Defend the Constitution: Help End Discrimination Against Non-Theists

When he was a kid, one of my best friends joined the Boy Scouts of America. He was a model Scout for the duration of his membership, but that membership was suddenly revoked after about six months—not for misconduct or failure to complete program requirements, but because his Scout Master saw that he identified himself as agnostic on his Myspace.

Such discrimination against non-theists (people who don’t affirm the existence of gods) is surprisingly widespread in the U.S. Many organizations such as the Boy Scouts, who call themselves private even though they benefit from public funds, have discriminatory policies that bar non-theists from membership. According to former Eagle Scout Steve Cozza, “when they want to discriminate, they act as a private organization; when they want money or the use of publicly-funded buildings, venues, or property, they act as a public organization.” Worse than this is our theistic oath of office requirement for federal officials. Congressional representatives, military officers, and other federal employees are often forced to take an oath of office ending with the phrase “so help me God,” and this can prevent well-qualified candidates from serving–just for sticking to their principles. Yet perhaps the worst example of discrimination against nonbelievers is theism as qualification for holding public office being written into numerous state constitutions. The constitutions of South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Maryland, and other states contain clauses that exclude people who do not acknowledge the existence of God or a Supreme Being (phraseology varies) from holding office. In spite of the Supreme Court’s 1961 ruling that such clauses violate the federal Constitution, they are still used to deny those who are not monotheists (which includes those with polytheistic and atheistic religions, like paganism and Buddhism, respectively) the right to serve in state governments.

A dismaying number of Americans are unaware of this problem or just don’t care enough to do something about it, although there are many simple ways to help make it clear that such discriminative policies are both inconsistent with the Constitution and unacceptable to the American public and to help bring them to an end, such as:

  • Writing letters or emailing state and federal representatives about our concerns regarding such discrimination and calling on them to take legislative measures to prevent it and repeal iniquitous clauses.
  • Organizing rallies or petitions in support of equal opportunities for non-theists.
  • Joining organizations such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation and American Civil Liberties Union, or donating to such organizations, or simply taking action online by sending pre-fabricated emails to leaders and lawmakers through their websites.
  • Forming new organizations that promote tolerance and equity among theists and non-theists alike.
  • Sharing concerns about discriminatory policies with groups like the Boy Scouts, petitioning them to admit prospective members regardless of religion or lack thereof, or legally challenging them if rejected for beliefs or lack thereof.

If we all take decisive action, we can bring about the end of discrimination against nonbelievers and fulfillment of promises of U.S. Constitution, made in the First and Fourteenth Amendments. According to the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This implies the freedom to choose any religion or no religion. According to the Fourteenth Amendment, “no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States… nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction equal protection of the laws.” This implies equal opportunities for all, theists and non-theists alike. Clearly, these promises have yet to be fulfilled. However, this can change–and it will, if the historical trend of human progress continues. But such progress is never achieved without effort.

Thus, I urge you all to join me and groups like the FFRF and ACLU in taking action to help end discrimination against non-theists. Hopefully, our collective actions will lead to the dawn of an era where people like my old friend, the would-be Boy Scout, will not have to fear persecution for not sharing the beliefs of the majority.

10 Facts You Didn’t Know About Mesopotamia

These are some of the strangest facts involving the worlds first civilization!

1. Mesopotamian Religion did not believe in the after-life. They believed that all good and bad people go under-ground as ghosts and eat dirt.

2. Their religion also believed that they were servants of god. If you were to ask a person today why they are here they would say because god loves me. Back in Mesopotamia they would say to be a servant of the gods. Talk about population control!

3. Mesopotamia invented the wheel, plow, irrigation systems and the sailboat!

4. Priests would read the livers of chickens or lambs to see what the gods wanted for sacrifices.

5. Priests controlled the irrigation systems and also had more power than the king and queen!

6. Mesopotamia was the very first civilization.

7. The Mesopotamian king ordered the construction of the Hanging Gardens for his wife because she grew up in the mountains and was homesick!

8. Mesopotamia was made up of individual City-states controlled by different powers. They would eventually attack each other and end up under 1 ruler. The people would retaliate and go back to being city-states. This process was repeated many times.

9. Each City-state had its own god!

10. In the Mesopotamian religion there are 4 main gods of Earth, Water, Air and the Heavens. And there were 3,000 lesser gods and each represented an everyday item like a pickaxe. If you were mining and the pickaxe slipped and fell on your foot, the god of the pickaxe hated you!

So there you have it.  The Egyptians were not the only super interesting civilization in the ancient history.

Choice AND Life

by Athar Aamir Khan

Dear friends, I think for all of us life is something that we all relish, acknowledge and perhaps appreciate as well. Life as we know seems to have its own way of living. It hates monotony, and comes like a colourful dilemma, showing bursts of ups and downs, riches and rages, merry and worry and hyssop and hysteric. It often takes us just a moment to realise how every second of our lives relishes and screws us at the same time.

It seems difficult to understand why is it that we find no choice other than accepting life exactly the way it embraces us. Is it that we are really caught in the shackles of our own life or is it that we are only in the loquacity of some gab?

So, greater than life there is something else that we all are striving for and that is the life of choice. I don’t know about life of choice but I feel we definitely can think of choices in life. Our own perception and attitude often drives our senses in our choices.

Be it good or bad, we can acknowledge the possibilities in life and search for some merit in every new situation. Life itself is short; why not enjoy even diversions for the sake of some venture in life.

We need to accept that the grandiosities of today do not guarantee tomorrow’s success. It is just normal to react to unfavourable circumstances unfavourably. After all we are creatures of prejudices and have pre-conceived notions. Our greatest security itself lies in our insecurity.

It is very true that we always find our happiness and sadness buried in our desires but at the same time it is always in our hands to reshape our desires and make our lives self-satiated and the lives with choices.

Hope that we all break our own shackles and fly with the colours of life beyond all desires, means and ends.

The Mortuary Temple of The Pharaoh Queen Hatshepsut

A thousand shades of sandy-brown. Only two miles from the Nile and all hint of green is gone. It is easy to see why the ancient Egyptians called the desiccated ground either side of their narrow fertile strip the Red Lands, from which our word ‘desert’ is said to derive. And since the sun set in the west the western desert was the land of the dead. Here, on the opposite side of the Niles from the great cities lie complexes of tombs and mortuary temples, none more spectacular than the mortuary temple of Hatshepsut, the Pharaoh Queen.


View of the mortuary temple complex

Hatshepsut was one of the few female pharaohs, reigning for about 21 years up to 1458 BC, in the period of ancient Egypt known as the New Kingdom, the time when the Egyptian Empire grew to its greatest extent. A daughter of the old pharaoh Thutmose I by one of his main wives, she married one of her half brothers as his main wife, bolstering his claim to the throne (he was the son of the pharaoh by a minor wife). Her husband / half brother became Thutmose II but he soon died and his son by a lesser wife became the official pharaoh, Thutmose III, with his Hatshepsut as regent because he was still a child.

Hatshepsut seems to have become rather fond of power and soon styled herself pharaoh instead, holding onto the throne even when her son reached the age of majority. Apart from being one of the few female pharaohs, she is famous for sending a large trade expedition to the ‘Land of Punt,’ which brought back many different exotic goods, illustrated on the walls of the temple.

 

The inscriptions from her time aren’t detailed enough to say for definite where Punt was, but leading contenders are Somalia and Ethiopia, with Arabia as another possibility. What is definite is that during her time Egypt was rich and well connected in trade. Wall paintings of piles of goods make it clear what a variety there was to be had for those with the wealth.

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Wall painting from the temple of piles of grave goods

Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple nestles at the bottom of the cliffs that separate the Nile valley from the high desert plateau beyond. It is built in a series of layers, each a large open square, leading up to the main buildings right up against the cliffs. These consists of a long central open corridor with statues of Hatshepsut in the form of the god Osiris and several individual temples to the side.

The main corridor, with statues of Hatshepsut in the form of the god Osiris

It was common for pharaohs, who claimed to be half divine by birth and to ascend to the divine when they died, to depict themselves in the form of gods. Nothing illustrates the quiet alien concepts of their religion and philosophy more than this. Imagine the fuss nowadays if a ruler depicted himself or herself in the form of a god!

One should remember that this is a mortuary temple and not a tomb. Hatshepsut was never buried here. This place was where she would have been prepared for burial and where, for years afterwards, priests would pray for her soul. The concept is similar to a medieval king dedicating a chapel and paying for a priest to sing masses for his soul after his death.

What is truly astonishing about the place is colour of the painted wall carvings, dulled only slightly by the passing of three and a half millennia. One moment, the centuries seem to lie lightly, the merest veil of fine Egyptian gauze separating now from then. The next, the full weight of all those years hits you, and you gasp with wonder.

Effective Pre-K and Kindergarten Classroom Management

Moving-Clip System: A Chart with Super Day (Happy Face) and Bad Day (Sad Face)

This is a great system to help the students regulate their own behavior. Each time when an individual student is mis-behaved, the teacher will ask him/her to move his/her clip down one level. The wall chart has 4 levels. Each student has his/her own clip with a name on it. They all start the day with the clips being placed on the top of the chart at the Super Day level (Happy Face). When each individual is being asked to move the clip when he/she mis-behaves, the clip goes down one level. They are given 4 chances during the day: from “Super Day” to “Good Day”, then to “OK Day” and the bottom is “Bad Day”.

If they ever move the clip in any given day, they are grounded and won’t be able to trade in the stars for a treasure chest toy even if they reach the 20-star reward level right on that day. But this system starts a brand new day each day, so they will still get the chance to go get a treasure chest toy if they don’t move the clip the following day. It is like your account has to be in good standing in order to receive the reward.

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Using Signals or Sign Language

The teacher has taught the class to use some hand signals for the need to use the bathroom and to go for a sip of water. The sign language of the letter “W” is for water, and “R” is for restroom. This way you can eliminate the students from talking to express their needs. Sometimes when one starts talking, the whole class can end up going out of control fairly quickly. This is an effective way to keep them quiet and yet not to ignore their demand.

Make Every Activity to be Associated with a Song

Create or find a song for clean-up, line-up, etc.  When the play time is finished, students are asked to put away the toys and to clean up the room and they use a clean-up song to engage with this activity. And when they need to line up, they will sing the line up song. In every action they do, they sing altogether and this actually allows them to get the job done quickly and smoothly.  I think music often works the wonder to help the kids to get motivated and to get their attention to follow through the entire process and you will get the end result from what it is needed to be done.

Take Time to Relax and Refresh with Music, So the Students Can Get Their Attention Back to Focus on the Teaching Again

One day I learned from our teacher, Mrs. Fristad, that there are times during the day in the class that you may find some students seem to start loosing their focus. Then you can start leading a song, let the students all stand up to stretch, to move around, jump and sing-along. After a short break like that, you can be sure to get their attention and focus back on track again. I learned a great deal from this. Dealing with young children, they easily loose their focus and their mind may just wander around. Singing together can let their steam out and they can then start to re-focus again. Learning can easily revolve around music. Students and the teacher all have fun together and this will boost up the spirits within the classroom and it goes a long way!

Here is a great example you may want to try: