Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Religion and Other Scary Things

All religions scare me. A group of people gathering weekly performing chants and singing to/for an invisible being that they believe has awesome power and created the universe ... yes, that scares the shit out of me. This could be added to the long list of things that I just don't get. Why do normally rational people check their rationale at the door of a cathedral? Scary things will always exist ... violence, death, clowns, etc. ... as long as they keep their distance not affecting me and my own, I am okay. I can go on with my life without really caring. But when the scariness spill over out of the walls of the cathedral, I get a concerned.

The scariest of religions to me are not the obscure ones. The Baha'i never bother me. Other than an occasional crappy NYC cabbie, the Sikh don't bother me either. The faiths that are large enough to influence government policy, influence what is taught in our schools, who can legally get married or what woman (aka free tax-paying citizens) can do with their own bodies ... those are the ones that scare me. You know who I am talking about. When I hear of protesters complaining of a mosque being built near Ground Zero and saying that Muslims are taking over our country, I really don't get it. Why should this scare me any more than any other religion having taken over my country? Are the Christians complaining about the Muslims because they don't want the competition?

I am generally tolerant to those that have different beliefs than I. Tolerant meaning that I tolerate them but I don't have to like them or hang around with them. As long as they leave me alone or don't try to impose their beliefs on anyone else, I am okay. We can get along by agreeing to be different. I think this is called freedom. Occasionally I hear stories in the news that make we cringe like this one: Soldiers Pass On Christian Concert; Get Punished: Report. Since soldiers make a vow to defend the Constitution, you think the fact the First Amendment's statute on the freedom of religion might be respected as well. That would only work if we were dealing rational people.

I wish as a child I had learned more about world religions. I grew up as a Catholic in a mostly Catholic town. I knew nothing about other religions. Once I had soured on Catholicism, I was extremely cynical about religion as a whole. It took me decades to voluntarily enter a church again. In Wellesley Massachusetts, the public schools have the right idea in teaching comparative religion as part of their social studies program. The middle school kids learn about world religions as a whole and not favoring one over another. If I had children I would want them to attend a school that addressed religion in this manner. It would allow the child to learn but not have any one idea forced upon them. The idea is learning not indoctrination. This seems to be the rational approach. The class trips in Wellesley include visits to a church, synagogue and even a mosque. Even a rational approach like this is attacked by the crazies in this country. The attacks against the teacher and the school administration are all over the net. We are supposed to be a tolerant nation respecting individual freedoms, but this seems so far from the truth sometimes. Especially when you let the crazies take over the discourse.

Some are striking back, Mike Weinstein is a former JAG officer and White House counsel in the Reagan Administration. He and his foundation, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has sued the US Air Force Academy and Roberts Gates among others for the imposition of Christianity upon non-Christian military. Weinstein fights for the rights of Jews and Muslim among others in the military as well as for the rights of atheists. You would think in an institution of discipline like the military would actually have some .... umm ... discipline on this matter. Apparently, that is too much to ask in this political environment.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Julia Tuttle Causeway Sex Offender Colony

This is truly one of the most fucked up things I have ever heard. The Julia Tuttle Causeway is a strip of highway in Miami-Dade, Florida that houses approximately 140 sex offenders. They live in a communal shantytown below the highway. Why? Because there is a housing crisis for sex offenders in Miami.

Miami-Dade County laws state that convicted sex offenders cannot live 2500 feet (roughly 1/2 mile) from any school, child care facility or playground. That is the strictest such law in the country. They can't even live near a homeless shelter because of the children that live there. So the colony was created below the Causeway because they have nowhere else to stay. Currently, when a sex offender is release from a Miami-Dade jail, they print a default address of the causeway on it. Some of them have generators, camping showers, pets and makeshift plumbing. They live in tents or cardboard box constructions.

What is even more disturbing is that the law seems to be backfiring. It only requires them to be at their residence from 6pm to 7am each day so some of them actually go to their old homes each day to shower, cook, eat, watch TV with the family, use the net etc. If the law was less restrictive, they could actually get an apartment and carry on a more normal life. Obviously, these folks have some serious problems to deal with. Further isolating them into their own ghetto seems more likely to alienate them than to help them assimilate.