Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Letter #6: 1.7 billion dollars, F-16s and a Superbowl

February 3, 2013 was a Super Bowl Sunday and the attention of the working class American people was focused on the big game, new commercials, Beyonce’s halftime concert, and personal inner-circle Super Bowl parties.  The Baltimore Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers in a game decided in the last moments, and on Monday the talk in the work centers of America was concentrated on that game, Beyonce, and all the Super bowl commercials that seemed to be as humorous to five years as they were to adults.  What was not discussed among the American workers on Monday was the transfer of four F-16s to the nation-state government of Egypt.  The transfer was part of a 1.7 billion dollar ‘security’ agreement between the U.S. and Egypt, an agreement made during the rule of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, in which the U.S. would deliver a total of twenty F-16s and two hundred Abram tanks to Egypt.   Congress, influenced by AIPAC during the ‘American bought-and-paid-for’ puppet years of Mubarak, approved this deal prior to the 2011 Arab Spring.  With Mubarak forced out of power in Egypt and Mohamad Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, placed into power, a few members of Congress began to question this agreement.  After all, it is still uncertain whether Morsi will be a bribe taking puppet like Mubarak, an isolationist, an aggressor, or, what seems most important to our U.S. Congressional representatives, a friend or foe of the nation-state government of Israel.    There were some political attempts to halt the transfer.  One such attempt was made by the Senator out of Kentucky, Rand Paul, but the Senate voted 79-19 against Paul’s amendment on the passed House Resolution 325.

Why did the U.S. send F-16s to Egypt?  From a political analysis view, it appears that this is an attempt to accomplish two things at once.  1)  Support and Assist Egypt to solidify power for President Morsi in the face of civil unrest similar to what occurred in and around Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring during the final days of Mubarak’s regime.  Protesters and police have continuously clashed in the streets, in some cases caught on video and distributed on the internet, and the presidential palace in Cairo was firebombed.  2)  Pull Morsi into military reliance on Western funding using economic and military ‘carrots’.  One oddity that occurred prior to the Senate vote was that the pro-Israeli lobbies, especially AIPAC, were pushing Congressional members to support the first transfer of this agreement to Egypt.  The reason for the pro-Israeli lobby support is aimed at pulling the new Morsi regime into U.S.-Israeli pockets (paid for by the U.S.) in order to ensure that the new regime protects the Southern flank of Israel, the Negev, where there are vital water and oil pipelines, along with the supposed Israeli nuclear reactor facility located at Dimona (even though Israel has never signed the international non-proliferation treaty).  We must look at U.S. foreign aid and history to understand the previous ‘hook-up’ between Egypt and Israel, paid for in full by the American tax payers and international loans taken out by previous U.S. administrations.  After the assassination of Anwar al-Sadat in 1981, Hosni Mubarak became leader of Egypt which began a new era in U.S. foreign aid.  During Mubarak’s reign, from 1981 to the Arab uprising of 2011, Egypt received over 2 billion dollars a year in annual U.S. foreign aid, only second on the annual recipient list behind the three billion dollars plus a year that Israel had received from the U.S. before and during this period, and continues to receive each year.

How do these types of foreign aid ‘carrot’ gift baskets work?  A co-worker asked me the following question: “What would we do with those F-16s if we didn’t give them to Egypt?”  I must admit that this question elicited a short delay of silence from me because I suddenly realized that she honestly didn’t understand that the U.S. government didn’t just build their own F-16s and have them sitting around in stock, but purchased them from the private sector.  In the case of the F-16s and the tanks, the U.S. government is required to purchase them from Lockheed Martin.  Many people will argue that these types of military foreign aid packages help to maintain jobs inside of the U.S., but the fact remains that these purchases are paid for by the American taxpayers, and increased national debt under international financiers, in order to promote private sector profit.

The Foreign aid process is one of the very few times each year that Americans actually witness pure bipartisan cooperation in Congress.  Democrats and Republicans will argue to the point of almost shutting down the government over domestic cuts, but hold hands when it comes to dishing out billions of dollars in annual aid to nation-states that are economically well off, such as Israel, or nation-states that could be an enemy in the distant future.  Similar to the transfer of the four F-16s to Egypt in the shadow of the Super Bowl, the annual federal budget proposal, which contains proposed amounts of outgoing foreign aid, is released annually under the shadow of Valentine’s Day when most Americans are distracted.  Foreign lobbyist groups, who are allowed to influence all members of Congress while individual Americans are only allowed to call on their regional representatives, are prominent in shaping (or maintaining) this annual budget proposal concerning foreign aid.  The lobbyist presence behind the scenes can be detected by researching the top recipients in U.S. foreign aid over the past fifty years.

On Monday morning after the Super Bowl, all throughout American work places, garages, shipping hubs, and offices across the United States, no one conversed about the transfer of F-16s or the overall subject of foreign aid.  The conversations were dedicated to the Super bowl, a fourth and goal no call by the referees, Beyonce’s halftime outfit and the power outage, the Budweiser horse who loved his original owner and all of the other dumb ass television commercials that encouraged excess consumerism within a nation that doesn’t seem to see poverty, unemployment, or domestic government cuts caused by climbing international debt collecting above its own national structure.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Letter #5: Christianity

My daughters, many people that I love, like, respect and even admire will find what I write to you about in this letter as offensive and an affront on their ‘individual’ core values.  This is a result of decades-long religious indoctrination and mental conditioning.  When religious indoctrination is questioned or challenged in truth, parties involved often become ugly, vicious and, at times, even violent.  I have no choice in the matter because you are my daughters and if I avoided the subject entirely, or pretended that it was not important, I would be failing in my duties as a father by possibly leaving you vulnerable (in my absence, should it ever occur) to religious indoctrination, lies allowed to subsist through ignorance, and manipulation.  The following are some of the areas I have studied concerning Christianity.  I encourage you to verify what is written here, research and scrutinize the historic facts available to you, and through critical thinking develop your own opinions and ideology concerning this subject.  

Looking closely at the religion of Christianity, in all branches, there are many flaws in the foundations that comprise it, discrepancies in the religious historic value, and bloody blemishes on its organizational history.  While the majority of Christians are righteous people in nature and an overall caring, passionate people, it is incredulous that the majority of followers are willing to base utterly important decisional support, especially when it comes to community and national interests that will impact the future of their children, solely on the core delusional beliefs of this religion.

One of the largest ideological flaws concerning Christianity, which will be argued vehemently by Christians, is the individualistic nature of the religion.  Perhaps the origins of the religion were not as individualist as the Christian ideology has become in modern times, as we can easily discern several areas of the religion that have developed with additions and through translations over the centuries through the lips of kings, empires  and preachers.  The basis of the Christian ideology centers on individual salvation through the acceptance of Jesus, an individual who very little written history exists on, as a person’s “Lord” and savior.  Christians will often use the terms God and Jesus in the same sentence while applying both to the same creator, while others have grown accustom to praying directly to Jesus as God.  Was this purposely planned in the creation of this religion?  According to most Christians, Jesus, who was either God’s only begotten son or God in human form, or both, died on the Roman cross for the sins of all mankind.  This centrist Christian ideology is termed ‘substitutionary atonement’.  From a conscious and subconscious view, individualism can be seen in the divinity of one human being among all others who died as an individual sacrifice for every individual human’s sins.  This ideology is morally damning from the perspective that it discourages individual responsibility for individual and collective actions.  As previously mentioned, and evidenced by many criminals on death row for crimes against humanity, the ideology of this salvation and forgiveness is readily available and embraced in the aftermath of transgression.  A healthier, more collective, mindset would be one that teaches our children that they are responsible, and will be held accountable by God and peers, for their actions toward their fellow human beings and the society that they belong to.  The former slave Frederick Douglass once remarked that the most brutal slave owners were the most devout Christians on Sunday.  It is evident by the amount of surviving American slave narratives that slave masters would rape female slaves, beat and murder their male slaves (if required), and exploit fellow humans with forgiveness, and the biblical Ham justification, waiting for them each Sunday at the pulpit.  This statement by Douglass illustrates how little the Christian substitutionary atonement ideology has changed over a century and a half.  Even today, how many Christians, lukewarm or otherwise, transgress, on various levels, Monday through Saturday night and then pray and ask forgiveness on Sunday morning.  These transgressions can be minor in scope such as gossiping or tiny lies, but they are still damaging to a collective community or society, or they can be larger in scope such as adultery or criminal transgressions against fellow human beings.  A true man or woman would not consistently seek forgiveness for their transgressions; they would shoulder their own Roman instrument of death and take responsibility for their deeds and actions.  The following question may be conceived as offensive to many Christians, but I ask Christians and non-Christians alike: When was the last time you heard a Christian pray for a collective good?  Is it as often as individual prayers?  It is usually for individual wants or needs, or in close proximity of the individual.  The modern Christian for the most part, especially in America, seems to pray to God and Jesus only when they want a job, or are in some trouble, or someone is ill, or they need some fast food forgiveness.  When the waves are life are smooth and a good sailing wind is consistent with no problems, their worship and appreciation is usually focused elsewhere.    Overall, the subconscious ideology of Christianity is individualistic in nature.

Of course, the original scriptural examples of the substitutionary atonement ideology derives from the New Testament, and since Paul/Saul wrote over 50 percent of that literary collection and the authorship of the synoptic Gospels are unverified (outside of Saul/Paul’s close affiliate Luke the Physician who is credited with the Gospel named Luke), the original Christian substitutionary atonement ideology should be accredited to him.  Paul was quite the genius, to be truthful.  All of the NT scriptural references to Jesus dying for the sins of mankind came out of the Pauline and post-Jesus text (Corinthians, Galatians, Peter) and were very vague in concrete meaning.    The one example outside of the New Testament examples is found in the Old Testament: Isaiah 53:12.

“Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.”

 The verse is very symbolic and, in my opinion, could hold multiple meanings which were common throughout the long historic line of prophet rejections throughout the Old Testament.  Remember that Isaiah was written six to seven centuries before the time of Jesus and could be referring to any prophet or person.  It is irrational to base individual actions on an unproven and quite irrational substitutionary atonement ideology that may or not be referring to a man seven hundred years in the future who may or may not be a divine God in human form.

As with several areas of Christianity, this ideology has grown in scope throughout the centuries through over-philosophical minds such as Irenaeus (130 CE-202 CE), Eusebius Pamphili of Caesarea (263 CE-339 CE), Athanasius of Alexandria (296 CE-373 CE), Augustine of Hippo (354 CE-450 CE), Anselm of Canterbury (1033 CE-1109 CE), Thomas Aquinas  (1225 CE-1274 CE), the protestant John Calvin (1509 CE-1564 CE), Hugo Gratius (1583 CE-1645 CE), and a slew of many others between and throughout history.  The individualist salvation ideology that gained its origins from symbolic scripture in the first century of the common-era has been molded, built on with additions and ambitions, and altered by Christian philosophers for two thousand years.  Up until the Protestant Reformation in 16th century Europe, the church could simply adopt the philosophical modifications on the redemption atonement ideology when they found those modifications useful; and decline, by labeling the modifying philosopher as a heretic, any modifications and philosophies which conflicted with established and accepted church doctrine and political interests.

It is incredible to truly study history and see our human ideologies, which are widely accepted as irrefutable and divine today, developed over time similar to a poem that is started by one writer, with stanzas added by multiple writers, and then concluded by two new authors.  These additions go further than the pen in the white images of Jesus and Mary which emerged out of the Italian Renaissance; Caesar Borgia (previously Duke Valentine) was the model for white Jesus while Mary resembles Mona Lisa.  These foolish discrepancies and illusions are easy enough to verify, what is baffling is that a good majority of intelligent people have never even though deep enough to question the distance and ethnic diversity between Rome and Jerusalem (at the time of Jesus). 

Another example of Christian ideological philosophies created by a human mind is the philosophical creation of the trinity (interestingly similar to the three points of the Roman crucifix to exclude the planted point) that matches the Christian concept of father, son and Holy Spirit.  Once again we see the ideology, assumed divine, built upon by human philosophers throughout history:

Clement of Alexandria (150 CE-211 CE) (The Stromata, Chapter 10),Tertillian’s (160 CE – 220 CE) ‘Against Praxeas’, The Nicene Creed (325 CE when Christianity became mandated in the original Roman Empire), the defending arguments by Athanasius (297 CE-373 CE) against claims against the Nicene Creed, Gregory of Nyssa (335 CE-384 CE), Gregory of Nazianzus (329 CE-390 CE), John Chrysostom (347 CE-407 CE), Augustine (354 CE-430 CE), Boethius’ “The Trinity is One God Not Three Gods” (480 CE-525 CE), Anselm (1033 CE-1109 CE), Aquinas (1225 CE-1274 CE), and the Protestant Calvin (1509 CE-1564 CE). 

Many of the names we see here are names previously posted for the human philosophical development of the Christian substitutionary atonement ideology.  Just to understand what an uncertain foundation Christianity and the trinity stands upon, the church as late as the 5th century CE was still attempting to figure how to best package the product.  In 431 CE the Ecumenical council at Ephesus refuted the philosophical ideology that Jesus was two separate entities, one human and one divine while in 451 CE, an Ecumenical council at Chalcedon declared that Christ was two distinct entities united in a Hypostatic Union.  Obviously, my daughters, the more you look into a history and the development of religious ideologies (through human creation and modification), it is rather easy to lose track of what is concrete fact and what is philosophical contemplation.

In order to provide an example of the philosophical nature of these ideologies, I had included a passage on the trinity from ‘the Stromata’ by Clement of Alexandria:

CHAPTER X - The Stromata - Clement of Alexandria

“But who are the two or three gathered in the name of Christ in whose midst the Lord is? Does he not by the "three" mean husband, wife, and child? For a wife is bound to her husband by God. If, however, a man wishes to be undistracted, and prefers to avoid begetting children because of the business it involves, "let him remain unmarried," says the apostle, "even as I am." They explain that what the Lord meant was this. By the plurality he means the Creator, the God who is the cause of the world's existence; and by the one, the elect, he meant the Savior who is Son of another God, the good God. But this is not correct. Through his Son, God is with those who are soberly married and have children. By the same mediation the same God is also with the man who exercises continence on rational grounds. According to another view the three may be passion, desire, and thought; another interpretation makes them flesh, soul, and spirit.

Perhaps the triad mentioned refers to the called, and in the second place to the chosen, and in the third place to the race appointed to receive the greatest honour . With them is the power of God watching over all things which is indivisibly divided among them. He, then, who uses the soul's natural powers as is right, desires those things which are appropriate, and hates what is harmful, as the commandments prescribe: "Thou shalt bless him who blesses thee and curse him who curses thee." But when he has risen above these, passion and desire, and in very deed has begun to love the creation of the God and Creator of all things, then he will live a gnostic life, as he has become like the Saviour and has attained to a state of continence no longer maintained with difficulty. He has united knowledge, faith, and love. Thenceforth he is one in his judgment and truly spiritual, wholly incapable of thoughts arising from passion and desire, one who is to be made perfect after the image of the Lord by the artist himself, a perfect man, already worthy to be called a brother to the Lord as well as his friend and son. Thus the "two" and the "three" come together into one and the same thing -- a gnostic man.

The agreement of many, which is indicated by the number "three," with whom the Lord is present, might also be the one Church, the one man, and the one race. Or could it mean this? The Lord when he gave the law was with the one, that is the Jew. Later when he inspired the prophets and sent Jeremiah to Babylon and, moreover, called believers from the Gentiles by the teaching of the prophets, he brought the two peoples together. And was not the third the one which is made out of the two into a new man in which he walks and dwells, in the Church itself? And the law, the prophets, and also the gospel were brought together in Christ's name into a single knowledge. Accordingly, those who from hatred do not marry or from desire use the flesh as if it were not a matter of right and wrong,6 are not in the number of the saved with whom the Lord is present. “- Clement of Alexandria

Is this not mere philosophical contemplation and babble?  Please, I encourage you to read more of these church philosophers in chronological order and watch these Christian ideologies collect more and more addendums.

Another noteworthy element of Christian belief that is often deemed irrefutable, and divine fact, is the virgin birthing account of Mary, another individualized character, a virgin void of all sin.  The first thing that must be noted about this New Testament account is that the virgin birth myth in the gospel of Luke was not the first virgin myth.  We see similar virgin birth stories that predate Pauline Christianity in the accounts of Mut-em-ua, the virgin Queen of Egypt (approx. 1700 before Jesus) who gave birth to Amenkept III, and we see it with the Egyptian sun god Ra, we it with Attis, the Phrygian god, who was supposedly born of a virgin named Nana, and is claimed to have died three days before being brought back to life, we see it with Dionysos, and we see it with Mithra (Persian God).  We know today through technological advancements that artificial insemination and cloning is possible, but was it possible over 2000 years ago?  Most realistically, they probably did not possess that technology unless there was some technologically advanced alien race in the sky above.  Can this phenomenon of human birth without physical reproduction occur naturally?  Is not natural childbirth the most incredible miracle to ever be witnessed? The Earth and the life on it are indeed an incredible miracle with many extraordinary elements that, as human beings, we have not gained insight or technology to, yet the human mind, in all its greatness and fallacies, has historically sought to create more and more miracles by creating them throughout their flat, monster filled earth.

Continuing with the theme of inaccuracy based on philosophy, we encounter the man-made phenomenon of Christmas, now regarded after centuries as irrefutable in divinity by a majority of Christians (who lack self-education and research), and the winter solstice birth of Jesus, God in human form, or God’s son…who is considered part of one God, only in a different distinct portion (just trying to track all the philosophies), as argued by Boethius, Gregory of Nazianzus and the other philosophers.  Even Christian scholars, using the approximated dating of the historical records for the Herodian tax consensus mentioned in the synoptic Gospels and the argument that shepherds would not be flocking at that time of year, acknowledge that the date of December 25 is probably not accurate.  An interesting fact that I have uncovered in my research is that even in 200 CE, within the philosophers of the early church, there was debate concerning the birthdate of Jesus.  A notable written contemplation on the birthdate of Jesus was by Clement of Alexandria (150 CE-211 CE), whose philosophical writings are interesting as well as extensive.  Another philosopher, who actually argued in support of a December 25th date, was Hippolytus (165 CE-235 CE).   In any case, it appears that the holiday of Christmas, and the widespread belief that Jesus was born at the Solstice, was correlated with the annual winter solstice festivals that actually predate Pauline Christianity and the holiday known today as Christmas was formalized as December 25th by the Catholic Church around the end of the 17th century.  Even many of the modern traditions of the holiday, such as the yule log, tree and mistletoe customs were pagan in origins.  Yet, many American Christians walk around in December blindly thinking God was born on December 25th in the year zero and many others, outside of storming Wal-Mart on Black Friday, give no thoughts to the historical development at all.

Finally, looking at ideologies, we come to the ethnical inferiority philosophy of Christianity, another individualistic aspect, aimed toward an individual ethnic group in this case, as Christians are taught early in childhood that God has chosen a special group of people, similar to how God chose a single son, that are God’s people above all other human beings even though God created all life.  Oddly, the mass majority of Christians are not ethnic members of this chosen ethnic group that they are ingrained to almost worship, while the main scriptural doctrines of the Christian religion were written by orthodox-raised members of the identified exalted and chosen ethnic groups, such as Saul/Paul of Tarsus and his affiliates who were children of the Sanhedrin (priesthood).  Just how did this philosophy of division among humanity develop?  Of course, the Old Testament chronology of original tribes of Jacob (Israel) and, later, the Hebrew flight from Egypt, with God’s covenant and promise through Moses, and the ideology was enhanced through literature of unknown authorship that emerged during the era of the Kingdom of Judah, where the Jewish identity was solidified, despite the conversion of many gentiles during the kingdom’s existence, under that name.  Since the original establishment of the gentile church was based on the Old Testament teachings, and built upon by the New Testament writings of Saul, who was raised under the orthodox Jewish priesthood, with changes to distinguish (or divide) original Jewish law from the new gentile laws of Pauline Christianity, we understand that the elevated distinction of the esteemed ethnic group was already in place at the beginning of the early Christian church network,  and began taking wider regional roots (away from Jerusalem) when the early church branched out to Antioch (present day Turkey), Alexandria and Rome.

On top of the deep rooted reverence of the Old Testament text in Christian ideology, I would have to consider two other smaller elements that occurred to assist with this inferiority worship of a small group of humans by a larger group of humans.  Those two events were the Jewish diaspora after the destruction of the temple in 70 CE, which spread the element of Judaic ethnicity throughout the gentile realms of the Roman Empire, which would soon after adopt Christianity as an official religion (but exempt Jews from the mandate), and the expansion of land occupation by the Christian Roman Empire.  We can see the importance of the Promised Land in the Old Testament text and the Christian empire certainly wanted to maintain control of that land throughout the centuries.  The Crusades was about religion, but it was more about the land.  Was the feverish, and often bloody, fixation with this land always based on Old Testament religious ideologies that Christians had strengthened over the centuries?  Or was it a combination of the two?  The area of Jerusalem, and modern day Israel and Palestine, certainly was a valuable tract of land.  Even before Jesus, the area was a major crossroad for trade with trade routes stemming out to Europe, South to Egypt and Africa, and Eastward.  As the world expanded, the Mediterranean was the center of trade and empire, and even during the bi-polar hegemony of the 20th century World and Cold Wars, the area was a strategic asset for the Christian capitalist West.  Today, Christian Zionist preachers, such as Hagee, who claim that the establishment and defense of a Jewish state, Israel, plays into the biblical return of Jesus and the establishment of the kingdom of God on Earth, and even less conservative Christians regard the modern nation-state of Israel as essential to their core religious ideologies, but why?  From a rational, political perspective today, I ask what is so pertinent about providing that nation-state with over 3 billion dollars in U.S. economic and military aid at the cost of one’s own national economic, military and political well-being, and damaging the future of their Christian gentile children.  Has the original religious ideology of Christians toward the Jewish people and the Promised Land become so ingrained that it no longer requires political relevance, or protecting one’s own practical interests first before others, for rational decision making? 

In closing this letter, I acknowledge that there is still the issue of history concerning Christianity.  In two thousand years, many things have happened and I truly encourage you to devour the history books during your lifetime.  Hey, your father is a realist.  Five pages of reading and contemplation a day is better than no reading and contemplation at all.  The largest historical blemishes on Christianity that come to my mind, after working all day, are obviously the Crusades, which I consider a land conflict guised in religion (which are everywhere throughout history and still exist on the modern international stage), the Spanish Inquisition, Papal Bull Dum Diversas in 1452 from Pope Nicholas V to King Alfonso of Portugal which authorized the capturing and enslavement of non-Christians (beginning of the trans-Atlantic slave trade), and an interesting American account of the Salem Witch Trials in late 1600s (which EJ is currently doing a paper on). 

Why do I point these areas of Christianity out to you?  Because in the larger scope of our world, religious ideologies impact the way people reason, behave, act, segregate, vote, and react (among many other things).