TheBluegrassSkeptic

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TheBluegrassSkeptic last won the day on January 22 2014

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About TheBluegrassSkeptic

  • Rank
    Mistress of Shenanigans
  • Birthday 05/26/1977

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  • Website URL
    http://www.ex-christian.net/blog/170-the-bluegrass-skeptic/#.VUFcXfCIlpM

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  • Gender
    Female
  • Location
    Covington, Kentucky aka The Asshole Of America
  • Interests
    Conversation is great, but discussion is better. I thoroughly enjoy sharing ideas, discussing all manner of topics, and writing. I love, love, love, love, to write!
  • More About Me
    What to know about me. I was formerly Zomberina Contagion on this website, but she crumbled to dust on April 28th, 2015, around 11:32 a.m. Her job and the state she lives in just couldn't give her enough of an outlet, but not everyone likes zombies. " Did you see them repressing me? You saw them didn't you?" were her last words.

    Ironically, as her decayed creepiness fell away, the skeptic in her shriveled little brain wouldn't give up the fight. A mad scientist discovered it before it was too late and transplanted it into a new body.

    Ta da! Here I am. The Bluegrass Skeptic. Kentucky has me loving the field of science, the practice of reason, and its many varieties of bourbon. It's tough being an atheist in the South, but at least I have bourbon.

    In all seriousness, I'm a very real, down to earth, goofy, socially missing clues left and right, kind of person. My name is Kate Ashcraft. I work for the mail service, have a passion for writing, a huge lack of sleep, and I've discovered that living in Kentucky has some up and down sides. Mostly down in my opinion. Between crappy seasonal weather, Republican dominated politics, and God? This free thinker is screwed in all the wrong ways but the good one!

    My website TheBluegrassSkeptic.com, will be up and running May 15th 2015. You should check it out if you liked Zomberina's style. The only thing that has changed is things are more organized and centrally located. You might find there is more to see than you realize. Kind of like a flea market, there will be something for everybody.

Previous Fields

  • Still have any Gods? If so, who or what?
    My massager......

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  1. Over the last decade I have dreamed of being able to help students pursue education that helps them further important work needing to be tackled in separation of church and state issues and many fields in science. This can be accomplished if students decide to pursue political careers, community leadership positions, higher education teaching jobs, and so much more. With the onslaught of propaganda surrounding issues like keeping a god in school, governmental suppression on earth science, encouragement of people to remain ignorant about important social justice issues in the name of ideological purity, I decided I would come after your kids. I'm looking at you evangelical parents out there. I am coming for your children. To educate them, remove this naive idea that leveling the playing field for all communities to have authority is showing preference, and enable them to think logically about an issue and understand that sometimes, you just have to say,"I don't know" instead of filling in the gap with whatever unsupported reason one can find. And finally, I am coming for these kids to help sponsor their future careers in the areas I mentioned above. Well, at least one this year anyway. I'm excited to announce the creation of the Hillbilly Edumacashun Fund. This is a scholarship program that I am excited to launch this year on behalf of my podcast Unbuckling the Bible Belt. This year, starting 10/1/17 - 11/1/17, students ages 17 - 22 that are enrolled to start, or are currently attending college, can toss in their hat for the $500 award amount for an essay to be submitted that is judged the best for the topic of "Bad Ad Hoc Argumentation for Intelligent Design". Scholarship money will be awarded to one individual based on the best scoring in the grading scale listed below in the details section of this post. How could this get any better? Well, more money for entries next year! Part of my plan to start putting money towards next year's scholarship fund-in which we hope to raise $1500 to award to three students- will be a publication of all the entrants' submissions from this year in an eBook! All proceeds (minus processing fee by Amazon), will go directly to the Hillbilly Edumacashun Fund for 2018! We would really love to make this scholarship program larger and larger every year, so I hope this catches on. Our podcast celebrates youth and the future they are creating for the coming generations, and every little bit, even if just $500, will help them accomplish that endeavor. So, here is the official rules of the Hillbilly Edumacashun Fund Scholarship Event: Entrant Requirements: 1. Must be 17 - 22 years old, and identify as atheist, agnostic, humanist and/or secular. 2. Must be currently accepted/enrolled in college pursuing a career course that helps you further a higher level of secular activism. 3. If you are still in high school, you will have to provide an admissions letter and set to start at a college in January of 2018 (Winter quarter). 4. A resident of the United States of America, including its territories. 5. Provide documentation of all of the above using a state identification card, Admission letter, and college program statement. 6. Short paragraph outlining your current secular activism and biographical information. 7. Be sure to give three options for communication: -Home address -Two phone numbers -Email address 8. Applicants of all races, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation are encouraged to apply. Entry Requirements: 1. The topic is "Bad Ad Hoc Argumentation for Intelligent Design". Have fun with this topic. If you are unsure what ad hoc argumentation is, please go here: https://www.thoughtco.com/ad-hoc-explanations-causes-and-rationalization-3968430, or if you learn better by seeing examples, this YouTube video about Jibbers Crabst really shows ad hoc fallacy at its best: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZ_BtZ-5O60 2. Entries will be accepted from 10/1/17 at 12:00 pm EST - 11/1/17 at 12:00 pm EST. If sending via postal service, entries must be postmarked 11/1/17. A winner will be chosen and announced Live via our YouTube channel on Black Friday, 11/24/2017 at 12:00 p.m. EST. Be sure to give three options for communication: -Home address -Two phone numbers -Email address 3. Entries must be an original work and not previously used for previous essay contests. We do check for plagiarism, so Don't Do It. 4. An essay between 800 - 1500 words, double spaced, typed, edited, and in pdf format. Where To Send Entries Via email unbucklingpodcast@gmail.com. Via postal service: Hillbilly Edumacashun Fund, c/o Amanda Ashcraft, PO Box 72394, Newport, KY, 41072. Fax is not available. How A Winner Is Selected 1. If any of the entry requirements above are not met, it will not be considered for the scholarship. 2. We will be expecting a properly formatted and proofread submission. 3. We will be only considering entries that stay on topic. If it is off topic, we will not consider it for the scholarship. 4. Podcast members will judge each entry and decide on a single winner. Scholarship Disbursement Scholarship money will be sent to the college listed on your Admission letter by January 2nd, 2018. Award will be earmarked for your account with the college that can be used towards the cost of any of the following: 1. Tuition (Current only, not for default amounts) 2. Textbooks, Computer Software, general class supplies purchased on campus only 3. Dorm costs 4. Campus Parking costs 5. THESE MONIES CANNOT BE REFUNDED FOR CASH NOR REPLACED IF YOU TRANSFER SCHOOLS AND ARE UNABLE TO TAKE THE REMAINING AMOUNT OF THE SCHOLARSHIP WITH YOU. Miscellaneous When submitting your essay to the Hillbilly Edumacashun Fund Scholarship program, you must agree to the following: 1. All works submitted to this event will be considered the property of Unbuckling the Bible Belt Podcast who will use the material submitted as they see fit without any compensation owed to the submitting party. 2. Unbuckling the Bible Belt Podcast will always credit the original author for composing the submitted work when used in advertisements, compilations, fund raisers, and other marketing options. 3. Winner will be required to do an interview with Unbuckling the Bible Belt by 2/1/2017. Because we're proud of ya! Oh, and if we think of something we might have forgotten...Yeah, we will update these rules at any time.
  2. I just wanted to add on to what everyone else has mentioned here. Feeling scared is normal. This kind of thinking goes against what you have been programmed to accept from a young age, so your psyche is throwing out all kinds of warning flags. Don't let this discourage you. Imagine your own child feeling the same way in 30 years! Not nice is it? Giving your child a genuine choice in the matter, with all sides of the arguments laid bare, is the way to go in order for her to never feel like you are right now. Accurate and valid information is huge in preventing her ever feeling scared one day. She should be worried about acceptance into major colleges down the road, not whether her life has been centered around a huge convoluted escapism. Most importantly, don't ever doubt yourself about sharing your feelings. Anxiety is a huge factor in many not leaving when they start to question, but once you start to question, it's really hard to ever go back to the land prophets, demons and thought crimes. Many stay on to some degree in order to not lose out on the social aspects of the faith community. Don't blame anyone a bit on that. I miss those potlucks! Welcome to the club of questioners, or possibly none and done like myself. <3
  3. I have many times. It's part of who I am, and not just a casual occurrence of not wanting to play a particular sport anymore. It's a life changing event. Period. I make it clear that trying to "win me back" will get them a ban. From my LIFE. Yes. When every time I want to discuss a problem, and I am told it's my fault because I am not right with Christ? Bye, Felicia. I deal with more than just pain, but more akin to being enraged. Enraged at a doctrine that causes such unnecessarily emotional stress on family members. Knowing some will cry and imagine me being tortured and they love me so much and don't want that to happen to me. Enraged at a doctrine that will always create a necessity for the lesser in order to be superior. Enraged that being a fuck up for Christ enables so much harmful escapist behavior.
  4. The headline is colorful, chilling, and woefully short sighted about the issues of incest, pregnancy, and consent. I think it goes without much emphasis how quickly it hit all the wrong buttons that put me back to my youth being molested by my father. It made me immediately reflect on the moment I said yes when he asked if he could pretend I was my mother. That headline made me stand up and pace the room for a good three minutes, reminding myself how often incest happens: voluntarily - but with limited understanding of what it all means until the damage is done. Virginian delegate, Bob Marshall (R), is well known for his blatantly reckless, and often abhorrent, public airing of his reasoning regarding issues ranging from disabled children being nature's vengeance on mothers who have had abortions before, to making cursing in an email a misdemeanor offense if he had his way. When reading his rationale that there should not be an exception to an abortion ban in cases of incest because sometimes incest is "voluntary", one cannot help but wonder how many victims of incest, let alone those who became pregnant, has he ever been socially involved with. To take the attitude that because some victims were complicit in the demands of their abuser should automatically disallow abortion, even for those who were forcefully abused and impregnated, demonstrates how little this candidate is familiar with the dynamics of sexual abuse to begin with. My own experience of being molested by my father underscores the need for legislators like Marshall to understand that it is not black and white when it comes to abuse. My father was a verbally, physically, and emotionally abusive man. He pretty much left me walking on egg shells, anxious when working on projects with him, and never sure if I would become too annoying and he would find a way to punish me and make me go away for awhile to my room, or worse, take the belt to me. When my father approached me to come to his bed while my mother was nearly dying in the hospital from severe pancreatitis, and he was being gentle, caring, even conversational and patient, how could I at such a young age say no? I was completely ignorant on what sex was, or that his desire was inappropriate. My church never spoke on such things to children so young. All I knew is that dad wasn't acting like the normally recognizable monster that kept our home a nightmare of bipolar highs and lows, and I wasn't going to pass up on a chance to have a father that was calm and loving for once. Of course, I didn't realize he was hurting me until later on, and this is where Marshall's public opinion on "voluntary" incest is woefully misguided and lacking any real depth of the situation. It leaves out the reality that a lot of "voluntary" instances of incest and other forms of sex abuse are situations of "uninformed consent" -- which is assault..... It's been two years since Marshall made these statements, and sadly, he is in his 11th term of office, and even more politicians are taking the same attitude, but with different rationale. George Faught (R) state representative of Oklahoma, made it clear that except for genetic anomalies and Down Syndrome, that there shouldn't be an exception to an abortion ban. His attitude, like that of Rick Santorum and many other conservative congressional leaders, is that the suffering of one will "bring beauty from the ashes" in the form of the child that is forced to be carried to term, despite how it was conceived or the lingering psychological damage that the mother must recover from. Rape and incest, no exception, but genetic anomalies, kill it. The attitude that ultimately beauty comes from sexual abuse tells me they watch way too many Lifetime movies, or this demonstrates how much cognitive dissonance is at play in the policy making minds of many conservative congressmen in this country. The romanticizing of suffering, and the more personal an assault the better for such a process, is undeniable in the Bible. There have been many stories shared not just in religious studies, but in everyday life and story telling, of how a person is sexually violated, and the resulting child brings about a metamorphosis of recovery and strength to defeat all the odds against the victim. But as Faught seems to point out, a genetic deformity is not the same as sexual abuse. There wasn't an an act against one's will involved. There wasn't trauma. There wasn't a good enough story of a human life being shattered behind it. Worst of all, this type of romanticizing of suffering and humiliation of an individual creates an obligatory martyrdom that is then demanded to be shared publicly for all to gain a lesson from, which is atrocious and dehumanizing in my opinion. It takes away the right to process your pain in a manner that best suits you, and even encourages a suppression of hurt as there is an expectation to perform for the general public an astounding feat of an "overcoming the odds" underdog story of encouragement. It's pure selfishness on the part of these congressmen and ideologues pushing this line of rationalization to the general public. They are saying to victims,"We want a feel good story from your tragedy that reaffirms our faith values, Suzy, so you have to have that rape baby your daddy put in your belly. Don't worry, it's a blessing you can pay for, sweetheart." This is exploitation of the vulnerable to benefit the masses, and it must stop. Some might argue that it isn't about any of what I've just said, but actually a focus on the beauty of someone trying to survive and recover, and that the baby in the mix makes it all the more beautiful. But to whom? This refusal to offer exception for incest is not about the rare cases of sister and brother, or uncle and niece, who are of age, informed of the risks, and willingly in a desired relationship together. This is about the 15 year old, or 22 year old, who finds themselves pregnant after sexual abuse. They are feeling depressed, used, overwhelmed, and are struggling to survive. And you think that this notion that being in this predicament is benefiting them by showing others the strength and resilience of their desire to get through that mess? That in the long run, everything will end up like Queen Simonida of Serbia, and these abused souls will take solace in being the example for everyone else? That this constant recognition of pain and anguish will be a pep rally for their psyche to continue on and look back on their lives with a grateful attitude?
  5. This week's upcoming episode of the Unbuckling the Bible Belt Podcast, my Heathen Child returns to the show. He's going to see how many online ordinations he can nail in the span of an episode that would be accepted by local governments.... Should be interesting ahah

  6. You might want to start a new thread for that Or check out the forums. We've gone over this like a billion times
  7. I find that Christians are not so much judgemental as defensive. Think about it. When reasoning comes along that flies in the face of what you have been programmed with, is not normal to become defensive? Judgemental behavior is just one of the defense mechanisms.
  8. I've always enjoyed watching how a person can adapt, and even sometimes evolve, belief to fit the not just certain time frames in life, but even moment to moment. The give and take between believer and belief system has always fascinated me because many times it seems the believer is unaware of the relationship that is actually occurring. Especially so when confronted with situations or reasoning that directly confronts and contradicts said belief relationship. Much like poor Beni Gabor (The Mummy, 1999), one starts flipping through all the angles of belief in order to find a ledge to maintain standing on. To teeter wildly on the edge of rational thought and desperately avoid it has always been something I could sympathize with. How many times have we had to look in the mirror, and finally we admitted we are tired and committed to an important change? This constant flipping about belief rules to fit situations isn't an uncommon problem in many religiously oriented life styles. A wife promises to keep her spending under control so as to not run up the credit bills too high, but turns around five minutes later to pledge $85 a month on that same credit card to Joel Osteen ministries. It's for God, so she isn't breaking her promise. Pope Francis condemns gender pay inequality, but I'll be damned if they are willing to ordain women anytime soon despite how flimsy the basis of doctrine is to support the church's patriarchal employment structure (Jesus only chose male apostles, so there's your proof?) If one does not follow the same structured belief rules as another, each one dismisses the other's belief as misguided instead of understanding why they ended up serving the same deity differently. A child is sick and dies despite the prayers and pleading by the parents for the child to be healed by their god. Instead of accepting that the illness took the child, the parents reason that their god had a plan in their lives for allowing their child to die so young, instead of accepting it was a disease that decided the entire event that was unpreventable and out of their control. Many believe the End Times are here, are saving food and ammunition, yet aren't they supposed to go in the Rapture and not have to need any of these things anyway? When you bring up this example, things get very defensive don't they? That's the fear, the feeling of vulnerability, and nervousness of having to reevaluate one's pool of answers. The examples can go on forever, but this type of thinking doesn't have to. Let's start with one of the first exercises in dealing with cognitive dissonance: A Question Is Not A Judgement. Have you ever been in conversation with someone and you tell them some fantastic epiphany you had about becoming rich, doing good for humanity, and maybe you could die with an awesome legacy? And then that person points out how your method of becoming rich might actually not be good for humanity and suddenly you go blank, feel super awkward, and then scan your memory banks for a more solid position that supports your plan. Hello being defensive, goodbye having a conversation. Anytime we are confronted with errors in our reasoning, we instinctively hold onto our original reasoning. We can't help it. Our brains need time to rewire our understanding and application of logic when we get new information or realize we have an error in our data set. This is a common issue many atheists run into when trying to get family members to understand that because we don't believe in a god doesn't mean we automatically believe in the devil. After all, why believe in the devil if we don't even believe in a god? But this logical concept is actually difficult to understand for many religious family members because they are programmed with an "either or" scenario when it comes to belief and practicing it. Either you go to church or you aren't a true believer. Either you believe in the holy spirit or you aren't a true believer. Either you are pro-life or you support murder, which is a sin. It's always extremes, which is the mode of thinking you have to get out of. To combat this, one has to remember a question is not a judgement. It's just a question. A question helps one explore concepts, avenues, solutions, application, and understanding of held belief. You can't call it a question if you are looking to only reinforce your own side of the argument either. This is an exploration into thought process, so it is an experience of mutual understanding for both parties. You have to be patient when doing this because unease will undoubtedly strike. I've often hear phrases like,"I don't like this line of conversation" or "You can't change my mind", and my favorite "I'm not going to let you misconstrue what I say and attack me with my own words". All of these are defensive positions, are the red flags you need to be aware of so you don't allow the tension to escalate enough to allow for a complete avoidance of the subject. There is another part to questioning though, and it's a tough one sometimes. This is difficult enough to do with just one's own cognitive processes, but trying to help someone else to do the same? Do not count on knocking it out in one conversation, or even ten. I've found demonstrated consistency and interaction is the only way you can start to break down some of the resolute self-denial that just won't budge when trying to convince Aunt Mary that you really are happy with your life without jeebus. Again, it's not about being right, it's about understanding, which leads to discussion and tolerance, which can sometimes lead to even greater things in helping someone grow into a more rational mind set when trying to understand the world we live in. The old saying about more than one right way to skin a cat? Very true, and opening your mind to the methods available are important. Having an open mind is about learning and education, not argument and debate. "You're trying to change who I am!" I think this is probably the most important piece to cognitive dissonance's grip on the way a person approaches life. Pretty much says it all in that picture above doesn't it? Identity is hands down the biggest part of confronting and changing one's patterns of logic. Mostly because when you start questioning small things, they add up, and the next thing you know your entire identity is on the dissection table. How much of it was your own to begin with? Who am I? Who was I? Who will I be? And more importantly, will my community still accept me or am I willing to lose some of them? This loss of identity is probably the most scary thing to face because when you grow up and have so much of your world manufactured and programmed by others around you when you are young, you have to begin an entirely new journey of self discovery, and not all of those programmers are going to want to be in your life in anymore, or they are going to want to get you back on the right track. You feel like you are an aberration in the land of Camazotz. Even worse, you will find a lot of self-doubt rumbling up to the surface, and this is true for many who do take the plunge into exploring fact and fiction, and what is reasonably acceptable in life. Cultural programming and human nature contribute to this most primal of defensive mechanisms. No matter how much stark facts are thrown at us, we will grip even tighter to the error ridden logic that has helped us get through life. It turns out that the best way to help people get past cultural barriers, ideological barriers, and even class barriers are the kind of tactics I absolutely hate to use: emotional appeal. Fear is the word to know, but do not always say it out loud. Yes, that's right. Showing the stark numbers of dogs abused every year in black and white will yield little change of heart in donations. You bring out a woman singing "In The Arms Of The Angels" while showing slides of mangled, dirty dogs that are in shelter cages? The compassion starts to flow and the urge to take action is nearly impossible to ignore. This is why churches and families have such a solid control on the thought processes of young children and adults in the world, usually reinforced with fear and shame. Fear being the more popular so long as it leads towards a pre constructed solution. You can't just set someone's mental world on fire and expect any productive results without a clear cut path of action you want them to take in order to avoid the fire. Keep it simple, and to the point. Don't want to go to hell and be tortured and burned and cut into pieces everyday and reassembled over and over again? Don't kill people! Bad situation + easy rule to avoid bad situation = Controlled line of thought. Yeah, you have to really work on the convincing part of the bad stuff actually being real, and that is where shame comes in. Point out all the flaw and beat down someone's self-worth is usually a good start. Or, just start filling their heads with these frightening concepts before they are even mature enough to know better. And all of this is what you are up against when dealing with someone who lives in a world of conflicting ideas. You can't make the change happen overnight, and honestly, it's an ongoing process for everyone no matter how freed one might think s/he actually are. Patience is not a virtue. It's a life hack. The only final thing I have learned is that patience is the best tool in my shed when dealing with folks that are making my life a living hell because they do not agree with my lifestyle, listen to bullshit lies passed around by an ex-husband, or think my direct nature is a personal issue with them and not just me being a socially awkward gadderblast, and act upon those preconceived notions. Years ago I'd read a few memoirs by Benjamin Franklin, and one quote in particular stuck out in my mind: It's called the Ben Franklin effect, and I have to say, it does wonders with those you have tense relationships with. It can help you get the conversation started, but you have to be patient, and essentially kill them with kindness. That's all I've got this week! Got any additional tips for dealing with compartmentalized religious people? Share in the comments below! I will be discussing this on next week's podcast.
  9. Is anyone having errors when trying to submit blogs? I keep getting required content notice, but it's all there???? Gahhh

    1. webmdave

      webmdave

      Not seeing any errors here. I just tested your account and it appears to be working fine. If you continue to have issues, send me a detailed description of the problem through the contact form or by submitting a support request. 

    2. TheBluegrassSkeptic

      TheBluegrassSkeptic

      Thanks so much, I managed to figure it out. My new internet provider decided to slam my connection and somehow it left me on an offline version of the blog page. Long story short, the provider caused my issue and nothing was wrong here irl.

  10. Death for me over the years has rarely been difficult to process and move on. I've buried quite a few, only mourned a couple. The two I mourn are now memories I guard so earnestly a mother bear could not rival my ferocity. These two people immediately bring on the wet eyes and short tight breaths when I just so much as think on their lives, their influence, and my loss. This past January I experienced a third loss of someone very important in my life. It's hit me very hard, and I am surprised it's taken me this long to be able to pick up a pen and put it to paper finally. It's been thirty days, and this is still difficult to even bother to proof read. I did pour out my initial shock and pain all over social media. I tracked every article on his death I could find. I even found video from where he was that day and watched a VBIED explode in the distance. I had to somehow be there. Witness his chaos, hear the intensity, and visualize the finality that damage brought on in the war he volunteered to fight in. Albert Avery Harrington had volunteered to fight with Kurdish forces against ISIL two years ago. When he had initially announced his plans, I debated, I argued, and I even pleaded for him to reconsider and find another way to render aid. I knew he would end up severely injured, or worse, dead. But he went anyway, fully accepting the almost guaranteed risks that would change his, and the lives of all who loved him, forever. He sought life and purpose on his own path, and if death found him, at least it was while he was in pursuit of what made his existence fulfilled. This outlook on life is the only reason I can accept his death without anger or regret. No anger at his dying in a situation that he willingly allowed danger to follow, or regret that I never convinced him to put down this flag for a noble cause. Our last goodbye was back in September. He'd asked me if I could use my press privileges and get him in to Kurdistan. I'd laughed him off, quietly relieved he wasn't currently in harm's way for the moment. I knew it was only a matter of time though, and once again I would get erratic messages from the front lines in Kurdistan where he would complain about needing sleep and I would promise him the juiciest burger money could buy once he got back. If. But he didn't make it back. January 18th he and four others were hit by not one, but two, VBIED (vehicle-borne improvised explosive device) during a special offensive titled "Wrath of the Euphrates" in a small village called Suwaydiya-Saghirah village in Raqqa. The goal was to cut off the supply line to ISIS's stronghold in Raqqa. Three men were instantly killed, and Avery succumbed to his wounds in the morning hours of the 22nd at age 50. He is listed as a martyr with YPG/MFS Kurdish forces and buried in the land where he fought to defend innocents against ISIL's tyrannical cult. It appears their sacrifice has paid off since Kurdish forces have wrested control of Kukhkhan and Bir Said villages from ISIL in northern Raqqa. While the progress made since his death has been bittersweet, seeing the word martyr was a difficult thing to process at first. See, like myself, Avery was an atheist. He was living proof of atheist in foxholes and he was very much a humanist. One I try to model myself after. Honestly, I don't know how he gave so much of himself to so many. I get exhausted, but Avery thrived on it, I believe. "Give me a mission," he would say. So, when I saw him being referred to as a martyr, my teeth began to grind. The days to come proved even harder when others began to share their own pain and thoughts on his passing. As I followed up on news posted on his remembrance page, I began reading the thoughts and prayers comments. I also had to walk away from my computer a few times when I read speculation about whether he'd gotten right with god or turned back to Christ on his death bed. At first, I interpreted this kind of talk as an affront to what he stood for. His legacy should not be tarnished with the idea he was going to Hell unless he managed a last minute conversion. Could people not see the insult to everything he stood for by questioning his very humanity based on a belief system he did not even ascribe to? Those questions and speculations made me cry. They made me angry. I felt Avery's very purpose of pursuing a larger case for compassion on the world stage had been overshadowed. And after my rage subsided, I realized what was wrong with all these thoughts that were screaming in my head. The word "I". The long and the short of it all comes down to the fact Avery is dead. He can no longer be personally offended. He can't feel. He is oblivious to the world as he lays in his box under hundreds of pounds of dirt and rock in Syria. This is about my desire to preserve his memory in my life as I feel it should be. When the desires of other's to do the same do not match up to mine, then I want to stomp them out. And this is incredibly unfair. It minimizes the grief of others, it alienates in a time when coming together is most comforting. The desire or belief that Avery found God and is now in Heaven does no harm to his memory in my life. It puts a comfort to the personal loss of another, and I don't have the right to control another's grieving process by demanding their hopes be dashed. Just as Avery showed understanding for religious culture and customs of those he sought to protect, why can I not afford the same respect to those who now have a gaping loss to deal with in their lives like I do? This is a practice I will struggle with for years to come, as do all of us, but for those of us who do not believe in a hereafter, we feel the loss even more permanently than those who do believe. Why should I make a demand for conformity on behalf of those who are dead? Why allow the anger to take away from what we have lost? Do I really need to ask them why their God saw fit to allow such atrocity that eventually motivated Avery to protect those God would not? No, I won't do that. Even if when some say this god supposedly had a plan for Avery. Grief and loss do not belong to only one individual, though the process is individually different because of perception of the relationship one shared with the deceased. All of us who loved and cherished Avery have one thing in common, his death. Some of us will look forward to dining with him at the table in Valhalla, the rest of us have only his influence to pass on through our own actions so he may life on in the life of others - even if some who will be influenced by him, won't even know his name or know he is the source of their benefit. I can honestly say that my relationship with Avery ended with no regrets, and the past is forever the past, and tomorrow will always show me where we once were together. I love you, Avery. We miss you.
  11. This might come off as somewhat cynical, but I have to agree with the writer: baby steps. (That's me saying baby steps. I agree, can't have it all overnight.) The fact that they have passed an equality law at all really says a lot. It's largely unthinkable in most of the Middle East. Bar Israel, only Pre-Erdogan Turkey (which is rapidly moving in the direction of Iran 1979), Lebanon (probably, not sure) and maybe, maybe the more secular regions of Syria, would even allow such matters to be voiced. I admit to being fairly biased. I rather frequently talk with (secular) Kurds on twitter, but I do read other sources as well, and ask Syriacs/Assyrians and secular Arabs for their opinion on the matter, but I readily admit that my perspective might be somewhat skewed in favour of the Kurds. Thanks for the read, t'was interesting.
  12. The KRG, and their compatriots on the Syrian side (YPG/SDF/Rojava) are pretty much the only ones who've consistently been fighting DAESH. Kurds are far from perfect, but they are - on average - a lot more moderate than most other groups in the region. And I mean moderate in the true sense of the word, unlike the EU and Obama administration who resorted to calling Al Qaida affiliates "moderate" because it suited their needs in their fight against Assad. Please tell me what land the Kurds stole from Iraq and Turkey? The KRG has been around since the 90's, and South Eastern Turkey is de facto Kurdish. As for the Rojava ("West Kurdistan", i.e. northern Syria), what were they supposed to do? Let DAESH take over? In fact, if anyone should be accused of landgrabbing, it's the Turks. Easternmost Antolia used to be Armenian, the southern parts Kurdish and Assyrian. Not to speak of coastal areas that used to be inhabited by Greek speakers. I was basing my information off the following source : Martin van Bruinessen, "Kurdistan." The Oxford Companion to the Politics of the World, 2nd edition. Joel Krieger, ed. Oxford University Press, 2001. In the 80's and 90's when PKK separatists started putting their feet down against Turkey, they too were executing not just military members, but communities sponsored by Turkey in those regions. That's why the countryside was evacuated for awhile. I would not argue that Turkey is blameless in any of the conflict. It's been fairly obvious the Turkish government has played both sides of the fence. I would also state that my information comes from firsthand combatants on the ground in Turkey, and my friend later confirmed a few incidents himself that at first he claimed were not happening over there. It's war. It's dirty. It's wrought with passions, anger, and hope. As far as their being a country, again, the treaties and state departments world wide recognize that y the pact of Severes in 1920, they were supposed to be identified as an independent nation, but Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey refused to allow it. Many think in the coming decade Kurdistan should have official recognition that would get them more rights on the world stage. Yes, they have their own parliament, but they do not have recognition on a legal basis as their own country...yet... and I hope they get it. To answer to discriminatory behavior, yes, the Kurds are not as cruel as ISIS in method, but their aim is still the same on some levels. During the killings of Christians in Mosul, the Kurdish security was unable to stop the attacks and magically the perps have not been found. In 2009 Human Rights Watch found that health providers in Iraqi Kurdistan were involved in both performing and promoting misinformation about the practice of female genital mutilation. Girls and women receive conflicting and inaccurate messages from media campaigns and medical personnel on its consequences. (source: https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2010/country-chapters-1)The Kurdistan parliament did push a possible law outlawing the practice, but the the final order never came to make it law and in fact was expected in February 2009 but ended up cancelled. The lgbtq community in Kurdistan is still struggling to be heard. While an equality law was passed, too much anger in the religious community allows it to really be put into practice. I know, baby steps. And yes, there are still instances of women being stoned. http://www.violenceisnotourculture.org/content/iraqi-kurdistan-woman-stoned-death-eloping Avery and I did speak on this, and like you, he assured me that it was all misinformation. He learned later it was not and admitted as much. Regardless of our differing views, I do not condemn Kurdistan or its future recognition on the world stage. So many of their cultural has placed their life blood on the rocks of that region protecting so many outside their own villages. Since the Middle Ages the Kurds have held tight to a broader understanding of their world and the many peoples that make it possible, and I have little doubt that much good is done by them. It isn't wrong to question and seek out what is accurate or misinformed perspective, and I really appreciate your bringing this up.
  13. I don't know how well this blog is going to go over, and I probably haven't thought this completely through, but I am posting it anyway. I have to get this off my mind, and I am sure just the idea of what I am suggesting will infuriate a few out there, but hopefully if read all the way through, I make sense, just not articulated well. This all began earlier this week when a friend of mine, our very own Brother Jeff, was being persistently pursued about the concept of Hell, and the need to open his mind to the possiblity because of NDE experiences that incorporated the fiery land of sulfur. These experiences should be considered as proof of the reality was essentially what the poster was insisting on. Further than that, he even made the assumption that Jeff is far too involved with atheist acquaintances, which might be why he doesn't believe in the concept at all. Atheist friends like myself. While this commentator's blame laying on atheists for being part of the main reason Jeff had left behind religious belief (see what I did there?) and lava filled oceans was flattering, his accusations were at best desperation. Even more desperate? He was hell bent on convincing Jeff to at least just visit a particular website called http://www.hellisreal.net, because the internet must only have accurate information and evidence. As is typical of such proselyting tactics, when Jeff remained unfazed and determined in his views, the poster went the last desperate step in argumentation. Desperate equates to fallacious, of course. "What about all of the Islamic terror and political bias? You aren't being fair in your slander." This type of tu quoque argumentation is a favorite of mine to read. It's classic avoidance by meeting criticism with criticism instead of actually answering to the charges. And it's an easy one to fall into. Meeting criticism with much of the same is a great way to avoid talking about topics you are hard pressed to defend rationally. Ironically, his accusation that my friend only feels comfortable criticizing Christianity brings up an interesting perspective about showing preference. First, I think it is plainly obvious why one often focuses on the majority religion in their communities. The majority religion has the largest impact on day to day life, upbringing, and political ideology. Christian extremism has affected my life 99.9% of the time. I am in a country that truly believes that the Christian god is personally blessing our nation in particular, every day. (C'mon, share the wealth with livable wages then, right?) Islam? Hasn't played a significant role in my day to day life until the last decade, and even then the footprint is minor, but somewhat significant in my relationship with our nation's evolving obsession with Christian culture and rules in our everyday society and government. Now, when I read interactions like that of Jeff and a religious commentator and the accusation of sympathizing with terrorists for not equally criticizing Islam, I start to bristle at the absolute ridiculous comparison. Are there terrorists who are Muslim? Absolutely, I won't deny it or defend it. As this commentator should acknowledge there are Christian terrorists today. The Identity movement, evangelical pastors convincing African nations to pass "kill the gays" legislation. Potential vice presidents of our nation wanting to jail gays for even applying for a marriage license. Every group has extremists, but the ones that have truly influenced your life are likely the ones you will focus on. And that is okay. Lack of focus on other religious extremists isn't a denial of what they have done. If one cannot relate to the substance of particular sects of violent ideology, why is one obligated to give it equal air time? Personally, extreme political cults like ISIS and Al Qaeda have had an unusual positive impact on my perception of the world, and influence of belief within politics. I could actually send a thank you note for the awareness their extremism has introduced into my once clearly biased attitudes. My bias had always allowed me to minimize the damage our country's majority Christian outlook has wrought against those who wouldn't conform. But no longer. Children killed in the name of teaching Syrian parents they must follow ISIS. Children killed by their own mothers in America because they were not following God's laws. Muslim children being denied vaccinations because it was considered worldly and an affront to Allah. Christian children denied vaccinations because God supposedly condemns worldly intervention over divine providence. Gay Muslim men thrown from rooftops in Iraq for their sexuality. Then I remembered having read about James Byrd Jr.'s dragging death in Jasper, Texas for being gay. He was drug to death by Christian white supremacists. I listened to Muslim clerics explain to fathers in Afghanistan that their women and daughters should not go in public without a family member, or they would invite sexual assault and be permanently dishonored. I watch Christian fathers in our country tearfully accept their daughters' promises of virginal purity until marriage because these young girls' sexuality belongs to their fathers. I cried as Boko Haram handed out school girls as sex slaves, and I cried as my Christian politicians condemned abortion in cases of rape because babies are gifts from God, regardless of how conception occurred. Up until the daily news casts started sharing with me the extreme imposition of theocratic policies in extreme Islamic belief, I was able to rationalize that we could be a lot worse here in America, and that it wasn't so bad. And it is true, we could be a lot worse, but there is so much we suffer under today that is outrageously unconstitutional and is still permitted because we are a supposedly "Christian Nation" even though our Constitution tells us otherwise. When I had a daily visual to compare our own nation's attitudes and practices against? I realized we put up with a lot of unfair demands for conformity or face retribution on many unimaginable levels. While it is very true that extreme Christian acts of violence like mothers and fathers murdering their families are met with judicial justice head on, we still allow deprivation of legitimate education, deprivation of necessary medical care, and theocratic conspired laws to force submission in matters of family law and women's autonomy. If it weren't for extreme groups like ISIS, Osama Bin Laden, or the Taliban, I don't know if I ever would have seen the horrifying depths we have allowed Christian extremists to dive to in the name of belief. I hear all these arguments that we are allowing too many special exceptions for Islam, and that we are inviting extreme views and practices from Muslims to start taking root. All I can say is that in order to prevent extremists, you have to enforce the boundaries of church and state. By already allowing blatant preference for Christian agendas on every level of federal, state, and even local government, you have already set the precedent for other extreme religious ideologies to have their fair place too. So at the end of the day, maybe Jeff's persistent cheerleader for Christ might take his own advice and pay more attention to the similarities between his belief system and that of every day Muslims. He ought to be grateful that the majority doesn't act as depraved as the extremist minorities in either version of God. Most importantly, maybe he ought to hold the same standard against his personal belief as he does Islam and see how the two ultimately are similar in goals, and even methods, in order to secure authority in community.
  14. "No truly dedicated human being would stay with someone that sexually abuses others." "I wasn't happy about Bill Clinton's sexual harassment charges and affairs in office either." "Why would someone wait until an abuser is running for office to come forward? It's fame. S/He wants fifteen minutes of fame." I want to address the first statement from a Trump supporter's interview on CNN earlier this week. Honestly, this one is the most difficult to deal with, not because it's horrible to think that someone would stay with anyone known to have been predatory with other human beings, but because it reveals the humanity in HRC. Yeah, I said it. She's human. HOLY FUCKING SHIT! I've broken the internet. And this isn't an excuse. I'm just stating the obvious that HRC seems to try to hide or avoid discussing publicly. Not the affairs of her husband, but the rationale she employs in relationships, the motivations that drives her to make a relationship work, and why she seems so impersonal to the world about her very human experiences that would reveal her vulnerabilities. Some say her remaining with Bill was to further her political career. That could be true. It could also be true that she truly enjoys her humanitarian work (I know, there are some poor decisions that have cost lives too), and recognizes that same fact in her husband. I have little doubt they are at the minimum close friends, people. C'mon, there is a camaraderie there that can't be ignored. Also, there is definitely a passion within her to push for betterment of society and living in some sectors. We see she has chosen to make do with what she has. We employ our personal standards of rules for relationships to her life to try and understand her because she is giving us nothing to go on. And yes, I think in the public life, that is a huge flaw. True story. My father is a sexual abuser. He is an emotionally abusive man. And he would physically abuse me at times while I was a child, not just to punish me, but to release a lot of pent up frustration. My mother was unaware of his sexually abusing me, as far as I can tell, until I told her when I was sixteen years of age. She couldn't claim ignorance of his physically abusive rages as many times she would have to intervene and pull him off of me at times. She couldn't deny the tears of guilt, shame, and sadness from when he would drive her into the ground with words from his lips either. Yet, she remained. Much like Clinton, my mother doesn't discuss my father's abusive behaviors. Much like Clinton, my mother minimizes the damage done, or scuttles away the hurt with excuses about his childhood. And exactly like HRC, the veneer my mother has painstakingly shellacked over the image of her family remains spotless.....in her mind. This persistent need to not show vulnerability is exactly the chink in her armor that is glaringly obvious to everyone around her. I think HRC is aware of this, but isn't capable of processing it. If I hadn't been around this type of behavior from my own mother, I would be perplexed like the rest of America. This vulnerability doesn't make HRC incapable of leadership though. Quite the contrary, as with my own mother, HRC has many truly notable successes under her belt alongside her failures - like many of us do- though not many of us will be at such a high level of authority in our lifetimes either. Again, this is not a plea for you to vote for HRC, this is simply a perspective I take into consideration when weighing the public image versus the person away from the microphone. The next area I want to tackle is the this whole "You think Trump is bad, look at what Bill Clinton did to women while in office!" All I have to say on this matter is that it would seem to me if you were pissed you found out after Bill Clinton was elected into office the nasty things he did to women, then why aren't you glad you are finding out about it now with Trump and will be saving us millions in tax payer dollars to avoid impeachment and lawsuits? Share the same level of outrage, do not minimize the trauma of others to benefit your personal desires. To do so makes you as bad as HRC's supposedly staying with her husband to save her political career. Seriously. Pot meet kettle. If Bill's abuse of women is serious enough to never want him in office again, then why put another sexual predator in the Oval Office? And lastly, the fifteen minutes of fame argument. The problem isn't that many victims of sexual harassment and abuse wait what appears as a lifetime to come forward with their revelations. It isn't a problem that for many years they kept their suffering quietly to themselves and one day finally cracked open their scabs and let the pain come flowing out of the wounds again in public forum. The problem is that when these victims were abused, they looked in the mirror afterwards whispering over and over for many decades later,"It isn't that bad. I've seen worse." The problem is being programmed to immediately compare one's suffering to a social bar of acceptability and not personal self. The problem is we are not allowed to own our suffering in the public eye, or even have it recognized without being put on a litmus scale of public opinion. We are victims of not just our abusers, but our peers' standards of what is considered the acceptable course of action if one is victimized. Victimization knows no sexual identity, age, creed, or pain process. It is truly the most personal of all experiences in this world that can fairly be compared to no two snowflakes being exactly alike. Trauma never has a standard order of procedure. When women come forward during contested political seasons, or men reveal that they were pressured into horrible situations with upstanding community members, instead of looking at their coming out as suspicious timing, consider this: Maybe seeing their abuser's face all over every form of social media is a cruel flashback that is the catalyst they need to finally process their victimization and understand that it was THAT bad, and it is the WORST they have personally ever experienced. Which in itself, is very traumatic. Some find this realization angering, and they blast their anguish loud and clear for anyone that will hear, while others will simply file an anonymous lawsuit, wanting the public to be aware, but not wanting to have their pain politicized. At the end of the day, we all share a lot of traits with HRC. We minimize certain facts or news that disrupts our world view in an unpleasant way. We try to preserve our self image, because to not be secure in self is uncomfortable. I look at the POTUS race as a job interview for a CEO position. I care about personal life issues up to a certain point. I worry more about education, qualifications, experience, and work related professionalism. Some say HRC has been in politics far too long to effect any change, and that if she were truly going to change, then show the proof throughout her career that she has pursued change. I agree to some extent on this mindset. Career politicians will always leave me with a pessimistic attitude. My worry is that without a career politician who understands how government actually works, then that outside candidate will be completely taken advantage of by the hundreds of other politicians who know the system. If you want change, you have to change all levels of government. And to do that, you have to change the mindset of society to not act like those who are currently governing them. Maybe start with a willingness to accept standards outside your own. It is possible to accept that your standards are not the golden rule for an entire nation. I would really push to stand by unwavering empathy, and finally quit moving the goal posts to fit your views. I say it all the time. The political realm isn't a Burger King. You can't have it all your way. Find a candidate who is like you: someone who needs intimacy, empathy, and love. These traits require compromise. Make that the standard in your worldview, in your society, and you will make that a standard in government to be proud of, not a sign of weakness. You will encourage trust between government and the populace that allows for dialog. When we hold impossible standards to meet, almost to the level of saintliness that many of us abhor in the secular community, how can one expect personal honesty?