Friday, March 18, 2011

Religion and Politics

Do we truly have a freedom to choose our own religion and therefore religious beliefs? It seems that politicians always put their religion before the law. Case in point, when a politician speaks out against abortion it is usually based upon their own religious beliefs or those of the church they belong to. Is that a correct statement? Is it right for them to put their religion before the law? Before the constitution? Many would argue that it is indeed correct and many would argue that it isn’t. What comes first, God or the law? Some would argue (from the viewpoint of their religion) that God comes first.

Here in the United States we are given the freedom to believe or not belief in the religion of our own choosing (or that religion which our parents have chosen for us). Heaven forbid you should choose a different religion or choose not to follow any religion at all. If you decide you no longer want to follow the religion of your birth, or a religion that you had followed for a while and then decided not to, you are subject to anything from apathy, to alienation from friends and family, or to even death from followers of some religions. None of that makes sense to me.

I have always felt that each person should be able to find the religion that best fits their beliefs and if one chooses not to follow any religion then they should be able to make that decision as well. Some people will argue that if you are not religious, then you will spend eternity in damnation. If I choose to follow a particular religion which is not the religion that you subscribe to and you feel that I will be going to hell, isn’t that my decision to make?

Wouldn’t it be up to me and God at the time of my reckoning as to whether I had been wrong in my choice? Is it really your right to tell me which religion I should follow? The way I figure it, if I made the wrong decision and I end up in hell then that was my decision to make and I must suffer the consequences. On the other hand, what if I made the right decision and you had made the wrong decision? Isn’t that your choice to make? Why should I spend my life telling you that you were wrong when I might be the one who is wrong and vise-versa?

Our politicians, especially the conservative ones, want us to comply with their religious beliefs. They want to change our laws to conform to their beliefs. A good example of this is Roe .vs Wade where the right for a woman to have an abortion if she so choses was upheld. Ever since that ruling conservatives have tried to get that decision overturned. That fact that it has been ruled unconstitutional to deny a woman that right does not matter to them. Their religious or personal beliefs do not allow for abortions so they fight to try to change the laws to make them illegal once again.

Now this argument isn’t whether or not the fetus in the womb is a human being or not and whether or not it is murder, but rather whether or not someone is trying to push their religious beliefs onto others so please, let’s not debate the merits of the abortion argument here, at this time. My point is that people who don’t believe in abortions are usually making that decision based upon their religious beliefs. Those who believe in abortions or are apathetic to the argument are those whose religious beliefs usually are more tolerant to them or in the case of agnostics and atheists there is no religion involved that would forbid them.

So the question here is whether or not someone can force someone else to comply with the beliefs of their religion by passing laws that support their religious beliefs. Is that legal according to the constitution? If not, then why are our politicians allowed to pass laws that are clearly in violation of the constitution?

Sure you can argue that many of our laws have some religious beliefs as their foundation, but also remember that our constitution is based on the freedom from being persecuted for our religious beliefs, whatever they may be. That would include the freedom to switch from one religion to another without reprisals or even death sentences being carried out against us by members of those religions. In this country, that is against the law and the freedom to choose rules supreme. Any attempts by a politician to enact laws that force everyone else to comply with their religious beliefs are in fact unconstitutional.

I base such a statement on the 1st amendment to the U.S. Constitution which reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The part I address here is the part that reads “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.

Those religions that do not believe in abortion are free to speak out against abortion and not permit it amongst their members, but they are not free to force others to comply with their religious beliefs which in all likelihood would then be denying those people the right to practice their own religious beliefs. Any politician who tries to pass laws based upon their own religious beliefs at peril to the beliefs of others is indeed violating the constitution. Didn’t they take an oath to uphold the constitution?

If someone doesn’t like the constitution, there are legal ways and requirements they can comply with in order to try to change it. I submit that they don’t try to amend the constitution because they know the road to constitutional amendments are long and bumpy and they are not up to the task.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

It has been incredible to see videos of just how quickly the Tsunami hit the villages in Japan after what they are now calling a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, tied for the 4th strongest quake in recorded (modern) history. I think I read somewhere that this period is only about 110 years or so.
Watching the video of people clamoring up the hillsides trying to escape the fast approaching water I noticed in one video that it looked like one group of people got held up at some point and were not able to continue, as if one or two of them had collapsed and the rest were trying to assist them when the water caught up to them and possibly carrying one or more of them away. By most estimates it took less than 10 minutes after the big quake for the first waves then the bigger surge to hit shore.
The miracles of babies being pulled out of rubble, the elderly man being plucked by U.S. aircraft carrier crew from the rooftop of his home floating 10 miles offshore. It seems like a miracle that he survived such an ordeal. An even greater miracle that the baby had survived. The death toll has reached 4300 so far with thousands still missing.
Now the great people of Japan have to deal with the threat of a nuclear melt down at one of their power plants. Some people have been quick to say the plants were poorly constructed and that the same thing can happen in the U.S. The plant in Japan survived the earthquake.
It was the Tsunami that really did it in. What the water from the Tsunami did was take out the power generators that provide power to the water pumps used to keep the nuclear rods cool. This caused the cores to overheat, burn off what water they had around them and become exposed causing the temperatures to rise even further.
So it seems to me that to help prevent such an accident here is to assure the nuclear plants are seismically sound and that there are multiple power backup and cooling systems. As a power generator a nuclear power plant could use some of the electricity it generates to charge a battery backup system that could be used to provide power to the water pumps should all other external power supplies be rendered inoperable. To clarify that thought, use live power from the nuclear power generators, if that fails or is shut down, then on-site gas powered generators should kick in. If that fails or runs out of fuel (most likely large diesel generators) then the battery backups would kick in.
If the power plant is near a location which would be subject to Tsunamis then these generators and battery systems should be placed on the plant rooftops or strongly reenforced man-made structures close enough to provide power through lines that are high above the ground so the Tsunami can't wipe them out. While they are at it, the battery systems could have a solar panel backup recharging system to use the power of the sun to help keep them charged or at the very least delay their total drainage of power should they be called into action. That might buy enough time to get one or more of the other power systems operational again.
I don't know, perhaps we already have such systems in place. If not, what are we waiting for?