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Can there be gratitude without God?

In Opinion, Politics, psychology, Religion, sociology, Uncategorized on September 7, 2015 at 11:59 am

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOFor those who live without a God to thank, some kinds of gratitude might seem an awkward concept. So, whom do atheists thank for the world around them? Where is gratitude concentrated when benevolent events occur from what non-believers would accredit to random chance? Well, here are two ways people without a god express their thanks.

First, intransitive gratitude, as it’s become known, is a broad, indirect, sense of thankfulness. The beneficiary is thankful in general for life, health, flowers, bugs, whatever, but the gratitude is directed toward nothing specific.

From a practical standpoint, the concept of intransitive gratitude falls apart upon deeper analysis because it leaves people to a perception that random chance has some kind of purpose behind it, which might as well be called “supernatural” in nature. Suddenly, it becomes something akin to religion.

Perhaps then, a more tangible and less unbalanced concept of gratitude is preferable for those who would rather have it more focused. Most “non believers” direct their gratitude at those individuals they consider responsible for the positive events.

Say, for example, atheist Bob has a great meal at a friend’s house one evening. Obviously, he wouldn’t pray over it, but instead thanks his friend who worked for the money that paid for the food that she then cooked. From Bob’s point of view, there was no deity or other supernatural involvement.

yarpBob could trace that gratitude all the way back to the friend’s parents, who decided to have a child, and on and on. It’s more of a cause and effect concept but with some level of human direction.

For someone like Bob, directing the gratitude at some invisible, supernatural force seems illogical and improper. Instead, he prefers to honor the people directly responsible for the events or their subsequent results. It might not be accurate, however, to call this type of gratitude a “belief” because it has tangible beneficiaries – Bob’s friend, her employer, her parents, and so on.

The devout likely see this practice as sacrilegious, to say the least. For them the only “one” responsible for all the good in the world is the god they worship. He or She or It is responsible for everything, and nothing is random.

But is someone like Bob wrong or is his gratitude misplaced? Is he evil? Is he a heathen? Therein hangs the question, and one that can only be answered by the individual affected. Any prejudice or personal judgment, however, should be left out of the equation.

Indeed, it would be hard to argue against the idea, in the case of Bob’s meal, that the people who grow, package, ship, prepare and serve food, share a fair portion of the responsibility in his enjoyment of it, godly intervention not withstanding. So being grateful to those people would be highly appropriate.

On the other hand, to the logical eye, and without context, someone clench-eyed, bowing over the dinner plate with clasped hands and appearing to be talking to his or herself would seem quite silly. As with so many concepts, it’s all a matter of personal perception.

Gratitude must be measured and delivered by the grateful in his or her own way. If someone is religious, they’ll likely pray in thanks. For the less rigidly devout, it may be something more informal. Atheists or agnostics may thank the people directly, as Bob did in the example.

Religious or not, it’s important to keep in mind that nothing happens without some human intervention, somewhere down the line, even if not readily apparent. Every decision made by each person has some kind of an effect on the lives of countless others. So directly thanking people for their participation in some good fortune is always a kindness.

Regardless of where gratitude is directed – God, the grocer, a famer, an employer – being generally appreciative of the goodness in life will never be misplaced, even if it’s just within one’s own thoughts.

Remember that good things happen, not to those who wait, but who act. Recognizing good fortune and taking action is just as important as thanks given to those believed responsible.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com

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Don’t talk to me about, “life.”

In Health, Opinion, psychology, Religion, sociology, Uncategorized on May 28, 2015 at 11:10 am

Deer In Headlines

Special Edition 

By Gery L. Deer

dih-logo-SE“I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, ‘Where’s the self-help section?’ She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.” ― George Carlin

No kidding, don’t talk to me about life. I don’t have a clue what to tell you. It’d be great if I could suddenly sound like one of those know-it-all high-dollar advice columnists but, really, they’re full of it too.  You’d have more luck following the meaningless advice from inside your next fortune cookie at the local Chinese restaurant.

Advice columnists, TV experts, so-called “life coaches,” or your favorite self-help author or motivational speaker must be infinitely smarter than any of us regular folks. After all, they motivated your money right out of your wallet; genius, wouldn’t you say? In reality, one can tell you what to do about the perils and promises of life except you.

Life is one of those subjects about which I have never felt confident offering an opinion, nor should anyone else. The very idea that anyone has it figured out or could possibly understand the complexities of someone else’s situation is not just ridiculous, it’s a little insulting.

Special, personal hat tip to the late author, Douglas Adams, who helped to put this writer's perspective into focus.

Special, personal hat tip to the late author, Douglas Adams, who helped to put this writer’s perspective into focus.

If anyone could actually manage such a thing, it would mean that there is nothing inherently special or unique about our lives. It implies that everyone lives a sort of cookie-cutter existence, with no peaks, valleys or crevices, and that’s just silly.

Life is complicated. It cannot be sorted out with an hour on the psychiatrist’s couch or because of some nonsense from a self-help book. We all have to iron it out for ourselves. That’s not to say we don’t need some help sometimes, but it’s not going to come from something you saw on an infomercial at 3 o’clock in the morning.

Even religion offers no answer to such multifaceted issues as, “What should I do with my life?” Religion also guts your wallet without providing a single, concrete solution. In fact, without an incredible level of ambiguity, religion couldn’t exist at all.

Your faith may provide you with peace of mind, but leaving everything “in God’s hands,” is a little like letting go of the wheel while barreling down the highway at 70 miles per hour. I’d say He probably expects you to steer. And, to be fair, science has no solutions either.

For those empirical folks out there, Charles Darwin might have been able to tell you how animals changed over the millennia, but he had no clue how the evolution of your life should proceed. Sometimes you just have to work things out on your own.

Life coaches, support groups, psychobabble – it all comes down to the person you see in the mirror. Everyone has an opinion about your life, but before taking it, you need to look at the source of that information. What kind of shape is their life in?

It’s always puzzling when someone takes marriage advice from a friend or relative whose relationships are a wreck.  That’s kind of like asking a demolition derby driver to teach drivers education. They know how, but the results might be less than desirable.

Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss) once said, “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” That is probably the best way to look at your world. Occasionally we’re looking too hard for answers to difficult questions with straightforward resolutions. But you won’t find your answers in a self-help workshop or in an advice column.

When standing at a fork in the road, there comes a time when you have to pick a path and start walking. You put one foot in front of the other, get moving and own it, whatever the outcome. If you do that, on your terms, at least you’ll know it was your decision to go left instead of right, to charge ahead instead of turning back. It will be yours, because we are responsible for the paths our lives take and, after all, the journey is the real destination. Make it a good one.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com

Yoga studio ribbon cutting and free class in Beavercreek May 19

In Business, Dayton Ohio News, Economy, Education, Health, Religion on May 5, 2015 at 1:05 am
Innerlight Yoga and Wellness offers a variety of classes.

Innerlight Yoga and Wellness offers a variety of classes.

Beavercreek, OH  – Innerlight Yoga and Wellness invites the public to share in celebration as they cut the ribbon on a new facility and celebrate a second anniversary in Beavercreek. A free open house is scheduled for 5:00PM, Tuesday, May 19, 2015, at the new location, 1265 N Fairfield Road, with the official ribbon cutting ceremony slated for 5:30PM. Open house visitors are also invited to attend a free, 45-minute, “all levels” yoga class beginning at 6:15PM, RSVP requested.

Jen Ater is the owner of Innerlight Yoga and Wellness. She has been teaching since 2005 and holds a master’s degree from Antioch University in yoga studies with a focus on yoga therapy.

Ater started out in Indiana but opened her first studio in Yellow Springs, Ohio in 2008, then moved to Beavercreek five years later. Innerlight Yoga and Wellness offers somewhere between 24 and 26 classes each week ranging from gentle, restorative yoga to more active, hot power yoga. The studio also offers private yoga sessions, massage, yoga therapy, and other wellness services.

“We have a wide variety of classes, as a human being shows up in many different body shapes and sizes, different ages, different health and mobility issues,” said Ater.  “So, I find that it’s important to offer yoga that’s available for everyone and make it as inclusive as possible.”

Jen Ater, Instructor and owner of Innerlight Yoga and Wellness.

Jen Ater, Instructor and owner of Innerlight Yoga and Wellness.

“I try, on the fly, to present yoga to all different types of people in a down-to-earth way,” said Ater, who, over the years, has taught yoga in diverse settings from chiropractic offices to juvenile detention centers. “Sometimes maybe I failed, but I think that someone who is truly successful has to fail quite a lot in order to really know what they’re doing.”

“I don’t think there’s anyone with as much experience teaching in as many different environments,” she suggested. “And people like the simplicity of our studio. It’s well-kept and organized. It’s also not an overly feminine environment, but very neutral in terms of feminine or masculine.”

Outreach is also a big part of the mission at Innerlight. “I am not

Watch Jen Ater on WDTN, TV2's LIVING DAYTON --- http://wdtn.com/2015/05/14/innerlight-yoga-wellness/

Watch Jen Ater on WDTN, TV2’s LIVING DAYTON — http://wdtn.com/2015/05/14/innerlight-yoga-wellness/

happy, unless I feel like I’m helping people,” explained Ater. Although the programs are not yet in order, Ater has a history of organizing community outreach programs such as the YS Youth Yoga Project, a grant-funded free yoga immersion for Yellow Springs School’s students and staff. “Three percent of the studio’s revenue will go towards outreach programs to bring yoga to schools and other organizations that cannot afford to provide classes,” she continued. “We want to make a difference, on many levels.”

Light refreshments will be provided at the open house, and space is limited for free yoga class, so those interested in attending are asked to RSVP by email to Erin at info@innerlightwellness.net. For more on classes and schedules, call 937-306-8235 or visit Innerlight Yoga and Wellness online at http://www.innerlightwellness.net. CLICK HERE to watch the WDTN-TV2 interview with Jen Ater.

Water: Here’s to your health.

In Education, Health, Opinion, psychology, Religion, Science, Senior Lifestyle, Uncategorized on February 9, 2015 at 1:37 pm

DIH LOGOHi, I’m Gery and I’m a recovering soda-holic (or “pop”-aholic if you prefer). There was a time when I would drink a 12-pack of soda (generally Cherry Coke) within a couple of days. I was an addict – sugar and caffeine were my drugs of choice.

Since I come from a family with a propensity for diabetes, I’d have to guess that drinking that much soda would only push me closer to the Insulin fan club. But all of that changed for me when I was helping to care for my mother and discovered, first hand, the health-promoting properties of water.

My mother, Lois, had already been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia when she broke her hip and entered a local nursing home for physical therapy. During her stay, her dementia symptoms seemed to worsen more quickly than anticipated.

Soon she more anxious and unresponsive and always seemed to be suffering from some kind of urinary infection. Most of these issues were waved away by the staff as “normal” for a medicated, bed and wheelchair-bound senior with Alzheimer’s disease. Not in my book it wasn’t.

I paid closer attention to her daily care and noticed that she rarely drank anything. Once in a while a staffer would fill a plastic hospital-style pitcher with water and place it on the night table. But that was all; they just sat it down and left.

By this time dementia had diminished Mom’s awareness of hunger or thirst and even if she had wanted a drink she wouldn’t have been able to get it herself. Unless I, or another family member, poured it for her, the water usually sat there, untouched.

Gery and his family used the green tumbler in the photo to measure the amount of water Lois Deer received. It was filled twice per day - apx 0.5 gallons total.

Gery and his family used the green tumbler in the photo to measure the amount of water Lois Deer received. It was filled twice per day – apx 0.5 gallons total. (Photo Copyright 2015 GLD Enterprises Communications.)

She seemed to get worse so we decided to take her home and care for her ourselves. First on the agenda was to increase her water intake to around a half-gallon a day. That may not sound like much but, since water makes up approximately 60-percent of a person’s body weight, at 78 pounds the volume was significant.

Mom was given water regularly throughout the day and at meal time. With proper hydration and more consistent, personalized care, her physical and mental health improved more than I can adequately express.

Alzheimer’s disease continued its rampage, but we cared for her full time until her death in 2011. Still, I am convinced that better hydration increased her quality of life over those last two years in ways no medication could have achieved.

I’ve also since learned we had been right about the relationship between her behavioral deterioration and dehydration. In seniors, dehydration can lead to serious health problems, such as constant urinary tract infections, skin deterioration, and even present symptoms such as confusion and behavioral changes, much like classic dementia.

Many seniors resist drinking water, but I couldn’t tell you why except there may be a generational component perhaps related to quality. My parents, for example, grew up in the Appalachian foothills of southern Ohio where most of the drinking water came from creeks and shallow wells where the water probably wasn’t too palatable.

While I was caring for Mom I nearly eliminated soda from my diet and quadrupled the amount of water. It was an acquired taste, to be sure, but now my glucose levels are much lower and I genuinely “feel” better. It may not seem like much but I consider this achievement significant, particularly since it was pretty much the only major change I’ve made.

I still have a Coke a couple of times a week (which I rarely seem to finish) but I’m convinced that more water has made all the difference in improving my overall health. Hopefully by starting now, I won’t be so hard to convince at age 70 when any level of dehydration could cause more serious problems.

As for how much you should drink, the typical recommendation for adults is 8 glasses of “fluid” each day. But there really is no precise amount. You’ll have to judge for yourself based on the needs of your own body. Either way, you’ll feel better.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is provided by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com.

A short discussion of time.

In Entertainment, history, Literature, Opinion, psychology, Religion, Science, sociology, Technology, Uncategorized on January 12, 2015 at 12:51 pm

DIH LOGOTime is a concept, at least on Earth, unique to humans. No other creature has a sense of time nor do they seem to miss it. When deprived of its constant ticking, however, humans do indeed miss it – sometimes to the point of madness. People can go insane without the ability to follow the hands around the clock, chasing them as if to pursue food or shelter.

But time simply doesn’t exist. With all due respect to clock makers and the people who force you wait incredulously for an hour after arriving on punctually for a doctor’s appointment, time has no basis in reality; none, whatsoever. Oh sure, early man followed the sun up and down and watched moon phases to generate a calendar with which he soon began measuring the march of days. But he (figurative “he,” not intended to slight the fairer sex) is the only creature on the planet that has done so.

Contrary to the beliefs of theoretical physicists and science fiction fans, the “space-time continuum” is, for lack of a better word, hooey. Time travel will never be possible, forward or backward, regardless of whether one climbs into a souped-up DeLorean or a Frigidaire. It’s just impossible to physically move through a “concept.”

GLD_DIH_JAN15_TIMEThe great physicist, Albert Einstein, couldn’t have said it better when he theorized that time was relative to the position of the spectator. Time exists only in a single instant and even then only in the mind of the observer. There is no yesterday; no tomorrow. Man has no future and no past.

“History,” as it is referred to, is merely the recorded experience of one onlooker in a particular moment, captured in human memories, cave paintings, crayon, photos, writings, and now selfies. One cannot pass to and fro through history and every moment is affected by whom or whatever is present at that instant, without exception; otherwise referred to as “causality.”

For creatures with such a self-confident understanding of the passage of time, human beings certainly spend a great deal of it wastefully, ignoring the precious moments that can never be revisited or repeated. Mankind can be so caught up in his own affairs that important lessons whiz right by his primate-anchored brain cells, forcing him to forget to learn from his recorded past.

In youth, human beings tend to feel, somewhat accurately, that time is endless. In fact, since it is nothing more than a concept, time is endless, but the lifetime of the person is what turns out to be far more limited.

Young people burn up their early years in the ridiculous pursuit of high school glory, good grades, the first of a string of hopeless romantic partnerships, and, eventually, trying to get into the latest night spot by claiming to be older. Sadly, none of these efforts generally result in a fortunate use of time, mostly ending in yet another suitcase on the ever overstuffed baggage cart of life.

As the cart grows, letting go of some of that baggage is something with which humans have an incredibly difficult time. Resolving the past often requires thousands of dollars and hours on the analysts couch, but to no end. Life is cumulative, but time isn’t.

Eventually, humans created machines to measure time’s conceptual passing. Clocks are designed to offer a graduated visual representation of the passage of conceptual time based originally on the movements of the sun. In reality, it was the movement of the earth that was being marked.

Clocks and calendars are man’s way of trying to wrangle time to behave the way he wants it to. The fact is, since he created the idea of time, he has had complete control of it all along but never realized it.

Whether it’s being measured or not life goes on. Human beings would be far happier if they spent less time wallowing in the past or worrying about the future.

As hair turns grey and bones go brittle, the clock continues to tick down the conceptual passage of time. But real or not, the most important thing anyone can do is try to appreciate that one, amazing, wondrous moment of time within which everyone exists.

 

The Jamestown Comet.com Publisher / Editor Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer based in Jamestown, Ohio. More at gerydeer.com.

 

 

 

 

Propaganda still has power over Americans

In Dayton Ohio News, Health, Local News, National News, News Media, Opinion, Politics, psychology, Religion, State News, Uncategorized, World News on October 27, 2014 at 9:42 pm

DIH LOGOPolitics and religion both thrive on propaganda, some of it factual, some creatively manufactured. Either way, people will buy into almost anything when you hit them at the gut level. Emotions ride highest when fear is used as the manipulation point.

In 1938, Orson Welles managed to terrify the radio listening public as he destroyed America by Martian invasion in his version of H.G. Wells’, “War of the Worlds.” Of course, it was all a Halloween offering, a prank, “the radio equivalent of dressing up in a sheet and jumping out from behind a bush and saying, ‘boo,’” as Welles put it. But it was, for lack of any other analogy, an hour of “propaganda;” a radio play written to sound exactly like genuine news bulletins, and people fell for it.

According to the dictionary definition, propaganda is information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, often used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view. A deceptive radio broadcast may not be likely to have the same effect today, but if the current Ebola virus scare is any indication, Americans are still far from immune to the effects of well-crafted media spin.

With virtually no qualified medical information being distributed within the propaganda (probably the best word to describe most of the information being circulated), politicians, the media, and the endless barrage of know-it-all cable TV commentators are spreading speculation, misinformation and fear, unabated.

As one might expect, election season has to be one of the most prominent times for the spread of heavy-handed, negative propaganda. Despite laws to limit how “misleading” political ads can be, there is still so much being dispersed that it staggers the imagination of the thinking person as to how it is even allowed.

With fewer people concerned about the accuracy of news reporting these days, believing any blog they run across on Google, media spin no longer needs even to be well-crafted for the masses to fall victim to its intent. There are still, bafflingly, people out there who think that what they see on the news or Internet must be the truth. Not so much “fact,” but truth.

Is the Ebola scare really the menace it's made out to be by politicians and media?

Is the Ebola scare really the menace it’s made out to be by politicians and media?

The spread of propaganda does not require facts but implies truth. Make enough people believe in an idea, factual or not, and it becomes “truth,” at least to those people. Once spread, that truth ends up being the predominant viewpoint and changing the minds of those who fall for it is a challenge, to say the least. Oddly enough, this is the same basis upon which every religion in history has been established.

As pointed out many times in “Deer In Headlines,” decisions are rarely made from factual information but more often based on emotional satisfaction. What makes a person feel good is far more powerful than a list of unemotional statistics. Once again, fear can be one of the most powerful emotions of them all and that is exactly the point.

Without fear, propaganda has much less of an effect. Political propaganda plays on the fear of the voter, suggesting that he or she will suffer under the rule of the opposing candidate – higher taxes, less food on the table, fewer jobs, and so on. In religious propaganda, the fear is purgatory, Hell, or whatever the particular denomination chooses to promote as the reason to show up every Sunday and ante up in the plate as it goes by.

There is, without question, a serious problem concerning the spread of the Ebola virus in the United States. But there is also, sadly, a tremendous opportunity here for politicians to cash in on the fears of those who are probably already paranoid about such things, enhancing the real threat enough to justify the need for such publicity.

Those fifteen minutes of fame come with a high cost, mainly in the stress and emotional trauma experienced by the people who trust their government to take care of them. Avoiding future panic means that people simply need to be cautious about what they take as “fact,” versus what they believe to be “truth.”

 

The Jamestown Comet.com editor Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer based in Jamestown, Ohio. More at deerinheadlines.com.

Support religious freedom by defending rights of atheists

In Education, history, Local News, Media, National News, Opinion, Politics, psychology, Religion, sociology, Uncategorized on September 3, 2014 at 11:24 pm

dih-logo-SEFor what is apparently the first time ever, an openly atheist candidate is running for United States Congress this fall. James Woods, an atheist Democrat, is seeking election in the Arizona 5th Congressional District, a region well known as strictly Republican. According to a CNN op-ed piece by columnist Carlos S. Moreno, Woods will be the only congressional candidate to ever run after outing himself as a non-believer.

As it turns out, under the constitutions of eight American states, atheists are banned from holding public office: Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas (Source: The Washington Post). More accurately, the restriction applies to those who deny the existence of, “a Supreme Being,” or “Almighty God,” the wording varies.

Regardless of whether people agree with it, such bans would seem to violate Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, which states, “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” It’s probable that any related civil suit would eventually land at the feet of the United States Supreme Court which would undoubtedly have to rule these laws unconstitutional.

Even so, most atheists stay, “in the closet,” so to speak, to avoid social repercussions and public scrutiny and rarely do they attempt to run for political positions. It might be assumed that the anti-atheist rules were originally established to ensure that public servants would have a predictable moral fiber.

But, the very idea that the religious are inherently “moral,” is, in a word, ridiculous. History is full of religiously-sanctioned violations of God’s moral commandments, from centuries of open warfare to decades of child abuse. As usual, many of the devout try to pretend none of it ever happened. So, in a completely predictable act of contradiction, violations of God’s laws are fine so long as they serve a “higher purpose.”

Likewise, the moral character of a politician is supposed to be part of the reason why people choose to elect him or her to office. Sadly, a disturbing lack of morality is evident in many high-ranking politicians, who spend much of their time lying, cheating and stealing. These are the same men and women who, at some point, stood up in front of their God and everyone else and swore to their personal integrity and commitment.

Easy examples come to mind like John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton, who were known to be serial adulterers, and it could be argued that the very definition of politician should include, “liar.” In any case, one needn’t be a Christian, nor a member of any other religion, to have a well-aligned moral compass.

Put simply, being frightened into morality by the threat of fire and brimstone only goes so far in keeping people on the straight and narrow, particularly those who crave power and believe themselves at some point to be above retribution. It seems like it would be better to have a public servant who has found his or her own moral direction rather than having it lorded over them by fear of suffering in the hereafter.

Regardless of how the devout are behaving when no one is looking, however, what Americans need to understand from all of this is that freedom from religion must be protected in order to preserve its uninhibited practice. The fine balance between freedom “from” and “of” religion is necessary to ensure every citizen can practice his or her faith openly, all while any other may enjoy none at all. It goes both ways.

Put another way, no one likes to have religious groups going door to door pedaling their ideology. So why is it alright for anyone else to do the same thing simply using more socially acceptable methods, such as being coerced into declaring a religion before qualifying for political office?

Up until now a great many public servants who have affirmed a religious affiliation and filled speeches with thanks to God for their success have managed to shame both their religion and their office with shaky morality. In the end, the most devout Christian can take the same oath as their atheist counterpart and guarantee no greater a moral platform. If history is any indicator, it might even be less.

 
Gery L. Deer is the editor and publisher of The Jamestown Comet.com and a syndicated independent columnist.

 

Hobby Lobby ruling sets religious freedom in business

In Business, Charities, history, Media, National News, Opinion, Politics, Religion, sociology, Uncategorized on June 30, 2014 at 11:59 am

DIH LOGOOn June 30th, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby’s suit to be exempted from the ObamaCare mandate forcing companies to provide contraceptive coverage to employees, including the controversial Plan B, or “morning after,” drugs. Many conservative business owners equate these drugs to abortion since they’re designed to terminate a pregnancy within hours of conception.

The primary argument to the court is whether the owners or management of a corporation has the same rights to freedom of religion as an individual. The Obama administration has already set exceptions for various religious non-profit organizations, which, other than their non-profit status, are structured similarly to their for-profit counterparts.

In March of this year, according to TheHill.com, the U.S. House of Representatives, “Approved the Equitable Access to Care and Health (EACH) Act, H.R. 1814. The bill allowed people avoid buying health insurance under ObamaCare if they could cite a religious reason. People seeking an exemption would have to include sworn statements in their tax returns explaining their objection to health insurance.” In effect, all they needed to get out of paying the federal healthcare mandate (tax) was a note from home.

A further question is whether there is a fundamental business difference between a non-profit corporation and a for-profit corporation? The practical answer is, no. Charity or not, a corporation is created to protect the individual operators from legal responsibility with regard to the business. Most non-profit filings are for tax and donation purposes, a process that seems outdated and inefficient with the advent of mega churches and multi-billion-dollar evangelical organizations.

uscourtIn America, there are countless religiously-focused, non-profit corporations worth millions more than some of the largest for-profit businesses. The Christian television network, Daystar, for example has been approved by the Internal Revenue Service as a “church,” according to NPR.com news. Celebrity, sometimes politician evangelist Pat Robertson and the late Billy Graham registered with the IRS as “religious organizations,” making them exempt from most taxes. All they had to do was file disclosure papers.

According to available records, NPR.com reports that the top three evangelical television broadcasters – Christian Broadcast Network, Trinity Broadcasting Network and Daystar Television — have a combined net worth of more than a quarter of a billion dollars. It is unknown whether the corporations that operate these broadcasters have filed for religious exemption under the healthcare reform laws.

The question persists, however, that if the only difference between a for-profit corporation and these mega non-profits is an earnings disclosure, why have the distinction at all? Certainly there are for-profit companies that give away millions of dollars in charitable funds each year but still have to comply with the law in every respect. Why then are religious non-profit organizations exempt from anything, much less a controversial healthcare mandate that has American small business struggling to comply or face bankrupting penalties?

The court’s latest decision with regard to religious exemption could have long-reaching implications, and not just in the healthcare arena. Giving a for-profit entity the same constitutional protections provided to non-profit religious groups could cause a flood of lawsuits ranging from tax law to equal employment regulations. Once again, major non-profits have million-dollar earners at the top, private jets, limousines and pretty much every other extravagance thought only to exist in for-profit American business.

If a church – any church – can make a case for religious freedom from legal mandates, why can’t a business owner cite his or her – or their – own religious beliefs for the same purposes? Is the constitution not written for everyone or does it exist specifically to meet the needs of religious groups so they can avoid taxes and dodge the law at their convenience?

This argument poses a great many questions and there will likely be countless more as ObamaCare reaches further corners of commerce. But, if that’s not enough to chew on, here’s another one. What happens if a Muslim, Jewish or non-Christian group requests exemption as well? Will the Christian right fight against their having the same protections?

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer and contributor for WDTN-TV2’s LIVING DAYTON program. More at www.gerydeer.com.

 

More family advocacy needed for elder care

In Children and Family, Health, Opinion, psychology, Religion, Senior Lifestyle, sociology, Uncategorized on April 16, 2014 at 1:31 pm

DIH LOGOCaring for an aging parent is, in my opinion, one of the most difficult and often painful experiences life throws our way. Providing a safe, healthy environment for an elderly family member is just as taxing as doing the same for a child.

What makes this process even harder is when the parent is resistant to help or simply won’t accept that they are no longer in a position to take care of themselves. Poor decisions, an inability to recognize when driving has become hazardous and, worst of all, when they will listen to anyone’s advice but that of their children, complicates the care process and causes serious damage to the parent/child relationship.

It’s hard to watch parents age and knowing you’re headed the same direction only solidifies the reality of it all. It’s harder still when they resist every attempt to maintain their health and sometimes doctors undermine your efforts by telling them they don’t have to do anything they don’t want to.

I understand that people need to make their own choices, but some shrink in a hospital cannot possibly know an individual’s mental status by talking to them once for three minutes and asking a half dozen pointless questions. “Do you know where you are? Do you know what day it is? Can you draw this box? Write your name.” “Draw this box,” are they kidding?

How about we ask them what their checking account number is, or the name of their insurance company? How about asking when they last paid their phone bill? These are vital questions to someone who is supposedly “competent” and yet this is not what is included in a psychiatric evaluation for a senior’s ability to make his or her own decisions.

Then there are those who are intent on taking advantage of the elderly person’s desire to feel “needed” and useful. These individuals worm their way into the lives of the elderly, showering them with compliments and creating a rift between the senior and his or her family. These unscrupulous people are trying to get money and property away from the senior and alienate children and others who are trying to protect their interests.

Deer In Headlines author Gery Deer is helping his brother Gary Jr and sister Cathy to take care of their father, Gary Sr. and it's rarely easy work.

Deer In Headlines author Gery Deer is helping his brother Gary Jr and sister Cathy to take care of their father, Gary Sr. and it’s rarely easy work.

Laws addressing the rights of seniors, as well as those regarding patient rights, seem to take no account to dementia and speak only to protecting them from family members bent on securing money or locking them away in a nursing home. What about those of us who are trying to protect our parents and provide a safe, secure life for them in their own home as long as possible? Where is our protection and support? There is none.

Preserving a person’s dignity is difficult enough without being able to handle even the most basic decisions absent a mile of legal documents in place only to provide more money for lawyers. Power of attorney documents are meaningless unless the person is thoroughly incapacitated and no one will help without signing over deeds and financial statements.

Believe it or not, sometimes money has nothing to do with it! There are actually situations when families are trying to preserve an aging parent’s lifestyle, dignity and financial security. Someone should be out there advocating for us, not making it harder. Unless you’re loaded with money, there is just no support for people dealing with this kind of problem.

So what is to be done? Good question. I am all for protecting the rights of the elderly and maintaining their ability to make decisions, but there are many degrees of incompetence between fully cognizant and Alzheimer’s dementia and that should be taken into account.

My mother lost all of her reasoning ability as Alzheimer’s set in and it nearly bankrupted my family to get her under a guardianship so we could keep her safe and well-cared for. But when a senior has some competence but not all, that needs to be addressed and the family should be able to have some advocacy for protecting the interest of that individual without so many roadblocks.

Legislation should be put into place for the varying degrees of dementia and stop relying on the ‘one size fits all’ psychiatric evaluations that prove nothing more than the person can read a calendar.

 

Gery L. Deer is the editor and publisher of The Jamestown Comet.com an independent columnist and business writer based in Jamestown, Ohio. More at http://www.gerydeer.com.

 

It takes a maverick to make a difference

In Education, National News, Opinion, Politics, psychology, Religion, Science, sociology, State News, Uncategorized, World News on March 24, 2014 at 7:59 am

DIH LOGOAccording to one definition, a maverick is, “an unorthodox or independent-minded person.” But a maverick is also someone who chooses not to give in to the pressures of society, breaking ranks, not for personal gain, but in an effort to improve conditions or expand knowledge for everyone.

In the 16th Century, the now revered scientist Galileo Galilei would certainly have fit the definition of maverick. At a time when the church kept tight control over the public’s understanding of the world around them, Galileo’s challenge that the earth was not actually the center of the universe but instead part of a solar system with our sun at its center was controversial.

Of course he was eventually proven right, but standing against such a powerful entity as the Catholic Church sent Galileo to be tried for heresy. There are countless cases like this throughout history, most related to individuals who chose to challenge long-standing beliefs in politics or religion.

Today, as in Galileo’s time, society is taught and expected, from an early age, to keep quiet; never to upset the status quo for fear of retribution. Those willing to stand up and be heard shape the most change in the world, but often pay a high price for their contribution to progress. Much of what society deems acceptable is dependent on one’s position and the sphere of influence there encompassed.

whatsrightFor example, it is unacceptable in many religious groups for a married couple to divorce. They are expected to remain together indefinitely for the good of the church, their families and so on, regardless of the situation, even in cases of physical abuse. It stands to reason, therefore, that the first few individuals who challenged these rules were certainly dealt with harshly. Fortunately, over time, this type of censure has eased somewhat, at least publically.

On the whole, it is difficult to greatly influence public perception and alter the behavior of a society or to get people to remove the blinders of ideology and accept the possibility that there are other ways of thinking. Ignorance, prejudice and misunderstanding usually lead to fear and resistance.

It should also be made clear that religious groups are certainly not alone in such ridiculously judgmental behavior. Anyone who challenges established norms can find themselves on the receiving end of some pretty unpleasant retribution, particularly in the workplace.

Often employees are never to question authority or decisions made by their superiors, otherwise face reprisal. But what does one do when superiors are actually breaking the law? In 1989, Congress passed the Whistleblower Protection Act. The law is designed to shield workers against retaliatory personnel action – meaning, essentially, it keeps them from being fired – for “blowing the whistle” on illegal activities perpetrated by their employers.

Unfortunately, there is no such protection for the everyday person who simply wants to do the right thing. From Moses and Lady Godiva to Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, taking a stand to alter deeply engrained social beliefs has never been a task for the weak-hearted.

Most people are discouraged by how much retribution might be taken out on them for going against the grain. Sometimes, however, just standing up for the little things can help to affect larger changes. Making a difference in the boardroom, at school or even in the hallowed halls of church might ruffle some feathers, but if the purpose is worthwhile, it would be wrong not to do something.

So, what about those by-standers who agree with the maverick but are afraid to stand with her? If only one other person supported the cause then another would as well, then another, and another. That’s how revolutions are started in the face of resistance. So the next time you see an injustice being done and you have the opportunity to act, what will it be: Maverick or conformist?  Ω

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business contributor to the WDTN-TV2 program, “Living Dayton.” More at www.gerydeer.com.