The Mormons’ Unrequited (But Contested) Post-Death Conversions
Among the many questions not being asked the Republican Party’s presidential candidates, those concerning religion shouldn’t occupy the front burner and, in fact, so far they haven’t. But, it’d be fair to expect the same scrutiny about personal beliefs that Senator Barack Obama faced in 2008, on frontrunner Mitt Romney. Will he ever be asked about the Mormon Church’s conversion of dead people?
First, some housekeeping. It’s a established fact that the Founding Fathers of this nation went through great lengths to separate religion from matters of state.
All strident spinning by extremists of all faiths not withstanding, the very First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution clearly states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
In fact, religious pluralism and freedom is a basic tenet this country was founded upon and one of the reasons it’s became a beacon to the world. Period.
In practice though, the actual realization of such principles is not as simple. Time and again, attempts have been made to establish a U.S. theocracy based on the preposterous assumption that this or that denomination has the hegemony over faith.
Despite a vibrant non-believer and science-based debate over personal choice and the nature of spirituality, an equivalent to a backwater alley of the thought, the obscurantist, tolerance-averted Continue reading →
and What We May Need to Awake From in the New Year.
THE TOPS 1) July 26, December 19. The biggest story of the year, the two-punch WikiLeaks revelations about our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with the startlingly dispirited diplomacy used to achieve them, had all the limitations of an attack led by drones: all fire, no eyesight.
What was far more revealing was the swift counter punch by the U.S. and its allies in reaction to them. Within days, a case of free speech was turned into a terrorist witch-hunt of the organization’s founder, Julian Assange, the Interpol was brought in and a personal misdeed in Sweden was quickly rolled in for good measure.
The effort to punish the messenger was enough to temporarily derail the essence of the allegations, force Assange to fight expatriation and jail term threats, and land Pvt Bradley Manning, his supposedly source, into an insalubrious location Continue reading →
The self-taught guitar hero of Baltimore, who left his indelible watermark on rock, jazz and contemporary classical music, is also celebrated today in the U.S., Europe, Asia and the world for his stance on artistic freedom.
An accomplished musician, who recorded over 60 albums in a variety of styles, Zappa was also that rare bread of artist, the truly thinker, with highly articulated ideas about the popular culture’s role in society.
Way before being fully understood in the U.S., Zappa had already become an inspiration for generations of Eastern Europeans, and the Czech Republic’s first president, the poet Václav Havel, was a personal fan.
Zappa’s defense of freedom of speech took him to testify to the Senate, in 1985, against efforts to censure mainly rap lyrics deemed too violent or sexually explicit by a group of wives of politicians, including Al Gore’s former wife, Tipper Gore. He outlived his famed group, the Mothers of Invention, and went on to produce and direct experimental movies, while still touring regularly. He died in 1993 of inoperable prostate cancer. Great part of his work is still to be remastered and released on the latest digital technology.
Now we know why Don Van Vliet, the Captain Beefheart, was in such a hurry to depart this world, which he did less than a week ago: he certainly didn’t want to miss the jam session up in heavens celebrating his high school buddy’s 70th birthday.