Posts

Is It Right to Believe?

It seems to me that many people don’t know what to believe anymore, at least that’s what they tell me. I’ve also met some recently who think they believe, but don’t know why; that’s apparent from their clichéd responses to my query about the basis of their belief. These two groups concern me, but not nearly as much as those who have simply decided not to believe anymore at all. I’m not talking here about religious beliefs (though what I’ve said clearly applies to many). Rather, I’m talking about beliefs regarding our everyday world in general, but especially about beliefs regarding political discourse, issues, persons, and events. Too many people have become cynical and disillusioned, weary with fatigue and suspicious of politicians and what they say about themselves and their opponents. For others, their belief system is impenetrable and more than adequate in dismissing contrary opinion and disparaging those who hold different views. The clash that occurs when advocates of incompatible…

The Scandal of Payday Lending

The following article is an expanded version of an op-ed piece published October 3, 2018 in The Gazette in Colorado Springs. The conventional payday loan borrower will take out multiple loans during a year’s time. When you consider that the maximum you can borrow in such a loan is $500, this means the typical borrower could be taking out loans totaling $1,000 or more. But there is absolutely nothing conventional about these loans. Nor does the repayment of these loans follow an economically conventional pattern. Typically, the borrowers are wage-earners who have regular financial obligations that can barely be met by regular income. The paycheck may cover basic predictable expenses, the kind that practically everyone has all the time. But for many payday loan borrowers, there comes an occasion when an unexpected expense occurs that must be met, and there is no discretionary income and thus no flexibility in the distribution of income to include such an expense. Dipping into savings is n…

A Humanist, By Any Other Name

I recently received a brochure from the American Humanist Association (AHA) inviting me to join with the more than twenty thousand others who fill their ranks. I like invitations, especially invitations to join something. It shows that the inviters believe I might have a contribution to make to their efforts to achieve their goals or fulfill their mission. The rhetoric of the brochure clearly demonstrated that the inviters assumed I was a humanist (“As a humanist, you are not alone”), and that I should want to be part of an organization that has such prominent “humanists” as Bill Nye, Margaret Atwood, Alice Walker, Adam Savage, Gloria Steinem, Neil deGrasse Tyson, David Suzuki, Steven Pinker, and Joyce Carol Oats. As if these luminaries aren’t enough, I should know that the association’s membership included such prominent people as Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Sanger, Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, and Katherine Hepburn (all now of blessed memory). Eerily the brochure pinpointed the areas of c…

Can Our Politics Be Moral?

It seems such an odd question. If it strikes us as odd, it’s probably because we’ve become inured to the corruption and duplicity of our current exceedingly-polarized politics. Nowadays, when we think of moral, we probably think there’s an ought hidden in there, as in “we ought to do this, and we ought not do that.” We say to ourselves, “Folks who think or do this are moral, while folks who think or do that are immoral.” That’s conventional wisdom (though for many it is more conventional than wisdom), and each of us quite likely has at least some inchoate sense of the sorts of ideas and behaviors that we would judge to be moral or not. Politics, on the other hand, is about gaining and exercising power through the apparatus of government in order to achieve certain ends, outcomes, purposes, or objectives sought by citizens. In a civil community or society where many people live together under a government, unanimous agreement is extremely rare because the objectives vary; different pe…

Homeless? You're Under Arrest!

So sacred and inviolable is the home that no one may enter it lawfully for any purpose without the expressed consent of the home’s occupant – or a lawfully-obtained warrant based upon probable cause. Whether the home in question is a millionaire’s multi-million dollar mansion overlooking the sweeping valleys of the Rocky Mountains, or an impoverished farmworker’s hovel in southern Arizona, or something in between, the right of the owner to be safe and secure in his or her person and possessions in their place of residence is inviolate. The trajectory of development for this idea goes back to Roman civil laws on privacy, from where the principle was incorporated into English common law. The doctrine of privacy and the right to be safe and secure in one’s own home was articulated by the English jurist Sir Edward Coke, who in 1604 ruled in a case that “the house of every one is to him as his Castle and Fortress as well for defence against injury and violence, as for his repose; … domus …

The Bane and Burden of Homelessness

Like most daily newspapers, the Colorado Springs Gazette has a section for readers’ letters to the editor. Recently the paper published one such letter that demonstrated a remarkable lack of knowledge and understanding regarding the situation of homelessness. In all urban areas across this country, there is a significant and increasing number of homeless persons, and Colorado Springs is no exception. Local and state governments, community-based social service organizations, and city residents are finding themselves ill-equipped to lower these numbers and resolve what many people think of primarily in terms of “problem.” In the letter to the editor, the Gazette reader wrote: “If we are going to solve the problems caused by the homeless population in Colorado Springs, then we need to address the root causes and not the symptoms” (emphasis mine). When I read this, I was crestfallen; the reader cared less about the circumstance of those suffering homelessness and more about the difficult…