Posts Tagged ‘Scientology’

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Gun Control and Mental Illness: Can We Prevent Another Tucson?

01.15.11

Jared Lee Loughner’s horrific decision to whip out a Glock semi-automatic handgun on a group of people in Tucson one week ago has caused the national conversation to examine our political rhetoric, mental illness, and gun control.

And just like I never called for more regulations on free speech in the wake of the shooting, I don’t see how banning semi-automatic weapons will make any difference.

A couple things that should be looked at, however are:

  1. How many bullets a cartridge should hold
  2. Screening gun-owners for mental illness

The former wouldn’t be too difficult to do once the law went into effect. The latter, though, opens up a whole new conversation — one that I’m not nearly educated enough on to provide some sort of recommended game plan. Suffice to say that there are a number of factors that would need to be addressed regarding mental health in America: how we treat those with mental illness, and then how to then create proper screenings to prevent those with out the capacity to handle a firearm from obtaining one.

It seems the the main issue is the lack of knowledge on mental disease in general. There’s a growing population of people who think that psychiatry is an evil practice — Scientology comes to mind, with their alternative being to pay them a fortune to have your alien ghosts cast out of you. Given the two options, I’ll go with psychiatry, thank you very much, but that’s a different conversation.

This is a factor for why many people just don’t understand mental illness — or even brain injuries (just ask how the Marines handle TBIs and you’ll see how much people think of them) — and those afflicted have a high chance of getting cast out of society because it’s such a taboo subject. When people mention someone having bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, its almost always in hushed tones followed by a long, dreadful “Ohhhh.”

People fear what they don’t understand; and, frankly, most of us don’t get mental illness. We mistake disease of the brain – the organ – with an ugly dimension of the mind, the psyche. As if those with mental disorders speaks more about the darkness in their souls rather than being something wrong in their body. The more we can study and educate, the fewer people will go untreated. And hopefully the fewer people will go off on violent rampages, all without having to restrict freedoms granted to Americans by the second amendment.

While I see zero reason for the average American needing to own a semi-automatic handgun, much less an unbalanced 21-year-old, since the only thing that weapon is designed to do is kill another human being, I also don’t see much good coming from banning them — those who want them would still be able to find them on the black market.  And if someone wants to unleash hell on a group of innocent people, they’ll find a way.

Or they’ll just pick up a cartridge extension:

Still, as a society, we should make it as difficult as possible and try to limit the carnage as much as we can.  I see the shrinking of cartridges to hold fewer bullets and the outlawing of clip extensions as a good compromise that would prevent a would-be assassin from being able to spray 30-plus rounds without having to reload without rendering them completely ineffective for those who wish to own them for self- and home defense.

Photo courtesy of jyoseph’s Flickr Photostream.

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Religion: Anachronistic Perhaps, Yet Still Valuable

08.25.10

Andrew Sullivan:

If you see the world as something to be understood, you will seek to understand it through many voices, idioms and perspectives. To dismiss all religion as mere anachronistic bunk is a closure of the mind, not an opening.

While I agree, I don’t know that I agree in the same way that Sullivan means it.  I haven’t used that precise term – anachronistic – to describe religion before, but it’s relatively close to my feelings toward it.  I don’t know that my issue with it is that it’s old-fashioned so much as that the rigid structures of religion are itself closed-minded, ignoring new evidence and thousands of years of human development, ingenuity, and discovery in favor of some ancient texts.

At least, that’s the case for the Abrahamic religions.  One could argue that since their texts are so old, that they must be relevant and worthy if people are still worshiping them after all these centuries of new ideas and new religions have come to pass.

The same can’t be said for new faiths like Mormonism or Scientology.  Those followers intrigue me the most, especially the latter.  To think that people subscribe to a set of beliefs that include some pretty out-there sci-fi babble in an age where we have so much scientific evidence showing that there’s no way the universe is trillions of trillions of trillions of years old stuns me.

So where do I agree with Sullivan?

It’s precisely because those people stun and baffle me that these religions are worthy of studying and investigating.  We’re all so different yet we all have so many traits in common.  Why am I not religious while others are extremely devout?  Why do certain cultures tend to embrace such different faiths?  Or is it their faiths that determine different cultures? These religions, and the human race’s constant desire to believe, offers all kinds of information that we can dissect and study from sociological, anthropological, and psychological perspectives in order to learn how our minds and cultures evolve and function.

Just about everything involves religion.  Just glance at the news and try not to incorporate Islam, Judaism, and Christianity t0 understand what’s going on.  From the two wars we’re fighting in the Middle East to the already-existing mosque near Ground Zero in NYC to award speeches, it’s impossible to separate humans from religion.

And even for those like myself who follows no religious institution, my doing so is notable because of my lack of religious desire.  I admit that I frequently dismiss the concept of religion as anachronistic bunk, as Sullivan says, but I don’t dismiss its impact or its intellectual worth when it comes to understanding our world.   In that sense, I don’t see my beliefs as being a closure of the mind at all because one doesn’t need to give credence to religious faith in order to investigate our world so much as accept religion’s existence and how it affects people, places, and things.

I just keep it in its place along with other myths, legends, and fables that speak volumes about ourselves as self-conscious beings and human nature than they do anything related to defining our existence or explaining the afterlife.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia user Booyabazooka

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Even MORE Spaghetti Monsters!

01.29.09

If you don’t check out Andrew Sullivan’s blog, you should.  He doesn’t allow comments but he does accept emails that he sometimes then posts in response.  The “thread” then for his original Flying Spaghetti Monster has gotten increasing longer and longer and I keep retorting here on my own blog.  Sullivan gets tens of thousands of emails a day so I’d rather just continue the convo here.  To catch up, check my original post.

A reader, a philosophy major, seems to miss the whole point:

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Flying Spaghetti Monster and other Teapots

01.27.09

Apparently philosopher Bertrand Russell came up with his so-called Teapot theory, which was a way of taking the burden of proof away from the skeptic to disprove unprovable theories, such as religious doctrine.  I had never heard of it before but it is somewhat interesting; however, I don’t find those types of arguments really bear any fruit anymore.  There will never be any proof so what’s the point?

Ross Douthat over at The Atlantic brings up Russell’s theory, along with that of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, in response to some blog-conversation (blogversation?) he’d been having with people over the idea of atheists having doubt in their beliefs.

But it is one thing to disbelieve in God; it is quite another to never feel a twinge of doubt about one’s own disbelief. And just as the Christian who has never entertained doubts about his faith probably hasn’t thought hard enough about the matter, the atheist who perceives the Christian God and the flying spaghetti monster as equally ridiculous hypotheses really needs to get out more often.

Douthat is taking a cheap way out.  FSM was created as a satirical protest of the Kansas State Board of Education when it wanted to include intelligent design into the public school curriculum.  It would’ve been a more interesting and fair argument to use a modern-day, truly established religion instead of a modern-day satirical jab at organized belief systems that no one actually follows.  Something like Mormonism or Scientology, perhaps.

Douthat puts Christianity on a pedestal even within an atheist’s framework, placing it at the top of the Hierarchy of Really Out There Ideas.  But that’s easy when its clearly above The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster since it isn’t even a religion.  It’s a joke.

So that begs the question, does the atheist who perceives both God and Joseph Smith as “equally ridiculous hypotheses” deserve the same dismissal as “needing to get out more”?