31 December, 2005

Why Drive Drunk?

Okay, folks. We all know that it's New Year's Eve. And we all know that, this night being what it is, many of you are going to go out and get absolutely plastered tonight.

So you're drunk off your assets. You've got your car. And you're starting to think about getting behind the wheel.

And that's where you should stop. And pick up the phone.

For you folks here in the Denver/Boulder area, here's two companies that will get both you AND your car home. And for less than the combined cab-ride and parking ticket and towed vehicle costs. (Last year in LoDo, a parking ticket was $35, and getting your car out of the tow lot was averaging $55.)

No DUI Denver - 877.NODUIDEN (877.6638433)
RideClub - 888.RIDE.CLUB (888.743.3258)

Regretfully, the company I once worked for, NightRiders, is no longer of going concern. However, this year, I will personally be behind the wheel with some former co-workers over at No DUI Denver. So if you're checking the blogs before going out tonight, give us a try.

And seeing as how most of you probably aren't in this area, here's the Official Left Off Colfax List Of Designated Driver Services:

Los Angeles, CA : Home James
Las Vegas, NV : Designated Driver Incorporated
Columbia, SC : Designated Driver of America
Atlanta, GA : Zingo!
Louisville, KY : CityScoot

And for you folks that don't have something listed above, here's a googling for you.

A DUI is never a good thing to have, and it's even worse on the first morning of the year. And seeing as how there won't be an open courtroom until sometime Tuesday, there'll be little opportunity to get yourself out of jail in time to catch the bowl games.

And speaking as someone who has been hit by a drunk driver (on the morning of Mother's Day, at that), who has had friends get hit by drunk drivers, and had a friend kill someone after driving drunk, I beg of you. Don't drive drunk. It just is not worth it.

After all, I would hate to lose any of my readers. All three of you.

29 December, 2005

Bored Geeks: The New Terrorism

Via Ezra, this one just made me spit root beer all over the monitor. Not to mention the cat sitting on top of said monitor.
Not long ago, I walked by the desk of software engineer JJ Furman, and saw that he had made an interesting addition to his desk: a large blob of Silly Putty, about the size of a grapefruit. Intrigued, I asked how he'd gotten so much of the stuff. The answer? A bulk order directly from the manufacturer! Of course.

I knew then that I wanted some, and it dawned on me that I probably wasn't the only one. So I set out to place a really, really big bulk order. An email went out to cohorts. Their orders came in. Three weeks later, I had an eighth of a ton of Silly Putty delivered to my desk.
Now there's a dangerous mind. Anyone that has the sheer boredom to desire that much Silly Putty has got to be dangerous.

Oh, and it doesn't stop there. Not satisfied with simply possessing 250 pounds of Silly Putty, he had to go and put it in a big pile...

Go and read the rest, folks. And them wonder why the NSA isn't monitoring the communications of such dangerous people. [/snark]

27 December, 2005

To Debunk Or Not To Debunk

Yet again, I was stuck listening to talk radio at work today. (The place I work has horrid FM reception, even during the evening hours.) And yet again, I heard one of the things that make me go "Hmmmm..."

While listing off the weekend's movie totals and reviews, Reggie McDaniel mentioned something that I hadn't heard about yet: the ACLU tried to organize a boycott of The Chronicles of Narnia.

Say what?!?

Not even those highly-plugged-in folks over at RedState have anything along this line. A 4 hour period spent googling for it turned up nothing. The ACLU website turns up squat. Not even Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilley have anything on it, and you'd think that this kind of story would be right up their rhetorical alleys.

But no. The only things I've found so far:
  • A story about Pierce County Democrats protesting the film, which was blogged by The Narrows. To bryanm's credit, he posted a retraction 8 days later after noting that the story had absolutely no basis in reality.
  • A press release from the Women's Division of the General Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Church decrying the crass commercialism that is bound to surround a successful movie.
  • And jack-all else.
Really. Is this a case of a local talk radio personality letting his rhetoric run faster than the facts? This isn't even close to as benign of a case as the Gunny Bob story I wrote about last week, where he simply has a different interpretation of the facts than I have. That type of thing is perfectly acceptable, and part and parcel of political debate. Yet this one appears to have been simply made up on the spot as a snarky talking point used simply to bash away at the left-leaning social libertarians out there, a.k.a people like Your Humble Resident Blogger.

So if you know anything (factual!) about this issue, please feel free to post it in the comments.

Oh, and as an aside... When I heard Mr. McDaniel's statement, I wrote a little note to remind myself. And at the end, I have "If true, snark the hell out of the bastages!" So seeing as how I have no basis to snark the hell out of the ACLU, good ol' Reggie gets both barrels.

23 December, 2005

That's One Way To Get Out

Well, seems to be an interesting development in the "Who Lit Vail Mountain" story over the last 36 hours.

A man suspected in the 1998 Vail Mountain firebombings killed himself in his Arizona jail cell Thursday, while a federal judge in Oregon denied the release of a woman linked to the same eco-terrorism strike.

William C. Rodgers, 40, labeled the "mastermind" of radical environmentalists who left a nationwide swath of firebombings linked to the Environmental Liberation Front, was found dead early Thursday in his single cell at the Coconino County Jail in Flagstaff, authorities said.
A deputy sheriff rousing Rodgers about 6:15 a.m. found him with "multiple plastic bags, like grocery bags, wrapped around his head," said Deputy U.S. Marshal Brenda McLaughlin. She said prisoners who are not on suicide watch typically are given such bags to carry toiletries and other belongings.

I guess whether or not he's one of those that lit the Vail fires is mostly immaterial to him now. The only ones that his guilt or innocence could affect now are his alledged accomplices, such as Chelsea Gerlach, who is currently awaiting trial in Oregon on an unrelated but remarkably similar set of charges.

But for me, the most telling thing about the story is that Rodgers apparently committed suicide the very same day he was scheduled to be shipped off to Washington state for trial. That, to me, does not sound like the act of an innocent man. Nor does it sound to me like the act of someone who, as a spokesperson described him, "lived a life of great reverence of others and the world around him." It sounds to me like the act of a desperate man who did not wish to face his just punishment.

And yet... Something doesn't square right here. Just how does someone wrap their head in something akin to a plastic grocery bag, even multiple ones, and allow themselves to suffocate? As much as I would love to put him in the category of Death By Suicide, there's something about this that I can't put my finger on. For a person to manually smother themselves would take an amazing amount of willpower, not to mention the foresight required to insure that the bags didn't slip off after they'd rendered themselves unconscious. And that doesn't jibe at all well with the thought of him taking the coward's way out.

But then again, I don't know the man at all. All I have available is a couple of news clippings and a spokesperson's statement. That isn't hardly enough to get to know the recently deceased and how he would think. After all, just before the part I quoted above, the spokesperson was cited as saying that he "took great strength at feeling free" and that could have been just the degree of despair required to push him over the edge.

And what does all of this mean? Quite frankly, it means that it's drattedly difficult to do amateur psychoanalysis based off of news clippings! I've just about exhausted what I remember from my Psych of Development class.

Well, all of this means one more thing. Gerlach is definately going to have an additional problem if/when she is charged for setting the Vail fires: one less witness to use when she tries to establish an alibi for the court.

... Doomed To Repeat It

With all the flap about the NSA's activity recently, I've come to appreciate more and more the wisdom of a single man.

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.

Benjamin Franklin

Just as with the Abu Gharib scandal, when this country sacrifices the ideals it was founded on for the sake of the moment, this country dies. Not a full death, but the death of a thousand paper-cuts, self-inflicted wounds to the honor of this nation. And Atrios linked to this article in the Washington Post, I fear that America's honor has been wounded yet again.

"Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the administration sought to add the words 'in the United States and' after 'appropriate force' in the agreed-upon text," Daschle wrote. "This last-minute change would have given the president broad authority to exercise expansive powers not just overseas -- where we all understood he wanted authority to act -- but right here in the United States, potentially against American citizens. I could see no justification for Congress to accede to this extraordinary request for additional authority. I refused."

The President wanted free rein to use the powers granted to him by Senate Joint Resolution 23 to not only pursue terrorists outside of our borders, where they are quite possibly in the planning stages of more attacks on our soil, but also here, in the land of the free.

Now, I firmly recognize that I am one of the "civil liberties absolutists" that Jeff Goldstein is talking about. In fact, I'm rather proud of being in this category. And as such, the fact that the President of the United States wanted, officially by joint resolution of Congress Assembled, the power to act as if in time of war within the borders of the United States... Well, there's something about that thought that makes me so fundamentally scared that I want to get on a plane to New Zealand and renounce my citizenship. (But I can't. No passport. Much to the probable dismay of those that feel that the only good Democrat is a non-American Democrat.)

And as David J., aka TBFKAZ, pointed out after his deconstruction of a certain Queensryche album, there is absolutely nothing wrong with an American President establishing a program for the express purposes of collecting intelligence on foreign nationals, particularly those with ties to terrorist organizations. Absolutely nothing. That is an expected power of the Executive, and one that this Democrat has zero difficulty comprehending. But wanting the same power for those within the United States, and quite probably citizens of the United States, who may have had some casual contact with someone who is the sixth-degree-from-Kevin-Bacon from a known or suspected terrorist? That goes too far, even by the shortest yardstick ever created.

(Free plastic wrapping from an iPod Nano for the first person to explain that to the studio audience. Restrictions apply. See store for details.) (And free rants on the topics of choice for a full year for the first person to buy me an iPod Nano, or any other 10+ gig MP3 player, just so I'll have the wrapping to give out. Yes, you can be the editor of Left Off Colfax, with the full and complete power to boss me around, on my own blog, for a calendar year. Restrictions apply. See store for details.) (Sheeesh, am I cheap or what! Most folks would at least hold out for cash!)

For those that have forgotten their history classes from high school (or just slept through them like I did), let me remind you that one of the few reasons the Constitution was finally ratified way back in 1789 was due to the (eventually planned) inclusion of the Bill of Rights. If it wasn't for those ten little amendments, there would not have been enough support among the states to get this country started, at least not as we currently know it. The right of an American citizen to not be subjected to an unwarranted search, which is precisely what the recent NSA flap is all about, is one of the bedrock concepts of the American society. And for the President to ask for it, particularly when we are not legally at war and within a resolution that is not a formal declaration of war, disturbs me beyond the point where my vocabulary can express. Well, at least not without descending into base vulgarity.

Now, there are those that seek to justify the President's actions by saying "Wait! Clinton and Carter did the exact same things! And for worse reasons, at that! How can you Democrats complain about Bush's actions when your guys have done it!" I'm sorry to disappoint those attempting that argument, but it just doesn't fly with me. On the one hand, unless major laws and regulations were changed between Bush's inauguration and 9/11, it would be just as illegal for a President to do such actions when they were President as it would be for Bush to do so. And on the other hand, such a statement should be included as a textbook example of the Appeal To Common Practice fallacy, and as such, carries little water with me, particularly when it is being said by those who tend to offer expansive logical arguments.

Simply put, the base liberties of Americans are more important than the Armed Conflict Against Terrorism And Violent Extremism, or whatever it's being called. And as Thomas Jefferson wrote, "I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it."

20 December, 2005

We Are Not At War

WARNING! Long and convoluted legal arguments ahead. Please consume coffee or other caffeinated beverage of choice before reading.

I was listening to talk radio while at work earlier, and I heard something that really bugged the crap out of me. Gunny Bob Newman, a former Marine, was talking about the New York Times article from Friday. You know the one I'm referring to, as it's pretty much been THE topic of conversation around the blogosphere over the weekend.

Gunny Bob seems to have suggested that the Times, by virtue of revealing classified information in their Friday article, should be investigated for and found guilty of violating this statute, specifically delivering defensive information to the enemy in time of war and this statute, disclosure of classified information (both of which fall under the general heading of Espionage). I've bolded the high points of the first law to make it easier to scan through the blockquote, as it is quite a tedious read.

(a) Whoever, with intent or reason to believe that it is to be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation, communicates, delivers, or transmits, or attempts to communicate, deliver, or transmit, to any foreign government, or to any faction or party or military or naval force within a foreign country, whether recognized or unrecognized by the United States, or to any representative, officer, agent, employee, subject, or citizen thereof, either directly or indirectly, any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, note, instrument, appliance, or information relating to the national defense, shall be punished by death or by imprisonment for any term of years or for life, except that the sentence of death shall not be imposed unless the jury or, if there is no jury, the court, further finds that the offense resulted in the identification by a foreign power (as defined in section 101(a) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978) of an individual acting as an agent of the United States and consequently in the death of that individual, or directly concerned nuclear weaponry, military spacecraft or satellites, early warning systems, or other means of defense or retaliation against large-scale attack; war plans; communications intelligence or cryptographic information; or any other major weapons system or major element of defense strategy.

(b) Whoever, in time of war, with intent that the same shall be communicated to the enemy, collects, records, publishes, or communicates, or attempts to elicit any information with respect to the movement, numbers, description, condition, or disposition of any of the Armed Forces, ships, aircraft, or war materials of the United States, or with respect to the plans or conduct, or supposed plans or conduct of any naval or military operations, or with respect to any works or measures undertaken for or connected with, or intended for the fortification or defense of any place, or any other information relating to the public defense, which might be useful to the enemy, shall be punished by death or by imprisonment for any term of years or for life.

Okay, got that? And yes, you are very welcome for saving your eyes unnecessary strain for trying to pick apart Section 794. I couldn't do it if it wasn't for a more than generous supply of quality coffee. Also, please note that I purposefully placed an emphasis on the words "in time of war" up there in that mass of blockquote.

In Monday's show, the Gunny read out from Senate Joint Resolution 23, which was passed a few days after the 9/11 attacks. This is the primary document for the whole "War on Terror" which led us into Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet there is one piece of the Joint Resolution he failed to mention:

(b) War Powers Resolution Requirements-
(1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.
(2) APPLICABILITY OF OTHER REQUIREMENTS- Nothing in this resolution supersedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.

So in other words, Sen. J. R. 23 was not a declaration of war, but the authorization the President is required to have via the War Powers Resolution of 1973. Oh, and the War Powers Resolution has an additional emphasis buried down in Section 8 (a)(2)(d):

(d) Nothing in this joint resolution--
(1) is intended to alter the constitutional authority of the Congress or of the President, or the provision of existing treaties;

Which means that the War Powers Resolution specifically reinforces the constitutional authority of the Congress as being the only ones with the power "To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water" as shown in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution.

And all of this is simply a long-winded way of reinforcing the title of this post. We. Are. Not. At. War. Not in the legal definition. If we were in a true state of war, that Joint Senate Resolution would have a completely different title: "A Declaration Of A State Of War." And that hasn't been seen here in the United States since that little folderol known as World War Two.

We are in a state of armed conflict. Yet, for some strange reason, I'm under the impression that the slogan of "A State Of Armed Conflict Against Terror" doesn't really scan all that well, and would be a real pain in the hoo-ah to fit in a newspaper headline. So we shorten the "state of armed conflict" to what the dictionary tells us is the closest synonym, a.k.a. war. As Hank Zyp of the Western Catholic Reporter (and very weird name) simplified it: "The difference between "war" and "armed conflict" is that wars need the approval of Congress, but armed conflicts can be initiated by presidential decree." That was written in 1999, well before the current set of crises even began.

So please, for the love of all that is deemed holy, if you are going to call it a war, do not let your choice of semantics alter the reality of things.

Should this have been a war, as declared by Congress under the Constitution, the rules would have been vastly different. In the current situation, the rules remain the same. There is little difference between the legal options of the United States in times of peace versus in time of armed conflict. That is not the case in time of war.

And I would think that a man that retired as a Gunnery Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps would be able to understand the difference between the two.

18 December, 2005

Igniting The Firestorm

Well, this seems to be getting a wee bit of text, even though I haven't seen anything about it on my blogroll yet. Not even Jeff Goldstein, who I figure would think this right up his alley for an angst-filled (and probably humorous, knowing him) rant regarding the Moonbat Left. And speaking of the Moonbat Left, not one of the Daily Kos diarists has clued in on this one, which suprises me even more.

Oh yeah. Just what is this that I'm talking about? Simple.

The Guardian:

One of six people arrested in a string of ecoterrorism attacks in the Northwest is also suspected in half a dozen other cases, including the 1998 firebombing of a Colorado ski resort that caused $12 million in damage, a federal prosecutor said Tuesday.
[Chelsea] Gerlach, 28, was among six people arrested in five states last week on indictments alleging they set fires and damaged property between 1998 and 2001 in Oregon and Washington. The Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front took responsibility for the crimes. [Ed: Added first name for clarity.]

Yup. They think they found one of those that set that big fire in Vail 7 years ago, even though the federal Public Defender assigned to Gerlach says the evidence is "sketchy." And it was definately an eco-crime, even in the opinions of other ecoterrorist organizations like Earth First! and the Animal Liberation Front. And, to read what they said about it, one that set their agendas back by a few decades.

I would rather see Vail Resorts, through all their duplicity and greed, destroy the Two Elk Roadless Area, than have some cowardly actions and threats erode the growing opposition to Vail's rapacious plans and the increasing support for protection of Colorado's forests and its wildlife.

--- Earth First! member Mike Lewinski [link]

Well, far be it for me to disagree with an EF! member.

This, and many other actions like it, are the reason why the word "environmentalist" has become such a negative buzzword for Republicans. For that matter, it's a negative for just about anyone who is not an environmentalist. Anything this side of the generally genteel activism depicted in this book will be detrimental to any attempt to be a mainstream environmentalist in this country. Extremism, of just about any stripe imaginable, tends to turn the majority against it through their actions.

Want an example? Good. I have one ready-made for such a question.

Tell me if you'd really heard much about this guy before a certain day in September, 2001? Unless you were a severe international relations geek, the odds are quite slim that you were even a tenth as educated about him as you are now. Indeed, the odds are quite slim that you even knew he existed. And now, he is the most wanted man that the United States has ever known.

Sort of brings things into perspective, doesn't it. Just as this March, 1999 article in Mother Jones magazine said:

"If the individuals who did this can somehow hear me, I say, 'Get the hell out of Colorado! Indeed, vanish altogether! Just go away!'" Berman told the group, which included several TV and newspaper reporters. "Your actions have only created sympathy for Vail Resorts at a time when they are undertaking one of the largest logging operations in Colorado."

It's a fact of life. Victims are always the ones that recieve sympathy from the undecideds out there. No one in the mainstream of American society paid any attention to the World Trade Organization until those anarchists made a collective decision to riot in Seattle, did they? (Yes, the oxymoron was intentional.) And now support of the WTO is still one of the positive hot-button issues for the GOP, precisely the opposite effect that the anti-WTO crowd intended. And for a much smaller issue, look at the support of the breed-specific bans out there since two pit bulls mauled an Aurora boy last month. The stories had always been out there, but few people gave it much thought until it happened in their own back yards.

Yes, I am an environmentalist. Even though I smoke tobacco, eat meat, and wear a leather jacket, I can say that with a straight face, much to the probable dismay of any dyed-green eco-nauts out there. Part of the reason why I love living here in the Front Range is that I can breathe the air without getting my FDA-recommended supply of 12 essential minerals and toxins like I had to do back in the armpit of the L.A. Basin. (Admittedly, I could do without the mind-numbing cold that goes along with the clear air here, but I'm desert-bred.) I considered it to be among the top 5 issues for determining my political affiliation way too many years ago. (Yes, I tried the Green Party at one point in time, and considered them nuttier than last Christmas' fruitcake and got out before the guys in white coats showed up.) (And yes, I'm still feeling my birthday, thank you very much, and I can't stop waving the candles from my cake in front of my face.) And I believe strongly that we need to preserve what examples of Nature we have left, whether via the Endangered Species Act or the National Park Service or Insert Government Service Here, for future generations of Americans. (One of the few reasons why I'm not actually a big-L Libertarian, seriously, is my belief that more-than-absolute-minimum-government is a good thing.) So yes, I am a small-e environmentalist rather than a big-E Environmentalist like the ones suspected of setting the Vail fires.

And as a small-e environmentalist, I can only hope that, should Gerlach be one of those that set that $12 million blaze back in '98, she is found very guilty and have the book thrown at her, even though I doubt that ecoterrorism was grandfathered into the tougher antiterrorism legislation passed after 9-11. She, like many others that monkeywrench their way across the Pacific Northwest and central Rockies, do more harm to the basic environmental movement than they have done good, regardless of the political calculus involved. Violence rarely solves anything, regardless of the justifications. All it does is a) make those doing the violence feel better and b) generally piss everyone else off.

Consider me one of the latter in this case.

08 December, 2005

Religion, Philosophy, And Long-Winded Ramblings

Embattled Christian used my birthday post as an inspiration earlier this week, which is only fair seeing as how I've used EC as inspiration of my own in the past. Yet one piece of her ponderings nailed me right in between the eyes, and just in time for my roommate's laptop to finally understand that Blogger is an actual website.

In the marketplace of ideas over the millennia, what was it about Christian doctrine that made it catch on and spread and be widely embraced? (And widely debated, Greek philosophized, diluted and demonized.)

To those of us who are believers it may seem obvious though not easy to verbalize. If we don't ponder our own commitment and spiritual connection to Christ prayerfully and often, it will fossilize instead of always being a growing and living energy for us.

The battle starts within our hearts. In dealing with ourselves as well as with our fellowman, only loving persuasion will bring lasting victory.

I must say this one. It is not that I do not believe in Jesus Christ. It is that I do not believe in Christianity itself, particularly in the current manifestations out there. He is perhaps one of the most important figures in all of human history, and certainly one of the wisest, and we would all do better if we could simply live by His words instead of trying to interpret them to our benefits.

In fact, one day, I took his words to heart. And rarely the words that people mean:

For where two or three people come together in My Name, there I will be with them. -- Matthew 18:20 (KJV)

Most people use this verse as the one that dedicates their church, whether it be grand building or a table in the park, yet what really does it mean? Some folks, like this guy use it as an explanation for how God, through Jesus, picks our congregation for us.

Yet that has never been my view of worship. One does not need walls of stone, benches of velvet, or cups of silver to worship. The only thing that is required is that you open your heart and mind to Him. After all, it's there in the Bible...

Jesus said to her: Believe me, the time is coming when you won't worship the Father either on this mountain or in Jerusalem. -- John 4:21 (CEV)

One day, sitting in my former church, listening to the pastor rain fire and brimstone down upon the heathens and pagans outside the walls, a small voice kept telling me "No, this is not The Way." Week after week, listening to the same sermon dressed up in different words, I kept hearing "No, this is not The Way." One Sunday morning, just when the pastor revved himself up to full volume, it came to me again. "No, this is not The Way." But this time I was ready, and asked, "So what is The Way?"

"Go and seek it."

Fat lot of good that advice was, but I took it anyways and went to find The Way, whether it was in all capitals or not. I have spent significant amounts of time within the halls of every single major religion (Western and Eastern, young and old), a vast majority of Christian sects/denominations, and quite a few sit-downs with various folks of the cloth: some so real you can see God in their eyes and some so fake they make P.T. Barnum look like a used-car salesman. And yet, I still heard that voice saying that it was not The Way, that ever-elusive "personal relationship with God" that some people insist is out there.

One day, I was walking through the mountains of Southern California. It was an old habit of mine, which probably started from my Scouting days, to walk through forests (or even the middle of suburbia) whenever a large question was weighing on my mind, and it still is to this day. This time, I had headed towards Fish Creek Meadows, probably one of the most... Well, beautiful doesn't begin to describe it, and perfect goes too far. (Should you find the chance to visit that area, I would insist on visiting it to anyone that enjoys time in the woods, but it is not for the novice.) And, on one of the few handy rock outcroppings, I sat and said, into the wind coming down from Greyback, "So what is the way?" I didn't expect an answer, but I got one anyways.

You see, the way is our own, and our "personal relationship with God" is just that: individual and personal. You cannot simply adopt someone else's beliefs and call them your own while declaring that you have found that "personal relationship with God", regardless of how good they sound and how well they fit your beliefs. That is not finding God; that is finding Man.

[controversial statement]
Even the Bible, for all the good it has within the pages, is not just God's Word, but also Man's Word, even though I have already cited it twice in this post. You see, the Bible has been changed many times between the time of the Nazarene and the ever-moving time of Now. With over 20 different "authorized" versions of the Book, not counting straight translations into non-European languages, how could it be anything but the combination of God's Word and Man's Word? So to say that there is nothing within the Bible that is not solely of God Himself... That is being blind to the fact of human existence.
[/controversial statement]

And to pry the differences apart is not the task of an amateur such as myself, and thus I refuse to try. Hence my distrust of the modern Christian denominations. Should I have to rely on an intermediary to tell me how to find The Way, then is it actually my Way? How can something be truly personal if it is given to you by someone that is not you?

And so I have read the other books, some sacred and some not. The Torah and Talmud. The Qu'Ran. The words of Kwan Fu-Tse and Lao Tsu and Siddhartha Gaurama. (For those that are wondering, those are the founders of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. In that order.) The Kojiki and Rokkokushi, two of the texts that Shinto springs from. Even Scott Cunningham and Raymond Buckland, probably the most fundamental writers of neo-paganism, did not pass by my desk unread and unstudied.

In them all, I saw it: that something that reaches deep within the soul and plucks the strings, turning us towards Him, in whatever manifestation we choose to see Him, who is greater than us mere humans. And that lead to the simple conclusion...

The reason there are so many religions out there is not because there are many Gods. There are simply many ways for us humans to mess things up. That is the basic fundamental fact of humanity, described in the old idiom "To err is human; to forgive divine." The simple act of humans getting involved in the interpretation of God will muck things up to the point where fact and fiction become indistinguishable. For me and my path, the only way to God is to use the four ways to measure truth we have available. We've heard references to these all of our lives, at least here in the States, but what are they?

First, the truth of the heart. When people say that they know it "in their heart," this is what they are referring to. It is a basic reference to the seat of emotions and feelings. So when something is true to the heart, it fits with our emotional state.

Second, the truth of the mind. Logical reasoning, concentrated internal discussions, the firing of neurons in random sequence, call it what you will. To know something, anything at all, is to understand the truth of the mind.

Third, the truth of the gut. The best way to think of this is the instinctive responses that we all use in varied and random times throughout the daily life of western civilization, up to and including the basic survival instincts that our species has developed over (insert length of time here).

And fourth, the truth of the soul: the entire being of a human. I've tried many ways to understand the soul, even delving into the deepest philosophical minds ever to set pen to paper, and they've all come up short, even though they put much thought into their systems of truth. Finally for me and my outlook, I've come to an explanation that is much more simple: the truth of the soul is when the other three centers of truth agree; heart, mind, and gut. And only when they are all in agreement could I say that I know it in my soul.

Is Jesus the Son of God? Yes, I believe that in my soul. Is Mohammad a true Prophet? Yes, I believe that in my soul. Do a vast majority of the world's religions contain, somewhere within their beliefs and practices, the essence of God? Yes, I believe that in my soul.

And can I be completely and totally wrong about all of this? Yes, I also believe that in my soul, for no mortal man can completely grasp the true concept of God. All we can see is a small portion of what He truly is, regardless of how far we look and how hard we think. And the fundamental fact of human existance is that we often err. And should I be found wrong, then I am prepared for whatever punishment awaits me after this life.

And that is why I will never condemn someone for their religious views, not even bin Laden. The relationship between a human and God is between them and them alone, just as mine is between me and Him. To judge someone for their beliefs and morals is to take the place of God Himself, and I am not able to put myself in His place.