The social Matrix

The social Matrix

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lets talk about SEX

No issue has caused more controversy throughout American history and perhaps the war than sexuality. Anthropologist note how the limitations of sexuality fluctuate based on culture.

Tribes in Sambia allow young boys to perform felatio on them as a sign of a rite of passage. In many Indian tribes homosexuality is normal where in many religions its forbidden. Even the dominant religion, Christianity isn't monolithic on sexuality. While Catholicism may seem the most conservative by allowing for sex only in the context of procreation, to fringe groups like The family International who believe having sex is the best way to show Jesus you love him.

Not matter if you agree with it or not sex dominates much of our culture. The history of sexuality in America was recently re-examined in the latest issue of time magazine.

The featured article marks the 50th aniversary of the birth control pill. A pill that shaped relationships between men and woman forever.

Not only did the pill allow woman control over hear body but it allowed her greater access to oppurtunites she might not have been able to take advantage of if she had children.

Since 1970 70% of women stayed home and the rest worked. Now the statistics are reversed. Over the course of ten years as access to the pill increased from 1970 to 1980 many women were able to take advantage of this new technology and further their academic interest;

10% of woman were first year law students in 1970 that number increased to 36% 10 years later likewise 4% of women were enrolled as buisness students a decade later enrollment went up to nearly 30

Sexuality is an emotional and sensitive issue for most. That is why there was much residence against the pill. Prior to the birth control young girls would hide their pregnancy as much as they could for fear of being ostracized or worse--being disowned from their families.

It was not just conservatives opposing the pill many minorites opposed it as well on the grounds that it is being used by the government to control the black population. Some even went as far as to call it a 'black genocide."

Many social conservatives opposed the pill for fear that it would led to sexual "anarchy" and other forms of social decadence. During the mid 60's prominent news magazine, U.S. News and World Report, looked at the issue and found that there was a case in California were wives were turning tricks for profit even though under the consent of some of their husbands.

The Birth of the birth control pill concide with a larger movment that set to redifine america for generations. The 60's marked a time of an American schism. COnversatives vs liberals, pro vs anti war, Civil rights movment and of course the sexual revolution.

50 years later since the pill was first invented many think that Birth control only works half the time. In a study done by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy 40% of participants admitted that the think a woman has a 50% chance of getting pregnant.

Another recent study revealed that women live longer and are less likely to die from diseases such as cancer or heart disease.

Personally, I dont have a problem with the birth control pill or the conotations associated with it. I have a unique background, my grandmother was an ardent catholic who gave birth to 9 children, however my mom is quite the opposite. She had three children outside of marriage. While growing up my mom had different boyfriends some of them seam to have the best of intentions others no so much.

As I stated above, most of the resistance to this pill was because it would produce promiscuity. What's interesting to note though is how implicitly the more men show off their sexuality the more powerful they are but when a woman does it they are shun. Yes, many religious authorities would argue that men should be as celibate as women but the reality is that the sacredness of a woman's sexuality is emphasized more than a man's. The birth control allows women to redifine what sex means for them. Rather than simply being used as a vessel for procreation women can now delay child birth to pursue their goals.

Is it selfish not to want to have kids? I dont think so. Although there is nothing wrong with having kids or desiring to start a family there is also nothing wrong with choosing the opposite.

The debate over the birth control has heated up for decades it will be interesting to see where the pill takes us another 50 years.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

That was cool

Yes that was cool second test

Test blog

Im testing my blog

Should Hip Hop be considered art?

As the president of the hip hop student association I feel it is my obligation to defend hip hop against those who choose to discredit it as an art form. In order to do this I have created a survey in which I hope from a large sample of students I am able to understand what people think of hip hop and more importantly some, especially the older generation, why some do not consider it music. I don’t think it is a matter of people not liking hip hop--that I dont care about. Many people like different things, some people like country some don’t like Strawberry ice cream. I believe that the majority of reasons why people don’t like hip hop is because there reasoning is clouded in ignorance perpetuated by the mainstream media.

There is nothing inherently wrong with being ignorant. Everyone is ignorant on many issues. Ignorance is not a sign of weakness it is a sign of the honesty within our humanity.

In general, there are three reasons why most people oppose rap and hip hop music in general. Most of the reasons are not simply they cant get into it but are more complicated. Many people who dont like rap believe that rap is not music. I remember having a discussion about this with my grandma who studied music in her youth. She could play the piano as well as other instruments. She told me that rap was not music because the beat repeated an thus it lacks creativity.

Tangentially speaking, I do not have the pleasure of engaging in rich dialogue with my grandmother because her memory is fading and her intellect is not as powerful as it used to be. At any rate, this is one argument me people use to argue why they don’t listen to rap and more importantly don’t consider it a legitimate art form.

The second reason is that there are many people, due to lack of information, who think rappers only care about pleasing themselves. Drugs, violence, misogyny, and materialism/creed and a kaleidoscope of other negative images is usually what comes to the average American mind who despises hip hop.

Lastly, many critics of hip hop think that rap is talentless. They think to themselves. “How hard is it to rhyme?”
Although I could write several books in defense of hip hop culture I will limit my arguments by putting my main arguments in context of what author “Jay Dubya” aka John Wiessner well-known author, wrote in an essay entitled “Rap is not Music” criticized hip hop for the aforementioned points.

It isn’t just the older white generation of academics who are criticizing hip hop. Graduate student Thomas Chatterton Williams has made it abundantly clear that he believes the only good that comes from hip hop is that those who are in the process of making hip hop benefit economically through job creation. He also states that unless you are defending hip hop in academics “to the point of Absurdity” like Michael Eric Dyson hip hop is not beneficial instead it’s destructive to “black dignity.” In an interview with Tony Brown Williams said that it is an issue of anti-intellectualism. He used Kanye West “College dropout” as an example.

This criticism is pervasive through academia the media and other mainstream outlets. The criticism is not without its merits. But an honest scholar would have to look at this issue in all its nuances. In both of these scholars analysis they do the intellect a disservice by using a sample of mainstream artist as a representation of culture that spans four decades.
Before I totally destroy these critics’ arguments I am glad that they said what they said. If hip hop has any chance for a future it needs external critics like this who can expose some of the shortcomings of the culture without being constraint by political correctness.

With that being said lets look at hip hop in the context of Jay Duba’s article. The first argument he makes is that hip hop is not music;

(Music is) organized sounds in the form of notes that then result in a smooth blend of rhythm, tone, and pitch that when united, is quite pleasing to the ear. Rap is not music. The unpleasant-sounding horror is chaotic dissonance and certainly not elegant consonance. Rap is veritable noise pollution that is tastelessly amplified from a cumbersome boom box.

Dubya continues

Why isn’t “Rap Music” genuine music? Because Real Music possesses two authentic characteristics: it has grace and beauty, two marvelous components that “Rap” sadly lacks. Rap tunes usually are nothing more than one monotonous beat

First of all we should agree on what Music is. Generally speaking music consist of three parts; Harmony, Rhythm and Melody. I’m not a musicologist but I would argue that hip hop posses at least two of these qualities. Rhythm signifies repetition. There is a repetion of the sound in music that is why music is different than noise. Albeit some hip hop tends to have a repetitive beat that is only so that the rapper can rap. For something to be melodious it has to be pleasing to the ear. Some people might not find Country or heavy metal to exhibit this feature does that mean they should not be considered music?

Dubya’s clearly does not understand the complexity of hip hop music. The simplicity of his argument makes me yearn for at least one copy of Scratch magazine. Does Mr. Dubya know about Grandmaster Flash and what he went trough to create his “noise pollution”

“Not enough people have been told the details of the story of hip hop. If you were to hear how I came up with the idea of taking one piece of music and repeating it over and over again, you’d look at me like “So?” But if I told you how I did it, how many times I stayed in my room and many needles I broke…it might be a bit more interesting.”

I consider myself an expert in most music, but I can still look at a Jazz historical program and say “Why did he blow the horn like that, how did he slip the finger like that and come up with that sound?” (Vibe history of Hip Hop) GRANDMASTER FLASH

Hip Hop is truly innovative. Does Dubya know who DJ Kool Herc is and his contribution to hip hop;

“Herc wondered what would happen if he got two copies of the same record and cut back and forth between them in order to prolong the break or sonic climax. Unwittingly, he stumbled upon the breakbeat” (Vibe history of hip hop)

It is not just hip hop that was influenced by Herc’s musicianship but also dance, techno and other music.

What is the point? The point being is that hip hop music is more complicated then Dubya is making it out to be. Has Dubya ever heard of instrumental hip hop? Many hip hop producers/djs who produce instrumental hip hop are not constrained by “One Monotonous beat” instead Hip Hop DJs like DJ shadow and RJD2 use a collage of samples to produce their own unique music. Some might look at sampling and say that it is nothing more than stealing from other people’s music. I beg to differ. Yes if you sample the entire song but uses numerous albums to create his music.

Think of it like a chef. Suppose that a chef uses several ingredients for a recipe. Suppose that I were to look at how he used the spices and I looked at other chef techniques and how they used a combination of ingredients to get a unique taste. For example if one chef combines cumin with onions in garlic and mixes it together with curry powder, if I incorporate this into one of my dishes should I be accused of not being original even though that is just part of my finish product?

Another example is writing. Authors use ideas and writing that came from other sources in order to promote their ideas. The point being is that hip hop is criticized for sampling other music yet if you take that same standard and apply it in other areas it doesn’t make sense. I believe that there is nothing wrong with taking a variety of elements that come from different people and incorporating into one’s art. To me I find, Shadow’s work aesthetically pleasing:

“Shadow created a deep, endlessly intriguing world on Entroducing one where there are no musical genres only shifting sonic texture and styles. He (Shadow) created the entire albumn from samples almost all pulled from obscure, forgotten vinyl and the effects is that of a hazy half familiar dream….the multilayered samples and genres created something new.”

Writes music critic Stephen Thomas.

Another issue debate is should turntablism be considered an art?
I wont get into this in too much detail but I suggest looking at DJ Q-bert for more information. Qbert is perhaps one of the best representatives of the art of turntablism. DJ-Qbert is known for numerous new scratch techniques as well as tutorials on DJ history.

“He invented the first musical annotation system for scratching, battling and composing on vinyl” (wikipedia)

Another example of the raw creativity of turntablism is in 2001 when a DJ known as Scratch Bastid juggled two records together to create the Imperial Death March from Star Wars. It may not be music to Dubya’s ear but he cant deny the inventiveness.

Finally Dubya seems to forget that there are many hip hop artist who use live instruments like the Roots or K-OS. In fact if you look on the linear notes of one of the latter’s album you will notice that the first tract is produced in collaboration with the Canadian Orchestra.

Lastly, I wonder what someone like Dubya makes of hip hop violinst Miri-Ben Ari?


Now let me move into another criticism Dubya and others like him have about hip hop. According to Dubya the actual act of rapping is talentless. It takes no skill. But let Mr. Dubya’s words speak for themselves;

Rap Music” is essentially non-creative no matter how creative its performers think they are in writing it or in presenting it. And the rappers have the unmitigated audacity to describe themselves as “artists.”

Real Music usually has singing associated with it but Rap only pretends to be music

Most rappers can just robotically shout, yell, holler, drivel, rant, slobber, prattle and babble in rubbish junkish mechanical non-poetic lyrics that lack imagination

Certainly it doesn’t take much of a genius to concoct lyrics that come up with diabolical rhyming words for “ditch and witch” and for “duck and luck!”

Were should I start. There are some rappers who use simplistic nurse-style ryme schemes but there are many hip hop artist who are more complex when constructing ryme schemes. Many use different literary techniques in their rymes. For example Gift of Gab used alliteration in his song “A to G” where he literally uses words for the same constant for the first line then goes to the next line using words from the second constant in alphabetic order. He does this while also rapping faster each time.

There are two ways I evaluate a rapper’s style. The first is the delivery and the second are different rhyming techniques. Many underground rappers don’t simply rhyme one syllable with another many have poly-syllabic rymes. For example in one song an artist writes

Throughout his LP “the big Picture” Big L usually rymes using two words throughout the whole album.

Ayo, I shoulda been out I'm deadly when I pull the pin outKeep frontin', I'ma try yo' chin out I knocked a lot of men out
Made singles wit' a fifty on top
L tryin' to have the city on lock

“So I start/ to/ build/ a Bridge/during my Ag/no/stic pil/grim/age” Sage Francis

“My lyr/ic/ism/ Amplifies/ every/ letter written/” Canibus

Another tool commonly used is internal ryming schemes.

Killa cobras that hova overa jehova in motorized autogiros and sycamore rotors, hydrogen paraoxided and gaseous vapors/ technically these words shouldn’t even ryme on paper

Canibus 101

Also notice how he incorporates terms used to describing writing into his verse.


Do you know how to paraphrase?/Do you even understand what the narrator is trying to say?/The climax explodes/; nobody can foreshadow my flow/ Figuratively the language is too dope/ Academic journals print my lyrical quotes/ They show parallelism in all the albums I wrote"

“The lyrical inimical is miserable because I've built a citadelOf syllables that made me invincible”
On the Sabbath/ I write preplanning/ for the Planet/Drawin' mechanics/, suspended in space as holographic/

There are many rappers who take words and ryme them together even though initially the might not seem to go together

Tears slid from his eylid He got silent, then he said violent) (Sporty Theives.


nervous wreck

circus net

broken dreams

no job openings

I'm like a wasp in the hospital lost
Stingin everything I come across in the halls

Notorious BIG

“MY slow flow is remarkable

I'm trying to grow it back again, it was an accident I had my back against the fan and chopped it off in Amsterdam

No reason for your mans to panic You don't wanna see no ammmmbuuulances Nas "Made you Look"

Battle rappers are known for this

“Firebender/Al-qaedia member” (Dizaster)

Pineapple/ryme battle/ white castle”
“A less distinguished version/of an English person”

hearing it

One rapper uses word association to make his lyrics more creative

“Internet GROSS/exaggerations of the truth is often stranger than fiction novel think groups

Tales from the CRIP walking on the planking sales

Life insurance for the living dead BEAT box away your

Work away for your summer job HUNT the best deal under the sun block

Any concept of time SHEETS of acid rain

Lean solutions for the dangerously over WEIGHT WAIT just a minute

Vegas how I come aCROSS section part of town

Kick this one for my DJ red ALERT the masses of what I say

The microphone for help wanted dead or aLIVE from New York Saturday Night Fever running high


Pay attention to the wordplay

Thus my mind spoke on Jedi pedestals and roasting demos semi seminals who try to test testicles of this mc's quotables By summoning the smoldering murdering minister thats mastering mayhemslaying day out & day in out'spoke'n like a dayton Rim that be keeping 'em staggering through lyrical pattern and traveling through my abdomen unraveling at the speed of a javelin still reppin' Vatica

here he plays of the name of rock bands

The puertan rican does his thing"I hate the police so much i'll probably assasinate stingmy system of a down-Rages against the machineTie you up in a slipnot and hold Alice in chains in her dreams
Yo punks you wait... I punctuateMy karma's the commaThat puts you inside of a comaHyphen, dot, dot, semi-colon, leave you semi-swollenQuestion mark, you pregnant?
Oh you're not? I love you, period.

A lesser known artist who uses internal ryme scemes is L’Roneous

Another technique that rappers use is that some of them will separate the syllables and place emphasis on the last one

Big L
“I throw slugs at IDI—OTS”
“Got no love for City-Cops”

NAS Made you look

same hand that you hoop with
Swing around like you stu-pid

panic stric-ken, she'll remain stuck On a titantic sin-ken, shes tryin to stay up (Sage Francis Broken Wings)

Cannibal Ox

Eh yo, I'm a black man with an Af-ri-can/ Drum in my chest that beats on the opposite of the right

IMAGERY-many rappers are very descriptive—

using a lot of images in their rap song.

EDAN Beauty and The BEAST

The numbers they fall off the clock midnightAt the museum an apple is stolen out of a still lifeYou see 'em, stand by the mirror with no reflectionA point five appears on your shirt for half stepping……..Planets of the solar system now trade places

Statues and national fame become faceless
Great lakes evaporate and leave no traces
The man with the mustache reveals the three aces
Briefcases open to expose sheet music
The thief hears the piece performed and weeps to it
Master violinist plays the solo one handed
Another example of a song by a hip hop artist rich in imagery is Saul Williams Robeson

I slept once, the dream has yet to end
It was a purple evening such as this
the curtains had been pulled by a hand unattached
I lay propped on a pillow of eagle feathers on a couch
look how Def Jux rapper AESOP ROCK vividly describes his urban environment
I was sitting on my fire escape and I SAAAAAAW sturdy bridges, decorated with dirty pigeons, a vagabound begging for three pennies and a princess, a junky tourniquet surgeon urging the needle in, a batty senior citizen flashin that aweful teethless grin.

Lastly Mr. Dubya returns to the same arguments rehashed by other critics of hip hop. That hip hop promotes black stereotype. To a certain extent this is true. There are many artist whose work is mainly defined on such one-dimensional stereotypical themes as violence misogyny or creed.
In addition, there is this problem in hip hop known as anti-intellectualism. This is perhaps a larger American problem. Just look at how people discuss politics. The whole way that the newspaper is written is done in such as way that it is simple and the reader can get everything he needs in the first sentence. The media today is so fragmentized that it is hard for people to pay attention. This ultimately will lead to a “dumbing down” of America.

Nonetheless this is true for hip hop in the mainstream. In a study on Music and intelligence by grad student Virgil Griffith Griffith studied SAT scores and musical preferences. Surprisingly he found that Lil Wayne listeners had the lowest SAT scores. Should that surprise me? Honestly with lyrics like “I gotta mansion with 10 bathrooms and I could SH#$% all day.”

Two years ago Sam Fulwood from the Plain Dealer wrote an article about a panel discussion on Black Masculinity at Myers University. One of those in attendance was a young black woman who wanted to know how she can convince young black men to value education. She said that many of the young black men who do read are often viewed as weak. She said that there was once a boy she dated who aspired to be either an athelete or a rapper.

A good song that rebels against this theme is Lupe Fiasco’s “Dumb it Down”

“You didn’t go to College Obviously/ That’s why you speak with an ungodly terminology” Canibus

This clearly shows how hip hop as its presented in the mainstream is clearly having a negative impact on young black men. However I must point out that I believe is obvious. It is not the artist that should be blame but the media that should be held culpable. In one of my classes I look at the Hip Hop media. I looked through several different magazines listened to the radio my conclusion was that you seldom hear a song or see an artist that doesn’t promote a stereotypical image. The same artists are constantly played on the radio stations over and over again. Another example is BET. For the last few years BET has nominated hip hop artist who are popular regardless of their skills or creativity. The question is if the media gave as much exposure to alternative/underground rappers as commercial or mainstream artist would consumers buy their music?
is both heartless and soulless. Standard love songs show respect and consideration for a member of the opposite gender but most contemporary Rap lyrics promote a hedonistic “me first” ghetto survival theme that is cruelly perpetuated upon its afflicted listening audience.
It is shallow and hollow linguistic jargonized anger-oriented ghetto garbage. “Rap Music” is analogous to looking at a rainbow having only one dull color.

This is perhaps something I feel the most passionate about.
If there is anything MR.Dubya is incorrect about it is certainly this.

Tere are many artist who dont promote a
Hedonistic "me first" ghetto "Survival" theme
Dubya compares rap to a rainbow with one color
Let see how that holds up to reality. Allow me to illustrate this with numerous examples

Remedy "Never Again" Josh Martinez "Deny" both of these songs are about the holocaust.

Aesop Rock "No Regrets" throughout this song Aesop Rock chroncles the life of a young girl whose love of art defines her even until she becomes elderly and is put in a nursing home.

  1. Last Empeor "One Life" Last Emp questions what happens when people die
  2. Jean Grae "My Story" is a story about going through an Abortion. There are several songs by male hip hop artist that same to have an anti-Abortion theme. The best example of this is by an artist known as Qwel.
  3. Chino XL "What am I" Trying to figure out how to define himself because he is biracial
  4. Eyedea in this song eyedea takes the listener on ride as he describes what is happening to him after he dies.

Another great artist that attempts to challenge stereotypes through his music is Murs; on the song "THis is for" Murs raps;

"You dont have to sell drugs or make the NBA/ITs easy to get a grant and get your MBA/Young people there is more than one way"

"in brotherly love" Murs says to his younger brother

"We have to fight to show that our youth is intelligient/so keep it gangsta in your CD changer not your residience"

The strongest evidence against mr dubya that rap is "me first" is that there are alot of hip hop songs written in third person

Eyedea "bottle dreams"

One of the better known underground artist Talib Kweli uses this in a song called "Four Women" where he describes the lives of four different black women from different times in history.

Many hip hop artist have used hip hop as means to question authority, religious, political etc.

In a song by rap artist K-Rino called "Grand Deception" he raps about the imagery behind the back of the dollar bill and its connection with masonic symbolism.

Another example is KRS-One's critique on Christianity;

The truth about the cross, and the cross's historyThe cross was created by the Roman governmentIt's only purpose and use, is cap-i-tal punishment But Jesus Christ, was all about the revolutionWhile the cross was used as Jesus Christ's executionSee what if Jesus Christ, was hung upon a tree Upon every church wall, that's exactly what you'd seeIf Jesus Christ, was shot in the head with no respectWe'd all have little gold guns around our neck

RASS KASS goes even further

But, I've fallen from your grace A billion paths to take, but which one is truly straight?

In the song Nature of a Threat. Rass Kass details how Western Civilization dominated other cultures starting with greece.

Defending Islam Immortal technique raps;

A fake church called the prophet Muhammad a terrorist Forgetting God is not a religion, but a spiritual bond and Jesus is the most quoted prophet in the Qu'ran

There are numerous allusions to politics in hip hop;

Sage Francis "Conspiracy to Riot"

Providing entertainment for the status quo.

Then once every 4 years they pander to the black vote. Oh, religion ain't a tool of control?
Then why they pull the God card once they're losing in the polls?

Foolish. I know. We're victims of circumstance. It ain't coincidence we're children of the worker ants. While those in power ain't never owned a pair of dirty pants But they're quick to kill your health insurance plans.

In one of Francis's better known songs "Makeshift Patriot" he criticize the way the media sensationalized the events of september 11.

It's times like these I freestyle biased opinions every other sentenceMy journalistic ethics slip when I pass them off as objective

I've got exclusive, explicit images to present to impressionable American kids And it's time to show this world how big our Oedipus is!

Another song Francis questions eduation as a tool for brainwashing students on "majority Rules"

I got lectured once while eating breakfast for lunch Said dad to me "Reality is nothing but a collective hunchWhatever you want the truth to be, simply fool the masses Attack them mentally with tools of power like the Masters Get em in elementary school and college classesEventually you'll overrule their cowardly asses

the aformentioned rapper Immortal technique doesnt shy away from critcising foreign policy;

They bombed innocent people, tryin' to murder SaddamWhen you gave him those chemical weapons to go to war with Iran.....You really think this country, never sponsored terrorism?Human rights violations, we continue the saga El Savador and the contras in Nicaragua

Allow there are many rappers who incorporate homophobic themes in their lyrics there are others who are not afraid to show tolerance towards the gay community. the best example i can think of is Brother Ali's latest song "tightrope."

Hip hop says more on more issues than any other genre of music. While some hip hop is primarily meant to make you move your body there are many particularly in the underground scene who rap about the human condition. Alot of rap is intellectually stimulating. Listening to the aformentioned Canibus sometimes is like trying to put together a puzzle. Canibus is the equalivant of Dan Brown if he rapped.

For example one of his best raps Poet Laurette part 2. Canibus list a series of noteworthy intellectuals and concepts most Americans probablly never heard of. Its not just random gibberish or simply pretensiousness its more than that.

By looking at this song in further detail and suplemented by further research i learn that Klein Kluza are two scientist who influence Einstine and laid the foundation for "String theory" Stephen Jay Gould's work on evolutionary biology, Maddam Tussad's wax museum, David Hume's subjective but not too subjective philosophy and Joseph Heller's opinion on the power of the imagination. in the same song he quotes Russian philosopher Oupensky:

"Different methods interpreted into different forms/From entirely different perceptions and seen from different norms"

Canibus wants you to think about what he is saying when he raps

"Why consumers act like there afraid of intelligence speech?" Canibus ask on the song "One ought not to Think"

Why does a rapper like Canibus choose to use obscure refrences in his rap?

"The secret to creativity is hiding your sources," Canibus

It is abundantly clear that there is more to hip hop then mr Dubya's perception of it. One needs to happen is a revolution in the music genre its time for those who stand for something in hip hop to let their voices be heard. Unless the underground starts to take control of the media that dictates the culture nothing will change and people like Mr.Dubya and others like him wont have to go far to prove their point.

I have been an aficionado of hip hop for the past 7 years and I'll be damn to see it become a reincarnation of a minnistrel show without a fight.

Why I am an Agnostic?

Recently I was riding the bus and came across a religious pamphlet. The pamphlet was entitled "Have you believed Another Gospel"? the pamphlet consisted of a cartoon of a man looking at a pole with signs pointing to different directions. Some of them point to Buddhism Islam Hinduism or Mormonism. The point of the pamphlet is clear; The only way to God is through Jesus.

Inside there are several verses that reaffirm the exclusivity of God through Christian doctrine. What is God's response for people who fail to follow the Christian doctrine?

"In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, that obey not the gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction..." Thessalonians 1:8-9

The track goes on to say that if you believe in another "Gospel" (sic. religion) you can not have a relationship with God.

Currently I am an agnostic. It is not that I dont believe in God it is more so I dont know which God is the right God.

Again the basic premise of fundamentalist Christianity is that only Jesus is the way to God. Furthermore it is the correct understanding of Jesus. You must believe Jesus is God and the Son of God and that he died as a sacrifice for the soul of humanity.

Lets look at this putatively weird doctrine a little closer to understand its spiritual significance. Why would God want to sacrifice his son and how is that showing love? Well, let’s put this in perspective. Throughout the bible there are numerous references to the Firstborn animals, children, and fruit. What is meaningful is that a man is supposed to remain a virgin until he gets married and "the two become one Flesh." What does that exactly mean? It means that there is something spiritually significant about a man's virginity and that it is that sacredness of the man that gets transformed in the form of a firstborn child. Its as if the man is giving away something of himself. This is especially true of the first born child. This could be why it was so hard for Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac.

"The bible clearly teaches that a person must believe the gospel to go to Heaven. TO teach any other way of salvation is to deny God's word," The pamphlet reads.

The pamphlet continues and says that God loves you and does not want for you to go to Hell but that you are a sinner and that you deserve an eternal punishment in hell.

Interestingly enough Paul himself gives almost a divine directive when he tells his followers not to trust any other message even if it’s from an angel from Heaven. Yet at the same time, Paul admits that if the crucifixion never happened that the Christian faith is baseless. Is that a hint of vulnerability I'm reading?

Let’s put this in perspective; suppose this is true what does this mean? Although Christianity is the largest religion in the world it only accounts for 33% of the population. Furthermore only approximately 2% engage in the biblical call of evangelism. In other words that means if Christian fundamentalist and literalist doctrine is true many people will suffer eternal punishment for their ignorance.
Does this seem fair?

I believe it was the 18th century education philosopher John Dewey who once said the same social conditions that make someone an Anglican in England is the same thing that makes someone a Buddhist in Peking? The point being is that how can someone be spiritually accountable if they grew up in a culture or religion that was ignorant of God? Assuming that Buddhism is wrong of course? Should that person face eternal misery simply because they were brought up in the wrong religion?

When it comes to other religions many evangelicals come across as immeasurably ignorant. There ideas of Hinduism is that Hinduism is a religion of many Gods its idolatrous and everything is God and you are God. Islam? There is a "prophet" Muhammad who received a false revelations. They look at religions from the east as an amalgamation of new age hocus pocus failing to see the nuances that exist in these religions.

Yes there some, especially westerners who dabble in Eastern religions for superficial reasons. These individuals are more concerned with experiencing the immediacy of what they believe these alternative faiths offer rather than understanding them in their entirety. They do the yogas experiment with Crystals chant some obscure Sanskrit mantra without understanding the comprehensive history of the religion. They may have heard of Krishna but they dont understand the context of the Mahabharata war they may have heard of the Ramayana but dont know the whole story.

This may have to do with American culture. Many America's dont take the time to look at things critically. We tend to just want the SoundBits and nothing more. One sociologist has referred to this as "the Mcdonalidization of Society." I believe this applies to religion and any other field like politics, that take a certain level of intellectual honesty and maturity that few of us have the time to develop.

Without getting to off tangent although there are many evangelicals who have a fundemtalist outlook on Salvation, there are many voices who have a more nuanced understanding.
One example is, Liberal evangelical Tony Campolo. For Campolo he is reluctant to admit that salvation from God’s wrath is limited to those who don’t accept Christ. Campolo admits that he has trouble believing this and that if it were true that non-believers of Christ would burn eternally then there should be a sense of urgency in converting people:

To say that the billions who have never yet accepted the gospel will burn forever and then go on about life relatively unconcerned, seems to me evidence of an almost inhuman emotional callousness

Although Campolo admits that he believes in hell, he goes on to say that heaven or hell is not an impetus for believing in Christ it is what Christ does for him in his life on earth that is important.

When asked directly if he believes non-Christians will go to heaven Campolo refrences Romans 2:14-15 which states that those without the knowledge of God in the scripture will be guided by their conscience.

Although I disagree with his assessment that people choose to go to hell. I doubt very much so that if there were a hell and that people could comprehend the intensity of such a place few would choose to go their.

Campolo’s reasoning is misleading. Yes people make immoral decisions but they don’t do so because they want to suffer eternal punishment. People don’t get angry, spend money avariciously, or engage in premarital sex because they are “choosing’ to go to hell.

People don’t choose to have sex because they know they think it will lead them to burn forever they choose it because its exciting liberating, and natural. To “choose” something is to suggest that the person making the decision is fully aware of the consequences. Personally I don’t think there is a hell.

That does not mean that I believe people like Hitler or Stalin, or any other brutal dictator or Charles Manson gets away without any repercussions for their behavior.
I think that they deserve to be punished but their punishment should be a reflection of the crime they committed. Unfortunately, many evangelist have the problem of applying the same punishment to everyone with little regard for the disproportionally of crimes committed. To put it another way, if sex before marriage is a crime against God then why should someone who had sex once or twice before marriage be given the same punishment as someone like Ron Jeremy who is a repeated offender? This is true for other “crimes against God.” Should someone who killed another human being be given the same punishment as someone who committed genocide?

In his book “Sharing the Truth in Love” Sri Lankan Christian Apologist, tells fellow Christians that they should be sensitive to other people’s cultures similar to the way Paul Contextualized the Christian message for various audiences post-resurrection. Although, Fernando writes that he believes there is good in other religions the truth is only known in Christianity.

“The biblical Christian may say we have some peripheral similarities we are different at the center”

Fernado goes on to write that “gods” from other religions can lead people people astray.

Satan can use the best in other religions to lead people away from the truth

Fernado comes to the conclusion that:

“Other passages present even more clearly the truth that gods of other people are demons”

To give a more biblical understanding of Fernado’s and other like him, like Indian apologist Ravi Zachrias’s view here are some passages;

1 Corinthians 10:19

But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils

Another commonly used verse is the first chapter of Galatians which read:

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

9 As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Many Christian fundamentalist use this verse when they try to discredit Muhammad revelation.

Fernado goes on to say that Christ’s supremacy is justified because many cultures believed in Sacrifices for God but that Christ was the last and ultimate sacrifice.

Now that we have a proper understanding of Christian Fundamentalist attitutudes towards other religions.

Despite these diplomatic acrobatics the question still remains why should someone believe that Christianity is superior to other religions? What evidence does Christian apologist have outside of the bible?

There are many ways that we can evaluate the truth of a religion outside of scripture one way is through. Archaeology.
Many Asian apologist will admit that there is some good in Hinduism yet disregard any archaeological evidence associated with Hinduism. A good example is Krisha’s state; Dwarka which was thought to be regarded as mythology;

Another strong example is the Ramayana. In the Ramayana the principal character is said to have built a causeway to rescue his love from the evil Rakshaka (demon) living in Sri Lanka. Recently GPS satellite images suggest that there might be more truth to the Ramyana than indologist give it; Dr. Bhorjraj Dwivedi stated in his book that scientist have discovered a Reef Frest. According to Dwivedi these reefs were dropped in the ocean forming rocks and eventually hardening and forming walls. Over a serious of years these hardened reefs would form a bridge;

Ram's Bride

A great source for archaelogical evidence of Hinduism can be found in the debate over the Invasion theory. The invasion theory posits that Indian culture was not original instead it came from somewhere in Europe.

The grounds for this believe have been largely discredited. What I find interesting though is how out of this debate there have been archaelogical findings that have seemed to correspond with hindu scriptures. A good read for this is “The Invasion that Never Was”;

One example is the rig-Vedas

The Rig-Veda repeatedly refers to Saptasindhu, or the seven rivers, a clear description of the Punjab with the Sarasvati to the east, the Indust to the West and its five tributaries in between.”

“Not only that, the Rig-Veda makes dozens of refrences to the sea or the ocean, which “clearly show a maritime culture.”

This is just the tip of the Iceberg. In a recent PBS documentary on India. Documentarian Michael Wood takes views through some of the places discussed in the Mahabharata;

I think that as you saw in the interview with BB Lal, the excavation at Hastinapur (and Lal’s examination of over thirty other sites mentioned in the Mahabharata-most of which have never been excavated) proved that the mythic story (rather like Schliemann’s excavation of sites named in Homer’s Iliad) did go back to real places that existed in the late Bronze Age or early Iron Age (Lal thought Hastinapur was abandoned in the ninth century BCE and that the Great War in the Mahabharata might have taken place around 860 BCE). Now obviously this doesn’t prove that the war actually took place or that the heroes were real people; but correlation with the historical layers of the Rig Veda –the battles of the Purus and the Bharatas, the battle of the Ten Kings, etc. - suggests a real context to such wars. I have a feeling that closer examination of the later hymns in the RV may take us closer to the real wars between the Ravi and Kurukshetra in the late Bronze/early Iron Age.

A more detailed explanation of the dating of the Mahabharata war can be found here;

dating of Mahabharata

This is just a sample of why I find it hard to believe that a religion like Hinduism is nothing more than mythology.


Another way to judge religions is miracles. Many Christians are quick to say that when a Christian performs a Miracle it is picks God wills it but if someone from another faith does so it is from Satan.

But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one Acts 8:9

The aforementioned apologist Fernado has this to say of the Hindu saint Sai Baba;

“The bible is clear that powerful forces that take people away from Christ are to be denounced.


“he is guilty of the very serious sin of keeping people from seeing the light of the gospel of Christ” Fernado points to 2nd Corinthians which state that Satan sometimes disguises himself as an angel of light.

How do you explain Mata Amritanandamayi Devi? Allow it is said that she has seen visions of Krishna and that people have tried to poison her the same way that people tried to poision Krishna, the truth of the matter is that there is no evidence that she is trying to lead people away from Christianity.

What is this “evil woman’s power” to deceive people away from the “true God?” Does she swallow glass? Fly? Turn into an animal? She hugs people. Its as simple as that. She doesn’t even say she is a Hindu she says her religion is love. She doesn’t require her followers to bow down to some “unknown God.”

AMA's Miracles

Are we to say that her miraculous experiences should be attributed to Satan?

Another example is the story of RamaKrishna.
How can God allow someone like Ramakrisha to be mislead by the Devil.

Ramakrishna deeply wanted to know if he was truly worshiping God;

“Art thou true, Mother, or is it all fiction—mere poetry without any reality? If thou dost exist, why do I not se Thee? Is religion a mere fantasy and art thou only a figment of Man’s imagination?”

Finally, after much patience Ramakrishna decided that he could not be sepearted from “Her” any longer.

“Life seemed to be not worth living for. Suddenly my glance fell on the sword that was kept in the Mother’s temple.” As RamaKrishna was about to kill himself he said that the divine Mother revealed herself to him and he experience an intense spiritual moment. It is said when when he regained conscience on his lips were written the words “Mother”

For fundamentalist Christians and other exclusivist it might be noteworthy to look at Sri Ramakrishna and how his exploration of other faiths especially Christiantiy;
In a biography written by Swami Nikhilanada Ramakrishna is said that Christ had possession of his soul.

“A voice rang out in the depths of his soul; Behold the Christ, who shed his Heart’s blood for the redemption of the world, who suffered a sea of anguish for the love of men.”
“It is Jesus the Eternal union with God. It is Jesus Love incarnate.”

Collossians 2:4 and 8


Another example of why I find it hard to believe that Jesus is the only way to God is because of science. Many Muslims have used Science to solidified their belief in the Quran.

Without getting into too much detail. Many Evangelicals do not know this. If the Quran is false than why do certain Scientific truths seem to correspond with what is in the Quran? Christians rarely look at the scientific merits of the Quran. If the Quran is false why would it contain scientific truths?

In addition, if Jesus is to be said to have been predicted through the Jewish Scriptures what about the claims by Muslims that their prophet is said to have been predicted by both the New Testament and the Torah.

For example, in the book of Isaiah there is a part where the prophet speaks of another prophet. Whats interesting about this prophet is that he is said to come from (Kedar) and most interesting is that he is unlettered and told to recite by God but says he cannot read which is exactly how Muhammad’s experience is described.

Like Hinduism and Christianity Islam too has had extrodarinary examples of miracles:

For example, there was a baby found in Russia that had Quranic verses on its leg;

Quran verses on Baby

I wonder how Christian apologist explains that.


Many Christians believe that Jesus do not posses the fullness of God because they deny the messiahship of Jesus. Have Christians actually studied the Tanakh and explored it from a Jewish perspective, the might be interested to note how certain parts of the “Old Testment” have been manipulated to conform to Christian doctrine.

For example in Matthew 27:9-10 the author attributes a prophecy in which Judas is bribed with thirty pieces of silver to Jermiah. However there is no evidence for this. In fact the only refrence is in Zachrias (11:13) the meaning is different. No where in Zachrias does it refer to a bribe.

Another example is John 2:16 where it is written “Zeal for your House will consume me.” Many apologists point to Psalm 69:9 many jews would argue that its not a messianic prophecy because a few verses prior the Psalmist admits to being a sinner.

Here is a list of Prophecies from a Christian Perspective;

Messianic Prophecies

Here is a list of Jewish objections

Jewish Response

Let me share an anecdote with you as to why I don’t think Jews need Jesus to find God. I once met a Rabbi who told me one of his congregants knew someone who was sick in the hospital. The Rabbi went to say a prayer by the tombstone of a Jewish Sage. Before he got into his car the phone rang. The congregant’s friend healed immediately.

What strucks me as fascinating is that even Paul was not Completely sure of his faith

And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not
. Corinthians 15:14

The truth is that there is no way to prove that Christianity is superior to other faiths. The point of the post is not gone on the offensive and claim Christianity is false but to defend other faith systems that Christianity has labeled as Satanic for the simple fact it is not Christianity.

As for, I dont plan to be held forever in spiritual ambiguity i do plan on reaching a conclusion on who God is but I dont want to do so with out research.

What saddens me is that there are some parts of the bible that suggest we as humans can’t think for ourselves.

Collossians 2:4 & 8
Corinthians 1:8

I believe there is a God I just haven’t figured out which one. In the future I plan on doing an exhaustive investigative study that will hopefully lead me to the truth. Throughout the course of 6 years I will be studying 6 religions. I will pick them randomly. I will emerge myself into these faiths--knowing their text intimately and participating like a true believer. If I dont feel the presence of God afterwards--then i give up.