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By Sarah Beth Costello
Oct. 9, 2009

This article was featured as a guest column in the Burlington Times-News

Every five seconds, a child dies from lack of nourishment. More than one billion of the world’s population are starving, according to Bread for the World. The World Bank estimates 500 million of the world’s population live in “absolute poverty.” Human brutality has ended millions of lives from the Rwandan and Sudanese genocides to Hitler’s mass extermination of Jews prior to and during World War II.

Human suffering has prompted scholars, educators and philosophers to explore the age-old question “where is God?” When chaos and calamity occur, the natural inclination is to demand answers for the unprecedented events. For some, suffering is the dominant roadblock preventing them from accepting God.

Bart D. Ehrman is such a man. The professor and department chair of religious studies at the University of North Carolina is a self-proclaimed

Dr. Bart Ehrman

Dr. Bart Ehrman

agnostic who vacated his Christian principles after arriving at the conclusion that the existence of suffering discredits the existence of God.

On Oct. 7, Ehrman and Christian apologist and renowned author Dinesh D’Souza engaged in a debate at UNC to address “God and the problem of suffering.” Erhman used emotionally based arguments, such as his background and personal experiences, while D’Souza took a more logic-based approach.

Ehrman and D’Souza agreed that there are two types of suffering: moral evil and natural suffering. Moral evil relates to human inflicted suffering and natural suffering includes uncontrollable catastrophes. Ehrman’s study of the Bible led to his agnosticism because he said while God continually intervened in scriptures, his hand is not evident today.

“I became increasingly disturbed about why God doesn’t do anything [today],” said Ehrman. “If God answers prayer, why doesn’t he?”

Ehrman argued that global suffering –mass genocides, war, disease and poverty– are indicators of a God-free world.

“I gave up my faith,” said Ehrman “Why would God create a world like this? Couldn’t he have created a world that didn’t require [suffering] and the shifting of tectonic plates?”

Yes, God could have created a perfect world, but he chose to create beings with an ability to make their own decisions and follow his commandments voluntarily. C.S. Lewis explained in “Mere Christianity” that God did not create evil, rather evil is a perversion of what is good. Evil and suffering is the result of man’s disobedience.

“Suffering,” said D’Souza, “does not call into question the existence of God, but the nature of God.”

Dinesh D'Souza

If a father disappoints his child, said D’Souza, the child will not say, “I refuse to believe in you.” Instead, the child may question his father’s character, but to immediately discredit his existence would be idiotic and illogical.

“God’s design was not that He would be a cosmic bell-hop, but to create autonomous beings to deal with situations as we should,” said D’Souza.

According to Ehrman’s argument, God can’t exist because suffering is prevalent. So how can we account for the good: a newborn baby, a sunrise, the unexplained healing of a cancer patient? Is it just chance, or is the good that people do just second nature? If God must be good to exist, how can there be any good without him? If our nature is to commit moral evil, our nature cannot be good.

It may seem easier to live life without surrendering to a God who requires sacrifice. Somewhere along the way Ehrman decided life is too hard to commit to an unseen God. But his alternative is a depressing one. Ehrman believes all we have is now. His philosophy is “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die,” and by the way, try and stop world poverty while indulging yourself in lovemaking and beer.

D’Souza said humans are like ants on a construction site with a tiny window into reality. What kind of ant questions the actions of a builder who can see the whole picture? We may never understand suffering in its full context. But I’d rather follow a God of mystery than live an empty and hopeless life without Him.

By Sarah Beth Costello
July 1, 2009

If international leaders had responded negatively to the actions of patriotic

Americans in 1775, and had intervened to restore lasting “peace,” interrupting plans to annihilate tyranny, America would still be in bondage.

America was founded on the principles that governments cannot succeed when controlled by one sovereign power; nations will not prosper when capitalism is not allowed growth; and all men and women deserve to experience freedom without the limited bonds set by tyrannical forces.

Oppression, taxes and restrictive laws were motives that encouraged American patriots to risk conducting illegal activities, even with the underlying threat of prison or worse.

In the 300 years since the birth of this nation, Americans seem to have forgotten that sacrifice. The freedoms we enjoy are taken for granted, with many demanding ridiculous rights our forefathers never considered because of the preposterous natures.

THE HONDURAS SITUATION

Honduras, a small nation in Central America, is in the midst of serious upheaval due to the removal of President Manuel Zelaya. President Barrack Obama has been quick to befriend enemies, including Islamists and dictators, but has refused support for a people group striving to protect their constitution.

The media have painted a not-quite-accurate picture of the recent events in Honduras. Networks have described the actions of opposing forces as a coup; however, the ousting of President Manuel Zelaya was conducted peaceably and with good reason.

“Manuel Zelaya trampled the Honduran constitution by pushing for his illegal referendum to allow him to rule indefinitely, and by firing the top military official, Gen. Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, when he refused to comply with Zelaya’s unconstitutional orders,” said Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla. in a Fox News article.

A president, though elected democratically, has no right to carry out his term in office if he refuses to abide by a set code of conduct. Zelaya gave his “capturers” no choice but to remove him from office.

We are a nation comprised of hypocrites. America should sympathize more than any other country, but instead we are siding with Castro and Chavez (men not so different from King George III).

A large majority of Hondurans believed a coup was the only method to ensure the

Ousted president, Manuel Zelaya. Image Courtesy of: http://tiny.cc/71yRa

Ousted president, Manuel Zelaya. Image Courtesy of: http://tiny.cc/71yRa

protection of their constitution. Their actions may result in harsh punishment, but these brave men and women acted no differently than the early patriots did. They acted within their rights and duty to the constitution of Honduras.

The sad truth is, many Americans do not even know what their rights or duties are.

OUR RIGHTS, DUTIES AS AMERICANS

Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence for a specific purpose; not only to declare our independence, but also to reinforce the importance of our participation in government through voting and keeping leaders accountable.

We should never be content to sit back and let government run things. America is a democracy, which means we have a role to play.

“… Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” says Jefferson in his Declaration. Men created government; government is fallible and easily susceptible to corruption, as we have seen in the actions of Zelaya.

“… Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends,” continues Jefferson, “it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Jefferson also says we not only have the right to combat unconstitutional government actions, but it is also our duty to do so.

Americans have become slack and lazy, listening naively to every report from the media, which is, in essence, a giant Obama P.R. firm.

Few challenge the Obama administration. Most praise him. Utter dependence and trust in government is an unhealthy and dangerous mindset. Obama is not God. His administration is comprised of humans, which are known for making mistakes. Beware of the nice words, petty smiles and shallow promises. Outward appearances are deceptive.

As Americans, we need to do everything in our power to ensure the government acts within the confines of the Constitution

Too much power can lead to rewriting the constitution, as we have seen in Honduras. It can lead to an entirely new type of government (i.e. Socialism or Marxism). Too much power and not enough accountability could mean the end to freedom.

It is easy to judge other nations and declare their actions as abominable and unconstitutional. But if Obama, or any U.S. president, insisted on making changes to our Constitution, our duty as citizens is not to sit idly by and let it happen.

If we fail to act, if we continue to allow government free reign, if we refuse to take the initiative and fight for our Constitution and freedoms guaranteed, then who are we to complain when things go from the frying pan to the fire?

Why does the president of the freest nation in the world side with dictators, rather than support a nation attempting to uphold their constitution? Maybe because Obama sympathizes with Zelaya. Maybe it’s just me, but I think a lot of changes are about to take place in Washington. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Barrack Obama decided to pull a similar stunt. Unfortunately, most Americans probably wouldn’t even notice.

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Sarah Beth Costello is a young reporter.

By Sarah Beth Costello

The invention of the printing press was a pivotal moment in history
when information could finally be communicated through print.

Six hundred years later, technology has experienced significant evolution that has benefitted as well as negatively impacted different media forms, specifically journalism.

Newspapers are no longer the only sources of information. The public is not required to wait 24 hours for the next breaking news stories. Just as current events constantly change and information emerges, media has evolved to keep up with the change through constant and instant technology.

The Internet has become one of the most popular sources of information. According to a 2008 study, over 200 million individuals in the North American region are Internet users.

The Internet is an overwhelming technology that is not only available via computers, but is also accessible through portable technology; including cell phones, iPods, BlackBerries and laptops.

In a society accustomed to instant gratification, attention spans have shortened. The public can stay informed and connected through Twitter and RSS feeds, which are tools that deliver short, succinct, and to-the-point information without the hassle of reading through a 500 word article.

This new era of communication is one that has engulfed an entire population, connecting them in a virtual reality that keeps them continually informed.

The future remains hazy

Over the past couple of years, we have seen a decline in the newspaper business as companies have been forced to compete with the growing Internet and other “more modern” media forms.

According to Journalism 2.0 by Mark Briggs, 3,000 journalists have lost their jobs since 2000. Newspaper sales are “declining” and some companies have even gone under due to their inability to compete in a competitive environment.

Despite the seemingly cloudy future for journalism, Briggs offers an optimistic view.

“But this product in all its forms – journalism – is worth saving. It creates community on so many levels. And it creates marketplaces that are essential to the continuing viability of entire companies.”

The purpose of journalism is to gather, edit and communicate information and news in a manner of presentation for the purpose of distributing it to a broader audience.

For anything to survive, it must change and adapt to its surroundings otherwise it will remain stagnant, inept and will eventually die. But journalism is far from extinction.

In his article, Online Opportunities Make Journalism’s Future Bright, Despite Gloomy Feelings, Rich Gordon said,

“When we look back on the early years of the 21st century, we will recognize it as a period of exploding opportunity for journalists and the start of an exciting new era for journalism.”

New Technology for Journalism

Technology has undergone many changes in recent years, however, journalism has also welcomed new changes and venues of communication.

While the Internet is a competitor of newspapers, it has become a useful tool for journalists. The ability to tweak articles, provide updates, graphics, images and video draws an audience.

“And technology continues to march forward,” said Gordon, “creating new devices that can act as conduits for journalism. A world where TVs can download Internet content or where mobile phones and iPods can access online video is a place where citizens have many more ways to access great journalism.”

Though the future of journalism is questionable, it is arguable the need for journalism is more prevalent today than it has been in the past. Mark Glaser, a freelance journalist, wrote an article in 2007 titled: 10 Reasons There’s a Bright Future for Journalism. Several valid arguments are presented that make a case for the success of journalism.

Glaser argues that the “industrial revolution” of technology will not hinder journalism, but aid it as more people gain access to media that has been unavailable in the past. For instance, the public once solely relied on field journalists for information of foreign events.

Thanks to the Internet, the public no longer needs to rely on journalists in foreign nations to report the feelings, actions, and news occurring in other parts of the world. Individuals can access local newspapers from any country via the Internet. Accessibility is much easier today than ever before, making journalism a needed and valued source of information.

People desire companionship. Though this new generation lives in a rapidly changing society, the need and desire for personal communication cannot be replaced. RSS feeds may be faster and easier to read, but regardless of one’s generation, short sentences cannot replace a soul-filled, publically-appealing and well-written article.