Monday, September 25, 2000

Week of 09/25/2000

The REAL Subliminal Messages
- by David Matthews 2

"I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." - Leo Tolstoy (Vote Libertarian!)

Not too long ago a rare accusation was being foisted in the presidential race. In running a very slick, Gen-X style commercial, the Republicans were being accused of leaving a subliminal message. The political commercial talked about health care, and how Vice-President Al "I Invented Subliminal" Gore fought supposedly bipartisan efforts to pass health care legislation. The commercial ends with "The Gore Plan: BUREAUCRATS Decide."

But as the word "BUREAUCRATS" gets flashed down into view, the first four letters you see are "RATS". This leads the Democrats and members of the media to cry foul. After all bureaucrats aren’t rats, right? (Vote Libertarian!)

Well, no, considering I’ve seen some bureaucrats in action, I’d have to say that describing them as "rats" would be an insult to rats.

But the allegations by the Democrats of planting subliminal messages does beg the question, are politicians planting such messages to the public? (Vote Libertarian!)

Well, let’s get brutally honest here. Yes. They are. But not in ways that you think.

For starters, I hate to disappoint the conspiracy theorists in the Al Gore camp, but the "Bureaucrats/RATS" commercial by the Republicans is NOT a subliminal message. Subliminal messages are, by their very nature, unable to be easily detected. The fact that it took a scant few hours before the allegations started flying should be proof enough that the commercial in question was not a subliminal message. (Vote Libertarian!)

But that does not mean that there aren’t subliminal messages in this campaign season. In fact, they’re pretty abundant.

Let’s start off with the favorite tool of the media, the daily polls. I’ve discussed previously how polls can and are easily manipulated to provide whatever result they want. This is true especially in the case of the presidential campaigns after the primaries.

The standard question asked by pollsters is usually "If the election were held today, who would you vote for, the Democrat or the Republican?" Never mind, of course, that there are more than just these two candidates out there. The subliminal message being given is that there ARE no other candidates, therefore you only have those two to choose from. And, like I said, this is a daily poll, so that particular subliminal message is reinforced over and over again.

Then there is the priority of certain political news stories. Again, the media shows its bias when it comes to how a news article is positioned. An article about Governor Bush stuttering and stumbling over a certain word could hit page one in a local newspaper. Another article that catches Vice President Al Gore in one of his exaggerations about his life would be found on page three. Not as important as Bush’s tongue tie, at least according to the editors of this hypothetical newspaper. That’s sort of strange in my opinion, because I think it would be more important to highlight a politician who can’t tell the truth about his own life than it would be over one who can’t speak with perfect clarity all the time. (Vote Libertarian!)

But at least the frontrunners get the attention in the press. Bible-thumping GOP primary candidate Gary Bauer tripped and fell during one of his breakfast stops. That got buried deep in the "politics" section of some newspapers, just slightly ahead of his later revelation that he would be dropping out of the race. And those were far and above more coverage than he otherwise ever received in his short campaign run.

Meanwhile, news about third-party candidates barely even rate in the newspapers. Harry Browne, Ralph Nader, Pat Buchanan, and John Haglin could have all given their ideas for health care, campaign reform, Social Security, and national defense, in one collective press conference, and you would be lucky if you found such an article buried on page forty-three, just underneath the "four-day mattress sale" ad and next to the article about some seventy-four year old grandmother in Brazil who gives birth to triplets. Never mind whether or not they offered any serious and real solutions to the problems we have with government. Their message falls on the deaf ears of the media. Again, the subtle message from this newspaper: These candidates are not worth your time. (Vote Libertarian!)

Of course, you won’t hear the outrage coming from the media on this. After all, the subtle bias against third party candidates is coming from the Fourth Estate itself. All they have to do is claim they were just following what the polls tell them is more important. And we all know now how "accurate" the polls are, right?

But even amongst the dominant candidates, there are some subtle messages out there. What a candidate wears to a certain speaking event, whether he wears a suit and tie, or an open shirt and slacks, sends a subtle, subliminal message to the people. Carefully scripted themes and catchphrases like "working families" and "soccer moms" and describing candidates as supporting "the people" versus "the powerful" are also subtle messages to the voting populace.

I mean let’s face it.. between Al Gore and George W. Bush, you have two pompous, stuffy, privileged career politicians who have survived both on the success of their respective fathers, and also on the vast special interest groups that sustain both the Democratic and Republican parties. Given their histories alone, can you really consider EITHER of them supporters of "the people" over "the powerful"? No. You can’t. But their subtle messages make it appear as though they would. (Vote Libertarian!)

That is one of the bitter realities of so-called "major league" politics… every nuance of their lives are scripted and prepared, to reflect whatever message they want to send to the public. It would be a fair guess that the politicians employ more scriptwriters and image consultants than all of the professional wrestling organizations combined.

Just look at Governor Bush’s appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show, when someone in the audience tried to ask Bush a question he wasn’t prepared to answer. The host shut that audience member up, and then when the man tried to ask the question again, the show went to commercial and he was removed from the studio. Bush was protected from answering a question that might detract him from his scripted "I care" message.

The fact of the matter is we have plenty of real subliminal messages out there. Messages that have an effect on the populace that go leaps and bounds beyond the perceived insults of "bureaucrats". If we are to condemn the so-called "RATS" commercial, then we also need to condemn all of the other subtle messages being given by members of the media as well as the political candidates. If not, then they need to simply sit down and shut up and accept the fact that subliminal messages are nothing more than just another tool by the politicians to exploit at their leisure.

By the way.. if you can read this, then you know that this is NOT a subliminal message. Vote Libertarian! Vote Libertarian! Vote Libertarian! Vote Libertarian! Vote Libertarian! Vote Libertarian! Vote Libertarian! Vote Libertarian! Vote Libertarian!

Monday, September 18, 2000

Week of 09/18/2000

Real Political Reform - One Donor At A Time
- by David Matthews 2

"One of the greatest delusions in the world is the hope that the evils in this world are to be cured by legislation." - Thomas Brackett Reed

If there was ever an award for pure unmitigated gall in 2000, no doubt it would have to go to the team of Vice President Al Gore and Senator Joseph Lieberman.

On Monday, Gore and Lieberman were on the quick, using the recently-released report by the Federal Trade Commission on violence in the media to condemn Hollywood and the entire entertainment industry. They demanded that the movie producers and music makers and software distributors "clean up their act" and threatened that if the Gore-Lieberman ticket became the Gore-Lieberman Regime, they would FORCE Hollywood to reform by way of legislation and regulation.

On Wednesday night, though, the same self-righteous duo were in New York, wheeling and dealing with members of the very same actors and producers they had just condemned as being the devil incarnate. According to the Washington Times, the Gore-Liberbman ticket has so far brought in $8 million from the entertainment industry.

Oh yes, Al and Joe are quick to condemn, but they’re even quicker to cash the checks of those they condemn.

Hypocritical? You can bet your first born it is!

But you won’t hear that from the Democrats or from members of the entertainment industry that support them. Oh no. Instead, they’ll crank up the political spin and the denial and they’ll say that THEY aren’t the ones Gore and Lieberman rant about. Oh, not them!

In many ways this reminds me from a passage from George Orwell’s book Animal Farm: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

Strange, though, that when the politicians condemn Hollywood, they don’t just condemn SOME of the producers, actors, distributors, and designers. They lump up everything that comes out of the entertainment world, judge it all to be guilty, brand it all with a Nathaniel Hawthorne-like scarlet letter I for "inappropriate", and then demand they come before Congress to explain themselves.

This has to make one wonder just where a possible Gore-Lieberman Regime would go in six months. Would they go after Hollywood like they promised? Or would they "go soft" on them because of the generous contributions they made?

Of course, this is not the first time the Gore-Lieberman ticket was found guilty of political hypocrisy. One of the first acts the newly-forged Democratic team did just prior to the Democratic National Convention was to strong-arm Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez to call off her planned fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion. They condemned any connection to Playboy and founder Hugh Hefner, but were very quick to cash the generous financial donations made by Hef and daughter Christie.

That brings us to two possible trains of thought here. Either Hef and the entertainment people who are contributing oodles of cash to Robobore and his Orthodox sidekick are fools who are throwing their money away; or Gore and Lieberman are really nothing more than political whores whose words are meaningless and their actions are decided upon by the people who give them money.

As always, the truth lies somewhere in between those two ideas. Either way, it does not look good for either the politicians, nor the people who contribute to them.

For that matter, it doesn’t look good for the rest of America, either. Politicians love to claim they represent "the people", but how can they represent "the people" if their support is for sale to the highest contributor? And if they aren’t whores, how - in any good conscience - can they accept donations from groups that support issues that they oppose? That should go against any kind of ethics and morality they claim to possess.

So how do we change that? How do we get the political system to be the way it should be instead of the corrupt system that it is now?

Well let’s get brutally honest here.. we cannot expect change to happen from inside the system. The bulk of the career politicians are far too engrained in their corruption to even want to change, and those rare genuine honest politicians are far too outnumbered to have any meaningful effect on the system.

No, the only way we are going to change the system is to do it ourselves, with our wallets and with our votes.

It’s really very simple, folks. If you don’t like what a certain politician says, don’t vote for him, and for God’s sake, don’t give him any of your money!

Controversial screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, of "Showgirls" and "Basic Instinct" fame, has understood this. He took out a full-page ad asking Hollywood movers and shakers to stop sending money to the Gore campaign team. He knows that the only way to hold politicians to their word and to hold them responsible for what they do is to get people to stop supporting them.

Eszterhas’ idea may be paddling upstream, but it is by far the only REAL solution to keeping politicians honest.

Ask yourself this question.. WHY are you giving your money to a politician who would oppose everything you support? If that candidate is one of character and virtues, no amount of money will dissuade him or her from their views. All you’ll be doing is just putting in someone who will make your life miserable. And if that candidate is a political whore, then what is to stop someone else with even more money from getting "your" candidate to betray you? Either way, you’ll lose.

So don’t give them your vote or your money. Support only the candidates that really DO support the things you do, and who WILL vote the way you want them to vote. And urge your friends to do the same. Believe me, it’s not going to have a measurable affect overnight, but getting enough people to stop throwing their money away to political whores WILL have a positive effect on the political system.

We keep on wanting the system to change. Well, the only way to do it is the hard way.. one voter at a time, and one campaign donor at a time.

Monday, September 11, 2000

Week of 09/11/2000

The Parent’s War On Adults
- by David Matthews 2

"Children sweeten labours; but they make misfortunes more bitter. They increase the care of life; but they mitigate the remembrance of death. The perpetuity of generation is common to beasts; but memory, merit, and noble works, are proper to men. And surely a man shall see the noblest works and foundations have proceeded from childless men; which have sought to express the images of their minds, where those of their bodies have failed." - Francis Bacon

In his story "The Boxer", author Jack London talked about the final fight of an aged pugilist and how he wanted to end his long fighting career with grace. Instead, however, he ends up fighting a man much younger than him, and despite having the experience and the skills, he was no match for the youngster’s youth and stamina. The old fighter was defeated, and as his head hit the mat, he knew that it would be over for him. There would be no more championship matches for him. No more victories to celebrate. No more winning purses to take home. His career was effectively over, ended by a younger man.

"Youth," wrote London, "will be served."

That quote stuck in my mind when I saw the latest MTV Video Music Awards, and all of the controversy and outrage surrounding it.

The brunt of the outrage was focused on teen singer Britney Spears, who started out as a schoolgirl-looking former member of the Mickey Mouse Club, but who appeared on the Awards show doing a sexy-but-clothed striptease act as part of her singing performance.

The New York Post referred to Britney’s act this way:

"Of greatest note was Spears’ performance, in which she gyrated gamely in a transparent body stocking that made her look like she wasn’t wearing anything at all - save for a handful of sequins that seemed to have been tossed at her and stuck."

Descriptive, but not entirely accurate. For starters, it wasn’t a "transparent body stocking" she wore. It was actually a flesh-colored halter top, bellbottom pants, and matching thong, each with strategically-placed sequins on them. That spells out the difference between those people who actually watched the show and those who simply got the still pictures from Reuters.

But like any other piece of journalistic sensationalism, the inaccurate description of the young singer’s attire managed to do its job of inflaming readers.. particularly the dysfunctional elite, who proclaimed it being yet another case of "mixing rock and porn" - according to one so-called parenting expert.

Of course, Britney Spears and her fellow former Mouseketeer Christina Aguilera have been at the heart of this kind of conflict almost the day their careers started. Britney, who took time off to recover from a knee injury, returned to the video scene, and suddenly people realized she had breasts, and they wondered if she had actually spent that down time to get implants. She later posed for the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine in what certain people (and you can guess which ones) referred to as "smutty". Meanwhile, Christina, who started off her career singing "What a Girl Wants", was rumored to have been visiting strip clubs not too long after she turned 18. Even rap singer Emenem, himself no stranger to controversy, speculated in his songs what sort of Clinton-like favors Christina gave to other singers and a certain MTV host.

Rumors and speculations like these have inflamed parents and moralists alike, people who feel these young ladies are role models to teenagers. Certainly the hype machines for Britney and Christina have been generated towards that crowd, so it is understandable that parents would throw screaming fits over hearing about Britney’s VMA performance.

Yet at the same time, this reflexive action -- almost as violent as a bulemic’s binge-and-purge diet -- is characteristic to a societal conflict that not too many people realize is happening… the conflict between parents and adults.

Once upon a time, there was very little to separate between being an adult and being a parent. As a matter of fact, in some parts of society, you were a parent before you even became an adult. Scary, but true. Part of the problem we have with teenage pregnancy has not been because of the supposed proliferation of sexual material, but rather because of local traditions that said if a girl was old enough to have menstrual cycles, she was old enough to be a mother. It has been a tradition in small towns that the young couples that got together in high school would be the ones who would get married and start families after graduation.

Indeed, human civilization has been predominated towards one goal: to make families and thus propagate the next generation. The whole institution of marriage was created just for that goal. Politicians pander to parents, offering them all sorts of tax breaks and special incentives simply because they got married and passed Biology 101.

But lurking in the shadows of those families is a subsection of society, one that has never really gotten any kind of recognition until recently… the adults. The adults who did not run off to get married simply to get married. The ones who wanted to spend a little more time AS adults before they decided to get married and have a family.

Only in recent decades has the notion even been entertained that one could be an adult without also being a parent. Before then, the only adults who were not parents were monks or nuns, or lived lives that would otherwise not allow them the luxury of getting married or having kids.

The baby boomers certainly took advantage of that idea of celebrating adulthood during the 60’s and 70’s. Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Philosophy explored the notion that an adult was more than just some baby-making, family-producer, and the young adults of the time lapped it up. In the hypocritical 80’s, while all the attention was on the thirty-something young urban professional parents, or Yuppies, the non-parenting adults came up with their own acronym: DINK’s, or Double Income, No Kids. They worked just as hard as their yuppie counterparts, but were able to enjoy life a little bit more because they didn’t have to worry about spending money on kids.

In the 90’s however, a form of backlash against the adults was started by the moralists. Crusading under the banner of "family values", moralists and theocrats began to push the notion that adults were really not as important as parents were. The things that entertained adults, be they strip clubs, video games, movies, music, television programs, were deemed "unfriendly to families", and thus targeted for censorship and government legislation.

And there, the moralists easily found allies in the parents. It really didn’t take much to win them over. All they had to do was to prey on the natural protective instincts of parents, generate a little hysteria, and then link a certain tragedy to whatever they want censored.

Presto! Instant outrage that is so preconditioned that it would make Pavlov salivate instead of his dogs.

Let’s get brutally honest here.. there IS an adversarial relationship between adults and some parents. Some parents, not all, have a deep-rooted hatred of adults who are not parents. It’s easy to see why, when you realize just how some adults are able to enjoy their lives without kids around them.

Many parents live their whole lives around their children. They sacrifice everything for them. Everything they do is often for their children. They work hard and save their money just for their kids. They sacrifice sleep and time they would otherwise spend having fun as adults just so they can spend it with their kids.

And then they see their adult counterparts… having fun. Enjoying life. Doing all of the things they might have done, or wanted to do, but just couldn’t.. because they now have kids.

Quite often when parents say they can’t wait for their kids to grow up, they don’t want their kids to become adults.. they want their kids to become parents! To have kids all their own, so they can learn first-hand what it was like for their parents. These parents don’t want their kids to become adults, because to do that is to be reminded of the fun that they will never be able to enjoy.

Now granted, some parents are not that way. They manage to find ways to enjoy life even with children. Unfortunately, they become the silent witnesses to this societal war between adults and parents.

It is said that non-parenting adults are selfish because they only care about themselves and their significant others. But the ugly truth is that it is quite often the parents that are the selfish ones, because they want everyone to reorganize their world around their children.

You can hear that selfishness when those activist parents get in front of the media. Just listen to them. They want to censor television programs so that their children can’t see a certain show. They want to censor the Internet so their children won’t access the inappropriate sites. They want to shut down strip clubs and outlaw adult videos so that they won’t have to explain such things to their children. They want their version of religion and sex education taught in schools so that their children will be taught "proper" values. "Me, me, me…" "Mine, mine, mine…" Self-centered talk that come straight from childhood.

Look, parents, you need to recognize that the whole wide world just does not revolve around your kids! Your world certainly does, but that does not give you the right to go in and make it the priority of everyone else.

The first thing that parents need to remember is that their goal is NOT to reshape reality for their children, but rather to help their kids prepare for the real world. The more they try to deny that, the harder it will be for their children as they are growing up.

It would also help if we would stop making parenting the end-all, be-all goal for people. Women don’t like it when they are told that their only place in the world is to stay at home and make babies, but that is precisely what our predominance towards families and kids tells us. It tells us that we are nothing more than just societal life-support for children.

Instead of condemning those childless adults, parents should congratulate them for at least not rushing through just to bring an extra mouth in the world. They should be congratulated for trying to find the right significant other so they won’t have to go through divorce or stick through a turbulent marriage "just for the sake of the children."

And instead of pushing children to become parents, they should instead be urged to enjoy those years as an adult. Allow them to grow up and become adults first so they can decide for themselves who they are and what their place in the world would me. Let them enjoy those years of life being young and on top, because they will never be able to enjoy them quite the same way again.

This holds true especially with our young stars. Instead of condemning Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera for breaking away from their "teen icon" status, they should be allowed to grow up and relish those adult years. They should enjoy that life, be able to celebrate it however they want to. They shouldn’t be typecast into that "teen icon" status.

And believe me, the entertainment world is a pretty fickle one. After all, how many people still remember Debbie Gibson? Or Tiffany? They faded away into obscurity. Their fifteen minutes of fame long since expired. The same holds true to today’s stars. Britney and Christina will eventually be replaced by yet another group of talented young girls who will serve as the icons for young teenagers.

After all, youth will be served.

Monday, September 4, 2000

Week of 09/04/2000

The Light And Dark Sides of Religion
- by David Matthews 2

"A man often preaches his beliefs precisely when he has lost them and is looking everywhere for them, and, on such occasions, his preaching is by no means at its worst." - Melancthon

There’s something missing from high school football… something that certain people seem to think is more precious than life itself.

What is it? Prayer.

Back in June, the US Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that prayers at opening ceremonies of public high school football games violated the Separation of Church and State clause of the First Amendment. They believed, and justly so, that prayers over the school-operated loudspeakers constituted that school’s endorsement of a certain religious belief.

The decision is based on a lawsuit filed in Texas - a state where God and football are so closely intertwined that they refer to the Last Rites as the "Two Minute Warning." And no, it was not filed on behalf of some atheist or a believer of Wicca. The plaintiffs were a Mormon and a Catholic, living in a predominantly Baptist community.

Of course, the bible-thumpers and members of America’s God Squad HATE this decision. They hate it with a passion almost as fervently as they love football. After all, they don’t like being told that they CAN’T show their dominance in any community. I mean, what’s the joy of being a pious 800-pound gorilla if you can’t flaunt it? That’s like asking a politician to stop taking campaign contributions!

So the bible-thumpers are urging people to willingly violate the Constitution. They’re handing out prayer leaflets and asking people to loudly pray after the national anthem. After all, they can’t be stopped from praying!

Sadly, though, these bible-thumpers have it wrong. It has never been about prayer. It has been about their using their religious beliefs to dominate over others.

Meanwhile you have Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, who wants to be the next Vice-President of the United States, talking about wanting to bring back religion into government, and constantly talking about his faith as an orthodox Jew. Lieberman, who is known for giving Hollywood grief alongside other moralists like the self-proclaimed "morality czar" William Bennett, now feels he can act like a stereotypical Jewish mother and try to give the whole nation a guilt complex by flaunting his religion about.

Swell. Uncle Sam impersonating Dr. Laura! We need this about as much as we collectively need a barium enema!

Lieberman joins the numerous members of the God Squad who erroneous believe that there is no such thing as a separation of church and state. He even goes so far as to proclaim that the founding fathers never intended such a notion to exist. Apparently he forgot the words that Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association in his own state of Connecticut in 1802:

". . . Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that one owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State..."

Now the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish organization dedicated to eradicating hate crimes, has come down against Lieberman’s cheap impersonation of Jerry Falwell. They are asking that he tone down the religious messages, not to constantly emphasize his Jewish heritage, and to stop interjecting biblical passages into his speeches.

This has Lieberman and others scratching their heads. After all, why would one Jewish group criticize a fellow man of faith?

Well let’s get brutally honest here.. it’s not about religion, but rather how that religion is used.

Much like "the Force" in George Lucas’ "Star Wars" stories, religion has its light and dark sides. And by light and dark, I don’t mean different religious groups, but rather HOW religion is used.

There is no doubt that religion has its benefits. It provides a foundation for people to grasp thing that cannot be easily explained. It answers the question of "why" things are the way they are. It gives people something to look forward to, a way to keep on going when all else seems bleak. It gives them a form of mental protection or "shield" from the things that would otherwise tempt them to stray from what they believe is their correct path in life. This is the "light" side of religion, and it doesn’t matter if that religion is Christianity, or Judaism, or Hinduism, or Islam, or even Wicca, the benefits of that particular belief are always the reasons why people adhere to them.

But religion also has a "dark" side, and that comes out when religion is used not to enlighten, but rather to oppress.

If the light side of religion can be considered a shield, then the dark side is a sword. Any time people use religion to oppress others, to persecute and coerce them, to keep them afraid, or to keep them ignorant, they use that dark side.

When Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura was quoted in Playboy Magazine saying that organized religion has traditionally been "a scham and a crutch on the weak-minded", he was pointing out that dark side that many religious organizations have employed at some point in time. The dark side that many people refuse to admit exists, but often stands out like an ugly infected canker sore.

We all know of the stereotypical fiery, hell-and-brimstone preacher who uses his oratory talents to make his followers fear eternal damnation. He doesn’t operate out of genuine concern as he does to create fearful followers who are willing to do his bidding, no matter what that bidding is. But they don’t have to be loud and outspoken to get their way. They can also be smooth and slick, operating out of traditional brick and wood churches instead of tents.

Certainly Christianity -- of which the Roman Catholics, Protestants, Baptists, and Mormons are all branches of -- has its history of employing the dark side of their religion. From the days when the Roman Empire was converted, to the Crusades, to the Inquisitions, to the Salem Witch Trials, the sword of religion has been used to snuff out thousands of lives. "God" was often employed to defend and justify tyrannical positions, whether it was the deplorable state of life in France before the Revolution, to the sustaining of slavery in the American Civil War, even to justify the initial stages of Jewish persecution that led to the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. As Jefferson once pointed out, "In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot..."

That is a far cry from telling people to simply "turn the other cheek".

Then there are the cases where religion becomes a cult. The cases where religious zealotry goes to the point where people actually risk their lives, willing to sacrifice anything and everything simply because their leader tells them to. Cases like Waco and Jonestown quickly come to mind as examples of where such zealotry has led to mass tragedy. Their leaders had readily employed the dark side of religion to reign in power over their members, and used fear and intimidation to keep them there.

Granted, many people today who are flaunting the dark sides of their religion would promptly say that they would never EVER allow their religious beliefs to go to those extremes. Strange thing is.. nobody ever believes it, until it does happen.

What fuels that dark side in religion is pride and arrogance, not to mention the quest for power and control over other people. In their arrogance, certain religious leaders presume that their interpretations of the world around them are THE only and uncontested interpretations. They see the people out there in their congregation, and they know that these people can do anything they tell them to do. To have people under your control is as addictive as any drug imaginable, and it is very easy for one to become hooked on that power. That’s why religious leaders are often against gambling, liquor, drugs, or sex, because those things dare to take away from their power.

That is why the Anti-Defamation League came down on Senator Lieberman. Not because of his religious beliefs, but because he was flaunting them much like Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell does. If they loosened up on Lieberman simply because they share the same faith, then they would have betrayed their own cause.

Lieberman and the members of the press love to point out that John Kennedy was the first Catholic to be elected president. Well, Kennedy didn’t get elected because he flaunted his religion about. Quite the opposite. He got elected because he DIDN’T flaunt the Catholic Church about like some kind of banner. He didn’t put his faith on a pedestal and display it like some cheap trophy. If Lieberman wishes to use Kennedy as an example, he had best be prepared to take his own religion off the pedestal.

The bible-thumpers of America love to talk about responsibility.. well, they too have to be responsible for their actions. The role of religion is not to create followers, but rather to help guide others towards their own path. Religious leaders envision themselves to be shepherds to the multitude of sheep, but man is no sheep, unless he so deems himself. Nor should they delude themselves to think that theirs is the only guiding voice worth listening to. One of the greatest gifts given to humanity is our ability to make our own choices, and while some religious leaders would have us think that is a curse, it is in fact something that has been underutilized in our history. If our religious leaders are TRULY and legitimately concerned about our well-being, they should be more concerned with getting their believers to utilize that rare gift of free will.

And here’s a news flash to the people who constantly wail about that God has been shut out of the schools and the football games and government: God can go anywhere God pleases. God does not need you to be invited into a classroom or a football stadium, and God certainly does not need the assistance of some mealy-mouth politician who has his hands on our tax money and his head up the asses of special interests.

There is a reason why the very first clause in the First Amendment is the Separation of Church and State, and that is because until they declared their independence, the American colonies had an "official" religion: The Anglican Church, as so decreed by King George III. If any minister would like to take up good old George’s arrogance, please speak up.

America was no more founded on religious beliefs, Christian or otherwise, than it was on ideas. Ideas that said that there is more than one religious belief, more than one religious voice, and that to place one of those voices above all others insults ALL such voices. Politicians and men and women of faith would be best to keep matters of God and government separate.