Friday, July 18, 2014

Dan Courtney, atheist, delivers invocation at town board meeting



The following was derived from an article by Antonia Blumberg in the Huffington Post.

At a July 15 meeting of the town board of Greece, New York, the "invocation" was given by Dan Courtney, an atheist.

There was no reference to a deity to which we must offer supplication or a god from whom we derive our rights and our freedoms.  Courtney turned that old wisdom on its head which must have been jarring to those more familiar with the pious verbiage posited by the usual clerical suspects which usually concludes with the horrid phrase, "God Bless America."

"We can say with confidence," said Courtney, "that it is in seeking the counsel of our conscience that we find the beginning of wisdom.  It is in the exercise of our duty as citizens that we find the beginning of knowledge."

Here is the full text of his remarks:

Thank you, Supervisor Rielich, for allowing me to offer the invocation.

Freethinkers, atheists, non-believers, whatever label you wish, this group comprises a significant part of our population. I am honored to be providing an invocation on their behalf, and on behalf of all the citizens of the town of Greece.

On July 4th, 1776, the 56 men who pledged their lives to the document that changed the course of history, agreed to the central tenet that, “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” More than 238 years later this central premise still echoes, however faintly, from the town hall to the white columned halls of Washington.

Yet this premise, this foundation necessary for a free and flourishing society, is today, more than ever, under assault. This central pillar of a free society - this notion that is deeply heretical to authoritarian culture, proclaims that it is from the people that moral authority is derived. It is that within us, the citizens, that knowledge and wisdom must emerge.

The preservation of this premise does not come from accepting the status quo, but by asserting our rights and exercising our duties. That this premise still endures testifies to its truth, and we can say with confidence that it is in seeking the counsel of our conscience that we find the beginning of wisdom. It is in the exercise of our duty as citizens that we find the beginning of knowledge.

We, as citizens, the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega of our destiny are not, as the great philosopher Immanuel Kant warned, mere means to the ends of another, but we are ends in ourselves. This basic premise, this profound idea, guides us such that we need not kneel to any king, and we need not bow to any tyrant.

So I ask all officials present here, as guarantors of our founder’s revolutionary proclamation, to heed the counsel of the governed; to seek the wisdom of all citizens, and to honor the enlightened wisdom and the profound courage of those 56 brave men. Thank you.

 * * * *

Note especially the phrase, "...it is from the people that moral authority is derived."  This is crucial to a democratic system and its importance is set in stark relief against the renewed attacks in these woebegone days by theocrats who have vowed not to rest until the United States has knelt in surrender to their god and their laws.  These people call themselves "Christians" although their Christ would neither recognize them nor approve of their goals or their methods.  

Unfortunately, they have been given new life by the recent Supreme Court decision to allow corporations such as Hobby Lobby to force its employees to kneel to its religious beliefs - although in what alternate universe a corporation can have religious beliefs is beyond me. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Monday, July 14, 2014

Hamas Versus Israel: The Case for Moral Clarity

The Face of War
Khalil al-Hayya
Hamas Leader
By David Harris
July 13, 2014
Two centuries ago, the great German poet Goethe said: "The hardest thing to see is what is in front of your eyes."
It's as true today as it was then.
The difference between Hamas and Israel couldn't be greater, yet you wouldn't know it when listening to some observers.
For the Non-Aligned Movement, it's all about Gaza's innocence and Israel's guilt. One fine day, with nothing else to do but consider how to provoke peaceful, serene Hamas-ruled Gaza, the big, bad Israelis decided to attack.
For a fair share of the media, it's above all a story of Palestinian suffering at the hands of Israel's military machine.
For the protesters in Frankfurt, Germany, on Saturday, it was about equating Israel to Nazi Germany.
It's a perfect illustration of reverse causality. Hamas triggered a war, but that's long since forgotten, if ever it was remembered. The focus now is only on the suffering of those who are responsible for the conflict in the first place.
Indeed, Goethe was right. There are those who can't, or won't, see what's right in front of them.
Ideological blinders get in the way. Or a failure of imagination about the true nature of Hamas. Or a gullibility that allows people to believe whatever the Hamas propaganda machine churns out. Or, in some cases, downright hostility to anything that Israel, the Jewish state, does.
It's high time for moral clarity, not moral fog.
Hamas is a terrorist organization. That's its official designation by the United States, European Union, Australia, Canada, and others.
Israel is a democratic country with an independent judiciary, the rule of law, free and fair elections, and a robust civil society.
Hamas is anti-Western, anti-Christian (and, not surprisingly, anti-Semitic), anti-gay, misogynist, and anti-intellectual.
Israel is the exact opposite.
Hamas has territorial ambitions on Israel. In fact, that's putting it too mildly: it would like to replace Israel in its entirety with a Muslim Brotherhood-ruled state.
Israel has no territorial ambitions on Hamas-ruled Gaza. To the contrary, Israel left it totally nine years ago, with the hope of never having to return.
Hamas has a vested interest in using its Gaza base for permanent confrontation with Israel.
Israel, which, alas, can't change its geography, has a vested interest in a peaceful, moderate, and developing state on its border.
Hamas, the sole ruler of Gaza since 2007, has used the last seven years to smuggle in weaponry and develop military punch, rather than building the foundation of a responsible state.
Knowing this arsenal has been stockpiled for the sole purpose of being used against it, Israel seeks, as any nation would, to prevent Hamas from attaining its lethal goal.
Hamas has no compunction about deploying terrorist cells and weapons in civilian population centers in Gaza, fully aware that Israel would have no choice but to appear to be targeting "innocent" people.
Israel goes to unprecedented lengths to avoid falling into the Hamas trap, even phoning and dropping leaflets in advance to warn civilians to leave target areas.
Hamas cynically tells the civilian population to stay put, not to react to Israeli warnings about imminent strikes. The more Palestinian casualties, the better, as far as Hamas is concerned.
Israel makes every effort to alert its entire population, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim, to Hamas missile strikes and move people into shelters as quickly as possible
Hamas uses mosques for storing arms.
Israel uses houses of worship, including mosques, solely for prayer.
Hamas uses schools for weapons depots.
Israel uses schools solely to educate its children, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim.
Hamas uses hospitals as terrorist redoubts.
Israel uses its hospitals solely to cure the ill and injured, including residents of Gaza who can't find adequate care there.
Hamas aspires to kill as many Israelis as possible, with rockets fired indiscriminately in all directions.
Israel seeks out only the Hamas terrorist infrastructure, and has aborted many operations when the risks of civilian casualties were too great.
Hamas, as the record amply shows, has no compunction about falsifying information, doctoring photos, staging scenes, and inflating numbers to make its case to the outside world.
Israel, by contrast, goes to great lengths, even to the point of sometimes losing the edge in the "media race," to verify information that it presents about its operations.
Hamas supporters explode in paroxysms of glee when Israeli targets are hit.
Israelis don't honk horns, shoot in the air, and pass out candy for doing what they wished they didn't have to do in the first place, and voice regret when the inevitable mistakes in warfare occur.
Hamas wouldn't know how to spell the words "international humanitarian law," much less adhere to it.
Israel's defense forces have specialists in international humanitarian law assigned to every unit in an effort to ensure maximum compliance.                
Hamas shouts from the rooftops that Israel is a brutal enemy.
Israel, unlike any other targeted nation in history, is actually providing – right now – up to 70 percent of Gaza's electricity and much of its fuel and foodstuffs, even as hundreds of rockets are fired from Gaza into Israel.
Hamas celebrates death, something few Westerners can understand.
Israel celebrates life, something all Westerners should understand.