Category Archives: Logic

Don’t Believe the Hype: Violence Not Tied to Video Games

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By Daniel Richardson, Class of 2015

On September 16, 2013 at approximately 8:16 am, Aaron Alexis opened fire with a Remington shot gun in the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. Before the bodies of the victims had even been buried, media outlets had already cast violent video games as the real culprit. The Telegraph, for instance, ran the following headline less than twenty four hours after the shooting: “Aaron Alexis: Washington Navy Yard Gunman ‘Obsessed with violent video games.’” Video games also took a hit after the Aurora Theatre and Newtown shootings of the past year.

Although the media has already chosen its side, not everyone is sold on the evils of violent video games. Christopher J. Ferguson, a professor at Texas A&M University, for one, dissents. In his article “The School Shooting/Violent Video Game Link: Causal Relationship or Moral Panic?” Ferguson argues that there is no definitive relationship between violent video games and mass shootings.

Ferguson begins his argument by providing an overview of the current research done regarding violent video games and then breaking that research down into two separate categories: experimental and correlational.3 Experimental research, the most common, typically amounts to taking subjects and exposing them to violent video games, then having them complete a series of tests to evaluate for aggressive behaviors. It is often unreliable and has only yielded mixed results. Correlational research. on the other hand, is even weaker due to the fact that it often does not take into account third party factors such as the subject’s upbringing. Those correlational studies that have tried to account for third party factors have determined that there is no link between violent video games and mass shootings and in some cases that violent video games actually reduce aggressive behavior.

Ferguson then addresses the data on school shootings over the past several years. He focuses primarily on an FBI report put out in 1999 and a Secret Service report completed in 2002. The FBI report concluded that violent video games can have a negative effect, but only if the participant was mentally unstable. Ferguson states that the results of the Secret Service report were even more striking: “Only 59% of perpetrators demonstrated ‘some interest’ in violent media of any kind, including their own writings. For video games, the figure was even lower—only 12%.” These reports are interesting because they are so contrary to the conventional wisdom conveyed by today’s media.

Lastly, Ferguson tackles the issue of why popular news media has turned video games into a scape goat the last few years. He attributes it to a moral panic that has resurfaced many times throughout history. In his own words, Ferguson defines a moral panic as one that occurs “when a segment of society believes that the behavior or moral choices of others within that society poses a significant risk to the society as a whole.” For example, media cried foul when the popular board game of the 1980s Dungeons & Dragons was released, with some researchers claiming it would lead to violence and Satanism. The same issue occurred in the early 19th century when journalists and misguided researchers claimed women would suffer from reading novels. Ferguson proceeds to reestablish his thesis that no evidence connects violent video games and school shootings, giving another more evidence showing shows that in the recent years while violent video game numbers have skyrocketed, youth violence has declined dramatically. Ferguson suggests that in a few years once it comes out there is no real evidence supporting claims that video games lead to shootings, they will eventually fade away.

In conclusion, according to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) 68% of American households own a gaming console, and millions play violent video games every day. Aaron Alexis was one of those millions, but his gaming habits did not cause him to shoot up a government complex any more than playing the Legend of Zelda makes me want to start mixing potions.

Sympathy with the Devil: Andrew Jackson and the Indian Removal Act of 1831

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By Maddie Hoaglund, Class of 2017

Andrew Jackson stated, “The lower country is of too great importance to the Union for its safety to be jeopardized.”Andrew Jackson stated this in relation to the Indian Removal Act. He thought America desperately needed peace with the Native Americans or the Union would not be able to function. Solving the conflict proved to be incredibly difficult for the growing country. With no clear option in sight, the country desperately needed a leader in the conflict. Therefore, Andrew Jackson became the forerunner in the various conflicts with the Native Americans. Although Jackson’s Indian Removal Acts were not justified, he perceived that they would benefit the country by allowing the country to expand, protecting both the Native Americans and settlers from further bloodshed, and preventing disagreements between both governments. In summary, Andrew Jackson firmly believed that his policies helped the country progress.

Andrew Jackson lived from 1767 to 1845. He was born in the South and served in the Revolutionary War as a young boy. Later he became a lawyer, politician, and general. Jackson fought in many wars and through his many successes became a war hero. Eventually, Jackson was elected president and during his presidency he signed the Indian Removal bill in 1831. This bill forced the Native Americans to migrate from their homeland to the less fertile lands in the west. Many Native Americans refer to the journey as the Trail of Tears because of the hundreds of people who died.  Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal bill forced the Native Americans to move westward.

Andrew Jackson perceived the benefits to America with the Indian Removal Act because America needed room to expand. He stated in a letter to Congress, “It will relieve the whole state of Mississippi and the western part of Alabama of Indian occupancy and enable those states to advance rapidly in population, wealth, and power.” Jackson saw the Native American removal as beneficial to the southern states. The property owned by various Native American tribes contained incredibly fertile farm lands: “The region was accessible because of its rivers and dark, clayey soils that were well suited to the plantation style cotton production.” The pre-Civil War southern states had a mostly agricultural economy and relied on cotton as their main crop. The states were always in need of more farm land to support their rich economy. Although the lands were near other southern states, they belonged to the Native Americans. With Jackson’s policy in place, the southern states were given more land to farm which strengthened their economy. Finally, the Native American territory included a vast expanse of land. Alabama alone spanned over 52,000 square miles. The Native American territory was a wild country in which people were unable to settle. The Americans could not live anywhere near the Native American lands for fear of being attacked which pushed them farther west. This was a hindrance to expansion because it interrupted the natural flow of settlers. The settlers were forced into the dangerous and less accessible western lands. Andrew Jackson believed all these advantages to the people of America and desired to make the best decision for the country.

Next, there was much wealth in the Native American territory: “They (the Cherokee) could not stop the settlers’ push for possession of the Cherokee territory, especially when gold was discovered on their lands in Georgia.” The United States government was almost always in debt and therefore, in need of any gold. When gold was found, the government turned a blind eye to the Cherokees. For the sake of the U. S. economy, the Cherokees were forced out of their homes. Although this is immoral, it was necessary to benefit America.

Furthermore, Andrew Jackson passed the Indian Removal Act to prevent future conflict between the Americans and Native Americans. Jackson stated, “It (The Indian Removal Bill) puts an end to all possible danger of collision.” Andrew Jackson was referring to the many wars and skirmishes between the settlers and the Native Americans. As the settlers moved farther and farther into Native American territory, these skirmishes became increasingly violent. For example, in 1813 part of the Creek tribe attacked Fort Mims: “Almost 250 whites were butchered in the quickest manner.”This instance was especially gory and showed that the conflict between the Native Americans and the settlers could no longer be ignored. The brutal event discouraged many American from settling in hostile territory. In retaliation, Andrew Jackson led his men to the warring village of Tallushatchee. Davy Crocket who was present at the battle reported, “We shot them like dogs.” Jackson massacred the Native American village with the same brutality as the Battle at Fort Mims. This demonstrates the desire for both people groups to destroy each other. Moreover, in 1817 Jackson forcibly took the Seminoles’ land and moved them westward. The Seminoles, refusing to obey the Indian Removal Acts, were attacked and conquered by Jackson. Eventually, Jackson had a decision to make. He believed that the only way to protect the Native Americans and settlers from conflict was to forcibly remove the Native Americans west. Therefore, they would come into less contact with one another. Jackson believed that moving the Native Americans west was the only way to avoid any more conflict.

Lastly, the Indian Removal Acts, in Jackson’s opinion, were for the good of the country to prevent government disputes. Since the Native Americans were not American citizens, they had their own government which led to confusion. In his message to congress, Jackson stated, “It (The Indian Removal Bill) will free them from the power of the states; enable them to pursue happiness in their own way.” Jackson believed that the state government was a hindrance to the Native American government because of the amount the states interfered with the Native Americans. Also, there were many instances when the governments clashed. For example, the Cherokee tribe appealed to the Supreme Court. The Cherokee appealed because they passed a law in their territory which forbids the selling of any Cherokee land. However, Georgia declared their law null and void in 1828. “John Marshall decided in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia that the Cherokee were not citizens of the United States and therefore had no right to appeal to the Supreme Court.” The Cherokee went to John Marshall who declared in 1832 that Georgia had no power in Cherokee lands. This is a prime example of the two governments disagreeing. No one knew how to handle the two governments in the same land. Neither government could properly function with the other in such close proximity. Therefore, Jackson thought was best to relocate the Native Americans. In short, Jackson believed that the Indian Removal Acts prevented further government disputes.

Even though Andrew Jackson claimed the Indian Removal Act was for the benefit of America, one might say he was acting out of his own prejudice. Prejudice is undermining or degrading another human being. For example, Jackson ordered his men to destroy an entire village in the Creek War; “He slew 186 braves and brought back to Jackson’s camp 84 women and children.” Savagely, Jackson ordered his men to annihilate the village and tear apart many families. Killing over 100 men without a thought, demonstrates how he had no regard for their lives. Clearly, Jackson demonstrated prejudice in destroying an entire generation of men. However, Jackson did not act of his prejudice because he truly believed strong retaliation was necessary to protect future American settlers. A few months before the battle, the Creeks had massacred Americans in the Battle of Fort Mims. The fighting became so gruesome that the Creek leader even attempted to stop it.The Native Americans fought just as brutally as Jackson. Therefore, Jackson did not purposefully destroy the village because of his prejudice, but because the country needed forceful retaliation to feel safe. The Battle of Fort Mims was terrifying to settlers, but Jackson retaliated harshly enough to protect future settlers. Both people groups should not have thrown life away. Although Jackson was not justified, he did not act out of prejudice.

Andrew Jackson stated, “The lower country is of too great importance to the Union for its safety to be jeopardized.” Jackson’s Indian Removal Act left an incredible impact on the country. Although the act was unimaginably difficult on the Native American, Jackson believed it was the only option. The settlers and Native Americans grew increasingly violent as the Americans pushed the boundaries of their territory. To save the lives of countless people, Jackson decided to pass the Indian Removal Act. Andrew Jackson was a firm leader who took action against for the benefit of America. In conclusion, Andrew Jackson passed the Indian Removal Bill to benefit the United States of America.

Bibliography

Flynt, Wayne. “Alabama” (July 9, 2008) Encyclopedia of Alabama. www.encyclopediaofalabama.org. (accessed November 17, 2013).

Jackson’s Message to Congress on Indian Removal. Andrew Jackson. PBS. http:pbs.org/kcet/ andrewjackson/edu/primaryresources.html. Accessed November 12, 2013.

Mitchell, Charles. “Agricultural in Alabama.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. Accessed November 17, 2013. www.encyclopediaofalabama.org.

McGill, Sara Ann. “Indian Removal and the Trail of Tears.” Indian Removal and the Trail of Tears.(September, 2009):1-2. History Reference Center, EBSCOHost  (accessed November 13, 2013).

Remini, Robert Vincent. The Life of Andrew Jackson. New York: Perennial, 2001.

The Painful Truth: How Pain Management Professionals are Being Undermined by Vague Laws

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By Jack Stein, Class of 2015

Everyone has a different tolerance for pain.  Some people can have a dangerous injury and either not notice it or think that they can handle it on their own.  Others find themselves in great pain with every knock or bruise and think that they need drugs such as OxyContin to cure it.  As a result, it is almost impossible to judge objectively the level of pain that a given individual is in.  The common way doctors attempt to judge a patient’s pain is a 0 – 10 scale (0 being no pain at all, 10 being absolutely unbearable).  However, each person’s scale is subjective to their experience of pain in the past, making it almost impossible to have a consistent ranking of pain for the same injury suffered by two different people.  Because of this ineffective means of identifying pain, many exploit the system and trick their doctors into prescribing more drugs than are needed for the pain.

This subject is explored in Tina Rosenburg’s New York Times article “When is a Pain Doctor a Drug Pusher?” which discusses the dilemma doctors face when treating a patient as to how real their pain is and what dosage to give the patient.  She argues that there is a problem in the way the law allows doctors to prescribe opioids.  One doctor may prescribe an unhealthy, even fatal amount of opioids to a patient without breaking a law.  Another might be scared to prescribe a reasonable amount for fear of the patient misusing them, which could result in the doctor being arrested. Federal law for the distribution of pain medication uses imprecise legal definitions of terms, and Rosenberg argues that this allows for confusion between real patients and addicts.  It is this very law which thousands of addicts try (and often succeed) to break for personal benefit.  Basically, the law puts the distribution of opioids in the hands of the doctors, some of whom are far less educated about pain than one would hope and expect.

Rosenberg cites the case of Ronald McIver, a pain management doctor with an aggressive style of treatment.  He often prescribed double the amount of opioids usually recommended, sometimes even sixteen times the recommended amount. Because pain can only be measured subjectively, McIver always overcompensated in his treatments, aiming for the pain to be a 2 instead of 5 on the 0 – 10 scale.  However, McIver’s style led him into some serious problems.  Some of his patients would fake pain to use the drugs for their ad

dictions.  Others would sell the excess drugs on the black market.  Some patients would drive hundreds of miles just to see McIver, who attempted only weakly to investigate the reality of their pain.  Even before all the  forms were filled out from the patients’ previous doctors, McIver would still prescribe an unusually high amount of drugs.  In cases of doubt, McIver always erred on the side of giving too many pills rather than not enough.

oxycontin-withdrawal-symptoms-addiction-treatment

Rosenberg’s main argument is that the laws about pain management and medication are too vague.  In fact, many jurors and investigators could not find an exact law that McIver broke, despite a clearly harmful and dangerous method for giving prescriptions for opioids.  Many doctors are being prosecuted for stepping over a line that has not even been established, and with pain education being taught in so few medical schools, it is likely to continue like this for some time.  Rosenberg maintains that misconceptions dominate public opinion.  Many doctors live in fear of prosecution for prescribing controlled substances for pain. This needs to be resolved sooner rather than later, says Rosenberg, because real patients are living in pain.  Despite the potential for abuse, opioids such as OxyContin help thousands of pain victims get back to their normal lives.  As it stands, the laws about opioid distribution fail to account for the benefit of such drugs, and as a result many legitimate pain patients have no where to go and no hope for successful recovery.

Rosenburg states that a huge part of the problem as it relates to pain management is the general ignorance of the problem and a proper solution.  Because of this, she is able to form the argument from a legal perspective, examining what approaches are and are not allowed.  Ultimately, she makes the right call based on the evidence provided.  According to the facts that she presented, I agree that the government should do a better job of defining its terms of pain medication and increase its awareness across the country. The medications that are being prescribed today are real and dangerous, especially for those who underestimate their power.  In order to understand the dilemma faced by thousands of pain doctors, it is crucial to remember the purpose of medicine in its most basic form: to help the victims of pain and suffering.  Anything other than that should not be legal, and all attempts to avoid the illegal distribution and abuse of the drugs should be punished harshly.

Pain is debilitating, and often the only solution is for doctors to prescribe heavy drugs.  Abuse is rampant and unavoidable, and often the good drugs are misused for bad results.  Doctors are facing persecution for giving their honest opinion, and pain victims are the collateral damage when the doctors get scared away.  After reading Rosenberg’s article, one is left with an uneasy feeling of pessimism as to the way out healthcare system is being run.  The article touches on many of the flaws in the legal system, and it leaves the reader to determine whether or not it should be amended.

Lewis and the Proof of Prayer

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by Ethan Shaw, Class of 2015

cslewisPrayer has been on the minds of Christians since the inception of the church. The ultimate question one asks regarding prayer is whether man plays any role in ordering the affairs of God (that is, the fate of the universe). Although certainly a baffling question on the surface, this is one that naturally arises in the conversation between philosophy and theology. Boethius, a sixth century Neoplatonist Christian philosopher, notes the following: “The hopes which we rest in God, and the prayers addressed to him, are not in vain; when they are righteous, they cannot be ineffectual.” Following a lengthy attempt at reconciling divine foreknowledge with human free will, Boethius supposes that man possesses certain free will which enables him to produce righteous and effective prayer. Even so, he rigorously maintains an understanding of complete divine foreknowledge. Boethius’s central assertion to this end is that a partnership exists between the divine and human wills because God exists in an eternal present moment while man does not, allowing the two conflicting realities to exist simultaneously. To a less philosophical end, C.S. Lewis also examines the divine-human relationship by way of prayer in his essay “The Efficacy of Prayer.”At the start Lewis takes up the question of whether the efficacy of prayer can be empirically proven at all. For our purposes, prayer can broadly be defined as the means of communication in which man comes into agreement with God’s will. Lewis is centrally concerned with whether this communication, then, actually produces the desired effects. Following several anecdotes regarding miraculous occurrences, he notes, “Even if the thing were indisputably miraculous it would not follow that the miracle had occurred because of your prayers.” Lewis thus stresses it is impossible to prove a causal link between prayer and subsequent events, miraculous or otherwise. Furthermore, he notes that prayer is by nature request and therefore will not always necessarily be granted. After demonstrating that any attempt to truly test the efficacy of prayer is doomed to fail, he concludes that “empirical proof and disproof are…unobtainable” (380). Effective prayer, Lewis argues, must be sincere. Therefore, true prayer must be grounded in personal relationship and conversation with God.

From this point, Lewis puts forth a number of key arguments that can largely be divided into two categories: the nature of prayer and its general purpose. Regarding the nature of prayer, Lewis observes, “Prayer is either a sheer illusion or a personal contact between embryonic, incomplete persons (ourselves) and the utterly concrete Person” (381). Put simply, if prayer has any real effects at all, then these must exist in a very personal and relational sense. Lewis further states that the idea of prayer is much more of an all-encompassing category than is typically assumed. Next he thus defines prayer’s central purpose as a cooperative effort: “‘God,’ said Pascal, ‘instituted prayer to lend to His creatures the dignity of causality.’ But not only prayer; whenever we act at all He lends us that dignity.” Lewis maintains that prayer is merely one facet in which God cooperates with man toward the execution of His will. This comprises the “dignity of causality” described by Pascal. In closing, Lewis draws out the implications of prayer on the divine-human relationship as a whole. He specifically illustrates the inherent paradox visible while Christ prays during his final hours at Gethsemane. God, he argues, clearly has no so-called court favorites when it comes to answering prayer. Altogether, considering Lewis’s statements on both the nature and inherent purpose of prayer are valuable in ascertaining his position.
man-in-prayer

A discussion of the nature of prayer provides the foundational basis for reaching a verdict on its efficacy. Lewis rightly places this first in the structure of his essay; and, as aforementioned, he focuses on the relational component of prayer. He then notes the diverse aspects which prayer entails: “Prayer in the sense of petition…is a small part of it; confession and penitence are its threshold, adoration its sanctuary, the presence and enjoyment of God its bread and wine. In it God shows Himself to us” (381). Here Lewis marks prayer as a revelatory act on God’s behalf and an act of communion on behalf of man. He rightly identifies prayer as a multi-faceted reality that defines all aspects of communication with God. Thus it cannot be seen as a mere robotic function but rather as a living and active discourse in which God brings man into agreement with His purposes. The idea that God answers prayer still remains as a corollary; however, this relational understanding replaces it as the central criterion for determining effective prayer. Lewis persuasively and logically articulates this theologically sound recasting of the age-old query “Does prayer work?” by shifting the focus from perceived temporal results of prayer to divine encounter.perates with man toward the execution of His will. This comprises the “dignity of causality” described by Pascal. In closing, Lewis draws out the implications of prayer on the divine-human relationship as a whole. He specifically illustrates the inherent paradox visible while Christ prays during his final hours at Gethsemane. God, he argues, clearly has no so-called court favorites when it comes to answering prayer.

The second critical step remaining is a proper consideration of the cooperative purpose of prayer. In quoting Pascal, Lewis depicts prayer as God’s way of granting His creatures active participation in determining outcomes. Like Boethius he seems to accept free human will to a certain extent; thus Lewis claims that this view of prayer should come as no surprise when it is seen in the same light as other human actions. Lewis further remarks that such prayers “have not advised or changed God’s mind—that is, His over-all purpose. But that purpose will be realized in different ways according to the actions, including the prayers, of his creatures” (381). Much like Boethius, Lewis seeks to reconcile the coexistence of God’s sovereignty with human action logically. He does so by contrasting what he calls “a sort of divine abdication” with our human propensity “to wield our little tridents.” However, the language of this latter comment has an uncanny resemblance to that of Boethius; this is later found when Lewis describes how “God makes something—indeed, makes gods—out of nothing.” Although prayer certainly involves a substantial measure of divine power granted to man, Lewis seems to go too far in borrowing the Neoplatonist language of Boethius to describe this. God seeks to cooperatively partner with mankind through prayer, not simply to pass all divine power into the hands of mortal men.

C.S. Lewis’s exploration on the effectiveness of prayer provides a much-needed emphasis shift. In truth, understanding the effectiveness of righteous prayer (as detailed by Boethius) does more to illustrate God’s relationship with man than the way in which the world works. Prayer cannot simply be understood through the lens of a cosmic machine, simply because God is fundamentally relational. Therefore prayer, as His means of communication, must be a fundamentally relational activity. By keeping the relational God as our focal point, it becomes much harder to get lost in the vain quest for universally answered prayer. Despite this deeply personal aspect of prayer, it can still fairly be said that prayer does not depend on the person praying. Ultimately God has no “court favorites” because prayer is ultimately about aligning oneself with the will of God. Lewis clearly demonstrates this paradox through the example of Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemane. He remarks, “When God becomes man, that Man, of all others, is least comforted by God, at His greatest need” (382). Ironically, greater spiritual strength thus seems to lend itself to being further forsaken by God, at least on the surface.

Reference List

C.S. Lewis. “The Efficacy of Prayer.” The Essential C.S. Lewis. Ed. Lyle W. Dorsett. (New York: Touchstone Books, 1988).

Boethius. The Consolation of Philosophy. Trans. P.G. Walsh. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).

Parable and Paradox: Rethinking Predestination

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By Heath Padgett, Class of 2016

In the New Testament, one of the most common and effective ways Jesus explained various truths was through parables. A parable, as defined by the Webster’s Dictionary, is a usually short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle. Thus, when it comes to the proper balance between freewill and predestination, a great way to understand the concept is through parables. Since both ideas are implicitly and explicitly revealed through Scripture, Christians must not believe in only one yet not the other. Instead, a Christian must believe first that God chose him and that he must also choose God. How is it, though, that both coexist so perfectly? The simplest way to describe the belief is through a parable:

A man gives all women a chance to marry him as long as they get to know him on a personal level. He also determines ahead of time how and whom he will propose to. He knows for certain his future bride will love him with all her heart, for he would not ask if he knew otherwise. As a result, he proposes. The woman has the freewill to say yes during the proposal and is held fully responsible for her actions.

Now, as was done by Jesus after the Parable of the Sower, this new parable must be explained. Predestination is the belief that events in the lives of humans have been planned out ahead of time by Yahweh, while freewill is the ability to act as a result of one’s own choice. This idea of predestination is demonstrated by the man planning out the event of his and his bride’s future marriage. Following this, all people have a “choice” or freewill to choose God if they desire to know Him on a personal level just like the man in the parable. However, if a person is not first chosen by God, then that person will not be the “bride” of Christ. God’s elect resides in those whom He knows will love Him with all their hearts, souls, and minds. Likewise, a man usually does not first choose a wife unless he knows the same. Also, it is the full responsibility of the wife to choose her husband, even though she has first been chosen by him. If the wife does not say, “I do,” then the marriage cannot go forward. The same is true with Christians. Christians must accept Jesus as their own and place all their trust unto Him.

Although this exact parable is not stated in the Bible itself, the Gospels repeatedly refer to Jesus as the Bridegroom of the Church. Furthermore, the parable, although it does not completely explain the ideas of predestination and freewill coexisting, aids in understanding the basic existence of the two.

Out of Control: How Cultural Values Encourage Unbelief

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by Josh Moore, Class of 2014

In modern culture, the existence of God has become quite controversial. Many deny the existence of God, and instead accept the implausible existence of evolution or aliens. Why does today’s society so reject the concept of a higher power?

One major emphasis in today’s society is the concept of control. People enjoy “controlling” their own lives, enjoying the feeling that they can do as they want without the help or guidance of anyone else. This selfish desire for control shows up in all stages of life, from a two year old demanding that he can do everything by himself, to an elderly woman insisting she can drive, despite the fact that she failed the drivers test. Society has reared multiple generations who believe that they can successful control their own lives.

The concept of God threatens this desire for control. If there is a being who is not only more powerful than humankind, but created man for his own purpose, that means control of every life should be in His hands. Since He is supposedly the creator of all, everything, including personal ambitions, belongs to him. Therefore, humans should have no control over their own lives. Evolution, or even aliens, provides a much more comfortable explanation, because control is still personal. Why then should anyone believe in God, if they can instead reject Him and keep the feeling of control?

Ultimately in today’s society, comfort is valued over reason. This is why explanations for creation such as evolution and aliens hold prevalence, even though they seem absurd to a logical person. Truth has become relative; whatever feels best and is most comfortable must be right. The concept of God is not comfortable or pleasurable, therefore God must not exist. The entire point of Christianity is relinquishing control to God and following his plan and call. Furthermore, Christ says in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in Heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12).” The history of Christianity, as well as many other religions, is not one of worldly comfort and pleasure, but instead one of intense persecution. This concept threatens society’s emphasis on comfort and frightens many people today. But instead of recognizing the truth, they instead turn to foolishness.

Comfort and control have become the gods of today’s society. American culture centers on giving people whatever they want and letting them do whatever they want. This is why entertainment businesses succeed so well. Television, movies, books, video games, and all other forms of entertainment pull people into another world, which is much more controllable and comfortable than reality. The desire for control and comfort that runs modern culture is not necessarily a verbal objection to God; instead it is a major cause of all other vocalized objections. People aren’t willing to voice their fear of losing control and comfort, so they develop other means of rejecting anything that threatens them. Society has been blinded, and it will take the work of God to make them see.

Why Religion Should Not Be Taught in Public Schools – Olivia Godfrey

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A widely discussed and highly controversial issue throughout all of the United States is whether or not religion should be taught in public schools. Senator Phillip A. Hart from Michigan said, “I’m a Catholic and I hope a devout one, but I think that the public school classroom is no place for me to try and impose my world formula for prayer on children who don’t share it, and for that very reason, I don’t want my children in a public school classroom to be exposed to someone else’s religion or formula.” Hart is stating that he believes everyone should have freedom to have his own beliefs. Other people’s religious views should not be forced upon others, especially children. People like this do not agree with those who believe that religion should be allowed in schools for various reasons. For example, many people who do believe religion should be taught in public schools argue that they have the “freedom of speech” granted to them by the First Amendment. But does this mean that one can go out into a public place and speak out anything he wants? This is where the fine line is drawn between religious and state matters. Religion should not overflow into the government funded education. Religion should not be allowed to be taught in public schools because more controversy would be present if religion was permitted, many public school officials do not know enough about other religions beside their own, and lastly, teaching children about every religion is simply impossible. These three points all lead to the conclusion that allowing religion to be taught in public schools will only create even more problems and issues than were present before.

To begin, religion should not be allowed to be taught in public schools because too many controversies would be present; therefore, more arguments would start. The word religion means, “a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects” (dictionary.com). “To be taught religion” means to learn about each religion and its beliefs and faiths in order to understand it or to believe what the specific religion teaches or believes. Nowadays in society any kind of disagreement can and often does start an argument. The public school, however, is no place for more disputes to be made over religion. There are already arguments present in the public schools without religion being discussed. In the article “Getting Religion Right in Public Schools” written by Charles C. Haynes, Haynes writes, “A cursory glance at the daily headlines reminds us that religious differences are at the heart of many of the world’s most violent conflicts. And, in the United States, rapidly expanding religious diversity presents daunting new challenges for building one nation out of many faiths and cultures in the 21st century” (9). In this excerpt Haynes is trying to reveal that many of the roots of our country’s problems are the religious controversies in our nation. If the public school system does decide to allow religions to be taught, then it will only create more problems. There is no way to get around it. The more one teaches about religion, the more people will argue about what is true and what is not true. The teachers cannot force a student to think a certain way or believe in a certain religion, but the student must think for himself and decide what to believe and what not to believe. The First Amendment of Constitution states, “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.” There are many interpretations of the First Amendment. Because of the various interpretations of this amendment, it would be hard for all of the public school systems to answer the questions: to what extent should religion be taught if it is allowed to be taught? Does giving the people the freedom of religion and speech mean that religion should not be allowed to be taught? Or does this mean that to a certain point religion should be allowed to be taught? These are the types of questions that lead to many disagreements as well as arguments. Mona M. Abo-Zena writes in her article titled “Faith from the Fringes,” “Religious diversities prompt a range of student interactions and reactions” (16). Abo-Zena, when stating that religious diversities prompt a range of interactions, means that these interactions and reactions can be productive but, they can also be destructive. It all depends on each situation. But, there is no need to put children at the risk of having to defend their faith in front of others who do not believe the same as they might. Children should not be forced into arguments that they themselves cannot control. All of this to say that allowing religion to be taught in public schools would only lead to more controversies over religion and the start of many arguments that could have been avoided.

Another reason why religion should not be allowed to be taught in public schools is because many school officials and teachers do not know enough about other religions besides their own. The article “Getting Religion Right in Public School” written by Charles C. Haynes states, “Despite the recent increase in study about religion in schools, many Americans still have little or no knowledge about religions other than their own—and even that knowledge is often thin” (9). This is a problem because if public schools did decide to allow religion to be taught, the teachers and officials would have to be taught about all of the various religions first before they would be able to teach their students. This does not mean that teachers in public schools do not know of or about other religions besides their own, but it is merely impossible to really know and understand every religion present in America, just as Haynes has presented. This excerpt clearly defines why allowing religion in public schools brings about the problem of teachers being ignorant of many religions. This alone should make people think twice before allowing their children to attend a public school which allows religion to be taught. Also, another issue is that each teacher will probably only be well versed in his own religion. Mona M. Abo-Zena writes in her article “Faith from the Fringes,” “Teachers have tremendous power to validate or deny, to recognize and illuminate or ignore any sensitive topic in a classroom” (17). This statement demonstrates how having teachers with different personal religious views and convictions can affect the children they teach. This is not how religion should be taught. Whenever someone is given power, he can either use this for better or for worse, and in the case of allowing religion to be taught in public schools by uninformed teachers, this power will be used in a negative way. It may even lead to the issue of each teacher putting emphasis or even sometimes leaving out certain parts of a religion because of personal preference. This would lead to issues such as offending families of children by making some students feel of more importance. Many children in public schools are bullied for reasons such as clothing, grades, and popularity, so what is going to keep others from learning of one minority’s religion and using it against them? The way a teacher portrays each religion may have a negative connotation, so it does not seem right that public schools should create an environment where even a child’s religion is mocked. Thomas Hutton’s article “Teaching and the Bible,” “…it’s easy to do badly” (39) referring to the teaching of religion. Teaching religion is not as simple as some may perceive it to be. Religion is often a tender subject for some people, which means that when teaching about religion, one must be sensitive to others. However, this cannot be guaranteed by all of the teachers in a public school system. All in all, because the teachers in public schools have so much power and can use this to, not intentionally, but negatively affect the children, public schools should not be allowed to teach about religion.

Lastly, religion should not be allowed to be taught in public schools because teaching various children about many different religions is simply hard to do well. To start, it is not very likely that every religion can be taught to every child. This is very unreasonable, yet if it is not done this way then many people may become offended. Just think about how much time it would take to thoroughly teach about one religion along with the beliefs and rituals. In the book “Religion and Education” published by Bonnie Szumski, it is written, “… the goal of having ‘objective’ or ‘balanced’ teaching in respect to religion, and specifically the Bible, would be difficult if not almost impossible in the current social climate” (51). This means that nowadays it is very unrealistic to think that when public schools try and teach about religions they will interpret and know everything about each religion in order to do it justice. Now this is not a problem for private schools because many are focused on one religion. Yet for a public school, many different religions are present. Therefore, if the public schools wish to teach religion, then every religion must be taught. However, schools do not have the time to teach about various religions. Public schools will not be able to provide enough of a balanced religious atmosphere for religious minorities. In Mona M. Abo-Zena’s article “Faith from the Fringes.” She writes, “Religious minorities may alternately feel proud, unique, unwelcomed, ashamed, or targeted in public schools” (15). Clearly this would be a major issue if religion was allowed to be taught in public schools. Diminishing students for their beliefs should not be what the public schools system is all about. Those who are religious minorities are people who have religions that are not as well known or as widely practiced as others in America. Even though this may not be a large people group, they are still people and have the right as American citizens to receive respect towards their religious beliefs. Therefore, religion should not be allowed to be taught in public schools because teaching about every religion well in public schools is simply impossible.

While the point that allowing religion to be taught in public schools will lead to too many controversies and arguments is a valid point, many people argue that this should not keep children from broadening their minds by learning about different religions. In the article “Getting Religion Right in Public Schools,” Charles C. Haynes writes, “Public schools can (and should) teach about religion, where appropriate, as part of a complete education” (13). When one first looks at this statement it seems to sound as well as look logically correct. But the downfall is the phrase “complete education.” What defines “complete education” in public schools? This is where the problem lies. There is no way that public schools will be able to find a clear and precise definition for a “complete education”. Since there is no way to find a definition that everyone would agree on, this would create conflict and start arguments. This clearly shows why the point prior is valid. Public schools should not allow religion to be taught because it will lead to too many controversies as well as arguments.

Although it is true that religion should not be allowed to be taught in public schools because there is not enough time or resources to do so, some people believe that these should not be restricting factors when it comes to religion. An excerpt from the book “Religion and Education” states, “For example, the late Justice William Brennan, in a concurring opinion in Abington v. Schempp, stated that, ‘it would be impossible to teach meaningfully many subjects in the social sciences or the humanities without some mention of religion.’” (43). When a student broadens his knowledge of other religions, this will overflow into his knowledge in other classes. This is a very valid point, but, there is still the issue of being able to teach about every religion well in a restricted amount of time. In order not to offend any students in the school, without singling them out, it is necessary to address every religion and what the beliefs and practices are. But this is simply impossible because this is time consuming as well as simply hard to do well. Often times school curriculums will make assumptions about certain religions and people that may not be true. In Thomas Hutton’s article “Teaching and the Bible,” he writes, “Bible instruction in public schools sometimes has made assumptions about religion and student that are inconsistent with a neutral, academic approach” (40). This quote fully supports the idea that when teaching religion, false assumptions are often made. This however is not beneficial to the school or the students, therefore leading to issues. This is why it is better for everyone, teachers as well as students, that religion is not allowed to be taught because it would only cut the time of other important classes as well as be hard to do well as to not offend any students.

Public schools are supposed to be a place where all religions are welcomed but when people who do not want to be outspoken about their beliefs are forced to, then this will only cause conflict. In the book “Religion and Education” published by Bonnie Szumski, it is written when discussing the issue of prayer in public schools, “Who gets to choose the prayer? What happens to those students who find the prayers offensive or against their own religious beliefs? What happens to those who do not–for whatever reason–wish to take part in prayer?” (36). Students already are insecure about their popularity, grades, and clothing at school so why make it even harder for a student to be himself in an environment that was created to help him? This should not be the main goal of public schools. If issues will be created by allowing religion to be taught in public schools, then the risk is too high. Many students are already insecure about what they believe and some do not even know what they do believe yet. Public schools do not need to try and force all of this knowledge about other religions in their brains when many do not even know what to believe. The main point is that religion should be for the church and home, not for the public school system. Indeed, religion is a major part of America, but there should be a fine line between church and state and this is where this line should be drawn: between religion and education.

 

Abo-Zena, Mona M. “Faith from the Fringes: Religious minorities in school.” Phi Delta Kappan 93.4 (2011). 15-19. 12 February 2013. http://www.avl.lib.al.us/resources/display_resources.php
Haynes, Charles C. “Getting Religion Right in Public Schools.” Phi Delta Kappan 93.4 (2011). 8-14. 12 February 2013. http://www.avl.lib.al.us/resources/display_resources.php
Head, Tom. Religion and Education. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2005. Hutton, Thomas. Teaching and the Bible.” American School Board Journal
195.6 (2008). 38-41. 12 February 2013.
http://www.avl.lib.al.us/resources/display_resources.php 

Alice Boone – Adventures in China

By | Knightly Herald, Logic | No Comments

Thousands of steps loom above me. The Great Wall of China is an intimidating sight, especially when one has only thirty minutes to climb to the top and be back at the bottom. A deep breath swells my lungs as I begin my ascent. The steps start small and are easy to scale. The first tower entered is like a maze, housing many nooks and crannies along with ancient ladders leading to the rafters. After exiting the first tower, a gasp escapes my lips. Nearly vertical stairs dominate the scene. Knees lift high into the air as my body crawls up the massive blocks of stone. Now begins the real challenge.

Higher and higher I climb. Arms pump and legs push up the scores of steps. Shortness of breath overcomes me. The second tower has been reached! A break is much needed, but it does not last. Up I go again. This set is even more difficult than the previous one, for fatigue has started to creep through my body. However, nothing can hinder my determination. After what seems like an eternity, the final tower is close enough to be entered.

A few team members and I continue forward until a sign that reads “No Admittance Beyond This Point” blocks the pathway. This meager block of wood is not going to thwart our plans of reaching the highest point of the Great Wall in the area. Heads duck under bushes and feet trip over roots. Then all at once, the overgrown shrubbery ceases and opens to a breathtaking view. Dwarfed by the surrounding mountains, I slowly rotate, taking in the scene around me. Looking back proves that fellow team members Caleb, Ben, and James are doing the same.

Curtains of fog mask the true magnificence of the landscape. An unreachable length of the Great Wall stretches to the peak of one of many small hills. Vines, roots, grass, and trees have completely overtaken it, leaving the stone underneath barely visible. The sun hangs overhead, illuminating the scenery and creating a glare as it hits the mist. Silence screams our solitude. The edges of the crumbling walkway decline severely. Pebbles are knocked off the boundary and disappear far below. Pieces of the Great Wall snake across the mountains’ outline. Words can do no justice to the beauty before me.

Sadly, the admiring must come to an end. After snapping a few photos, we make our way back down the Wall. In some ways the descent is more difficult than the opposite because if a foot is misplaced, we could easily fall to our deaths. Scooting down the steepest steps seems to be the only way to successfully make to the bottom. We speed through the towers, more familiar with the pattern of intricate passageways.

Thousands of steps later we reach the ski lift that carried us to the wall. Thankfully, no one has been injured. There is only one way down the mountain- a toboggan that plummets along a metal chute at alarming speeds. Now begins the real fun. Hopping onto a cart, a Chinese man motions towards the instructions written in broken English. Excitement for the upcoming ride is so overwhelming I do not look at the sign but thrust the lever forward as far as it will go. Down the metal track my cart shoots, swerving the turns and gaining speed every minute. Squeals of joy emit from my mouth, for the ride is thrilling. All too soon the cart reaches the end of the track at the bottom of the mountain. I have never done anything more enjoyable! Four braved the trek; four were generously rewarded.

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The Importance of Exercise – Jack Stein

By | Logic | No Comments

In 2011 a statewide study done by the Birmingham News showed that 33% of the people in Alabama are obese.  Seventy percent are labeled as overweight.  The easiest way to solve this overwhelming problem is by exercise: any physical activity that develops fitness or is done to maintain or increase a skill.  It may seem obvious that exercise is a prime solution for ridding Alabama of obesity, but clearly the people of Alabama are doing nothing to solve the issue for themselves.  However, one of the best ways to increase exercise and decrease the obesity rates in Alabama is for all schools in the state, public and private, to mandate regular exercise of some form for at least thirty minutes every day.  This way all children attending a school outside the house would be able to receive all the proper tools to increase their level of fitness and lower the obesity rates in Alabama.  Obviously, most students do not have an athletic activity outside of school, and mild forms of exercise like walking up and down stairs are simply not enough to enable these students to have a healthy level of fitness.  By schools mandating exercise, the students’ health would benefit as well as the physical and academic aspects of the students.  In some cases not only would the students benefit, but also the schools themselves would benefit by including mandatory exercise in their curriculum.

Initially, schools should make exercise mandatory because of the health-related benefits it would give students.  Exercise is a great way to combat diseases and other kinds of health conditions.  According to a Mayo Clinic fitness study, exercise helps prevent diabetes, arthritis, and depression by releasing chemicals that ease depression and reduce other harmful immune system chemicals.  Thousands of kids in Alabama suffer from diabetes, high cholesterol, and depression; and if schools enforced exercise as a part of a student’s daily schedule, then the number of kids suffering from one of these diseases would dramatically drop.  By exercising every day, students would lose tons of unwanted calories which are stored in the body as fat and can lead to diseases.  Once the students lost these unwanted calories, they would be left with a healthier and fitter body.  Also, exercise enables people to live longer.  By the higher heart rate exercise causes, the students would be left with a stronger heart which would enable them to live a longer, healthier life.  In fact, according to “To Live to a Biblically Old Age,” those who exercise consistently are far more likely to live a longer life than those who never exercise at all.  This shows the importance of regular exercise as it pertains to health.  The positive affects of exercise are shown over time to benefit the exerciser in the form of a longer life.  This points out the need for consistency; exercising off and on will have little affects in the long run (To Live to a Biblically Old Age).  Schools have the best opportunity to ensure that the students are exercising every day and not just once a week.  Millions of people have lost their lives prematurely due to diseases, and many of those have been children.  However, if schools invested in their respective students by mandating exercise, they would help the students tremendously in the long run and enable them to live longer, healthier lives.

Additionally, exercise should be mandatory in Alabama schools because it would give physical and athletic benefits to the students.  With 70% of Alabama’s total population labeled overweight, it stands to follow that many students in Alabama are not in a safe condition physically.  Exercise in schools is the easiest way to guarantee that all students in Alabama would receive the tools they need to reach a healthy physical condition.  According to the study done by The Mayo Clinic, thirty minutes of exercise per day can significantly control one’s weight; and schools could easily find the needed time in their regular hours.  Exercise is the best way to control one’s weight because it helps to eliminate unwanted fat and build muscle at the same time.  By exercising at school, the student would be able to save a large amount of money that could be spent trying to lose weight somewhere else.  With students in better shape, the athletic programs of the schools would improve greatly.  This would bring greater attention to the schools both at a state level and even on a regional or national level.  By schools mandating exercise and helping students lose weight and obtain a healthy level of fitness, they themselves will receive great reward at an athletic level as well.  The opportunity they give the students to have that level of fitness gives the students the opportunity to give the schools athletic success.

Finally, students would benefit academically if schools made exercise mandatory.  A recent study by NPR showed that exercising every day greatly improves brain activity and development.  This way, not only would the students’ brains be able to function for longer periods of time, but they would also be able to function at deeper levels.  The level of focus in students would tremendously increase and they would be able to pay attention for longer periods of time.  Consequently, it follows that the students would become smarter and more capable in the classroom.  In fact, the New York Timesshowed that students who exercised every day had on average a .4 advantage in their GPA over those who failed to exercise daily.  By helping the students improve academically, schools in Alabama would in turn help themselves.  Because the students would be so well equipped academically, they would be able to perform better on standardized tests, which solely reflect the school and how it teaches the students.  Involuntarily, the more the schools help the students, the more the students help the schools.  Many people would point out that mandating exercise would take time out of the school day for actual learning.  While this is true, the increase in brain power and efficiency that regular exercise provides would make up for the lack of time in the classroom.  In the long run, it is more important to have regular exercise than the equivalent time of learning because the student would make much better use of his time that he would have in the classroom due to the increase of focus he would have.

While almost everybody would agree that exercise is beneficial, many people have serious concerns about the financial effects it might have on both the students’ families and the school itself.  Losing weight through exercise means losing money spent on new clothes for that student.  It would cost a great sum of money for this to take place.  There is no doubt that effective exercise would indeed require spending money on new clothes due to the effects it would have on each student; however, in the long run, a change in lifestyle is more important than spending money short term.  Losing money on new clothes is required throughout time with or without exercise, and the money would still have to be spent one way or another.  For the schools themselves, most public schools already have the facilities that it would take to enforce regular exercise.  For those that do not, fundraisers and other ways of making money would not be hard to come up with to receive the money that would be necessary to build facilities for the exercise to take place in.  Additionally, the exercise programs that each school would need to sustain would not have to be unusually nice or fancy.  Effective exercise can easily take place without high-end equipment.

It would not be difficult for schools to mandate daily exercise.  Exercise can take a number of different forms, all greatly beneficial to students in different ways.  Most school have a track or a path that students could run around, and many schools also have a weight room.  For schools like Westminster without a track of weight room, the students could easily go to the gym and play basketball and other sports to increase the students’ blood flow and lead them on a road to a high level of fitness.  In more ways than one, daily exercise would leave students healthier and in better shape physically.  In Alabama, obesity leads to an unbelievable amount of conditions like diabetes or heart attacks.  If schools mandated exercise, then the benefits to the student’s health and physical condition would greatly reduce obesity and thus lessen the chance of life-threatening conditions.  That 33% obesity rate could easily drop down ten percent into the range of many northern states just by the number of students who would have been transformed by schools mandating exercise.  For the safety and health of the students in Alabama, schools should make daily exercise a part of their curriculum.

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