Law

Let’s Read the Bible: An Atheist’s Journey Through the Good Book

The_Holy_Bible

“Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.” John F. Kennedy

I feel it is important for me to come out of the proverbial closet. I am an unbeliever. I have never been religious even though I grew up in West Texas. I have felt out of place for most of my life. Regardless of my lack of faith, however, I try to be the best person I can be. I am honest to a fault, I try to never judge others, and I believe in standing up to injustice. I have been asked if I worship the devil (no, I don’t believe in him either). I have been asked how I know what is right and wrong–I think I have my parents to thank for that.

Every day I am surprised for the total lack of respect we show each other. From hateful Facebook posts, to conservative “news” articles, and the incessant invocation of God by the GOP Presidential candidates. Last week I read an article entitled, “No, Christianity Should Not ‘Welcome’ or ‘Include’ Your Sinful Lifestyle.” It is completely predictable in its premise—being gay is a sin and you need to mold yourself to our faith or get used to being discriminated against. I can only imagine having that much hate in your heart causes indigestion. This is just one example of weaponizing the Bible. Even though articles like this one are prevalent on the internet, the venomous tone of this piece, urged me to act. I decided that silence is essentially acquiescence to these types of assaults. Although the LGBTQ community seems to be the latest target getting the most heat from Christians, they not the first group to be targeted and they will not be the last.

As a woman, I feel the brunt of the Bible in my everyday life. I have been called a bitch, I have been told not to speak out of turn, and my uterus, along with millions of others, is being held hostage by a group of mostly old, white men. I have experienced pay inequality, misogyny, and sexual harassment. How does this relate to the Bible? I think you will see. Stay tuned.

As a liberal, I see a deluge of the personal religious beliefs of a few being imposed on the rest of us. I see presidents who claim they actually talk to God. I see protesters outside of soldiers’ funerals chanting “God Hates Fags!” And I see rich white men working tirelessly to block any legislation that would provide employment protections for the LGBTQ community, equal pay for women and parental leave.

I’ve had enough. Words are weapons and the words in the Bible have become weapons of mass destruction. They have been twisted to justify (and spread) discrimination, intolerance and subjugation. Thus, I am going to read the Bible. Cover to cover.

I am reading the “Holy Bible: English Standard Version” which you can download for free from Amazon. I am going to give a brief summary of what I read and my general thoughts. If you are offended by satire, this will not be the thread for you. I will be addressing gender issues, cultural issues, and political issues I believe are relevant right now. Finally, I will not do any outside research. I am only discussing the text.

The rules for commenting on this thread will be that no other parts of the Bible that have not been read yet, can be referenced in this discussion. Once we get further into the reading, we can refer back, but we will not refer forward. I plan to post on this topic at least two days per week.

This is my personal journey to understand. I have never read the Bible and I hope you’ll join me.

The first section I will discuss will be Genesis 1-10.

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The Gun Show Loophole that has Become a Noose

One of the biggest public health crises in America is gun violence. After the Charleston massacre, I personally was hoping for a more thorough debate of the gun laws in this country. I have been disappointed, to say the least. As impassioned as people have been about the Confederate battle flag–and I agree it is a symbol of hate and has no place in government speech–why are we so complacent when it comes to the tool used to take the lives of nine innocent people? An idea did not take nine people’s lives. They were not killed with a flag. The FBI did not kill those people. A person with a gun did. Period.

There is a new documentary on HBO called “Requiem for the Dead:American Spring 2014.” This stirring film is “made entirely from found footage, including social media posts, 9-1-1 calls, news stories and police files.” The movie covers a period of time ranging from March 2014 through July 2014. The number of deaths continues to rise throughout the documentary with the final number being revealed at the end  (Spoiler Alert!!! it is over 8,000). Every Town for Gun Safety (a community of activists seeking to end gun violence in America) reports that an estimated 88 people per day in America die from gunshot wounds–over 37,000 people a year.

That is equivalent to losing the entire population of Clovis, New Mexico, Panama City, Florida, or Hurst, Texas every year. This is an unacceptable tragedy.

Last night, a story surfaced that the FBI was taking responsibility for botching the background check related to the Charleston shooter’s application to purchase a .45 caliber handgun. Unlike what had been previously reported, the shooter did not receive a gun for his birthday; rather, his father gave him $400 to purchase a gun, which he did.

This is not about the FBI. However, it is about the flawed background check process and the general accessibility of firearms in this country. The Charleston shooter would likely not have stopped trying to acquire a firearm just because his formal application had been denied based on his background check. The truth is, he did not need to pass a background check to legally purchase a firearm. He had the option to purchase his gun at a gun show instead. This is known as the “gun show loophole.” And a majority of states do not require any background checks for private seller to private buyer sales at gun shows. South Carolina is one of those states. To see the map, click here.

The last time I attended a gun show, my husband and I had a gun to sell. Luckily, we were able to sell to a dealer and not an individual. But countless people approached us to purchase our hand gun. When we walked in the door, we paid our admission, our gun was checked to make sure it was not loaded and  a zip tie was secured through the chamber. We did not have to show our I.D. or handgun license to enter the gun show with a gun to sell. Individuals without a gun to sell simply paid their admission and walked right in. If you sell your gun at a gun show to another individual, the transaction is as seamless as trading baseball cards. Someone offers you money, you hand the gun over and the transaction is complete.

This sounds crazy, right? Well, it is crazy! With opposition like the NRA, we may not be able to change our gun laws overnight, but we owe it to ourselves to start somewhere. I propose that closing the gun show loophole is a great place to start.

There is an Alan Deutschman quote that is impressed upon all business students in this country: “Change or die.” Unfortunately, this quote applies here. If we do not change the way we approach guns and gun control in this country, our friends, neighbors and fellow citizens will continue to die.

If you are interested in the trailer for “Requiem for the Dead: American Spring 2014” here it is:

Peace and love.

Blazing Forward: Marijuana Reform Momentum Continues to Build With No Signs of Slowing

I would say that this has been a crazy week in marijuana reform in the United States, but it seems to me that a week full of new marijuana news is becoming more of a normal (or NORML) occurrence. Marijuana reform is moving at lightning speed in the United States. The American way of life is changing daily and we are in the midst of a huge cultural shift. What an exciting time to be alive!

In the past two weeks, we have seen some incredible progress in American marijuana policy. First, on June 23, 2011, Barack Obama announced that his administration would be reducing restrictions on the study of the medicinal benefits of marijuana. Before this announcement, if a laboratory wanted to research the medicinal benefits of marijuana, but that laboratory’s research was not being funded by the federal government, that laboratory had to seek approval from the Public Health Service through a review process. As you can imagine, permission was not given liberally.

And in case you were unaware of this little factoid, the United States government owns one of the only patents on cannabis and even states in its patent that marijuana has medicinal value. Yet, according to federal law, marijuana is a Schedule I drug that allegedly has no medicinal value. But this does not prevent the government from keeping a huge marijuana depository in Mississippi.

Next, Miami-Dade county decriminalized possession of less than “20 grams or less of marijuana, enough for about three dozen joints,” according to the Miami Herald. This story, however, is a little more amusing than your average marijuana news. Instead of calling it “decriminalization,” they enacted a law that gives discretion to police officers about whether she/he wants to simply issue a $100 civil citation or charge a person with a criminal misdemeanor. Sneaky, sneaky. I like it.

Third, Minnesota’s medicinal program went into effect today. Although it is restricted to non-smokable uses only and is only available for a few ailments, it’s progress. Finally, the governor of Louisiana and presidential candidate Bobby Jindal signed a limited medicinal marijuana bill. Repeat after me, it’s progress.

I have been so inspired by the flood of news on this topic that I made a handy map to show you where in the United States marijuana is: (1) Legal (indicated by leaves); (2) available/legalized for medicinal purposes of some sort; and (3) states that have enacted decriminalization laws state-wide. The star at the bottom of Florida is a special shout out to my second home, Miami. If you want to learn more about each state specifically, click here.

US MJ Map Final 7-1-15

There are only 11 states left in the U.S. without some form of marijuana reform. This is a sign of what is coming. The internet and unlimited access to real information is what powers this movement. And as long as more information continues to roll in, people opposing reform will find themselves incredibly outnumbered. Never do yourself the disservice of not learning the facts. Rather, embrace the human spirit and the insatiable drive for clarity of purpose and knowledge.

“In this world you’re either growing or you’re dying so get in motion and grow.”
Lou Holtz

Guns, guns the magical fruit, the more we have the more we shoot.

I wonder when mass shootings will stop affecting me so much. I think, “Am I the crazy one?” It seems like our country is numb to the collateral damage that our gun laws (or lack thereof) have on innocent lives. My thoughts are with Charleston, S.C. as I write this. When is enough going to be enough? How much more collateral damage will America tolerate? How many more lives will be lost because of an unwillingness to admit that our gun laws are outdated and are endangering all of us? To see a complete list of all mass shootings in the United States from 1982 to the present click here to go to Mother Jones.

The first time I ever shot a gun was with my friend and her dad. He was in law enforcement and very careful and thorough. He taught us gun safety and we had an awesome afternoon. My favorite gun of the day was a .22 rifle, many call this gun a frog killer. I did not fire another gun until 2011 when I got my CHL in Florida. Why did I get it you ask? Because, why not? But let’s be clear, I’ve never been disillusioned that I will never be able (or willing) to put in the time and training necessary to adequately defend myself in a hostile situation. And in my opinion, anyone without advanced firearm training–basically anyone other than police officers and military personnel–does not have the necessary skills to defend themselves either. Anyone who says they do, is a bald-faced liar or simply delusional. Unfortunately for the deniers out there, empirical evidence shows that this is not just my opinion, it’s a fact.

I submit the following to you from 2010:

Study after study has confirmed that more guns does not equal less crime. In fact, as you probably guessed, the opposite is true. If you want to really learn about this, you can download a free paper here published in the Stanford Law and Economics Journal Research Paper Series (you can download for free to an iPad or in pdf). It is too complex to discuss in detail on a blog post.

Additionally, studies repeatedly show that guns are rarely used in self defense in the United States. The Harvard Injury Control Center recently published findings gleaned from an in-depth analysis and review of numerous reputable sources on the topic of gun use and gun violence. They found: (1) “Guns are not used millions of times a year in self defense;” (2) in a vast majority of self defense cases in the United States are deemed illegal and improper; (3) virtually no criminals report being shot by a “law abiding citizen;” rather, most criminals that suffer gun shot wounds are injured while they themselves are victims of unrelated crimes.

Another study from the Violence Policy Center confirms these theories finding:

In 2012, across the nation there were only 259 justifiable homicides involving a private citizen using a firearm reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program as detailed in its Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR). That same year, there were 8,342 criminal gun homicides tallied in the SHR. In 2012, for every justifiable homicide in the United States involving a gun, guns were used in 32 criminal homicides. And this ratio, of course, does not take into account the tens of thousands of lives ended in gun suicides or unintentional shootings that year.

That means out of all homicides, justifiable and criminal gun homicides combined (8,601), only 3% of those reported were justifiable, a.k.a. found to be legal after the defendant claimed self defense.

If your Viagra only worked 3% of the time, would you consider that to be an effective drug? NO! 

So why on earth do we continue to continue to suggest the same ideas to solve the same problem? Let’s arm church goers! Let’s arm state university employees and students!

IT’S NOT WORKING.

How many lives have to be lost before we wake up? Remember, it could be you or a member of your family that is affected next. Nowhere feels safe anymore. But I guess I do not have a right to feel safe in public if it infringes on your right to play cowboy in my neighborhood grocery store, theater, church and public parks. We have lost the right to not be around guns. ‘Merica!

**Side bar** One flaw in the Violence Policy Center’s study I found is that it does not disclose how many of the defendants involved in the 8,342 criminal gun homicide convictions actually claimed self defense. Thus, take that portion of the study with a grain of salt. As usual, question everything wise readers.

Peace and love.