Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"Arizona Mildman Review of Religulous"

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Hi Folks,
I wanted to comment on the movie, "Religulous" with Bill Maher. I saw a trailer for the movie which made me really want to see it. Maher stated that it is a documentary but that it becomes more of a comedy. Even one of the Muslims that were interviewed stated that Bill Maher's humor never made him laugh. I came away from the movie feeling like Maher had said that to sell the movie, which, if you ask me, he felt the need to do since it will be VERY controversial and it didn't seem as if they were aiming at a humorous type comedy based on Bill Maher's usual humor in good standup form or otherwise. I have always liked Bill Maher as a comedian, but I would have watched the movie without the sell job since I have always thought the topic needed to be said. He nailed all the interviewees with the facts that made it obvious that most of them had never been confronted with in their entirety. One guy kept stopping and then when Maher started to say something, he interrupted and said, "Hangon, let me talk!" as if no one had allowed him to. He just kept repeating himself and it became obvious he was merely trying to shield himself from any more questions that he couldn't answer, especially while being taped. The research people for this film really had done their homework. I was impressed at how deftly they explained that the vigin birth story had been used in a certain part of the Mediteranian when making up a new religion. I was told about the story of Krishna, and I knew there were others but Maher had the list memorized and whipped them out as if the information common knowledge. I have always had some real issues with all the holes in the the stories which are called miracles of religious texts. I have never understood religious dogma. In the ten commandments it states that you should have no other gods before me and don't pray to graven images. I have visited a Catholic church and wanted to asked them if they were reading out of the same bible I was. They are almost all filled with statues of Mary and every saint one can pronounce and they turn and pray to them individually.
When it comes to religions I realise I am somewhat indoctinated even for a skeptic who doesn't embrace religion. I find myself wanting to say that one is better or more rational than the other, but to be honest, when it comes right down to it, NONE OF THEM MAKE ANY REAL SENSE. It comes down to, "What level of crazy can you tolerate?"
We are always told, "You have to have faith." In otherwords I have to believe in nonsense because someone who calls himself an ecumenical expert says so. Why would something that is so true need me to completely forget logic or facts? onoe of the principles I learned a long time ago about selling things is, If what you are selling immediately made sense to people on seeing it for the first time, you wouldn't need to advertise it. And if I have started to believe anything that someone tells me because they keep repeating the message, isn't that the same as being brainwashed? Preponderonce of evidence is a legal principal. Preponderonce of Horse Shit is a religious principal. Isn't it true that religion in Europe was guilty of millions of attrocities against human beings who didn't believe the way they were told to. If your government uses someone to soften your brain up for nonsense, which is what the Catholic church was brazenly guilty of for centuries, and I start believing one ridiculous thing on "FAITH" then how hard is it for me to start believing everything I am told? That is the basis of Stockholm syndrome. Historians have called the same thing from that time period, the "Holocaust syndrome" for obvious reasons. The oppressor or controlling figure would be bonded to for survival purposes. If one is not said to be of faith they were dealt with in strict fashions and today they are ridiculed and socially excomunicated. People have tried to say that Adolf Hitler was bad because he didn't go to church and believe in religion. He was raised as a Catholic (go figure) and there are several references to how much he admired them for not only their ability to control the masses but the pagentry and showmanship they used to gain the faith of the masses. These same people became rich from middle class and poor people's tything. If you want a really good example, look back at your art history when the only people who could afford art were the church leaders of the Medici family, one of whom actually bought himself a Cardinalship. You will find them referred to as the De Medici family since in ancient Rome, no one had a last name so you were usually given a first name with the prefix de and then were also given the name of the region. Unlike Leonardo De Vinci, which meant Leonardo of (de) Vinci, Italy. The Medici's were so powerful they were referred to by the name de Medici, which meant of the Mèdici family. The Mèdici family was a powerful and influential Florentine family from the 13th to 17th century. So, the church was run by the wealthy politicians and vice versa. In present day America, politicians know if they want to get something passed in congress they can put a religious agenda policy into the bill and no one will want to vote against it, before having that part is removed. That is the reason that Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and John Adams all said some pretty negative things about religion. Some of Jefferson's quotes were "...But a short time elapsed after the death of the great reformer [Jesus] of the Jewish religion, before his principles were departed from by those who professed to be his special servants, and perverted into an engine for enslaving mankind, and aggrandizing their oppressors in Church and State. (Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Samuel Kercheval, 1810; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 370)

History I believe furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose. (Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Baron von Humboldt, 1813; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 370)

The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man. (Thomas Jefferson, as quoted by Saul K. Padover in Thomas Jefferson on Democracy, New York, 1946, p. 165, according to Albert Menendez and Edd Doerr, compilers, The Great Quotations on Religious Liberty, Long Beach, CA: Centerline Press, 1991, p. 48.)

In every country and every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. It is easier to acquire wealth and power by this combination than by deserving them, and to effect this, they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer for their purposes. (Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Horatio Spofford, 1814; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 371)

said: "...
"When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obligated to call for help of the civil power, it's a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one."- Benjamin Franklin

In light of which consider: "[W]e have held that intentional governmental advancement of religion is sometimes required by the Free Exercise Clause."
-Supreme Court Jusitice Anton Scalia (dissent), Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987)

"...The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries." -James Madison

So, then, what are we to make of: "...The 'wall of separation between church and state' is a metaphor based on bad history, a metaphor which has proved useless as a guide to judging. It should be frankly and explicitly abandoned." -Justice William Rehnquist (dissent), Wallace v. Jaffree (1985)


"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between church and State..." -Thomas Jefferson
Letter to the Danbury Bapist Association, January 1, 1802.


"Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." -Jesus Christ, in Mark 12:13-17; also Matthew 22:15-22 and Luke 20:20-26. http://aibi.gospelcom.net/eternity/eternity135.htm


"If all those magnificent cathedrals with their valuable lands in Boston, Philadelphia and New York were taxed as they should be, the taxes of women who hold property would be proportionately lightened....I cannot see any good reason why wealthy churches and a certain amount of property of the clergy should be exempt from taxation, while every poor widow in the land, struggling to feed, clothe, and educate a family of children, must be taxed on the narrow lot and humble home." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton, womens suffrage campaign, circa 1880.

"For years many a thinking people have had gloomy forebodings as to the result of the immense power of the church in our political affairs.... And the first step in the disestablishment of the church & of all churches is the taxation of church property. The government has no right to tax infidels for everything that takes the name of religion. For every dollar of church property untaxed, all other properties must be taxed one dollar more, and thus the poor man's home bears the burden of maintaining costly edifices from which he & his family are as effectively excluded -- as though a policeman stood to bar their entrance, and in smaller towns all sects are building, building, building, not a little town in the western prairies but has its three & four churches & this immense accumulation of wealth is all exempt from taxation. In the new world as well as the old these rich ecclesiastical corporations are a heavy load on the shoulders of the people, for what wealth escapes, the laboring masses are compelled to meet. If all the church property in this country were taxed, in the same ratio poor widows are to day, we could soon roll off the national debt....The clergy of all sects are universally opposed to free thought & free speech, & if they had the power even in our republic today would crush any man who dared to question the popular religion."-Elizabeth Cady Stanton, womens suffrage campaign, circa 1877.

Women have had the right to vote for less than one hundred years, yet many - particularly young women - do not. Did Ms. Stanton and so many others struggle in vain?*

*For an entertaining and illuminating example see the excellent Iron Jawed Angels from HBO Films


In 1875, President Ulysses S. Grant's message to Congress included a 900-foot petition containing 35,000 signatures stating, "We demand that churches and other ecclesiastical property shall be no longer exempt from taxation."

"I would also call your attention to the importance of correcting an evil that, if permitted to continue, will probably lead to great trouble in our land....it is the accumulation of vast amounts of untaxed church property....In 1850, the church properties in the U.S. which paid no taxes, municipal or state, amounted to about $83 million. In 1860, the amount had doubled; in 1875, it is about $1 billion. By 1900, without check, it is safe to say this property will reach a sum exceeding $3 billion....so vast a sum, receiving all the protection and benefits of government without bearing its portion of the burdens and expenses of the same, will not be looked upon acquiescently by those who have to pay the taxes....I would suggest the taxation of all property equally, whether church or corporation." -Ulysses S. Grant

On reading this I felt sure that of course Congress wouldn't neglect to heed these words by a staunch general of the republic who actually fought in something that was so aptly named, The Civil War. By 1971, the amount of real and personal property owned by U.S. churches had ballooned to approximately $110 billion. In New York City alone, the amount was $750 million in 1969, $1 billion in 1982, and $3 billion in 1989.

The constant debate about tax exemption status, regulation free income, and amount of political pull will always be an issue to those of us who realise that there is no reason for the Christian evangelists to own the Republican party. When I say own, you have to remember, a good portion of those many hard earned dollars you put in the collection plate go to finance campaign contributions. How stong is the Christian church's lobbying power? They are a defining point in the past twenty years worth of elections in the United States. They definitely helped the Bush campaign twice and how do they get away with it. There was one minister who started a public campaign against the NAACP concerning their allegedly supporting John Kerry. That stopped when they were reminded that they, also, fall under the same tax exempt status stipulation, that if they are proven to have endorsed a politician, they can lose their exempt status. It is actually illegal for them, considering their tax exempt status to discuss political candidates at all. But, they blatantly do it, especially during the last few months of a campaign. I personally believe that televangelists who discuss politicians or their policies, including the war in Iraq should not only cause them to lose their exemption status but, also include a severe fine. The ability for politicians to run a campaign on Sunday mornings over the air waves is not only wrong morally, but also ethically. The candidate delivers legislation that would benefit the religions, and the church makes sure it's flock knows who they should vote for and why. Soft money campaign contributions (legal bribery), which are now regulated by the McCain / Feingold legislation but still are allowed, instead of being made illegal, on top of other contributions that come in through the pollitical action committees. I want to know why the church should have an opinion other than "Thou shall not kill" on an overseas war. This movie made me wonder why no movies like this have been made before and how many of them are going to be made. This is the first with a topic that makes you think about something that we all know they don't want us to think about. Go see it and tell me what you think. I hear some people complaining about the run on sentence that Mr. Maher used at the end of the movie to say what he felt about the religious preference of "none chosen" needing to be heard. I notice whenever a movie comes out that denounces and/or shines the light on religion we immediately see the entire media including the blogs, full of Christian comments telling us the movie is full of lies, followed by, "I wouldn't pay any of my money to see this movie." Well, either they are guilty of downloading it from the internet illegally and watching several times just to make sure they hated it, OR, they never watched the movie. I contend that the latter is probably the case. This is the heighth of closedmindedness, but, if one is so afraid that thinking newer than that of the biblical times is bad for you, then I see why the conservatives have to be drug, kicking and screaming, into the 21s century on just about everything else. I don't really care. I found out recently that I am what is known as a Deist. this is exciting for me as I realised finally what I am and why I didn't fit in in other circles. Deism is a religious and philosophical belief that a supreme natural God exists and created the physical universe, and that religious truths can be arrived at by the application of reason and observation of the natural world. Deists generally reject the notion of supernatural revelation as a basis of truth or religious dogma.
So, unlike some religions who think they are the only one, I am of a belief that allows for all religions, all theories, as well as all beliefs of opinion because I am truly inspired by our founding fathers in their belief in Religious Freedom. The people who cry the loudest about preserving "their" freedom of religion seem to always be the ones who try to shove their religion down everyone else's throat. That is not equal freedom of religion and will not be tolerated by the rest of the world. Mr. Maher's point seems to be that we who don't seek religion as a vehicle for spirtuallity are the ones who aren't being heard since the government mistakenly seeks the opinions of religious people only when asking the opinion of the public on spiritual matters. I think we should start a movement based on the movie and where the founding fathers actually were to keep this real.
the Arizona Mildman since 1996

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