racists and bigots all live within the new boundaries, thus assuring they will stay in power. We still can't give up. We must continue trying to get them out of office and show Americans who and what these people are.




Wednesday, January 16, 2013

See Your Doctor as Soon as You Have the Flu

"If you are very ill with the flu, see your doctor immediately." This advice sounds very simple and straight forward, especially this year when  flu season is rather severe. We are given this advice year after year, on TV, on the radio and in the newspapers. But how easy is it to follow this advice.

As anyone who has ever had the flu knows, when you have it you feel like you are at death's door. You don't feel like getting out of bed, like eating or even going to the bathroom. You feel terrible! So how are you going to muster up enough strength to get out of bed, shower, get dressed and get your butt to the doctor?

Fifty years ago following this advice was rather easy. When you had the flu you simply called your doctor and he came to your house. Not any more. Now you have to go to him! We are told that we must get to the doctor within the first day or two of onset of the flu, so that the medication, such as tamaflu,  will be effective.
When the flu hits you, it is during these first couple of days that you really feel terrible.

If you have a family you have to get your husband or wife to drive you to the doctor's office, where you will wait in an overcrowded waiting room infecting everyone there with the virus. If you live alone you have to get a friend to take you to the doctor's office. If you can't have a friend do that, then you have to somehow either take a taxi or public transportation to the doctor's office. All the way there you will be coughing, sneezing, sweating, freezing and almost dying, while you infect everyone near you. If you live alone in the country, where there is no public transportation and you are unable to drive, you either have to call an ambulance or suffer alone until you either get better or die.

You may think that getting to the doctor's office is the most difficult part of having the flu and having it treated, but you are wrong. Have you tried to make a doctor's appointment?  It's not that easy. Often times the closest appointment date is off in the distant future, long past the 1 or 2 day window for getting proper treatment. You have to beg and plead, pass out or feign death in order to get an appointment during the current flu season.

Getting an appointment and getting to the doctor when you have the flu is extremely worrisome, especially for those who live alone and for those who live in the country. You best bet is to get the flu vaccine, when it is first offered. This way you can avoid the hassles mentioned above. It only hurts for a few seconds, and contrary to many myths, YOU CANNOT GET THE FLU FROM THE VACCINE. If you haven't already received it, you should get it now. It's better to be safe than sorry. Stay healthy.




Monday, January 14, 2013

Now I feel Secure.

I know I usually rant and rave about right wing Republicans, bigots and other annoying people and situations on this blog, but forgive me for once again posting about my problems with the Internet.

After my last post I did some research on the web looking for the best anti-virus software. I was surprised to see that McAfee rarely ranked in the top 10. After looking at about 7 or 8 programs I settled on one program that seemed to be the best for me. That program was Bitdefender . After I installed Bitdefender I was astonished to see that it scanned my computer and found several potential hazards, that were not detected by McAfee. There are several more features with Bitdefender that offer more protection for  
no-tech savvy users like me.

I don't usually promote or recommend products or services, but I had to make an exception here. For many years I had been using an anti-virus program that was not effective and actually put my computer  and all of my personal information at risk. For this reason I will make an exception and at this point highly recommend Bitdefender for anyone who wants to have the comfort of securely working and surfing on the Internet.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

How Safe Are You When You Are on the Internet?

When I surf the Internet and write my blogs I use the Mozilla Firefox browser, mainly because I find it easy and I am used to it. I also have the McAfee Antivirus program protecting my computer - I thought. Part of the McAfee security software is the SiteAdvisor which rates the safety of the sites found when you are using a search engine.  SiteAdvisor is an excellent program which warns you when you are about to click on a dangerous site. This program is also free for anyone to download. For a very long time I have been using this on Firefox when I searched for things on the Internet, so I felt reasonably safe when I surfed the net.

I am by no means an expert in computers and the Internet, so I am still a little leery about opening some sites and reading my email. I never open any attachments in emails from people I don't know and I always scan the attachments from people I do know. So I was quite shocked when I was looking for information for IBS and clicked on a site, which opened with a gambling site. I closed it, thinking I clicked on the wrong link and then clicked it again, which brought me to another bogus site. I didn't click anything else and just sat back to watch TV. A few minutes later a screen opened warning that my computer had been hacked and I needed to take immediate action as my password and credit card information was compromised. It directed me to use my antivirus software to correct the problem. When I clicked on my McAfee program nothing happened with McAfee, but a new security program window opened requesting that I purchase their software immediately, for $89. The computer was frozen, as I could not use any program  without this alien security program popping up. Luckily my friend Kevin was with me and he discovered the problem and fixed it. apparently one of sites I clicked included a worm that infected my computer.

I was upset that McAfee was not able to detect this malicious software and I was also upset with Mozilla Firefox. I have always kept my Firefox up to date and I had recently just downloaded the latest version. What I didn't know was that the latest version of Firefox does not support Site Advisor and when I was searching I did not notice that I was not surfing safely.

Because of this incident I have switched to Google Chrome, which does support SiteAdvisor, to write my blogs and surf the Internet. I also have decided to change my security software from McAfee to another yet undecided program. I also will be more aware of the sites I visit and would advise my readers to be more vigilant in using the Internet. You can never let your guard down when using your computer.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A New Look for Steveso Thinks

Thanks to my friend, Kevin Chan, I have a new look for Steveso Thinks. The panoramic photo at the top of the page is a view of Sacket's Harbor, New York, taken by Kevin in August of 2012. Sacket's Harbor is near my hometown of Watertown, New York, where most of my family still lives.

You can view some of Kevin's other photographic works at his blogs, Coffee with Kevin and Kevin in Focus. I hope everyone likes this new look and feel free to let me know what you think.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Welcome Immigrants?



With Obama's second term approaching very soon, the topic of
immigration reform will become a major concern. The Republicans are still reeling from their unexpected and astounding loss in November, due in large part to their almost complete lack of support from immigrants and minorities. All through the election the lily white GOP showed their contempt for immigrants and racial minorities, yet were still puzzled as to why they didn't get any votes from them. Many of the GOP leaders realized that the party had lost because of their attitude and policies towards immigration. As Obama won re-election due to overwhelming support form minorities, he promised he would push for immigration reform in his second term.


   Immigration reform will be a very contentious issue that will surely divide the Congress and the country.  With the strength of extremists and outright bigots and racists in the Republican party there is sure to be a great deal of fireworks and hateful rhetoric being spewed about. Already the GOP has shown that they "still don't get it" when they elected party leaders for the new Congress, all of which are old white men.

If you looks at the immigration laws that recently  went into effect in Arizona, you can have a peek into what many extremists in the GOP want to do with immigration. I used to love to visit friends in Arizona and enjoy the influence of the Mexican culture and especially the Native American influence and presence there. Now I wouldn't want to go there, as people of Mexican descent live with constant harassment as well as anyone who isn't white or doesn't look "American". If anyone in Arizona had legitimate reasons to fight immigration, it would be the Native American residents, who have lived there for centuries and now live on reservations as second class citizens. Arizona doesn't understand that white people there are the real immigrants.

Beside reforming immigration to assist those people who are already living in the US and have been doing so for many years, proposed legislation also is aimed at uniting families of immigrants. One issue that will surely be contentious is the proposal which would allow American citizens to sponsor their same sex partners, living abroad, for a green card. This will surely fire up the right wing Christian extremists in this country.

One aspect of our current immigration policy which must be addressed is the issues of foreign students who come to the US to study and then are immediately asked to leave the country. Because of this policy America is losing thousands of intelligent and highly skilled professionals. That is why China and India and catching up and surpassing the US in the area of technology. We can only imagine what sad shape our country would be in today if the racists and bigots now in Congress were in charge when our parents and grandparents came to this country.

We recently went through an idiotic fight to ward off the country going over the fiscal cliff, which showed just how irresponsible and dysfunctional our government is. Now many Republicans are upset with Obama for not giving in to their demands. So in retribution they are promising they will never ever support any of Obama's other measures. In other words they care only about their own party ideology and not the welfare of the American people.

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