Driving In Las Vegas

Isn’t it so nice that we have people who drive around with these nauseating stick figures on their car bragging that unfettered reproduction is something to be proud of?  Usually this is also accompanied by a Romney-Ryan bumper sticker, and some other indicator that these are people who have limitless love for the Lord.  typical vegas driver

You’re probably wondering what “Legalize The Constitution” means, right?  I’ll tell you.  It means the driver of this vehicle is a racist, ignorant bigot who feels a black president is illegitimate and the fact that he’s a Constitutional Law EXPERT means nothing.  Oh, and support the troops by sending them to illegal wars.

Damn! It’s very frustrating living among the Teabags.

h/t @mytinyurl for the pic!

Gun Shows: Breeding Grounds For Right Wing Extremist Views

Las Vegas is an attractive destination for all sorts of expositions; with its abundance of convention space as well as the shows, gambling and adult entertainment. The weekend of November 2-3, 2013 was no different. This was one of the three Rocky Mountain Gun Shows, held each year in Sin City. Based out of Salt Lake City, held at The Southpoint Hotel, the show attracts a heavily conservative crowd with self-professed Libertarian values. In other words, these are not just gun collectors, these are radically right-wing ‘patriots’ wishing to stockpile weapons and ammunition. After all, President Obama is ushering in the End Times, and what better way to prepare for the battle between good (gun-toting, Republican patriots) and evil (any Democrat or supporter of liberal causes) than to arm oneself to the teeth.

I thought it was a a great opportunity to get a look into the minds of these folks by asking what they thought of the Second Amendment, Obama and guns in general.  I wrote down some questions for a friend working at the gun show and, not surprisingly, she found a few folks more than eager to share their opinions on these topics.

gun show 1
More guns does not equal more security

Tables and tables of ammunition and powerful weapons fill the ballroom where folks can come and sell their guns and purchase others with only a minimum of scrutiny.  The NRA and GOP seem to follow the same playbook, through their magazines, talk radio and internet publications, they provide stock answers to typical questions.  I must mention the questions were geared to comply with the mindset of the typical gun show attendee.  Here are just a few examples of the marching orders they receive from NRA-sponsored sources. It’s no surprise, these gun shows are a hazard to a functioning society as they legitimize armed insurrection against a democratically elected government.

The first question:  I am concerned we are becoming a nation of big government.  Are you afraid our gun rights will be revoked? 

ammunition
Millions of rounds of ammunition
  • The government’s mindset is control.  (except the government has not passed one new gun-control measure)
  • The only thing keeping big government in check is the (proliferation) of guns. (Can the average citizen seriously compete with a Hellfire Missile or a Stealth Fighter Jet?)
  • Crime rose in Australia 300% after revoking gun rights.  (crime did not rise more than any other year in 1997, the year of the gun buyback)  
  • The anti-gun groups hated the Bill of Rights (how in the hell could they possibly know that? The guns at the time were muskets and bayonets)
  • The Second Amendment was designed to keep the government in check.  (The Second Amendment reads: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”  This means owning a firearm is designed for the purpose of forming a well-regulated militia. With the help of Utah Senator Orrin Hatch (R), the NRA successfully marketed the second amendment to suit the greed of the gun manufacturers for whom they answer. He helped form the NRA-ILA
  • Gun owners often compare gun deaths to other causes of death. They feel baseball bats and cars are valid comparisons to gun deaths.  
    Since some people have been beaten to death with a baseball bat and many have perished in auto accidents, why don’t we remove the right to use these items as well? Last I checked, there are millions of Americans who play baseball and millions more who somehow manage to drive every day without intentionally running someone over.  This is a ridiculous comparison since a firearm is brandished only to render lethal force to harm and/or kill someone.  

 Next question asked: Why would an average citizen need a semi-automatic weapon? 

  • Naturally, the first response was ‘self-protection.’  A family must protect themselves from home invasions.  Because when you want someone dead, they’d better be really, really dead. 
  • The media is giving these weapons a “bad name.”  This statement is laden with so much stupid, I don’t know where to begin.
  • If you want to go hog hunting, you can kill many more hogs in a shorter amount of time.  Apparently, wild hogs travel as a family unit, rarely seen in large groups of that would justify 3 rounds a second.  If you need a semi-automatic weapon to kill hogs, you must be feeding a large village.  Don’t we have supermarkets in America?
  • Every gun owner needs to have proper training on each gun they own as each gun has unique features. That statement unfortunately omits the thousands of untrained children who find a firearm and accidentally kill or injure someone.  

Finally, most folks refer to the Democratic Party as the “Democrat Party,” which is an insult started by Senator Joe McCarthy to make sure they implied the party was anything but democratic. Every gun owner interviewed at this show said they were afraid the “Democrat Party” was interested in grabbing their guns.

It completely blows my mind how people think a Black President hasn’t sparked a resurgence in gun violence.  When Right Wing Hate Radio encourages people to forget about calling 911 and try to handle emergency matters on their own or by urging listeners to take up arms against their government, we will most assuredly see an uptick in gun-related homicides. They are pathological psychopaths and they are a danger to society. The acquisition of lethal weapons by an angry, bitter segment of the population surely won’t result in a peaceful, logical society. Simply consider the George Zimmerman types who frequent these gun shows and what they have in their personal arsenal. Hate groups have doubled with the election of President Obama peaking at an all time high in 2012.

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America is Anything But Post-Racial

The quest for equality and civil rights in America is more challenging than ever, despite electing Barack Obama. Just as the South still hasn’t given up on winning the War of Northern Aggression (otherwise known as The Civil War), the fight for equal rights and fair treatment of all Americans is ongoing. Unlike the days of Eisenhower, where moderate Republicans set the agenda, the racist fringe of the GOP is much more comfortable with bigotry and white supremacy, bragging openly about their disdain for our President. Country Star, Hank Williams, in 2012 said (at a county fair), We’ve got a Muslim president who hates farming, hates the military, hates the U.S., and we hate him. This hate-speech was followed by thunderous applause, even though none of his assertions were true. Fringe groups are no longer the minority of the GOP, they set the agenda. They set the tone. They aren’t going away. The Teaparty has assured that racial discrimination is here to stay.

Although the principle of equality has always been self-evident, it has never been self-executingBarack Obama. More than anyone, the President has understood this tenet, simply by the obstructionism he has faced since taking office. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, so all my life, I should be seeing the racial tension in this country improving, but this is quite contrary. The most egregious example of racist hate is often uttered by Ann Coulter. The Conservative pundit and known hate monger, said Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin is making a monkey out of President Obama. Anyone familiar with the GOP shouldn’t be astonished this woman is still respected in Conservative circles. The party that embraces the (white supremacist hate group) Stormfront endorsed Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky makes no effort to hide their objection to civil rights. Ex Secretary of Defense and known war criminal, Donald Rumsfeld, had the audacity to call our President the “So-called Commander-in-Chief.” His CiC is a convicted war criminal, so his disdain for Obama is a stab at the legitimacy of a Black Commander-in-Chief.

The disrespect for African-Americans is not exclusive to members elected or appointed to high office positions. Distinguished Public Servants like Susan Rice, Van Jones and Eric Holder are not the only ones victimized by this new racist chic that predominates Conservative attitudes in America. A North Carolina Restaurant actually asked a large party of black patrons to leave because one of the white customers felt threatened by the party of twenty-five which is absolutely stunning in 2013. Not to be outdone, a church in Charlotte, NC. insisted only whites greet patrons at the door. They apologized ex post facto for their Whites Only sign, but the damage was already done.

Discrimination continues with our children of color as well in the form of prejudice toward African-American hairstyles. A seven-year old African-American girl, a great student by all accounts, was told her dreadlocks were an unacceptable style for attending her Tulsa, Oklahoma school. Right here in Las Vegas, thirteen year old Brinley Middle Schooler, Margaret Bates was told the blond color at the ends of her braids are an unacceptable color for an African-American. Sparking potential riots, the school recalled the discriminatory comment towards Margaret and amended the policy to include only naturally occurring hair colors for any person of any color. The clarification came too late, as it was obvious the racial prejudice the school has embraced.

With the obvious racial injustice expressed by the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, our nation is at a very dangerous and volatile point when it comes to civil rights. The sinister trend these cases of discrimination are creating is surely not how we are supposed to be evolving as a society. The Republican party is obviously not geared toward inclusivity, and those intolerant of civil rights and mutual respect for one another will eventually be singled out as unacceptable.

Is Religion Leading America to the Dark Ages (or have we never left)?

“Religion is the opiate of the masses,” Karl Marx said, and how right he was. Studies have shown as income inequality increases, so does the frequency of prayer. The more religious a society, the more accepting of fictional justifications commonly espoused by a particular faith that allow a population to accept unacceptable socioeconomic disparities. The United States, contrary to its status as the pioneers of science, is disproportionately preoccupied with an imaginary friend than its European or Australian colleagues. We are also living with income disparity levels not seen in America since 1774! There is significant evidence this has been detrimental to our development as a nation, our pursuit of happiness as well as perpetuating the culture of constant war and foreign occupation that has irreversibly scarred the USA. We are far too religious for our own good.

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As prayer becomes more prevalent so does income inequality

I intend to elucidate my hypothesis using three separate spheres of influence of religion on society:
1. Physical and logical brain functions

2. Emotional development and happiness

3. The culture of war fostered by religion and the military.

Physical Impact of Prayer on the Brain
Medical science has shown the hippocampus is the part of the brain involved in memory forming, organizing, and storing. The more one learns about the world, the less mysterious it becomes and one is less likely to accept oversimplified “god did it” type answers. My ability to differentiate between a creationist tale of my world versus the scientific facts of its real age (the biblical 10,000 years over the actual age of 4.6 billion years) may have stifled my scientific potential. I refer to a study of hippocampus atrophy in adults over fifty-eight with a focus on Life Changing Religious Experiences as a variable. With increased religiosity one observes a decrease in the function of the hippocampus. It seems watching the 700 Club can be hazardous to your health.

I am guilty of perpetuating this mythology on my own children, as it is inescapable in our society. My youngest goes to preschool where they learn about Christmas and Santa, which doesn’t bother me one bit. Sadly, I have resorted to using the ‘Santa Claus is watching you’ threat on my toddler to keep him in line, and this is probably not much different than telling a child god or big brother is watching you. It’s as if you are selecting which myths your child should believe and for how long, which is no different than cherry-picking which parts of the bible you feel are veracious. The victims of childhood indoctrination have a hard time knowing which parts of the Bible they should accept as literally true and which are merely allegorical and not to be taken literally. For example, if one rejects the account in Genesis of a six-day creation, and the account of the lives of the descendants of Adam and Eve to Noah and beyond, upon which the claimed young age of earth is based, why does one not also reject the account of original sin, the fall of Man and of the need for forgiveness and redemption upon which the entire Christian faith depends and upon which the entire rationale for Jesus’s sacrifice is supposedly based? What in these stories distinguishes one from the other with sufficient reason to reject one and accept the other? It’s nice to believe in fantasy and to encourage imagination, but living life with the lack of true rationality may just make us less happy. The available rankings of the world’s happiest nations actually strengthens this correlation between a more rational society and a more satisfied populace.

Happiness and Emotional Well-being

If you take a look at the top ten happiest countries you’d notice a disproportionate percentage of the top ten happiest are Scandinavian countries. Also noteworthy is the very same countries which appear on that list are also the least religious. Is there an absolute correlation? No, of course not. But we can learn from the greatest example of historical suffering and stagnation since the Roman Empire, which was known as the Dark Ages. This was an era where superstition reigned supreme and it clearly demonstrated the negative impacts religion can have on a society dominated by its stern enforcement and absolute power over men. The modern day examples of societies becoming more humane, compassionate and progressive are extremely obvious, where the most secular nations enjoy the highest standards of living. I posed the question, ‘do less religious societies have a higher level of morality?’ to author Phil Zuckerman, researcher and professor. He replied:

“Yes, I would argue that most of the least religious nations on earth today are the most moral in terms of having the best health care, elder care, child care, maternity/paternity leave, most humane prisons, no death penalty, lowest murder rates, lowest levels of corruption, lowest levels of police brutality, best care for the physically disabled, most sane environmental policies, women’s rights, gay rights, good educational systems, etc. However, I can’t say with 100% surety that is is because they are strongly secular. Correlation is not causation. But I can say this: many countries have become more humane and moral in the wake of religion weakening. Perfect examples include Japan and Scandinavia.”

When you have a nation who believes that the only way to salvation is for the country to revert back to the teachings of the Old Testament and this must be added to the Constitution, we are indeed in trouble. Too much fear and hate is perpetuated by many of these groups claiming to represent Christ and promoting this kind of nonsense is only detrimental to a society’s progress. Our government’s dominance by the Moral Majority and the Faith Based Initiative have kept our civil rights at levels far less evolved than many other western democracies.

The Culture of Perpetual War Fostered by Religious Fundamentalism

The United States military, the most expensive and largest on earth has an unusually anti-secular attitude. Mikey Weinstein, a graduate of the US Air Force Academy and head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, says “mandated religion has no place within the technologically most lethal creation of the US government.” A survey commissioned by the Air Force Academy in 2010 showed some improvements in the climate of religious tolerance on campus, but also found that many cadets still felt pressured to take part in religious activities. Nearly half of the non-Christian cadets surveyed, for example, said their fellow students have a “low tolerance” for atheists, a 20 percent jump from a similar 2008 survey. This came on the heels of reports that Air Force missileers were receiving Bible-centered ethics training, with the aim of helping them shake off lingering doubts about firing nuclear weapons. The training – which had been in place for almost two decades and was known jokingly among the airmen as “Jesus loves nukes” – was halted in 2011. God and country is a big part of the military culture, as anytime there’s a ceremony of any type, there’s always prayer.

The most fundamentalist chaplains are often selected to lead prayer with military groups. A motivational pastor from the Central Christian Church in Las Vegas, Raymond Giunta, 47 led a prayer breakfast at the Pentagon in early December. Turns out this is the same Pastor Giunta who was found to have taken more than $10,200 in cemetery trust funds intended for graveyard upkeep while he worked as the director of the California Cemetery Board in the mid-1990’s. Fundamentalist “Pentacostal” religion seems to dominate the military, and it went up all the way to General Petraeus.

General David Petraeus, recently disgraced, is a very “spiritual” military leader. He heavily pushed the concept of Spiritual Fitness Tests, Spiritual Fitness Concerts and Spiritual Fitness Centers and spared no expense attracting Christian Fundamentalist performers. Funny how that whole holier than thou thing worked out for him, isn’t it? I find it rather interesting how the military has perverted the message of Christ to mean we should take over any part of the world we desire, especially those parts that believe in a different god than Jesus. Without the fallacy of this religiosity, the military would probably not be able to sell its barbaric message to so many in the Military Industrial Complex, namely the United States Congress who funds it so very generously.

It’s a personal decision to believe what one chooses to believe. However when that belief is forced upon a society in one way or another, it seems it can only create a culture that mirrors the devolution of Medieval Europe, replete with all the inequality, brutality and intolerance that comes with the mandated belief in the unproven. Constitutionally, we’re a society which allows for religion, not a religion that allows for society. In 1988, America was #1 in “where to be born” list. Now it is joint 16th. It would be nice if religion could be considered a factor in our diminished status.

Sports Heroes Attribute Success to God; Churches Use These Profits to Fund Hate

When Gabby Douglas won the Olympic Gymnastics All-Around gold, she proclaimed, “…I give all the glory to God, it’s kind of a win-win situation. The glory goes up to Him and the blessings fall down on me.” She will be reiterating this sentiment in front of thousands of fans at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas December 1st and 2nd, 2012. This is a paid speaking engagement, the church communique explains: The church enjoys bringing these inspirational guests in for our community and congregation and sets aside funds each year for special services like these. The congregation provides untold sums of money, not a penny of which any tax is paid back to the city that provides the roads, power, water, fire and police services. Instead of the largely charitable contribution to society the church should provide, the unregulated and tax-free donations are often spent on promotional events, such as financing celebrities for the purpose of recruiting more worshippers. Tim Tebow spoke there earlier this year and naturally he attracted capacity crowds.

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Canyon Ridge’s motto: God First
The Tim Tebow appearance at Canyon Ridge

When I learned of Gabby Douglas’ appearance, I didn’t think too much about it, as I presumed it was merely meant to inspire young athletes and patrons alike. After seeing so many elaborate color-printed cards displayed at various Las Vegas locations advertising her visit, I thought I’d look into this church a little further. Gabby is an outstanding Olympic athlete who, unfortunately, is not a dynamic public speaker. Like the Tebow visit, Gabby’s appearance is mainly orchestrated to attract potential new congregants.

First here are some basic facts about Canyon Ridge. It is most definitely a “mega-church”, which is by definition any church with a weekly attendance of over 2,000 people. With an average weekly attendance of 6,000, Canyon Ridge can hold up to 3,000 at one time. There are two other mega branches of the church in the Las Vegas Metropolitan area: Central Christian Church, a church where over 5,000 members can attend at once. The third branch, The Crossing is a smaller version, but still qualifies as a mega-church. According to Christian Standard, The Crossing was planted by Canyon Ridge Christian Church on September 24, 2000, and is the youngest megachurch with an average worship attendance of 2,224 last year. Canyon Ridge, located in the northwest valley of Las Vegas, was birthed by Central Christian Church in 1993 and averaged almost 6,000 in attendance last year. Central Christian, also in Las Vegas, averaged close to 18,000 in worship last year. Those are some great church planting genes! I recognize many churches do charitable deeds, like many in the NY/NJ area are currently doing for victims of Hurricane Sandy. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what most megachurches do other than to try to increase their bottom line.

Like so many religions, Canyon Ridge is interested in promoting their faith by expansion all over the globe. They have partnered with the leader of Uganda’s anti-homosexuality movement (AKA “Kill the Gays”), Martin Ssempa. Denounced by Pastor Rick Warren, who led the invocation at President Obama’s Inauguration in 2009, Canyon Ridge’s Pastor Kevin Odor refuses to cut ties with Ssempa citing the need to reduce HIV in Africa. Perhaps someone needs to inform Pastor Odor that HIV is rampant in Sub-Saharan Africa due to poverty, polygamy, lack of education and gender inequality, not just homosexual behavior. The law goes so far as to threaten imprisonment to anyone knowing active homosexuals and not reporting their “illegal” activities. He has yet to change his stance on this issue, which ascertains the conservative, fundamentalist agenda of this church.

As abhorrent as this is, I find the entire concept of brainwashing youth into a culture where God controls all the action creates superficiality and trivializes this contrived sense of morality. If God controls everything, isn’t it presumptuous to interfere with the divine plan? I know many people take comfort in a supernatural deity, and I have no problem with that. What troubles me is the thinking God is so concerned with one’s athletic success while this same God is ignoring plight, allowing babies to be born into abject poverty with AIDS. This creates a selfish culture which rewards obedience to an organization that enriches itself with absolutely no financial disclosure or accountability, while ignoring the real issues we as human beings should truly be concerning ourselves with. Merely praying for someone, or even charging money to have prayers answered is no substitute for food and medical assistance. It is a fraud, and deep down, most people know this.

Religion has a stranglehold over our culture. It’s ironic we never hear about God’s role in a post-game interview where the team loses. “We’d like to thank the almighty for this ass-kicking. Apparently it was exactly what we deserved.” Largely this is a phenomenon of American athletes.

Giving God credit and thanks for opportunity in life, or the motivation to strive, is all but universal among the faithful. But something more seems to be going on here. Athletes are not just thanking God for opportunity and fervor — they are crediting God for a competitive victory. This, in turn, seems to be suggesting something very specific about the inclinations of the Almighty. Has anyone paused to consider that for every winner, there is a loser (in fact, often a whole batch of losers) — and that if God is choosing winners, then God must be choosing losers, too? Are the athletes who attribute their victory to God willing to “blame” God for the often-bitter disappointments of the vanquished?
Is it reasonable to hold God accountable for defeat and failure? Is it reasonable if the losers are good people — just as good as the winner? Is it still reasonable if they are not only just as good, but also practitioners of the same faith, and just as pious? And what if they are just as good, just as pious, just as fervid, practicing the same religion, and worked just as hard? On what basis is God making such decisions? I suppose we might, as people tend to do when matters of faith are questioned, just throw up our hands and ascribe this all to the unknowable particulars of God’s grand plan. But if winning and losing are equally prescribed in the grand plan, then are they really winning and losing? Isn’t everyone doing an equally good job of doing the job God decided to give them? If the losers are every bit as good at doing what God wants them to do as the winners, then who are we to presume to declare them losers — and give medals to the other guys?

Canyon Ridge Church provides spiritual enrichment for many of the faithful and of course is viewed as a positive influence in their lives. It’s the young, impressionable children who are forced to believe this propaganda (which includes a God who always needs more money) who could be most easily manipulated. I watched a few online videos by Pastor Odor and found most of them were quite reminiscent of 700 Club solicitations . He’s mainly concerned with reinforcing the belief in a higher being, as “God” is the answer to all things. That’s paramount to his organization’s success.

It seems this Las Vegas megachurch engages in the same level of deception many televangelists have been found guilty of in years past. Simply click on the giving link and you’ll see how generosity is equated with holiness, which is deplorable in my opinion. I believe it is a form of abuse to influence children in this indoctrinating manner. By furthering an organization steeped in preaching intolerance and denouncing equal human rights, we are doing no service to the morality and emotional well-being of our youth, nor are we truly helping humanity. Jesus preached a message of love that didn’t include a tax-free operation laden with corruption. Helping the poorest and neediest, including homosexuals, is more in line with his teachings.

Sports Heroes Attribute Success to God; Churches Use These Profits to Fund Hate

When Gabby Douglas won the Olympic Gymnastics All-Around gold, she proclaimed, “…I give all the glory to God, it’s kind of a win-win situation. The glory goes up to Him and the blessings fall down on me.” She will be reiterating this sentiment in front of thousands of fans at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas December 1st and 2nd, 2012. This is a paid speaking engagement, the church communique explains: The church enjoys bringing these inspirational guests in for our community and congregation and sets aside funds each year for special services like these. The congregation provides untold sums of money, not a penny of which any tax is paid back to the city that provides the roads, power, water, fire and police services. Instead of the largely charitable contribution to society the church should provide, the unregulated and tax-free donations are often spent on promotional events, such as financing celebrities for the purpose of recruiting more worshippers. Tim Tebow spoke there earlier this year and naturally he attracted capacity crowds.

20121121-100159.jpg
Canyon Ridge’s motto: God First
The Tim Tebow appearance at Canyon Ridge

When I learned of Gabby Douglas’ appearance, I didn’t think too much about it, as I presumed it was merely meant to inspire young athletes and patrons alike. After seeing so many elaborate color-printed cards displayed at various Las Vegas locations advertising her visit, I thought I’d look into this church a little further. Gabby is an outstanding Olympic athlete who, unfortunately, is not a dynamic public speaker. Like the Tebow visit, Gabby’s appearance is mainly orchestrated to attract potential new congregants.

First here are some basic facts about Canyon Ridge. It is most definitely a “mega-church”, which is by definition any church with a weekly attendance of over 2,000 people. With an average weekly attendance of 6,000, Canyon Ridge can hold up to 3,000 at one time. There are two other mega branches of the church in the Las Vegas Metropolitan area: Central Christian Church, a church where over 5,000 members can attend at once. The third branch, The Crossing is a smaller version, but still qualifies as a mega-church. According to Christian Standard, The Crossing was planted by Canyon Ridge Christian Church on September 24, 2000, and is the youngest megachurch with an average worship attendance of 2,224 last year. Canyon Ridge, located in the northwest valley of Las Vegas, was birthed by Central Christian Church in 1993 and averaged almost 6,000 in attendance last year. Central Christian, also in Las Vegas, averaged close to 18,000 in worship last year. Those are some great church planting genes! I recognize many churches do charitable deeds, like many in the NY/NJ area are currently doing for victims of Hurricane Sandy. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what most megachurches do other than to try to increase their bottom line.

Like so many religions, Canyon Ridge is interested in promoting their faith by expansion all over the globe. They have partnered with the leader of Uganda’s anti-homosexuality movement (AKA “Kill the Gays”), Martin Ssempa. Denounced by Pastor Rick Warren, who led the invocation at President Obama’s Inauguration in 2009, Canyon Ridge’s Pastor Kevin Odor refuses to cut ties with Ssempa citing the need to reduce HIV in Africa. Perhaps someone needs to inform Pastor Odor that HIV is rampant in Sub-Saharan Africa due to poverty, polygamy, lack of education and gender inequality, not just homosexual behavior. The law goes so far as to threaten imprisonment to anyone knowing active homosexuals and not reporting their “illegal” activities. He has yet to change his stance on this issue, which ascertains the conservative, fundamentalist agenda of this church.

As abhorrent as this is, I find the entire concept of brainwashing youth into a culture where God controls all the action creates superficiality and trivializes this contrived sense of morality. If God controls everything, isn’t it presumptuous to interfere with the divine plan? I know many people take comfort in a supernatural deity, and I have no problem with that. What troubles me is the thinking God is so concerned with one’s athletic success while this same God is ignoring plight, allowing babies to be born into abject poverty with AIDS. This creates a selfish culture which rewards obedience to an organization that enriches itself with absolutely no financial disclosure or accountability, while ignoring the real issues we as human beings should truly be concerning ourselves with. Merely praying for someone, or even charging money to have prayers answered is no substitute for food and medical assistance. It is a fraud, and deep down, most people know this.

Religion has a stranglehold over our culture. It’s ironic we never hear about God’s role in a post-game interview where the team loses. “We’d like to thank the almighty for this ass-kicking. Apparently it was exactly what we deserved.” Largely this is a phenomenon of American athletes.

Giving God credit and thanks for opportunity in life, or the motivation to strive, is all but universal among the faithful. But something more seems to be going on here. Athletes are not just thanking God for opportunity and fervor — they are crediting God for a competitive victory. This, in turn, seems to be suggesting something very specific about the inclinations of the Almighty. Has anyone paused to consider that for every winner, there is a loser (in fact, often a whole batch of losers) — and that if God is choosing winners, then God must be choosing losers, too? Are the athletes who attribute their victory to God willing to “blame” God for the often-bitter disappointments of the vanquished?
Is it reasonable to hold God accountable for defeat and failure? Is it reasonable if the losers are good people — just as good as the winner? Is it still reasonable if they are not only just as good, but also practitioners of the same faith, and just as pious? And what if they are just as good, just as pious, just as fervid, practicing the same religion, and worked just as hard? On what basis is God making such decisions? I suppose we might, as people tend to do when matters of faith are questioned, just throw up our hands and ascribe this all to the unknowable particulars of God’s grand plan. But if winning and losing are equally prescribed in the grand plan, then are they really winning and losing? Isn’t everyone doing an equally good job of doing the job God decided to give them? If the losers are every bit as good at doing what God wants them to do as the winners, then who are we to presume to declare them losers — and give medals to the other guys?

Canyon Ridge Church provides spiritual enrichment for many of the faithful and of course is viewed as a positive influence in their lives. It’s the young, impressionable children who are forced to believe this propaganda (which includes a God who always needs more money) who could be most easily manipulated. I watched a few online videos by Pastor Odor and found most of them were quite reminiscent of 700 Club solicitations . He’s mainly concerned with reinforcing the belief in a higher being, as “God” is the answer to all things. That’s paramount to his organization’s success.

It seems this Las Vegas megachurch engages in the same level of deception many televangelists have been found guilty of in years past. Simply click on the giving link and you’ll see how generosity is equated with holiness, which is deplorable in my opinion. I believe it is a form of abuse to influence children in this indoctrinating manner. By furthering an organization steeped in preaching intolerance and denouncing equal human rights, we are doing no service to the morality and emotional well-being of our youth, nor are we truly helping humanity. Jesus preached a message of love that didn’t include a tax-free operation laden with corruption. Helping the poorest and neediest, including homosexuals, is more in line with his teachings.

Thanks To American Ingenuity, I Now Suffer From Gasophobia

For years, I drove a Mercedes-Benz. I owned different models ranging from four to eight cylinders so I was accustomed to fuel being a significant monthly expense. About two months ago, my mother and I went to lunch to with a like-minded friend and I got my first glimpse of an EV charging station, as he was charging his Nissan Leaf at the Mandalay Bay Mall. Parked next to him was a Chevy Volt, charging as well. Living in the “City of Sin” and excess, I’d never seen a Volt in person before, as these cars are pretty rare (for now). Never before did I seriously consider getting a hybrid-type vehicle. They seemed like toy cars by comparison to mine. In my opinion, a fully electric vehicle would be ideal, but they require lengthy stops to recharge if taking a long trip. A Volt had the best of both worlds: plug-in capabilities for general daily commutes and a gas engine if needed for 300 plus mile trips. It was then I made up my mind to give this car a chance.

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My Chevy Volt

My brother-in-law, Travis was the first person I called. He works at Fairway Chevrolet in Las Vegas, so I asked him what he thought of the Volt, half expecting him to say, ‘eh, it’s so so.’ What he told me was, ‘I love this car!’ This is a guy who, like so many Americans (myself included), have been seduced by the power of big gasoline engines. He said to come on down and drive one.

The torque from the electric drivetrain was far more than I expected. This car really moves. I even test drove it far enough for it to switch from electric to gas, and noticed no change in the handling. I was sold. Thankfully, I was lucky enough to land exactly the model I wanted thanks to Travis’ exhaustive search on my behalf. Zero percent financing helped seal the deal. So I’ve been driving mine for over five weeks and I’ve used 2 quarts of gas! With a great safety rating along with the sensors that keep me driving perfectly, my fears of “downgrading” from German engineering were allayed. I’m certainly ashamed of my reluctance to go green for so long. I suppose getting 2,500 miles to the gallon will do that to you. Thanks to the Auto Bailout in 2009, I can drive a car with great technology, made right in my own country.

My power bill increased by around $30 which is a mere pittance to the $300 per month I was spending on toxic fuel. This amount would virtually disappear if I had solar power. After all, Las Vegas has an insane amount of sun (and wind) and the fact we are not more like Germany who powers 20% of their country by harnessing solar energy is shameful. Imagine if we were more progressive and utilized our vast sunshine, perhaps stored energy could save hurricane-ravaged areas which would suffer inevitable power losses no more. Maybe if Reagan hadn’t removed the solar panels put on the White House by President Carter we’d use more renewables rather than importing hostile nations’ petroleum, which truly is environmental poison. Now that Hurricane Sandy has impacted so many Americans, perhaps President Obama can focus on climate change issues once again.

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Mileage exceeds the 250+ limit of the display

I knew I had experienced full-fledged Gasophobia this morning when I recalled my disturbing dream: I had to actually fill up my car at a gas station. Somehow I managed to duplicate the scene in Dumb and Dumber where I drove a significant distance in the wrong direction. To make matters worse, no one would let me plug in my car. I actually woke up slightly agitated over this “nightmare” that I would never have had in the past. It really is pretty funny, but pretty awesome at the same time. Hopefully this trend will catch on and we can save our coastlines from devastation due to man-made global climate change. I’m now a faithful convert to green technology.