Friday, October 28, 2016

My Personal Religious Thoughts

First and foremost, I have a quote that I came across probably 10 to 15 years ago...
The difference between thinking and believing is that people are willing to kill for their beliefs.
That really strikes home for me and heavily influences how I think about things. Really, I don't have any religious beliefs, I just have religious thoughts. Nothing that I say here is guaranteed to be what I think after I post it.

Nothing.

It is more of a "last time I edited this" type of post.

Deity

I suppose it makes sense to describe my thoughts in relation to deity or deities. Your first thought may be, "Why did he not use God, god, or gods?" Excellent question. Thinking back to history classes, I have learned from my many great teachers and professors that those who were in charge defined how history was written. In much the same way, the words we use often are affected by those who lead. My thought that the Christian name for their deity is God and that the colloquial term used for any being discussed at such a level is also 'god' is intended as one of two (or possibly both) scenarios. The first that the 'one true God' is reinforced by saying that all other deities described are different interpretations of God. The second that it gives a connotation that they are somehow lesser than God. No matter what, you reference the 'one true'.

Stepping away from that, I think that if there is a 'creator' of our species, that it is of another civilization that had power quite beyond that of our ancestors of 6,000+ years ago thus our perception of deity status.

Furthermore, even if there was a creator and it was scientifically proven to be true or somehow presented in such a way that I found it to be true - I can not worship such a deity. Why in all of the awful, terrible, no good, very bad things that happen on this planet every day would we worship such a deity? They quite clearly do not have the power anyone thinks they have and therefore are not worthy of such worship. We don't expect other creatures to worship us, why should we be expected to do such a thing?

I don't think there is any one creator or creators. I think chemistry or physics happened in pools upon our planet or elsewhere that over billions of years led to our species dominating our planet. Could it have been seeding? Could the universe we perceive have been created within a much larger universe that we can not perceive? Certainly. Why not? Still not worthy of worship.

I am not so thick to think that we could not be created, but I won't pretend that I receive favor over the billions of other presently living humans or other creatures that exist upon this planet. I certainly won't beg for a favor either.

My View of Others

Do I view religion as silly? Kind of, however, I understand that other people do believe and they are more than welcome to believe in such things in my opinion. That being said, the rights of an individual should not infringe upon the rights of another person. My religious right should not be infringed by your religious right. So pestering me to buy into your belief system infringes upon my rights of religious freedom. Much the same if I pestered you to not believe in your religious beliefs.

When Does Your (My) Child Get to Choose?

I think my children should have the choice to select their religious preference when they can give me a researched understanding of the major religious orders of this planet and their respective histories. So I am talking Christianity (Catholicism included - I group Orthodox Greek, Catholicism, Protestants, et. al. together), Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and any other 500 million plus strong religious traditions. At that point, I think they will have the background, depth of understanding, and motivation to make a choice.

I suppose I feel that it is a very personal choice to make and that one should not choose lightly. Truly, the vast majority of people believe what they believe because that is what their parents believed and taught them. Personal choice means that you connected in some way with the history, tradition, practice, and teachings. Growing up with it just means that is what you are comfortable with because that is how the world was dictated to you.

My earliest recollection of questioning was the summer between third and fourth grade. We were at the pool as the guests of the family who ran the pool that summer. They were in the Catholic church that we were starting to attend and the priest was there too. At some point during that day, my Dad asked me if I wanted to get baptized. I knew I already had. So, I asked why I would need to be baptized again. What was different about it? Just Catholic vs. Protestant (or whatever it was). I think I grew up with a lot of contradictions in my life and also viewed many actions taken by people that were not good by most folks' standards. As such, I have developed a distrust of people in general, a questioning of what people tell me is true without evidence or reference, and a lack of respect for certain types of authority.

In addition to that experience, there were the classes that educated me on the Catholic faith. One may say that these types of classes help to give a person choice, but really it is about teaching a particular way of thinking of the world. It may or may not be good, but it does not allow someone personal choice. If you only knew of people to walk on concrete surfaces and never was given the opportunity to walk on sand, would you be able to walk on sand? Would you even try?

What about culture or traditions?

I think that many traditions and cultural lines of thinking can be carried forward without belief in a deity. Given the time of year, Day of the Dead can certainly be taught that the ceremony and rituals are meant to honor our past family members. To remember of good times with them. To accept that death is a part of life, but our memory of others carry forward. Great deeds that are accomplished can live on in stories. None of these things require belief in a deity or afterlife.

What about Santa Clause?

I find that Santa is largely harmless fun. Some people don't think so. I do. Ho! Ho! Ho!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Moving to Gender Equality

This latest coverage of Trump's verbal and physical assaults and subsequent campaign talk has really turned this election discussion again to that of gender equality. Much of the campaign is about equality. We have had religious, racial, sexuality, and gender to name the top topics of equality.

This post is about gender, though. I honestly do not think I have the appropriate vocabulary to talk about this, but perhaps that will help in some way to push the conversation forward. So many problems are a result of communications issues. Not that they don't happen, but that we are missing an understanding of each side and that, in some cases, the same words are used with different meanings.

In this article from the New York Times titled, 'What Politicians’ Reactions to the Trump Video Reveal About Sexism,' the author describes some of the nuances of politicians' responses from the analysis of a company who specializes in the matter, Textio.

I, a 32-year-old man who grew up in Kansas, felt that the article was very pointed. I felt a little sharpness enter into me from the article. I very much felt that I was being deemed a misogynist for thinking about my familiar relationships in that way. I know that I am not, but am I viewed that way for feeling that I need to protect the people, in this case, women, in my life?

I think that this goes along the lines of this black-and-white or binary view of various topics that are major points of contention in our everyday public discussions across our citizenry. There is not an easy method to draw people to these types of conversations without someone feeling like they are being negatively tagged with labels such as misogynist or sexist. I, for example, feel that women should have equal pay, positions of authority, standing in society, and so on down the list of unequalness.

I want my daughter to be able to do anything she wants in life. She currently wants to make music to sell on the radio so she can live with cheetahs to study them and build a time machine there. Excellent, she wants to be a zoologist, physicist, engineer, musician, and entrepreneur! I will do everything I can to help her move forward with her dreams. She currently takes piano lessons, excels in science and mathematics in school, and attends a STEM club every week.

Yet, she is my daughter, which is my familiar relationship, and I very much feel that I have a responsibility to protect her. Outdated chivalry? Maybe that is part of the case. I also have a high level of respect for her and know that she can achieve anything to which she sets her mind.

I think we need to have more of a discussion and education on this subject without devolving to binary labels being thrown at each other. Perhaps some alternate means for wording and some ways of viewing from the different perspective. There is not an overnight solution, but a sliding along a spectrum that needs to take time. Otherwise, expect reactions to act as a counter from those who perceive their world is flipping around them. I think we have come along way in just the last 10 years and continuing to slide in a positive direction for women is very much a good thing that we must continue.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Perception is Reality

I have heard about how love is fake and that our reality is a hologram crap recently. Ya, I can't test that we live in a hologram, but I can't test that this is just a recalled memory either. The hypothesis requires some sort of basis for a test, if you can't test aspects of it, then it isn't a fully developed idea that you should be carrying on about.

I digress, back to love. Love is this feeling that we associate with having with people, critters, or things that we really, really, really like. Yet, when do we actually experience it? This article is a school paper that delves into the concept, "Love: A Biological, Psychological, and Philosophical Study". 

In the paper, you will see about all the biological processes that take place. For some people, they begin to dismiss love as not being real because it is something tangible now. These chemicals that are flowing about and we have the ability to manipulate chemicals. To me, this thought might have something to do with the intangibility of God, gods, deities, mythological creatures, Santa, la chupacabra, etcetera. We are often told from youth that these are real concepts and that you feel their presence. 

Then, you find out about the chemicals. Suddenly, the tangibility and our dominance over chemicals taint our belief in love. What many fail to realize is that our entire perception of our reality is due to chemical processes in our body. Your ability to see this text is a result of chemical processes. The touch of your finger on your skin and the giddiness that you feel from love is all chemically driven.

Take a look at these different articles
  • http://www.rsc.org/Education/Teachers/Resources/cfb/nerves.htm
  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/body/factfiles/nervecellsandnerves/nerve_cells_and_nerves.shtml
  • http://www.brainfacts.org/sensing-thinking-behaving/senses-and-perception/articles/2012/vision-it-all-starts-with-light/
What I am trying to say is that love is just as real as the pizza you eat or cut on a finger. You perceive them chemically and that is our reality.

Long live love!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Long Term Poverty Improvement for a Given Population Through After School Care Programs

I came across this on one of the list web pages that was about "surprising things that foreigners discovered about the USA."
"11/30. Chicago's Murder rate exceeds the entirety of Canada. Currently, Chicago is at 554 gun deaths this year. Canada is at 516.
Up here in America's Hat, the media is reporting 2016 to be the year of the gun because, at 516, this is the most violent year on record.
I would also like to point out that the population of Chicago is about 2.7 Million. The Population of Canada is about 35 Million."
How about a title change, "Surprising things YOU didn't know about your USA"?
Additionally, I was listening to NPR the other day, and they were discussing the murder rate in Baltimore, MD. They currently had 350+ with New York City at 150+. Baltimore has roughly 600,000 people and New York City has roughly 8,500,000 people.

How do you solve this problem?

Without really getting down to some up-to-date nitty gritty....in 2013 New York City had a 21 percent poverty rate, Chicago 14 percent, and Baltimore was at 24% overall.
Maybe you are saying something along the lines that there are a bunch of cities surrounding Baltimore that makes up Baltimore that is composed of mostly white and/or upper-class people. Fortunately, I don't have to look this stuff up and a news station out of Baltimore compared it to other cities that I would point out are also larger metropolitan areas. http://www.wbaltv.com/news/race-education-income-poverty-how-does-baltimore-compare/39219898
Aside from "Race" (populations in similar situations of any "race" would have the same problems, see Glasgow: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glasgow_effect), the two biggest differences were a roughly 5% higher rate of poverty, 5% lower rate of high school education, and $5,000-$10,000 lower median income rate.

Do we work to bring those levels up or do we mix populations up so as to bring the average up?



Now, I will point out that I am just as guilty as anyone else about school choice. I am looking to move into an area where the schools are top notch and affluent.
This means that people who care much less than I are NOT going to go for integration. What do you do? How do you meaningfully improve a population? I think it has to start with education. Improved education leads to improved job opportunities, which in turn leads to higher median incomes for the population.
Now the trick is, how to keep kids in school? It is shown that integrated schooling has an improving effect. What is it about these schools?
(I need to find a better district to use as an example) Let's look at Lackland ISD, where my kids attend due to my residence on base and recently became #3 in the San Antonio metropolitan are for elementary schools. This is an integrated school. Instead of taxes, the DoD pays for operations, so that means better than the schools around it and likely has some sort of average comparison to surrounding schools for evaluating funding. The backgrounds of the parents are likely quite similar socio-economic wise to some of the poor performing schools in the local areas. After school, though, some kids go home with their parents who stay at home (military families are heavily single income) or they go to an after-school care program that exists on the same block as the school and operates seemingly hand-in-hand with the school (drop off and pickup by the staff from the program for morning/afternoon).
The program serves ages K-12, offers intramural sports, extracurriculars (such as piano, violin, karate, leadership clubs, STEM, homework assistance, or just free play), and a variety of interest-based clubs for teens.
This is an environment with either high parent involvement (stay at home parents or parents with simpler schedules) or an active community program for those parents who need some extra help.
Now my little community is definitely not a "normal" one, I realize that, but there are some traits that would not lead to the stability we have without that afterschool program.

Would a low-cost or free afterschool care program improve the quality of life in these neighborhoods or cities?

In this last document, there is a stat from one program that states that the rate of high school graduation for students who attended at least 1 day of the after school program for each year of high school was 90% vs 86% for those who had not. THAT is the near 5% difference I wrote about earlier.
You can say that parents need to be involved or something or another about parents being responsible. The fact of the matter is that you can't depend on them to make those improvements. What we can do, is work to improve those kids daily lives so that they become dependable adults with HOPE and DREAMS for a positive, productive future. If you have HOPE and DREAMS, then you are MOTIVATED to be better. If half your day you live in an environment of despair and hopelessness, you won't have hope or dreams. You won't see yourself fulfilling those dreams. You won't be motivated because you see generations of people who are seemingly stuck where they are.

Now the question is, how do YOU improve the after-school care programs in YOUR city? 

Do me a favor, share this. Share it with everyone you know. It is still early in the school year. It won't be enough for this semester, but maybe the spring semester can see a huge benefit and it can carry through the summer break (a crucial time with probably little to no positive adult influence!)