Saturday, February 27, 2010

How Does Wealth Correspond With Religion?

So I was wondering if there was a correlation between religion and wealth.

Does God care who gets wealthy?
If so, it seems that God would favor the "chosen" team over the "enemy."
Based upon who gathers wealth, can we accurately determine if God favors people in certain religions over others?

Here's a look at the 2009 Forbes Top 25 with their corresponding countries and religions (to the best of my investigation). If you have some other sources that indicate any of these are incorrect, or if you can help fill in the "Unknowns", I would be appreciative.

1. Bill Gates - $40 billion (US) - Agnostic
2. Warren Buffet - $37 billion (US) - Agnostic
3. Carlos Slim Helu -$35 billion (Mexico) - Maronite Catholic (click to learn about Maronites)
4. Lawrence Ellison - $22.5 billion (US) - Atheist
5. Ingvar Kamprad - $22 billion (Sweden) - Church of Sweden (Lutheran)
6. Karl Albrecht - $21.5 billion (Germany) - Unknown
7. Mukesh Ambani - $19.5 billion (India) - Hindu
8. Lakshmi Mittal - $19.3 billion (India) - Hindu
9. Theo Albrecht - $18.8 billion (Germany) - Unknown
10. Amancio Ortega - $18.3 billion (Spain) - (It is assumed he is Catholic)
11. Jim Walton - $17.8 billion (US) - Presbyterian
12. Alice Walton - $17.6 billion (US) - Presbyterian
13. Christy Walton - $17.6 billion (US) - Presbyterian
14. S Robson Walton - $17.6 billion (US) - Presbyterian
15. Bernard Arnault - $16.5 billion (France) - (It is assumed he is Catholic)
16. Li Ka-shing - $16.2 billion (Hong Kong) - Buddhist
17. Michael Bloomberg - $16 billion (US) - Jewish
18. Stefan Persson - $14.5 billion (Sweden) - (It is assumed he is in the Church of Sweden -Lutheran)
19. Charles Koch - $14 billion (US) - Methodist
20. David Koch - $14 billion (US) - Methodist
21. Liliane Bettencourt - $13.4 billion (France) - Unknown
22. Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud - $13.3 billion (Saudi Arabia) - Islamic (Muslim)
23. Michael Otto - $13.2 billion (Germany) - Unknown
24. David Thomson - $13 billion (Canada) - Unknown
25. Michael Dell - $12.3 billion (US) - Jewish

The numbers indicate that 3 of the top 4 are Agnostic/Atheist.
There are 8 Christians (with another 3 as possibles) yet 5 different sects.
There are 2 Hindus and 2 of the Jewish faith.
There is 1 Buddhist and 1 Muslim.
And of course, there are 5 Unknowns.

11 are US citizens; 3 Germans; 2 from France, Sweden and India.
1 each from Mexico, Spain, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia and Canada.

My answer: No, there is no correlation between wealth and religion except that America's openly capitalist society seems to inherently enable more Americans to achieve greater wealth. Hence, greater numbers of wealthy business people tend to belong to the dominant American religions.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Poetry - O Lovely Lie

by Robert Service

I told a truth, a tragic truth
That tore the sullen sky;
A million shuddered at my sooth
And anarchist was I.
Red righteousness was in my word
To winnow evil chaff;
Yet while I swung crusading sword
I heard the devil laugh.

I framed a lie, a rainbow lie
To glorify a thought;
And none was so surprised as I
When fast as fire it caught.
Like honey people lapped my lie
And peddled it abroad,
Till in a lift of sunny sky
I saw the smile of God.

If falsehood may be best, I thought,
To hell with verity;
Dark truth may be a cancer spot
'Twere better not to see.
Aye, let a lie be big and bold
Yet ripe with hope and ruth,
Beshrew me! but its heart may hold
More virtue than the truth.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Office: Subtle Sexuality

It's been awhile since I've posted any clips from The Office so...Here is a series of 3 webisodes from a few months back that were hilarious. Enjoy!

Episode 1:

Episode 2:

Episode 3:

Monday, February 15, 2010

The First Amendment

The framers of the U.S. Constitution were concerned that European history might repeat itself in the new world. They wanted to avoid the continual wars motivated by religious hatred that had decimated many countries within Europe. They decided that a church/state separation was their best assurance that the U.S. would remain relatively free of inter-religious strife. Many commentators feel that over two centuries of relative religious peace in the U.S. have shown that they were right.

In 1789, the first of ten amendments were written to the Federal Constitution; they have since been known as theBill of Rights. The First Amendment reads:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

This was ratified by the States in 1791.

The first phrase in the First Amendment states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..." is called the establishment clause.

The courts have the responsibility to interpret the U.S. Constitution in specific instances. In their ruling in 1947 of Everson v. Board of Education of Ewing, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled:

"The 'establishment of religion' clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever from they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between Church and State'."

Three tests have been derived from various court decisions to decide the constitutionality of laws that have a religious component:

bulletThe Lemon test: This was defined in a Supreme Court ruling in 1971. To be constitutional, a law must:
bullethave a secular purpose, and
bulletbe neutral towards religion - neither hindering nor advancing it, and
bulletnot result in excessive entanglements between the government and religion.
bulletThe Endorsement Test: Justice O'Connor created this criterion: a law is unconstitutional if it favors one religion over another in a way that makes some people feel like outsiders and others feel like insiders.
bulletThe Coercion Test: Justice Kennedy proposed this criteria: a law is constitutional even if it recognizes or accommodates a religion, as long as its demonstration of support does not appear to coerce individuals to support or participate in a religion.

A simple set of criteria is that the government (and by extension public schools) may not:

bulletpromote one religion or faith group over any other
bulletpromote a religiously based life over a secularly based life
bulletpromote a secularly based life over a religiously based life.

The following phrase "Congress shall make no law...prohibiting the free exercise thereof... is called the free exercise clause; it guarantees freedom of religion. This passage does not promise absolute freedom of religion. For example, courts have found that:

bulletParents cannot deny their children badly needed medical attention and rely solely on prayer.
bulletThe Amish can be compelled to wear slow vehicle reflectors on the backs of their buggies
bulletA congregation cannot generate annoyingly excessive noise during a service.

The limits of this clause are continually being tested in the courts on a case-by-case basis.

In 1988, 200 Americans of many religious backgrounds signed the Williamsburg Charter reaffirming their belief in the importance of the First Amendment.

In 1993, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which gave special religious privileges to individuals and groups and limited the application of laws that intruded on personal or corporate religion. It was declared unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court in 1997-JUN. As the former Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black said: "'No law' [regarding the establishment of religion] means 'NO LAW.'" The wall of separation was again restored.

In 1995, President Clinton delivered a speech on religious freedom which described the benefits derived from that amendment.

Today, only the states of Texas and one of the Carolinas have constitutions requiring a religious test for holders of public office. And although these laws are still on the books, they have been nullified by Federal legislation.

Many, perhaps most, countries around the world do not have a wall of separation between church and state. The result is often enormous abuses, largely directed against their own citizens who follow minority religions. Here is a small sampling of such abuses.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Kids, Chores and Allowances

We have been discussing setting up a formal chore and allowance program in the Shelby household. Hannah has been pretty excited about this, mostly the getting money part. Well, last night as I was preparing for my trip to Tucson, Hannah came down stairs with a piece of paper and announced that she had created the chore and allowance chart.

Seeing as how she recently rejected my offer of $100 to change one of Caleb's poopy diapers...I was eager to see how she thought this financial plan would go.

In case you can't see it all clearly, here is the breakdown:

Clean room: $20.99
Put Caleb to bed: $10
Make our bed: $3.20
Dishes: $1.00
Sweep: $3
Dinner: $15
Lunch: $10
Breakfast: $5
Get the Phone: $0.55
Play: $10

It is obvious that our desire to teach them about the value of money is definitely needed but on the other's only going to cost me $1.00 to get the dishes done.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sundance and "8: The Mormon Proposition"

Well, I made it to February before deciding to post anything having to do with religion. However, due to the recent Sundance Film Festival and the official unveiling of the Michael Moore-esque documentary detailing the LDS involvement in the hype leading up to the votes for California Proposition 8, there has been much local discussion on the matter.

I still was not compelled to opine my thoughts and feelings, regardless of the levels of ridiculousness in the commentary being spewed. That was before a friend sent me this news clip reposted on YouTube.

I was willing to let go the obvious initial slap about " appears that truth and accuracy are rare commodities in this film." I even found it rather hilarious. I was impressed that the Church PR was finally growing a pair and commenting with emotion instead of the standard robotic dodge of drama.

It wasn't until they followed it up with this doozy that I became annoyed. "...we had no desire to participate in something so obviously biased."

Really? Really...That's why you paired up with Focus on the Family during the Prop 8 legislation battle? Because Focus on the Family is definitely not biased in their agenda.

Really...You're all about 'fair and balanced' dialogue, open discussion and debate? You're in favor of not backing any political candidates or political parties? Is that why Utah is so evenly balanced between Republicans and Democrats?

Really? Boyd K Packer:
“You seminary teachers and some of you institute and BYU men will be teaching the history of the Church this school year. This is an unparalleled opportunity in the lives of your students to increase their faith and testimony of the divinity of this work. Your objective should be that they will see the hand of the Lord in every hour and every moment of the Church from its beginning till now.

“Church history can be so interesting and so inspiring as to be a very powerful tool indeed for building faith. If not properly written or properly taught, it may be a faith destroyer.”

“There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not.”

Some things that are true are not very useful.

“That historian or scholar who delights in pointing out the weaknesses and frailties of present or past leaders destroys faith. A destroyer of faith — particularly one within the Church, and more particularly one who is employed specifically to build faith — places himself in great spiritual jeopardy. He is serving the wrong master, and unless he repents, he will not be among the faithful in the eternities. ... Do not spread disease germs!"
- Boyd K. Packer, "The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect", 1981, BYU Studies, Vol. 21, No. 3, pp. 259-271

Seems to me like the PR department needs a sit down with Elder Packer. Then maybe they will learn that everything you participate in is SUPPOSED to promote a biased long as it is YOUR biased agenda.

I should add that I absolutely support an individual or institution's right to promote bias but I also am an obvious supporter of calling out hypocritical nonsense when and where I see it.