Maya Pinions

I got 'em.

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The Science of Adulthood

As I often seem to do these days, I have once again started a blog series, then found cause to interrupt it for a moment of introspection that only tangentially relates to science and religion. But in the spirit of inclusiveness evinced by my one‑time editor at Analog magazine (Stan Schmidt, who retired this past year), I will maintain that psychology and sociology are, too, science! And that what I’m about to say involves both faith and reason.

I want to consider adulthood.


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There’s a Word for That


Here’s the situation: Your child is one of 12 convening in the park for a game. The kids play together regularly and decide by consensus or vote what game to play. Today, they begin discussing their options. After some debate—even arguing—the consensus has it that most of the kids favor a game of baseball. 

But three of the kids want to play football. The baseball advocates call for a vote. The footballers say a vote isn’t necessary: they’re playing football and that’s that. 

Finally someone says, “There’s an easy way to solve this: how many want to play baseball?” Of the 12 kids, 9 raise their hands. 

So, we’re playing baseball, right? Not so fast. The kids who want to play football begin to shout the others down. They threaten to break up the game: “We don’t believe you really want to play baseball at all. You just want to keep us from playing a game we like! So, we won’t let you play!”

When they see that the others really do mean to play baseball, they threaten to use violence to force the other kids to play football. 

Now if you were the parent of one of the pro-baseball kids, what would you do? 

What if you were the parent of one of the football kids?

In either case, I suspect most of us would go out and uphold the voice of the majority. Hopefully, we would do this calmly, but firmly. We might even remonstrate with the dissenters—there will be other days for football (though not if the football advocates continue in this behavior). 

If your kid was one of the threatening minority, you might even discipline your child for threatening to thrash those who disagreed with him.

What I bet most parents wouldn’t do would be to wade in and threaten to help their kids to force the majority to play football. 

I suspect we can agree that this behavior would be, in a word, bullying.

So, what would you do in the face of playground bullying? Whichever side of the park your kid fell on, what principles would you invoke? 

I’d first invoke principles of faith: The Golden Rule (treating others as you would like to be treated) and Baha’u’llah’s injunction to put the welfare of others before our own among them. Beyond that, I suspect that most parents would raise issues of justice and fairness and perhaps appeal to the idea that violence begets violence and rarely solves problems. We might even invoke the founding fathers of our country and the principles our nation was founded on.

All of the above was a metaphor—I suspect some of you got that from the get go,

Right now an astonishing majority of Americans are in favor of strengthening laws related to gun ownership. (More than can agree that vacations are good for us.) Especially strong are universal and comprehensive background checks (which are polling between 80 and 92% in multiple polls). The least-favored measure is an assault weapons ban and even that polls above 50%. The polls I reviewed included a Fox News poll, which might be expected to show bias toward the gun rights “side”.

Despite this, I hear the voices of dissent insisting that 1) the polls are lying or biased toward gun control (All of them except those sponsored by the NRA and Fox News?) and 2) it’s time to take up arms against those who are afraid of people taking up arms. 

Until today, I had thought the idea of enforcing dissent by force was limited to a radicalized citizenry. But now an elected representative, whose duty it is to act on behalf of the people, has suggested that inasmuch as our democratic republican form of representative government (of, by and for the people) is not working as he would like it to, it is appropriate to resort to force. He has therefore issued a call for a “voluntary militia” (renamed the Constitutional Defense Force) that would arise to protect the rights of gun owners. With guns.

His website has a mild enough mission statement: “It is the intent of the Constitutional Defense Force to protect the law abiding Citizens of Maryland from any form of unlawful confiscation of legally owned firearms. Additionally, the Volunteer Militia will train and equip for the following: community security, natural disaster preparedness, and emergency readiness.” (emphasis mine)

It seems to indicate that lawful confiscation would not be fought … which begs the question—who decides what’s lawful in this case? It also begs the question as to who would call up this militia and under what circumstances. Historically, the citizen’s militia was to be called by the President. (See the Militia Act of 1792, for example).

But the mission statement’s mildness is belied by other communications from Mr. Dwyer who views the new gun legislation the Maryland Assembly (or the Asylum, as he calls it on his FB page) as “tyranny.”

If you live in Maryland, please consider making a commitment to stand against this tyranny by enlisting in the voluntary militia.

"Click here to update your subscription profile and then choose "volunteer militia" from the list selection.

"It is the intent of the Maryland Voluntary Militia to protect the law abiding Citizens of Maryland from any form of confiscation of firearms from April 3, 2013 forward. The Maryland Voluntary Militia members will not participate in any form of insurrection unless forced to do so to by the tyrannical acts of the Legislature, the Governor or the Federal Government upon the Citizens of Maryland.

"You can also visit Volunteer Militia for additional information.

"Thank you for your continued and tireless efforts. Unfortunately,we lost the battle today, but know and trust that an unconstitutional act by the Legislature even if signed into “law” by the Governor, is no law at all. For this reason I need you to continue stand by me as we go forward.

Constitutionally Yours, 

Delegate Don Dwyer, Jr.” 

This was from a forum called Maryland Shooters. Problem? The tyrannical acts of the Maryland Legislature reflect the majority will of the Citizens of Maryland. So, as Dwyer says, the law is not the law, at all by his personal standard and therefore there is already cause for insurrection.

At what point does this cross over into treason? I honestly don’t know. Nor do I know what’s going on inside Dwyer’s head. But he seems to be calling for an armed insurrection against the Maryland State government, and by extension, the government of the USA—the free State that the second amendment was written to protect.

Meanwhile, Dwyer’s Facebook page, where he began to enlist members for his militia, encourages secrecy born of fear: “Do not post on FB your response to my call for the Militia. Phis (sic) is a public forum and it is monitored. I do NOT want you raided. Please be wise. Email me once the link is up or send an email to me at DO NOT POST HERE. You have been warned!”

Of course, there is no law under which someone would be raided for responding to Mr. Dwyer’s call to arms. But that’s not really the issue.

Unless this is a complete hoax, here is an elected official—someone sworn to protect the rights and stand by the will of the people as expressed through consensus and through the ballot box—promoting the idea that the will of the minority should be pressed upon the majority by threat of force.

I suspect that whatever Mr. Dwyer meant to achieve with this, it may have already gotten out of his control. In following links for this post, I came across a number of folks who are taking Dwyer’s call to arms quite seriously as encouragement to fight—literally, not metaphorically or politically, but violently—to enforce the will of a minority.

There’s a word for that.


Filed under bullying guns gun control Don Dwyer militia representative government democracy dissent

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A century on, legacy of ‘Abdu’l-Baha honored at UK government reception - Bahá'í World News Service

imageLONDON, 5 December 2012, (BWNS) – Government ministers and members of parliament here welcomed more than 80 Baha’is to a unique event to pay tribute to ‘Abdu’l-Baha, 100 years after His visit to Britain.

It was the first time the British government has hosted a special reception specifically for the Baha’i community.

‘Abdu’l-Baha (1844-1921) was the eldest son of Baha’u’llah and His appointed successor as head of the Baha’i Faith. From 1910-1913, following His release from a lifetime of exile and imprisonment, ‘Abdu’l-Baha made an historic series of journeys to present Baha’u’llah’s teachings to audiences outside of the Middle East. His two visits to the British Isles took place in September 1911, and from December 1912 to January 1913. 

The reception was held by the government’s Department for Communities and Local Government on Wednesday 28 November. Welcoming the guests, Secretary of State Eric Pickles MP expressed appreciation for the contribution Baha’is make to UK society. He praised the “little bits of kindness” he had observed among the Baha’is and added, “We wouldn’t tick along quite so well without Baha’is in our community.”

Don Foster MP – who is Minister for Integration – told the gathering that, of all the significant people to come from his home constituency of Bath, he was proud to include Ethel Rosenberg, a founding member of the British Baha’i community. 

“You continue to distinguish yourselves in the professions, the arts and particularly in the vital areas of education and conflict resolution,” Mr. Foster told the Baha’is. ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s “important truth” that “we should pursue peace together and differences of race and division between religions must cease is as true today as it was then,” he continued.

Kishan Manocha, speaking on behalf of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United Kingdom, thanked Mr. Pickles for hosting the event, describing it as a “tremendous honor and pleasure.” 

Writer and actor Annabel Knight – who is a Baha’i –  noted that ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s visit was a landmark occasion for the fledgling community which helped the small band of British Baha’is to cement their identity and put service at the heart of their community life.

For the Baha’i World News Service home page, go to:

Filed under Baha'i Faith National Spiritual Assembly of Britain Abdu'l-Baha centenary celebration Baha'is in England

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Rules—Golden and Otherwise

Albert Alligatort

I think it was in the cartoon Pogo that I saw what seems to be the Fool’s Gold Rule (that’s what I call it, anyway): “Do unto others and then split”. 

I’ve also heard it phrased as “Do unto others before they do unto you.” That’s gotta be the Schist Rule.

Christopher Hitchens, besides opining that the Golden Rule was unrealistic and impracticable, also made the (to me) stunningly disingenuous and non sequitur argument that a sociopath would like it if someone smacked him upside the head, therefore the commandment itself is wrong, bad, and irrational.

I would argue that when it comes to people with deep mood disorders, no rules apply anyway. Rules—whether we’re talking divine injunctions or civil ordinances—are made for the generality of folks who are capable of comprehending and living within those guidelines.

My response to the idea that  a mentally disturbed person couldn’t live by this rule so none of us can or should is that if we’re going to apply this logic to the Golden Rule and other divine injunctions, then why not also apply it to the rule that says we shouldn’t treat a crowded movie theater like a shooting gallery, or pop our neighbor’s kids because they don’t look like us. Yet, recent events have shown that some people aren’t capable of living by those guidelines. Using Mr. Hitchens’ logic (which I’ve heard from others as well), we should simply suspend those rules and not even attempt to live by them.

We are funny creatures (when we’re not being tragic ones). We are incredibly more complex than our animal cousins, yet we keep trying to pretend we are not and that the same “rules” (or lack thereof) that apply to them ought to apply to us. No self-respecting animal would shrink from attacking another animal that caused it unease. Why should human beings?

I seem to recall it was a sentient, talking alligator that said we should “do unto others, then split.” I wonder sometimes if that’s not how we view ourselves—as sentient lizards—and I wonder if we devalue our own existence so we will not have to reach so high to find ourselves nor have so far to fall when we fail.

Filed under Golden Rule ethics morals virtues human beings animals spirituality materialism philosophy Pogo Albert Alligator

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Vote registers “deep concern” over Iran’s human rights violations

UNITED NATIONS, 27 November 2012, (BWNS) – Citing a long list of abuses, a UN committee today expressed “deep concern” over “ongoing and recurring” human rights violations in Iran.

By a vote of 83 to 31 with 68 abstentions, the General Assembly’s Third Committee called upon Iran to stop such violations, to release prisoners of conscience, and to open its doors to international human rights monitors.

Among other things, the resolution noted Iran’s alarming use of the death penalty, the systematic targeting of human rights defenders, journalists and bloggers, and the “pervasive gender inequality and violence against women.” It also expressed concern over continuing discrimination against minorities, including the persecution of Iranian Baha’is.

The resolution was the 25th on human rights violations in Iran by the Third Committee since 1985 – and its length and specificity reflected the international community’s continuing alarm over increasing violence against Iranian citizens by their government, said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.

"The atmosphere in Iran continues to worsen for all Iranian citizens," said Ms. Dugal. "If your viewpoint is different from that of Iran’s authoritarian regime, you are fundamentally in grave danger."

"For the Baha’is – who are Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority – there has been persistent and worsening persecution at the hands of the government and its agents," she said.

"This has been accompanied by increasing violence and a deliberate intensification of pressure aimed at disrupting Baha’i community life as a whole and destroying their viability."

Ms. Dugal noted that more than 115 Baha’is are currently behind bars for their religious beliefs, and that hundreds more are in the legal system waiting to know their fate.

The text of the resolution – which was put forward by Canada and co-sponsored by 42 other countries – also calls on Iran to better cooperate with UN human rights monitors, particularly by allowing them to make visits to Iran, and asks the UN secretary general to report back next year on Iran’s progress at fulfilling its human rights obligations.

To read the article online, view photograph and access links:

For the Baha’i World News Service home page, go to:

Filed under Baha'i Iran human rights religious tolerance religious freedom gender equality women's issues religious persecution

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The Pathology of Faith, Part Two, Or: “It’s not our fault! Religion made us do it!”

I have come to believe, through long experience, that once we’ve categorized and labeled someone—telling ourselves that all atheists, or all theists or all blacks or all Muslims or all Jews etc. are this or that way—we’ve essentially dismissed them. It becomes easy not to deal with them as individuals, but rather as religious individuals, or black individuals, or liberal or conservative or whatever label we apply. The moment we pop someone into a category or apply a profile to them, we establish expectations for their behavior and thoughts, and filter what they say and do through that expectation, which makes it virtually impossible to see the real person behind the category. Why? Because we simply dismiss any information that does not fulfill our expectation.