Owned and published by UMHB, The Bells is a biweekly publication. This content was previously published in print on the Opinions page. Opinions expressed in this section do not necessarily reflect the views of the staff or the university.

Uninformed religion in America
Oct05

Uninformed religion in America

America is viewed as a Christian nation, but a recent poll done by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life shows that many so-called Christians are ignorant about the very things they are claiming to believe. Not only is this a sure sign of the downward spiral of religion, but also of the evangelical church’s inability to properly educate believers of the most basic foundations of faith. A faith without a strong foundation will fail. Jesus, the figurehead of Christianity, speaks on this issue in the Bible and tells believers they must be sure of what they believe in order to stand against the Devil’s schemes. If the ultimate leader of a religion demands knowledge of the beliefs, and the followers don’t learn them, that religion is empty and meaningless. Religion in America has become a ritual, held onto for traditional purposes and as a hope to gain moral correctness, but is, for the most part, actually pulling people further away from God through ignorance than it is leading them closer to holiness. Another issue the poll brought to light was that most atheists and agnostics know more about the evangelical religion they don’t believe in than do the people who claim it as the most important factor in their lives. One example of religious ignorance from the survey was reported by The New York Times, which explained that “Fifty-three percent of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the man who started the Protestant Reformation.” Maybe there is a fear among evangelicals that knowledge leads to atheism. Dave Silverman, the president of American Atheists, believes that increasing education is the case. He told The New York Times, “Atheism is… not a lack of knowledge. I gave a Bible to my daughter. That’s how you make atheists.” But if evangelicals are claiming to be Christians, a faith that demands a  person’s complete dedication and life, do they even know what they are agreeing with or pretending to believe in? Or what if atheists confront Christians about their beliefs? One main responsibility of Christians is to witness and share their own faith. Would they even know enough to tell the atheist or agnostic what they believe? This then, is not true faith. A faith that is as simple as believing without any effect on the person’s life is not genuine. This is fire insurance faith. Something a person claims and clings to in times of trouble. A hope to not end up in hell after death. A dream of everything ending well and living in heaven in a nice house with all desires met. The fact that non-believers know...

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Keeping the faith in times of trouble

The beating of my heart increased as I fumbled to find my mother’s telephone number in my contact list. After two rings she answered. “What happened?” I asked. “He found something,” my mother said. Those words held my breath while my insides seeped into my stomach. In my world, those words did not exist. According to the National Cancer Institute, nearly 19,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with primary brain cancers each year. My mother could have been one of them. During my lifetime, I’ve only attended two family funerals, but the possibility of losing a close relative poked my mind. The telephone call I made that day proved I am subject to losing someone I love just like everyone else. For the rest of the day, I wondered what my life would be like if my mother did not overcome this tumor. I resisted the tears ready to drip down my face at any moment. That night, I crawled into bed and prayed for her. The next day, I woke up feeling peace about the tumor in her brain. In my heart, I knew everything was going to be OK. However, people looked at me strangely because I remained upbeat. To them, I was not assessing the illness. I was underestimating the tumor. Consequently, I began to question if I was wrong for being calm. One day I told my fiancé I was scared. “Fear and faith cannot exist together,” he said. After analyzing my family’s obstacle, I knew the peace I felt about my mother’s upcoming operation was not a mistake. God meant to give me serenity. When it came time for surgery, I sat beside my mother in the hospital room watching the doctor explain the operation. Even though the doctor lingered when completing his sentences and seemed more interested in the show that was playing on the TV in the hospital room, I kept the faith. I kissed my mother, said, “I love you,” and watched the nurses roll her away. Sadness grasped my sister and aunt as I tried to console them. I already knew the outcome. My mother was going to be OK. About three hours later, my belief was confirmed. She defeated a quarter of an inch non-cancerous tumor. The National Cancer Institute predicted that 22,020 men and women will be diagnosed with cancer of the brain while 13,140 of them will die from it and other nervous system disorders in 2010. Receiving the worst news is inevitable for many people. At the moment it comes, uncertainty and doubt become overwhelming, but it does not have to be that way. People should...

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Sister Wives celebrity faces investigation

The Utah police recently launched a bigamy investigation into a polygamous family that is starring in a reality TV show. The show, Sister Wives, premiered Sept. 26 on TLC. It depicts the lives of 41-year-old advertising salesman Kody Brown, his three wives, 13 children and three stepchildren. Brown is legally married to one woman but calls two others his “wives” in a spiritual sense. In the plot of the show, he is also courting another woman, Robin, a 30-year-old divorced mother of three, who has the possibility of becoming his fourth wife. According to The Washington Post, “God has revealed to Kody that he should ask Robin to wed him and join the family.” As one could imagine, conflict ensues between the three wives as the show develops. I can understand how Brown and the people at TLC thought this lifestyle would make an interesting television show, but a show that praises polygamy and portrays it in a positive light is degrading the moral values of society. A person cannot marry someone else while they are already married. Not only is it unethical; it’s a crime. Bigamy is a third-degree felony in Utah. Anyone found guilty can serve up to five years in prison. Under the law, bigamy does not only constitute legal marriage contracts but also cohabitation. Marriage is a sacred relationship meant for one man and one woman. Not only does the Bible portray it as a union of two people to become one flesh, but it’s just common sense. On the opposite end of the spectrum, while this man wants to have multiple wives, the number of people who are married has actually dropped in the rest of the country. In 2009, just 52 percent of adults 18 and over said they were married, as opposed to 57 percent in 2000. These issues can both be attributed to the current lack of respect and understanding for the institution of marriage in the U.S. Marriage is a relationship unlike any other on earth. It is a life-long commitment to love, honor and cherish the other person, not just put up with them. Over the years, the divorce rate has risen higher and higher. Many people who get divorced were either not ready to get married or do not understand the covenant they made with their partner. It truly means “for better or worse.” A marriage is about what you can give to the other person, not what you can take from them. In our society today, many people need to relearn the importance and value of marriage instead of abusing this sacred covenant. Marriage is a relationship...

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France to fine for face covering

France’s senate recently passed a law making it illegal for Muslim women to wear burqa style Islamic veils in public. The veils, which cover the face except for the eyes, are part of the traditional dress for some Muslims. This new restriction is not simply taking away a piece of clothing. A burqa is a deep-seated symbol of spiritual identity as well. The French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, dating back to 1789 allows for religious freedom as long as that freedom does not prove to be harmful to French society. A woman wearing a veil is no more harmful to society than a teenage boy wearing his pants around his upper thighs. There is no difference in her garb marking her as a Muslim and his marking him as a thug. Both are expressions of who people are and how they wish to be viewed and defined. The same goes for a businessman. He walks around in tailored pants, a button-up shirt, tie and jacket, giving the impression of professionalism and importance. A Muslim woman walks around with a thin fabric covering her face, giving the impression of devotion, sacredness and modesty. The French bill’s language isn’t specific and clear on what is being banned because of legal issues, but the implied meaning is definitely being heard by Muslims and others around the world. According to CBS News, “the words ‘women,’ ‘Muslim’ and ‘veil’ are not even mentioned in any of its seven articles.” If they were included, the bill would be seen as discriminatory. If the writers of this proposition had to tiptoe around so many words as not to break their own discrimination laws, the intentions of this bill should be thoroughly observed before the Constitutional Council approves it. If the French really wanted to preserve their national identity and values, they would be passing bills outlawing clothing that gives a specific identity to people from all segments of society, not just this one relatively small group. They hope that by forcing women to get rid of their head coverings, they will be more accepted and respected in their communities. But for Muslim women, this stripping of the outward sign of their characteristic values does the opposite and may cause them to seclude themselves from society. More than that, the French government is trying to uphold the secular foundations of the country. This should mean banning all religious identifiers, so why the focus on Islam? Secular infers no religion, not every religion except for one. These women would no longer be able to find their respect and identity behind the cover...

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U.N. sets unlikely goals

World hunger has decreased … sort of. For the first time in 15 years, the number of people facing hunger is 925 million, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. After the number swelled to 1.023 billion due to the global food and economic crisis, the drop is an important step in the right direction, or least a step of recovery, but it is not nearly enough for 2010. In 2000, the United Nations developed an ambitious program. They called it the Millennium Development Goals. As the calendars rolled into 2000, the U.N. wanted a goal for the future – something to aspire to. They decided to start the 21st century by attacking what may be the most significant world issues. The goals assert that developed nations have the resources and the responsibility necessary to finally provide for the most basic needs of the world’s poorest people. The goals to be met by 2015 are to cut poverty in half, increase education for children, end hunger and defeat HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. The U.N. gathered again on Sept. 20, and the goals must be a major focus of the General Assembly. 2010 is a road mark in the 15-year plan, and the goals are not being met. Not even close. The goals said poverty in developing countries would be slashed to 10 percent. Even with the drop this year, poverty sits at 16 percent. This is far from the goal, and most of the positive results are in a small sample of countries. In Africa, malnutrition and hunger are as daunting as ever. Disease is still rampant, and few HIV prevention movements have had significant results. To keep these goals from becoming just more U.N. rhetoric without action, nations will have to focus intently on aiding the continent. Life in the western world has changed dramatically since 2000, while poverty in developing nations has nearly stagnated. Even luxuries have changed. At the turn of the millennium, cell phones were uncommon, and now even middle school students spend hours texting friends. The iPod became another necessity, as the digital music market soared. TVs got bigger, sharper, flatter and of higher definition. Movies even added a whole new dimension, driving up ticket prices at the same time. Yet the number of people in Africa who die of starvation has hardly diminished. The buzz word “change” has been thrown around in politics. But where is the change in Africa? Young people are rallying behind organizations that aim to get clean drinking water or food for the African people, so why aren’t governments investing like their public? The U.N. has the...

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Raising a white flag
Sep28

Raising a white flag

Editorial by Staff In a display of submission, the newspaper in Juarez, Mexico, raised a white flag to drug cartels last week. The staff of El Diario de Juarez ran a front-page editorial Sept. 19 pleading with drug cartels to stop violence against their journalists. On the day the editorial was published, the image of the Mexican flag, which normally appears in the paper’s nameplate, was depicted dripping with blood. The newspaper’s letter came in response to the shooting of one of their own. Luis Carlos Santiago, a photographer for El Diario, was killed in a parked car outside of a shopping mall in Juarez. He was out to lunch with an intern who was also injured. The editorial ran in the paper on the same day as the photographer’s burial. After Santiago’s death, the Mexican newspaper has decided to cut its drug coverage, concluding the situation has become too dangerous for journalists. “We do not want more deaths,” the newspaper’s letter to the cartels said. “We do not want more injuries or even more intimidation. It is impossible to exercise our role in these conditions. Tell us, then, what do you expect of us as a medium?” El Diario is the most popular paper in Juarez, and it has made a reputation for aggressively covering drug violence in the past. Investigative reporting in Mexico is very dangerous, but, up until now, Juarez has had the best coverage of any border city. Many other cities simply don’t cover crime news anymore. In Juarez, the journalists have challenged and stood up to the cartels. But with the photographer’s death, the newspaper staff appears to have reached its breaking point. It’s a real tragedy to see the last defender of free speech in the area forced to surrender to the drug lords. In the letter to the cartels, the newspaper said, “You are, at present, the de facto authorities in this city because the legal institutions have not been able to keep our colleagues from dying.” The editorial goes on to say, “This is not a surrender. Nor does it mean that we’ve given up the work we have been developing. Instead it is a respite to those who have imposed the force of its law in this city, provided they respect the lives of those who are dedicated to the craft of reporting.” El Diario’s editor, Pedro Torres, reiterated that the editorial does not indicate the paper’s submission to cartels. “We’re not surrendering to the people who belong to these groups. We’re asking for a truce because we don’t want them to kill any more of our companeros,” he said....

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