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Victory for Equal Rights

In the past week, the number of states that recognize all Americans’ right to marry someone of their choice regardless of gender has doubled: Iowa and Vermont have both joined the ranks.

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Five Things for which I Am Grateful Today

  1. I am thankful for the friendship that I share with my wife. This may sound kind of pathetic, but so be it. Lacey is my first real best friend.
  2. I am thankful to be able to watch my children grow up, to share in their joys and pains. The experience has made me a more selfless, more caring person. It’s hard to overestimate how much of who I am now is a result of them.
  3. I had a sore throat for a few days this week. Nothing too horrible, just enough to make sleeping uncomfortable. I would remind myself that the pain that I felt was a good sign that I was still alive. Sometimes this trick would work, and instead of focusing on the pain, I would focus on how grateful I am to have my turn in the sun. I’m happy that my turn isn’t over yet and thankful for aches and pains to remind me how lucky I am.
  4. I am grateful for public libraries. Money is tight, and so is space in our humble house. Thank goodness for the public libraries that support my learning habit when I can’t buy books.
  5. Thank you to all those who have sacrificed in the defense of my liberties. The road to human liberty has been long and there is still a journey ahead. Progress has only been made through the sacrifice and strength of others. I live freely because of those others who have sacrificed for our freedoms.

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Civil Liberties Lost Since 9/11

Timeline of civil liberties lost since September 11, 2001

Sometimes the commenters on reddit are surprisingly insightful:

Yeah, but it was totally worth it when the government used that extra power to find Osama, cure cancer and solve world hunger… all while balancing the federal budget and growing the economy to levels of mass prosperity the world has never witnessed.

(via reddit)

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Questions for the Candidates

Senator Hillary Clinton is currently less than 100 yards from my present location. I was invited to come over and see her. My reaction?

“Meh. I have a lot of things to do.”

Is it perverse that I would rather read about a candidate’s positions than hear about them in person? It would probably be just a photo op with no chances for questions, but if I had a chance to ask a question, I think I would ask one of the following questions:

President Bush continues to make a case for war with Iran despite the National Intelligence Estimate which concludes that Iran has probably suspended all efforts to create a nuclear arsenal. If you agree that war with Iran would probably prove disastrous for the United States, what would you do if elected to prevent such a war?

The current administration has weakened the separation of church and state by funding faith-based initiatives with public monies, withholding public funding from stem cell research on largely religious grounds, and appealing to personal communications from God to justify war in Iraq. Would you, as President, strengthen the separation between church and state that preserves America’s religious liberty and steer us safely away from theocracy? If so, how?

President Bush has weakened civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism by detaining suspected terrorists without due process, torturing detainees, conducting warrantless surveillance on American citizens, and claiming broad new powers for the executive branch. If you are elected, will you commit to reversing these policies and disclaiming Bush’s unconstitutional power grab?

Do you think I would be allowed to ask any of those questions? Do you have any other questions you’d like to ask?

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Born Again

I like calling my exodus from Mormonism and religion an “awakening” because that’s what it felt like. Domokun reminded me of Plato’s cave allegory and how well it describes what leaving religion has felt like for me.

Imagine prisoners, who have been chained since their childhood deep inside a cave: not only are their limbs immobilized by the chains; their heads are chained in one direction as well, so that their gaze is fixed on a wall.

Behind the prisoners is an enormous fire, and between the fire and the prisoners is a raised walkway, along which statues of various animals, plants, and other things are carried by people. The statues cast shadows on the wall, and the prisoners watch these shadows. When one of the statue-carriers speaks, an echo against the wall causes the prisoners to believe that the words come from the shadows.

The prisoners engage in what appears to us to be a game: naming the shapes as they come by. This, however, is the only reality that they know, even though they are seeing merely shadows of images. They are thus conditioned to judge the quality of one another by their skill in quickly naming the shapes and dislike those who play poorly.

Suppose a prisoner is released from his cage and turns around. Behind him he would see the real objects that are casting the shadows. At that moment his eyes will be blinded by the sunlight coming into the cave from its entrance, and the shapes passing by will appear less real than their shadows.

The prisoner then makes an ascent from the cave to the world above. Here the blinding light of the sun he has never seen would confuse him, but as his eyesight adjusts he would be able to see more and more of the real world. Eventually he could look at the sun itself, that which provides illumination and is therefore what allows him to see all things. This moment is a form of enlightenment in many respects and is understood to be analogous to the time when the philosopher comes to know the Form of the Good, which illuminates all that can be known in Plato’s view of metaphysics.

Once enlightened, so to speak, the freed prisoner would not want to return to the cave to free “his fellow bondsmen,” but would be compelled to do so. Another problem lies in the other prisoners not wanting to be freed: descending back into the cave would require that the freed prisoner’s eyes adjust again, and for a time, he would be one of the ones identifying shapes on the wall. His eyes would be swamped by the darkness, and would take time to become acclimated. Therefore, he would not be able to identify the shapes on the wall as well as the other prisoners, making it seem as if his being taken to the surface completely ruined his eyesight.

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