Tag Archives: Personal

Capital Punishment Must Be Abolished

Capital Punishment: Lethal injection chamber of the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls
Lethal injection chamber of the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls

This is one example of why I oppose capital punishment.

A little over two decades ago, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was dismissive of then-Justice Harry Blackmun’s concerns about the death penalty. In fact, Scalia had a case study in mind that demonstrated exactly why the system of capital punishment has value.


United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia named convicted killer Henry Lee McCollum as an example of a man who deserved death. “For example, the case of an 11-year-old girl raped by four men and then killed by stuffing her panties down her throat,” he wrote. McCollum appeared to be the perfect example. He was a murderer whose crime was so heinous he deserved to die. He deserved capital punishment.

I wrote a post about Justice Scalia just a few days ago. It is not my intention to be picking on him; I just ran across this item and feel I have to talk about it here.

The condemned man’s names and pictures had even been circulated by politicians as examples of merciless killers.

As recently as 2010, the North Carolina Republican Party used a McCollum photo on campaign fliers to attack a Democratic candidate as “soft on crime.”


Last Thursday, McCollum was pardoned along with his half-brother, Leon Brown! They were not guilty! Somebody committed the dastardly crime and surely deserves to die, but it was somebody else.

After they had been locked up for three decades, DNA evidence finally implicated another man and exonerated both of them. It appears their confessions were coerced. The court freed them several months ago.

Both men are “intellectually disabled,” and are now living with a sister who can’t support them. That situation should soon be remedied. Now that the governor has officially pardoned them, they are each eligible to receive $50,000 for each year they were unjustly imprisoned, up to a limit of $750,000 each. That money will pay for groceries and rent, but it cannot make up for the mistaken verdicts against them and the thirty years they both suffered in prison.

After they were freed, Gov. Pat McCrory spent nine months investigating before making the decision to pardon them. He decided it was the right thing to do and pardoned them both a few days ago, on June 4.

I understand that Scalia had not tried these men. As far as I know, he based his opinion on what he had heard or read. Still, it’s unsettling to have a Supreme Court justice proscribing capital punishment for a man who later turns out to be innocent.

The fact is that juries and judges too often make the wrong verdicts. It’s not their fault. Judges and jurists are only human. They are often called upon to make decisions before all the evidence is in. This is inevitable, since additional evidence can show up any time in the future.

I’ve said before that, in principle, I favor the death penalty for heinous crimes. But the fact is that we execute far too many innocent men. One is too many, obviously; and we have executed far more  than that. (Death row inmates in the United States are almost all men.)

Texas is the worst capital punishment state.

My own state of Texas condemns more people to capital punishment than any other state, and we have almost certainly executed several innocent men. In fact our last two governors almost seemed proud of it sometimes. This is especially significant because one of them went on to serve as President of the United States for eight years, and the other one is a candidate for that office now.

In addition to this, we must remember that it costs several times as much money to execute a prisoner as it does to imprison him for life. This is because of the automatic appeals–all of the extreme measures we take to be sure he is really guilty. Extreme yes, but we still make mistakes. A lot of mistakes, as DNA has recently shown.

Since DNA evidence has been available, it has shown so many death row prisoners to be wrongly convicted that several states have put a moratorium on capital punishment. Every state should do that.

I see no reason why anybody else should ever be executed in the United States. Men or women who commit heinous crimes should be locked up for the rest of their natural lives to protect the rest of us from them.



Bernie Sanders: Is He the Only Presidential Candidate with a Functioning Brain?

Bernie says the most serious problem facing our country is that “we don’t discuss the most serious problems facing our country.”

I never intended this to be a political blog, but there doesn’t seem to be any choice. This Presidential election is just too weird. And it matters.

I’m afraid of Hillary. It’s not her age; Reagan was her age when he was elected. It’s not her gender. It’s not so much the email thing, although that’s a bit awkward. It’s Benghazi, and the fact that it has never been explained.

I can’t word the basics any better than Wikipedia and still get all the information in:

On September 11, 2012, the U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi was attacked by a heavily armed group of 125-150 gunmen, whose trucks bore the logo of Ansar al-Sharia, a group of Islamist militants, also known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, working with the local government to manage security in Benghazi. U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service Information Officer Sean Smith, and CIA contractors and former Navy SEALS Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed during a series of raids, commencing at nightfall and continuing into the next morning. Ten others were injured.


It was 9-11 all over again, exactly 11 years later; and here was another attack on the United States by Al Qaeda.

I can’t remember exactly. Was it 14 hours the attack lasted? Or 18? It was all night and part of the morning. Potentially long enough to get them some help before it was over. Maybe before it was too late. They repeatedly called for help, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent them none. Why? We don’t know. She refuses to say.

The former Navy Seals across the street wanted to go help, and were ordered to “stand down.” It’s not clear where the order came from. Hillary? We don’t know. Before long the ex-Seals defied orders and went anyway, but they were too late and too few.

Both Hillary and President Obama have continually refused to explain what happened and why no help was sent. When Hillary was questioned later in Congress, she appeared flustered and asked “What does it matter now?” It matters a lot now, Hillary! It might tell us a lot about your character. Maybe good, if we knew the facts. But it doesn’t appear good at all. How can we know if you won’t tell us what happened from your perspective? How can we elect a Commander-in-Chief who appears to have neglected a very bad situation and let four people under her die unaided?

As far as I know, the information hasn’t even been classified. They just refuse to answer.

The Republicans are worse. Every last one of them. Bill Maher hit it on the head when he described them, but I promised not to use that kind of language here. (Sorry, I lost the link; but if you know Bill Maher, you’ll get the idea.) They’re crazy. They’re not all exactly the same kind of crazy, but pretty nearly. At last count, we have 17 of them. I’d vote for ANY Democrat over any of them.

A President’s influence reaches far beyond his or her own term(s). A President appoints Federal Judges, including Supreme Court Justices, as well as various other officials. Federal Judges and Justices remain in office for life or until they decide to retire. A bad judge can mess things up for a long time. And the next President is likely to appoint two or three Supreme Court Justices.

Every one of those climate change denying, religious nut job, big business loving, rich Republicans want to reduce their own taxes even lower than they already are, raise your taxes to make up the difference, teach religion in your kid’s science class, waste billions of your tax dollars rounding up eleven million immigrants (as if that were even possible) and ship them south, outlaw all abortions just as they were 50 years ago, repeal the Affordable Care Act, keep the disastrous War on Drugs going and keep our prisons overflowing with people who weren’t violent until we locked them up, and go to war with ISIS and maybe Iran. And who knows who else?

We MUST NOT let one of these lunatics get in the White House. They’ll set us back 50 years, if we don’t disappear in a mushroom cloud of radioactive smoke first. Besides the damage they’d personally do in office, if we survive, any Federal Judges they appoint would be likely to carry on the carnage for a generation. We MUST have a liberal in the White House, and Hillary is a liberal. For that reason, if Hillary gets the Democratic nomination, I expect to vote for her.

Bernie is even more liberal.

Bernie SandersBernie Sanders (born September 8, 1941) is six years older than Hillary; but he’s still going strong. He describes himself as “philosophically a democratic socialist.”

Don’t let the S word shake you up. He doesn’t want to turn the USA into Russia or China or Cuba. He wants to create a lot of high-paying jobs in a hurry, rebuild our almost ancient highway system and replace rotting bridges and overpasses, make sure everybody eats and sleeps under a roof, make sure everybody gets free healthcare like they do in every other major Western country and pay for it with half the money, split up any bank that’s “too big to fail” so we won’t have to bail them out again, promote clean energy, make every public college or university in the USA tuition free, and stop corporate executives from taking multi-million dollar annual bonuses from their companies while their workers have trouble buying groceries and paying the rent. And he’ll try not to invade anybody. There’s more, but it’s that kind of thing. I’m for it. Check out his website.

Watch the video and see if he doesn’t sound good to you. He makes startling statements like those below–but about a plethora of different problems; not just money. Then he tells us how he’s gonna change things:

  • Between 1980 and 2005, 80 percent … 80 percent of all new income in this country went to the top 1 percent.
  • The top one-tenth of one percent earns 12 cents of every dollar.
  • The top one-tenth of one percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%.
  • 99% of all new income generated today goes to the top one percent.
  • There is something wrong with America when one family– the Walton family– owns more wealth than the bottom 130 million Americans.
  • Today the top 1/10 of 1% owns nearly as much wealth as the bottom 90%.
  • There is something profoundly wrong when (working people are) working longer hours for lower wages, and yet 90% of all new income goes to the top 1%.

Bernie SandersThose statistics stagger the imagination. The middle class is almost gone from this country. That’s not scare talk; it’s factually true. A few billionaires are literally buying candidates who want to reduce their taxes even more than they already are, raise your taxes to make up the difference, and do away with the minimum wage. Otherwise, they want to maintain the financial status quo well enough so the billionaires who finance them will keep getting richer and richer and you and I will keep getting poorer and poorer. If we let them control both Congress and the White House, there’ll be no way to stop them.

A hand-full of billionaires cannot have it all. Consider helping Bernie get the nomination and the White House.



Answer to a Letter

Response to a Letter from a Longtime Friend

I recently visited a slightly older couple whom I don’t see as often as I would like. I’ve known him all my life, and her since I was about 12. The visit was pleasant, but the husband and all able-bodied parties went upstairs for a few minutes to see his office. This left me alone with the wife, since we were the only ones unable to climb the stairs.

They are fundamentalist Independent Baptists, as I also was in my youth; so she asked me something about what I was “doing for the Lord.” I reminded her that I no longer believe in God. (She had known, but said she must have forgotten.) Since the conversation was cut short by the return of the others, she sent me a letter a few days later, continuing the questions.

Below is a slightly edited version of my response. As usual, I am not publishing her letter because I have no permission to do so. I have removed all names to protect the innocent guilty whoever whomever NEVER MIND!

Here’s my letter.

Dear ________,

I received your letter a few days ago. Your questions and comments deserve thoughtful, honest answers, and I’ll try to provide them. I apologize for not sending a handwritten letter, but my fingers don’t work well enough to handle a pen; so I asked (your husband) to print this for you.

You said that I “have no hope”, and that I “give none to others”; but that is not true. Superstition is false hope. As far as I can see, the only true hope is in this life, even though our lives are short. I have hope that our offspring and those with whom they share our planet will be better off than you and I. However, I admit I have more hope for the distant future than for the near future. There is no evidence of any life after death, and I will not try to spread false hope.

You said you read my email, but I don’t know which email you meant. The subjects of God or belief or unbelief come up frequently, and I have written many relevant emails. I usually don’t try to convince other people I’m right, although I’ve been accused of doing so. I do try to answer questions honestly, as I’m doing now. (For example, my most recent email about God was in answer to a question from ________.) I admit that I sometimes find myself “speaking out of turn”, but I try not to do that.

Of course, I also post my beliefs on my blog and elsewhere, so anybody who is interested can read them. Or not. It’s up to them.

You asked who am I “to say there is no God, devil, heaven, hell, Bible, etc.”, but I never said any of those things. You asked me what I believed, and I told you what I believe as briefly as possible. When I say I believe something, I try never to state dogmatically that I’m correct. I only answered your questions about what I believe. It’s my experience that dogma is far more common in belief than unbelief.

You asked what I have to show for the time between ages 6 and 30, while I was a Christian. I’m not sure why  you ask that, since you believe salvation is by faith and  not works. While I have never been as successful at “big” things as you and (your husband), I will say that I directed music for several churches during that time. I organized and sang bass with a gospel quartet (the Heavenly Way Quartet) for a while. Then I learned sign language and ministered to a group of deaf children at E. Berry St. Baptist church. Most important of all, my then wife and I raised two great children of our own.

I do not say now that I was saved. That would be inconsistent with what I now believe. I do say I believed in Jesus then and I believed then that He had saved me. I made my profession of faith at Loving Ave. Baptist church in Fort Worth when I was six years  old and was baptized by Papaw at Jennings Avenue when I was nine. I never doubted I was saved until I was about 30, and was still a Christian until I was about 42. I do not say this to claim any good works for myself, but only because you asked.

No, I didn’t “just want to impress people by reading and quoting the Bible.” I am aghast that you would ask such a thing! Is that why you read and quote the Bible?  (I think not.) I loved the God I then believed in, and losing my faith was a very traumatic thing for about 10  or 12 years.

However, it’s no longer traumatic. I am at peace with what I now believe. It puzzles me very much that you and (your husband) and some others claim to believe in the security of the believer — “once saved always saved” — and yet you seem convinced I’m going to hell when I die. This is completely inconsistent, since I was a believer for many years.

You said you don’t think I’m happy because you only saw me smile one time while I was at your house. In this, you are perceptive. It’s difficult for me to smile when I hurt; and I’ve suffered chronic pain since I was about 15. First were the migraine headaches—every day for about 20 years. Then came the debilitating lower back pain, and now the crippling psoriatic arthritis and peripheral neuropathy. I won’t claim to be  happy most of the time; but, in spite of my constant pain, I am far more content than I was earlier in life.

I appreciate your concern for my salvation, but I simply  don’t agree with you. There are many things I don’t understand; but I don’t think my lack of understanding of anything is evidence for the existence of God. Any god. And I feel absolutely certain that Jehovah is a myth and that Jesus, therefore, could not be his son. And the Bible, with its many contradictions and absurdities, as well as approval of atrocities like slavery, genocide, subservient wives, etc could hardly be the word of a loving God.

Of course, I want to live forever with loved ones in a place of peace, joy, prosperity, and perfect health. I want that as much as anyone does. I just don’t believe such a place exists. And there’s no evidence for hell, a devil, or demons either. If you want to know more about why I became an unbeliever, feel free to read “Saved In the Nick of Time,” under the Personal menu of my blog.

I meant to keep this letter short, but I wanted to answer all your questions fully. I apologize for being so wordy. I love you and (your husband) very much, and I wish you both a long life on earth, improved health, and continued prosperity.

Love, Bill

Religious Trauma Syndrome

A few days or weeks after the film viewing, I came into the house and mom wasn’t there. I stood there screaming in terror. When I stopped screaming, I began making my plan: Who my Christian neighbors were, who’s house to break into to get money and food. I was 12 yrs old and was preparing for Armageddon alone.

No. Not me, personally. It was a patient of Dr. Marlene Winell, a “human development consultant” in the San Francisco Area and author of Leaving the Fold – A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving their Religion

I didn’t suffer this kind of trauma until I was in my thirties, married, and had two young children. That just meant it affected the whole family, of course, although I think I was able to control my terror of hell pretty well in their presence. It took me another ten years after that to realize it was all fiction, and I didn’t need to be afraid. Some people never get to that point, and have the terrible dread of burning in hell forever as long as they live.

I was brainwashed from birth and wasted 25 years of my life serving Him! I’ve since been out of my religion for several years now, but i cannot shake the haunting fear of hell and feel absolutely doomed.

 That’s a terrible way to live.

What’s worse is the lack of help. At least, now people have the internet where they can find support groups, counselling, and new friends. Not so 42 years ago when I left the comfort of my fundamentalist Independent Baptist Church. I no longer had anything in common with my former friends, who could not understand my apostasy. And the new cult I struggled to fit in with for ten years was not much help. They taught we had to “stop sinning,” and I couldn’t. From the frying pan into the fire! Literally, I sometimes thought. (Of course, the Baptists also taught against sin; but they taught a more liberal forgiveness while one struggled to stop sinning. The World Wide Church of God taught you were to stop sinning first, and only then could you be forgiven. Fearful for somebody who can’t seem to stop sinning!)

This article by Dr. Valerie Tarico does a good job of uncovering the trauma and terror that religion is capable of creating.

Resource: http://www.alternet.org/belief/religious-trauma-syndrome-how-some-organized-religion-leads-mental-health-problems?paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

Inerrant Except for . . .

An American family Bible dating to 1859.
American family Bible dating to 1859.

I had a very interesting visitor this morning. A physical therapist. (I’ve seen more than my share of medical-type people for the past couple of years.) She saw my Kindle and asked me what I read.

“Mostly science,”I said.

“What kind of science?”

“My two main interests are cosmology and biological evolution.”

It turned out she was a new earth creationist.

We discussed our differences briefly (and in a very friendly way) as we finished up my therapy for the day. Then it was time for her to go, but I imagine these subjects will come up again in future sessions.

Her insistence that the Bible, as originally written, was the infallible word of God, reminded me of yesterday’s post. It also reminded me of my father, who died many years ago. Dad used to go even further than my therapist. He said the King James Version was the perfect and infallible word of God in English.

“Well, except maybe for one thing,” he added. Dad thought the commandment that says “Thou shalt not kill” should have been translated “Thou shalt do no murder.” He believed this because he believed certain kinds of killing (self-defense, for instance) are not wrong and not murder. “But that’s the only mistake,” he would add. “The rest of the King James Version is God’s Word, and it was translated into English without any other mistakes.”

I agree completely that killing is sometimes justified. I also remember my father with love and respect. Still, I smile at the way Biblical literalists and inerrantists have to rationalize to justify their beliefs.

I’ve Been Sick

For you two — or possibly three — regular readers, I apologize for the days I have recently missed posting here. I have been sick, but I think I’m about back to normal now. Don’t worry. It’s not contagious this way.  😉

Actually, I was trying to create a backlog of pertinent stories to post automatically in such an event, but I couldn’t seem to get more than about four or five days in advance. And they ran out very quickly. Now that I’m about well, I want to amass at least enough good posts to schedule one a day for a couple of weeks. Hopefully, even more. Then when something timely comes up, I’ll post that, too. Occasionally, then, I may have two or even three posts in a single day; but not often. We’ll see how that works out.


For Texans Only

Women's health in Texas
Women’s health in Texas








However, most of you others probably need to take similar measures wherever you live, too.

I sent this letter to my State Senators just a few minutes ago. It’s late, since the committee meeting started today, but you can still have your voice heard if you hurry.

Texas citizens deserve a serious discussion of women’s health and an honest assessment of the consequences of legislative decisions affecting reproductive healthcare in our state. That discussion must include a comprehensive assessment of access to abortion care in Texas, The recent legislation that made abortion access so much harder to find in our state is completely unacceptable.

The failed abstinence-only sex education policies we have pursued in our schools for almost two decades are equally deplorable.

It should have been obvious to reasonable people 20 years ago that”abstinence-only” sex education will never work. Most young people are going to have sex no matter what their teachers tell them, and they need to know how to protect themselves from pregnancy, disease, and rape.

The proposed hearing in Sen. Nelson’s Health and Human Services committee on February 20 will apparently include neither of those critical issues. Please be sure they are added to the agenda.

Texas Freedom Network has provided a form here https://secure2.convio.net/txfree/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=207 to be sure your message gets to the right Senators.