"For the most part, the Republican Party is the only outlet where conservatives have a voice, so we have to use it. But it functions like a rusty knife we use only because we can't cut our steaks with a spoon."- Matthew Rathel

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Politics of Faith: Fighting for Belief

Although religion and politics operate in different spheres, there are times when individuals attempt to detract from one’s political influence by attacking his or her religious affiliations, and I would like to briefly address increasingly judgmental attacks by fringe groups who openly scorn religious beliefs of conservatives in hope of discrediting their authority on other matters. While the conservative movement encompasses members from nearly every belief system on the planet including agnostics and atheists, a growing number of pseudo-intellectuals are bombarding the public with negative depictions of those who believe in supreme beings. The common argument that faith or belief in a god is not logical or intellectual pervades many cultural spheres in the United States, proving most pervasive in our universities and in our classrooms. While I will seek to avoid tangling with atheists and agnostics in the following argument, I would like to prove the simple point that the belief in a higher being is as credible as or more credible than disbelief. For those of you who will find this to be common sense, I apologize beforehand.

Picture, if you will, a woman on a street corner with a box at her feet. Imagine that she has picked three random strangers from a crowd and has asked each of them to guess what she has in the box. The box provides no indication of its contents, so Man One simply guesses that there is nothing in the box. Man Two thinks for a moment then replies that he has no way of knowing the box’s contents. Man Three is about to answer “cheese” when a parrot lands on his shoulder and says “Raaw, a rock, raaw.” Rationalizing that it makes little difference, the man guesses that the woman has a rock. Now faulty reason would suggest that Man Two is correct since he vocalized a truthful statement: he really has no way of knowing what is in the box. However, when the woman opens the box, there is a 0% chance that it will contain his answer. All things being equal, Man Three’s guess is equal to or greater than Man One’s since “a rock” and “nothing” are two out of billions of possibilities.

Next, imagine that the woman asks the following question: “We all know that the universe contains matter, but where did it come from?” Man One replies, “it has always been there.” Man Two thinks for a moment and then says, “Based on all scientific data available, no one can answer that question.” Man Three begins to answer when an albatross drops a religious text into his arms. He then pauses for 5 minutes to read the opening passages, and when he has finished he replies, “It was created by a higher being.” Again, faulty logic would suggest that Man Two has supplied the best answer, but if the woman were to attain definitive proof of the universe’s origins, he would have a 0% chance of being correct. All things being equal, Man Three has an equal or greater chance of being correct when compared to Man One.

If I were defter at philosophical premises, I would attempt to prove that Man Three, using circumstantial evidence given to him by the parrot and the albatross, has the highest probability of giving the correct answer. After all, the answer “nothing” provides an example of a complete guess in the first scenario whereas Man Three’s answer is supplemented by the slim chance that the parrot knows what is in the box. Likewise, there can never, by virtue of its own premise, be proof that matter has always existed; but Man Three’s guess that a deity created the universe is backed by the circumstantial evidence of the religious text. In any case, these points are moot, as all I have intended to do is prove that belief is at least equal to disbelief.

Given that men have been studying theological questions for thousands of years, I would be surprised if my argument is the first of its kind, yet I must say that I do have grand illusions of having created “Rathel’s Box.” But whatever religion one adheres to, he or she should not be persuaded that his or her belief system is intellectually or logically indefensible. Many arguments used against Deism contain far more holes than arguments for the existence of a supreme being.

Personally, I like to think that faith is an emotion much the same as love in that it translates poorly into language, but I find that reason arises from faith even though it is unnecessary. Those who criticize Theists tend to characterize faith as the lack of reason when, for many of us, it is the only solid basis of rational thought.

P.S. If anyone sees a hole in my argument, I would love to hear it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Media attacks Palin over "Bush Doctrine"

Much has been made of Sarah Palin’s interview with Charles Gibson on ABC and how it reflects her ability to hold the position of Vice President, but the media appears to be stretching itself thin in hopes of finding a gaffe in what most partisans would call an uneventful exchange. At the center of the faux controversy is Palin’s insistence that Gibson clarify his inquiry into the “Bush Doctrine,” and liberal columnists and commentators are attempting to start a field day with a main event that stinks of petty partisan competition.

In Jay Bookman’s September 12th article printed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Bookman asserts that Palin’s interview with Gibson makes “Dan Quayle Look Good,” and goes on to say “The Bush Doctrine was the justification the president cited that led us into the war in Iraq, and that some cite now as justification for attacking Iran.” as if there were one distinct definition of the term “Bush Doctrine.” But should Palin be expected to know what Gibson was discussing when he introduced the term?

As the final year of Bush’s term winds away, the American people are faced with two conflicting notions of the President’s policy: the one they supported after 9-11 and reaffirmed in the 2004 election and the one they have been coached to disdain by a power-hungry Democratic Party that won the elections of 2006. Gibson’s assumption that Palin would be able to answer an open-ended question about the “Bush Doctrine” shows how many in the media have come to believe that their version of the “Bush Doctrine” on foreign policy is the only way a rational American can regard the waning Presidency and its effect on the world.

Bush himself never called his reasoning for invading Iraq his “doctrine,” and in the course of a presidency that changed the US’s policies on taxation, education, foreign policy, and emergency response programs; one has a clear reason to believe that his doctrine, his legacy, and his impact on history have yet to be viewed from the correct historical frame of reference. While we should not ignore his shortcomings and clear mistakes, we likewise can not expect Governor Palin to regard them as his “doctrine.”

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Portrait of the Journalist as a Man

The Journalist is a man or woman who fights to tell the American people the stories they need to hear. He or she is the modern medicine man, the 21st Century Homer, blind yet vivid in description, bellowing truth from the depths of a soul that is inherently deeper than those of the public. He or she has morals, ethics, and an understanding of the world that has been sharpened by the whetstone of higher education and has blossomed into something extraordinary and beyond even his or her own power of description. In every word that flows from his or her fingertips lie the answers to society’s problems, the story that must be told, and the omniscient cynicism that arises in the few but must be imparted to the masses. Objectivity isn’t a skill that is learned, it is a birthright, a brain function available only to the gifted, the chosen, the Journalist.

Either that, or the journalist is a mere mortal with ordinary limitations. He or she may approach each story with a predetermined tone, direction, even (heaven forbid) conclusion. When his or her fingers are on the keyboard, his or her mind might be flipping back and forth between college lessons on objectivity and his or her own impression of the person or event he or she wishes to put onto paper. And it would even be possible that the college courses might lose a few battles. Of course this journalist doesn’t exist; the other description is much, much more realistic. But if this were the case, he or she may betray his or her feelings by putting undue weight on negative aspects of topics he or she disagrees with or undue praise for issues he or she supports. In this fictitious scenario, the controlling editors of the major news networks might even cover a trip to Iraq by Obama more than one by McCain at a ratio of 200-1. But that wouldn’t happen; this journalist, these journalists, could not exist.

If I had to choose between which scenario were more apparent in the recent coverage of Governor Sarah Palin, I don’t think anyone could blame me for casting the myth of the Journalist aside. Suddenly, against years of journalistic tradition, the question of whether a mother can adequately hold public office has become a valid campaign issue. Sally Quinn, a journalist (notice the lower-case “j”) writing for the Washington Post blog, published an article on September 3rd suggesting that a Southern Baptist woman should not be President if she believes that the Bible discourages females from becoming priests and pastors, and Quinn asserts that one can link the spiritual and political beliefs of a candidate so long as they are conservative. She faults Palin for not thinking of her pregnant, unwed daughter before accepting the bid for McCain’s VP. She pushes back the rights and values that feminists have been fighting for since the dawn of the 20th century, and she is not alone.

The questions came from every major network, and the New York Times, CNN, and the Washington Post all published pointed articles about Bristol Palin and her teenage pregnancy. Even those journalists who attempted to stay clear of the family’s personal issues published articles like those seen in The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Kansas City Star that questioned the “vetting process” of the McCain campaign to avoid the talking about the pregnancy by talking about how much McCain knew about it before hand (which forced them to dedicate a large portion of these articles to background information on Bristol Palin.)

If the media would like to discredit claims of bias, perhaps they should do their own investigation into the percentage of favorable stories they give Republicans and Democrats. In an election where the majority of the voting public views both candidate favorably, how can networks like NBC justify running favorable stories of Obama at a 6/1 ratio and not do the same for McCain? If the Journalists would like to discredit reports from organizations such as the Media Research Counsel, I would like to see their own numbers. Until then, I find questions of their journalistic integrity to be just as pressing as questions of Palin’s parenting skills.



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