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Friday, October 27, 2006


This is a Stoic poem by Joe Wells, who posted it recently on the International Stoic Forum...


Pneuma folds fields, encompasing Kosmos
in fiery generation. Me, a puzzle piece
yet whole. A gentle conception lost most
often. I flow freely and feast
outside rigidly defined self. Between
dog and me, nothing. Each a vortex
a singularity of mind softly seen
spinning in space-time. Psyche soar
in the place where causality is
chance, wave functions prance and
reality unwinds into strings. Fists
full of tachyons engorged with sand
of primal tide. Star born child
frolics in cognitive field, wild.

Secular Parenting

The Houston Church of Freethought has been developing a Sunday School for the members to bring their children to. Like the HCoF, the Sunday School will be nontheistic in nature, and there is discussion going on as to how to form the Sunday School and also how to attract more nonreligious families. Here is one member's thoughts on parenting as atheists, which I thought might be interesting for my readers, regardless of their own views...

1. There seems to be a general belief among parents that assuring your children attend church services and sunday school is part of being a good parent, and something that many parents do just for that reason. I honestly don't believe that it has much to do with any religious conviction but rather an idea that if you want to teach your kids to be good moral citizens they have to have religious instruction. So I think even couples who were not church attendees before they had children start attending as part of raising their children. Perhaps we could counteract this by having some moral message in sunday school?

Personally, I think it is my job to teach my children right from wrong and I want them to do the right thing, not because they think some god is watching them and will punish them if they don't, but rather just because it is the right thing to do regardless of whether anyone is watching! This is what I would tell anyone who asked how my children can have good moral characters without religion. I teach them self respect and compassion and empathy for others, and that (hopefully) is why they do the right thing, not fear of divine retribution. Using religion for moral instruction is like telling your children Santa will only come if you are good, and he will somehow know if you are not. That might make them behave better, for a while at least, but it won't teach them right from wrong. So far this seems to be working out as my children are not little monsters, don't get in trouble, are Honor Role students, have plenty of friends, and have both received awards for citizenship.

2. Overcoming cruelty from other children and parents also probably keeps families away. By raising our children atheist we have caused them to experience some unpleasant treatment from other children who have the unfortunate stereotypical view of athiests as moral degenerates. This hasn't happened very many times, as it's not something kids discuss much, but maybe as they get older it will happen more frequently. So far there have only been a few times when they have been excluded from playing with all the other kids in the street, and told "since you don't believe in god, you're bad, so you can't play with us." I have explained that it is not acceptable for the other kids to treat them that way, just as they know they must respect other people's beliefs. Still they find it upsetting of course. I can't say that anyone has every told me to my face that I am a bad parent because I am raising my kids atheist, but I am sure there are those who feel that way. The fundamentalists across the street who tell my daughter she is going to hell because she reads Harry Potter, are not really among those whose opinion I value too much anyway.

3. Maybe the shock and disapproval of family and friends is much more severe when children are concerned. I am sure that no one is happy if they are strongly religious and their son or daughter is athiest, but when that son or daughter starts raising their child atheist the objections increase. It was easy for [my husband] and I as we were not raised by religious parents and have both been non believers all our lives. If you come from a family that is religious I can imagine that deciding to raise your kids as actively athiest would be very difficult. I don't see what HCoF [can] do about that, like anything else with parenting you have to do what you think is right no matter what other people say, but I can see that it would keep people away. We could offer support of like minded parents. Perhaps that is a good selling point, because athiest parenting can be a lonely task.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Dehumanization: A How-To

This week something very interesting happened to the United States. It moved, yet another step away from the United States even people my age grew up in – not the dictatorship that reactionaries might characterize things, but not quite the free democracy that the founding fathers envisioned either.

Last Tuesday, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 was signed into law[1]. It is, yet again, one of those tools we’ve created to fight against the bad guys. What has this got to do with philosophy?

Philosophy includes religious ideas, political principles, the concept of rights, and more. What is terrorism? When should it, if ever, be used? What do we do in response to it? How many lives are worth a change of government? What is torture? Should we torture? How many rights are worth our security? What practical options are there to war? How should we treat our enemies? All of these are philosophic questions and, far from sitting on dusty bookshelves, they are profoundly impacting our world and our very lives today. The ‘War on Terror’ itself is an ideological battle, strewn throughout with conflicting philosophic ideas and ideals. This philosophical struggle is not merely between the terrorists and the rest of the world, but it is also between different nations, and different groups and individuals within nations.

So, when the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA2006) was signed last Wednesday, it was based on a philosophic vision of how things ‘ought to be’. Much more, it solidified that philosophic vision into policy. Some of the key points of interest in this act are as follows:

1) It defines who is an ‘unlawful enemy combatant’ and solidifies broad power of the President to, for all practical purposes, unilaterally declare someone as such (as long as he can find three officers to appoint to a tribunal who will go along with it).

2) An ‘alien unlawful enemy combatant’ is defined as being an ‘unlawful enemy combatant’ who is not a citizen of the U.S.

Once the President (in effect) has decided you are an ‘alien unlawful enemy combatant’...

3) You may not invoke Geneva Convention protections in this or any other American court.

4) Effectively, the right of Habeas Corpus is nullified.

5) The President has the sole authority to determine whether or not all of this is in compliance with the Geneva Conventions.

6) Hearsay evidence may be used against you.

7) Evidence may be used against you that was obtained without a search warrant.

8) Evidence, if the government decides it is classified, may be used against you which you are not allowed to see.

9) Evidence may be used against you when the degree of coercion (including torture) used against you to obtain it is disputed. In other words, if the people who tortured you say they didn’t, that’s enough to admit the evidence.

10) Only a 2/3 vote is needed to declare judgment on you.

11) Narrows the effective definition of torture to ‘severe’ physical or mental pain or suffering.

All of the above are contrary to the many protections the U.S. Bill of Rights affords to its citizens. These same protections can be found in international common law and the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They are designed to make trials more fair, impartial, and accurate than they would be otherwise. Without the sort of protections nullified by the above, proceedings tend to evolve into ‘kangaroo courts’, where a person who the prosecutors want to find guilty, will be found guilty regardless.

Amnesty International says of this act that it allows[2]:

- Secret detention
- Enforced disappearance
- Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
- Outrages upon personal dignity, including humiliating treatment
- Denial and restriction of habeas corpus
- Indefinite detention without charge or trial
- Prolonged incommunicado detention
- Arbitrary detention
- Unfair trial procedures

Some might take comfort in knowing that this sort of process has been used before, or that it can only apply to alien unlawful enemy combatants and not citizens. Indeed, there is a great debate going around on whether or not these provisions of the MCA2006 could in fact be applied to a U.S. citizen.

In the draft legislation Domestic Enhancement Security Act of 2003 (also referred to as the Patriot Act II), the Department of Justice suggested (in Section 501) that U.S. citizenship be stripped of anyone the President decided to call a ‘terrorist’[3]. If something like that act were to go into effect, then a U.S. citizen could quickly go from being an ‘unlawful enemy combatant’ to being an ‘alien unlawful enemy combatant’ where all of the MCA2006 would apply. All of this categorization would happen based on nothing substantially more than the President’s individual desire.

Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley (who testified in favor of the Clinton impeachment, by the way) said of the MCA2006, “The framers created a system where we did not have to rely on the good graces or good mood of the President... people have no idea how significant his is.”[video here] [4]

Constitutional law attorney Alison Nathan wrote, “...the U.S. Constitution establishes as a fundamental structural premise that there will be three independent branches of government that serve as checks and balances upon each other. Removing entirely the independent judiciary from any role in checking the conduct of the Executive and Congress is a substantial alteration to that structural premise.”[5]

There are those who simply hate the Republicans or the President and make wild statements for this or other political reasons. They will invoke all sorts of conspiracy theories about 9/11, make melodramatic statements about dictatorships, or have ridiculously wide-sweeping definitions of terrorism such that it includes their political opponents. This is not unlike wild claims about liberal agendas or of President Clinton having murdered troublesome people. Philosophers who concern themselves with Truth and genuine wisdom must be above this sort of political demagoguery. What is more difficult is parsing our fact from fiction; spin from genuine reason. Those who make overstatements and distort information for some perceived greater good, are as much of a problem as those they criticize, for they make it difficult for reasonable people to understand what is really happening and to then do something about it. Further, they create a sense of helplessness by suggesting that things are far more hopeless and ‘rigged’ than they really are – thus minimizing the public’s willingness to act.

Still, all demagoguery aside, reading several sources, one can’t help but get the feeling that there is something happening in this nation - something disturbing for which we are all to blame, regardless of party or position. Even on the highly and inflammatory conservative radio talk show of Michael Savage, where pleas to bomb the entire Sunni triangle are the norm, a loyal listener and Christian conservative asked, “I wonder if some of these laws we’re passing might come back to hurt Christians later on?”[6]

Professor Benjamin Davis of the University of Toledo College of Law says, “Something deep in the American soul was stirred by the 9/11 events. Something that reminds me personally of what one sees in the eyes of lynch mobs in the old pictures.”[7]

This mentality is playing out in our courts and in our laws. If someone were to declare an outright coup and attempt a dictatorship, that would probably be preferable. At least then it would be obvious what is being done and by whom, and what must be done to stop it. But it seems our loss of liberty is not to come with the marching of soldiers down our street. More likely, it is slowly degraded away law by law. For people about my age and older, it is easy to forget that there are people who can vote now with no active memory of the Soviet Union or even a world before the first Gulf War. Each generation that grows up will think it’s normal for a President to be able to sweep people off the street by declaring them ‘terrorists’. And, in that environment, how much easier will it be to take the small next step? An average human life lasts a fewer number of decades than the number of fingers we have to count them, and the average human adult voting life is even shorter. It thus becomes quite easy to change what is palatable to U.S. citizens little by little until those of perhaps two or three generations prior would hardly recognize the country.

The really concerning thing about efforts such as the MCA2006 or the draft Patriot Act II, is their subtle legalistic thinking and their interplay with one another. Notice how key phrases from other documents are used in clever ways, like a shell game. This is why we hear so much talk about ‘the rule of law’. Notice that we hear relatively little talk from those in office about foundational principles of the variety that the founders spoke of. The reason the ‘rule of law’ is more prevalent in their rhetoric these days is because our focus is being directed to the legalistic word game. It is important that we have clear laws that are followed and respected, but without a sound philosophic basis of principle, the ‘rule of law’ alone becomes nothing more than the ‘rule of lawyers’. This is a losing game for the people, where literally any freedom or right can be taken away, nearly any atrocity made proper, by the mere careful arrangement of words and phrases in document after document.

All of this debate over whether or not the MCA2006 can be applied to U.S. citizens is an example of being suckered into that game. Instead of being so concerned with the specifics of legal minutia, which none of us non-attorneys have much chance at doing well to begin with, we should be focusing our attention elsewhere.

The fact is, that when we attempt to revoke or suspend basic human rights for one class of people, this inevitably comes back to infringe on the rights of more people than we intended. If one person’s rights can be taken away, we are all in danger. When the founding fathers set forth the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, they weren’t playing a word game designed to preserve privileges for them and theirs. The Declaration of Independence was not a legal argument – it was a philosophic argument of principle. They weren’t attempting to provide legal procedures to be followed for those who had the proper label applied to them. The rights they proclaimed were proclaimed on a universal basis, endowed throughout mankind. Surely, it took long while to fully acknowledge who was included within mankind, but the basics of liberty were certainly never envisioned as pertaining only to U.S. citizens. Their basis was a broad ethical and philosophic one, not a narrow legalistic one. These documents were surely penned by men who thought that all people, regardless of citizenship, are human beings first.

Alison Nathan pointed out something along these lines in quoting Alexander Hamilton[5]:

“To bereave a man of life …without accusation or trial, would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism, as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole nation; but confinement of the person by secretly hurrying him to jail, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less public, a less striking, and therefore a more dangerous engine of arbitrary government.” -- Federalist No. 84

Davis noted of the MCA2006, “For this special process, this group of human beings is segregated from the rest of mankind. They are segregated and by that segregation they are declared a different type of human being.” [7] He goes on to show that the procedures of MCA2006 are decoupled completely from all other legal processes, isolating them in their own realm.

That is what we must ask ourselves now: what kind of people are we? Do we really wish to create a ‘special class of human being’ that is not worthy of the basic protections to a free and fair trial when accused? Do we wish to create a special label our ruler can apply to any human being which removes what is essentially their personhood? We harm ourselves when we do this, and it is my hope that more people will come to see that, soon.

Update, January 9, 2012 (5 years later):
It has now been 5 years since the article above was written. Unfortunately, we have not, as a nation, asked ourselves what kind of people do we wish to be. Efforts like those described above have continued relentlessly. It's true that progress was made when Obama came into office and ordered the use of torture (including waterboarding) banned, ordered our interrogation standards to be compliant with the military code of conduct (and with the Geneva Conventions), and ordered a closing of the 'black site' secret prisons. However, Congress has fought back hard against his efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay prison. They eventually attached a legal restriction against trying those prisoners in the U.S. to a critical defense bill the President had little option but to sign, which makes processing the prisoners there properly impossible. Obama has also not reversed policies on warrantless wire-tapping, as many hoped he would.

More to the issues of this article, today we face a similar tandem interplay of laws designed to accomplish the same one-two punch. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 has now given the President the power to indefinitely detain anyone he suspects of terror related activities indefinitely and without access to an attorney or a trial. This action is required for non-U.S. citizens. But a revision before the law passed excluded citizens from this requirement, though did not remove the President's power to do so with citizens if he chooses. This has confused many people into thinking that citizens were excluded from indefinite detention in the NDAA, which is not the case. So this NDAA has done even more harm than the MCA 2006 did.

Nevertheless, the issue may be moot, in that HR 3166 and S. 1698 (also known as the Enemy Expatriation Act) is being considered in the Congress. While the Domestic Enhancement Security Act of 2003 mentioned in the article above never came into fruition, they are trying once again to make it legal for the government to strip you of your citizenship with these latest bills. It seems inevitable the U.S. will have all of these powers eventually, and the Bill of Rights will continue to be slowly revoked.

I highly recommend reading and watching all of the following references, and any others that can be found. More importantly, I highly recommend participation in all elections by at least voting:

[1] Wikipedia article: Military Commissions Act of 2006

[2] Amnesty International on the MCA2006

[3] Wikipedia article: Domestice Security Enhancement Act of 2003

[4] VIDEO: Jonathan Turley on CNBC

[5] History Starts Today: The Perils of Habeas-Stripping

[6] This was something I heard while listening to the Michael Savage show about a year or so ago, before I quit listening to that sort of media. I have no specific reference information on it.

[7] 'All the Laws But One': Parsing the Military Commissions Bill

See also, a PDF of the full text of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 HERE.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Evangelical Teens

It seems that evangelical Christians are becoming concerned about their teens leaving the church, according to an article passed along to me from Jim Knierien, "Evangelicals Fear the Loss of Their Teenagers" on the New York Times website.[1]

I found many other instances on the web discussing the trend. As one example of the evangelical concern, Summit Ministries' website features an article on the issue[2]. In it, they say:

"Each year thousands of Evangelical high school students take the Nehemiah Institute PEERS worldview test, a survey revealing their worldview perspective regarding politics, economics, education, religion, and social issues. Every year since 1988 our Christian students have been answering those questions more and more like Humanists and less and less like Biblical Christians...

According to findings published in a UCLA dissertation, Dr. Gary Railsback notes that between 30 and 51% of Christians renounce their faith before graduating from college."

The author goes on to interpret the meaning of the study:

"That means one out of two professing Christian youth are turning their backs on the 18 years of Christian instruction from their homes and churches and embracing the atheistic ideas of their professors."

This interpretation puts the blame on the 'evil atheistic college professors'. In reality, a strong majority of college professors in the U.S. consider themselves not only spiritual, but 'religious'[3] (this is not Humanism). Furthermore, most classes never even touch on such subjects and in those that do, it is standard practice for professors not to do anything that reveals their own beliefs. More likely, contributing factors are the learning of raw facts about the world (which form foundations of our opinions), interactions with a wider variety of students and student groups with more diverse beliefs than existed in their home town, and the general inquisitive soul-searching that comes with that period in life.

It seems to me a more accurate interpretation would be that the conservative Christian mindset and worldview are based on such flimsy medieval reasoning that, for anyone not predisposed to want to believe it, all it takes is a few bits of rational argument and facts to overturn 18 years of indoctrination. You don't see the same percentage of conversion to such types of beliefs coming from people who are well educated and raised with Humanism. The reason for this has less to do with politics, culture, media, or 'evil influences' by either party than with the objective qualitative differences of reasonableness inherent within the two viewpoints - and how they each resonate within any healthy human brain, given a fair chance.

I didn't find any mention of the internet in these articles, but it seems to me that the internet will likely have a profound impact on society, including religion. I believe many of these kids raised in conservative, fundamentalist, or evangelical religious homes before went many years before ever interacting with people of other beliefs. Some out in small towns even get well into their adulthood without ever seriously examining or being exposed to alternate worldviews.

I remember asking about Buddhism as a child and getting an answer something like, "Oh that's those crazy people that worship cows and think when they die they're going to come back as dogs and chickens and so on".

But now we have young teens interacting with, reading, and learning about the viewpoints of many different worldviews, from their own mouths. This tends to have an overall effect of casting doubt over everything, which is a problem for fundamentalism. Perhaps the only way to "protect" their children from that evil 'doubt' will be for evangelicals to become extreme isolationists, similar to the Amish. I wouldn't be surprised if we see some small branch of this develop over the next few decades, but I digress.

Concerning this generation of teens, we should wonder how many will return to evangelical Christianity once they have children or grow older? I would expect some recidivism. Right now, these teen beliefs are residual, based only on exposure to a variety of contradictory views and typical teen rebelliousness. As humanistic as their beliefs may tend to be, most have never heard of Humanism per se. If Humanists hope for this trend to remain intact, they'll need to reach out to these young people and make sure their beliefs are informed by Humanist principles and philosophy, and not merely based on rejection of something else.

I have recently thought of writing something I plan to call "12 Things All Conservative Christian Teens Should Know", which might be helpful to teens (I hope). It will be in a very informal conversational style, not too long, and should be an easy read. I have all 12 things in mind, but haven't written it yet, so I think I'll save the details for now.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Some Words from Epictetus

Epictetus was a prominent Stoic philosopher in the Roman Empire, born a slave in 55 CE. I've recently read a collection of his writings, translated, summarized, and paraphrased into modern language (warning: very loosely) by Sharon Lebell, in a book called Epictetus: The Art of Living. I came across one passage in particular I wanted to share. It's called, "The Pursuit of Wisdom Attracts Critics":

Those who pursue the higher life of wisdom, who seek to live by spiritual principles, must be prepared to be laughed at and condemned.

Many people who have progressively lowered their personal standards in an attempt to win social acceptance and life's comforts bitterly resent those of philosophical bent who refuse to compromise their spiritual ideals and who seek to better themselves. Never live your life in reaction to these diminished souls. Be compassionate toward them, and at the same time hold to what you know is good.

When you begin your program of spiritual progress, chances are the people closest to you will deride you or accuse you of arrogance.

It is your job to comport yourself humbly and to consistently hew to your moral ideals. Cling to what you know in your heart is best. Then, if you are steadfast, the very people who ridiculed you will come to admire you.

If you allow the mean-spirited opinions of others to make you waver in your purpose, you incur a double shame.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Friday, October 6, 2006

Mahmoud Muhammad Taha

I have recently learned about a man named Mahmoud Muhammad Taha. This was an intellectual and engineer Muslim who lived in Sudan, and was executed in 1985 for his radical interpretation of the Koran. According to Taha's interpretation:

The Koran was revealed to Muhammad in two phases. First in Mecca, where for thirteen years he and his followers were a besieged minority, and then in Medina, where the Prophet established Islamic rule in a city filled with Jews and pagans. The Meccan verses are addressed, through Muhammad, to humanity in general, and are suffused with a spirit of freedom and equality. They present Islam in its perfect form, as the Prophet lived it, through exhortation rather than threat.

The lives of the early Muslims in Mecca were the supreme expression of their religion and consisted of sincere worship, kindness, and peaceful coexistence with all other people. Thus, Islam was offered first in tolerant and egalitarian terms in Mecca, where the Prophet preached equality and individual responsibility between all men and women without distinction on grounds of race, sex, or social origin.

But as that message was rejected in practice, and the Prophet and his few followers were persecuted and forced to migrate to Medina, some aspects of the message changed.

Whereas Muhammad propagated "verses of peaceful persuasion" during his Meccan period, in Medina "the verses of compulsion by the sword" prevailed. The Medinan verses are full of rules, coercion, and threats, including the orders for jihad. In Taha's view they were a historical adaptation to the reality of life in a seventh-century Islamic city-state, in which "there was no law except the sword."

In the Meccan verses we find "You are only a reminder, you have no dominion over them" which is then appended with the Medinan edict, "Except he who shuns and disbelieves, on whom God shall inflict the greatest suffering." It was the Medinan verses which became the basis for Sharia law, developed over the next few centuries.

According to Taha, the elevation of the Medinan verses was only meant to be a historical postponement of the Meccan verses. The "ideal religion" represented in them was to be revived when humanity had reached a stage of development capable of accepting them, ushering in a renewed Islam based on freedom and equality. In support of this notion, Taha quotes a saying of the prophet, "Islam started as a stranger, and it shall return as a stranger in the same way it started."

Taha's reading of the Koran seems to maintain all of it as accurate and true, while at the same time allowing for modern Muslims to live faithfully to Islam while consistently enjoying the modern values of tolerance, peace, and equality.

Most of the above is edited, paraphrased, or pasted from an article on Mahmoud Muhammad Taha in the New Yorker called "The Moderate Martyr", made known to me by Al Robison. It can be read by clicking the link HERE. In addition to the above, when you read this article you'll learn the fascinating political details behind his execution, about his small group of followers today, and more.

I have ordered two books related to Taha. One is called "Quest for Divinity: Critical Examination of the Thought of Mahmud Muhammad Taha" by Mohamed A. Mahmoud. The other is by Taha himself and is called "The Second Message of Islam". You can also read much more about Taha at the Wikipedia article HERE.

Stephen Browne Observes Arabs

Anthropology graduate and teacher Stephen Browne runs a blog called "Rants and Raves". A friend in my local Humanist group, Art Fay, recently made me aware of a post of his. Browne lived and worked in Saudi Arabia in 1998 and has come back with some impressions of 'what Arabs are like'. Of course, broad generalizations are always dangerous and should be taken with caution. But at the same time, there's no denying that a cultural gap in understanding exists between the West and Middle East, and any attempt to understand one another better would be desireable.

Therefore, I think it's well worth the risk to consider what a visitor to the region believes to be major differences in the ways we think. It makes for a fascinating read, and something I wanted to share here. I'd also be interested to see what Arabs think of Browne's observations. His post is called "Observations on Arabs" and can be read by clicking HERE.

Agnostic Mom on Parenting

A friend from my local Humanist group, Jim Knierien, alerted us to an article by Humanist mom Noell Hyman at the Institute for Humanist Studies website. It's called "Coping with Parental Difficulties" and can be read by clicking HERE.

One minor point she mentioned (among many others worth reading in the article) reminded me of my own thoughts on nontheistic 'coping'. When a believer breaks a leg, they're often consumed with questions like "why did this happen to me?", "what is God trying to teach me?", and so on. Judging as an outside observer in many of these cases, it seems to me to cause them a great deal of stress. When nonbelievers break a leg, they experience pain, anger, etc. but they simply realize they were unlucky and move on. There isn't a parallel existential crisis going on along side the physical crisis. At least, this seems to be one observation that applies in a certain subset of people and incidents I've noticed.

The article by Noell Hyman also made me aware of her wonderful blog Agnostic Mom: Raising A Healthy Family Without Religion. I recommend folks check it out.

Monday, October 2, 2006

Happy Birthday Bapu

Today is the birthday of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the political and religious leader of the Indian independence movement in the 1940s. He should need no introduction for most, but I'll just say he became famous for his advocacy of nonviolence, civil disobedience, and simplicity in living. He's considered the father of modern India. Much of his philosophy would go on to inspire others such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. In my recent considerations on violence in this blog, I mentioned Gandhi and it was in writing that post that I learned his birthday.

Although Gandhi is well known for his philosophy of nonviolence, what is less appreciated is the element of his philosophy that emphasizes truth (Satya). Gandhi said that "Truth is God". This often got him into disagreements with some on his own side who (as people often do) sometimes put their 'team's banner' ahead of truth.

Gandhi was reluctantly given the title of Mahatma, which means "great soul". Many who followed him referred to him with the affectionate term Bapu which means "Father". While we all have our own opinions on the specifics of the various elements within Gandhi's beliefs, it is not unreasonable or undeserved, I think, to consider Mohandas Gandhi a hero of humanity and consider his words and actions with careful thought.