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Formerly Rotting Thoughts

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TheBluegrassSkeptic

Having a friend make headline news by becoming the embodiment of everything wrong in the world was not how I imagined my evening would begin. Scott Smith, one of the hosts of the Recovering From Religion podcast, top dog activist for Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF ), father of three, and all around good guy, turned a very dark corner earlier today. He shot and killed his wife and then took his own life just as police arrived. Three school age girls are going home to relatives instead of their own bedrooms and welcoming arms of their parents. The footsteps of mom and dad in the hall to tuck them in are now permanently relegated to memory and dreams. The loving smile of dad is now a porcelain veneer of menace boiling beneath. 

 

Some might take offense to all this imagery, but the reality is whether mental illness was the primary cause or not (many say it was his losing to ptsd), he murdered his wife. He committed domestic violence. I feel that the constant woe of his ptsd being the cause removes some accountability from Scott's plate, and I am not going to have that. We can discuss this reality without eviscerating him. This was a man who was keenly aware of how ptsd affected him. His years in the military and then learning to live as a civilian activist out there to protect vets and bring further understanding to ptsd is important. He is not without his own weaknesses, and maybe the news of his wife's divorce pushed him to an edge he had never traversed before. This does not lessen or change the fact he committed domestic violence. He murdered his wife. He took an opportunity to control his life how he saw fit, and forced his soon to be ex-wife to follow. He even called the police and told them what he was doing. Once again, someone burned it all down because it wasn't going their way and they had to have absolute control.

 

Does it really need to be said for the millionth time that mental health is a huge issue that is still taking baby steps to become a mature discussion in this country?  And right now is the time in our community of freethinkers to seriously evaluate this issue in our own ranks. We cannot always see or know what is going on behind closed doors in our friends' lives, but we can consistently promote a very personal avenue of communication to find these dark moments in our impulses and try to diffuse them before they become tragedy. We can be active participants in our local communities to demand better crisis services without stigma. We can educate our communities that staying in the hospital for mental health reasons is not a thing to be embarrassed or ashamed of. Self-care must happen or we cannot take care of those we love. We will hurt them as we hurt ourselves. I have personally been to that dark edge and back, and luckily my family and I walked away intact. I didn't hide, but embraced help for once. But that was only after barely waking up from an intentional overdose because I couldn't process my guilt.

 

Some might look back and say Scott was a good man who had his own demons that got the better of him. Some might look back and say he was a bad man, letting this murder define his legacy. What we should be looking back on is how we can help prevent more of these types of violent episodes from occurring due to any number of reasons, simply by being present and demanding we all take care of ourselves through proper programs and resources instead of the way Scott did it in the end. 

 

PTSD didn't kill his wife. He did. Let's prevent this from happening again.

TheBluegrassSkeptic

It was a timing much like other realized moments of accounting in my life. I sat at the red light. Chest tight, my eyes wet and slippery, the church on the opposite corner rang its bells. Its enormous clock had struck 7p while I was waiting at the intersection. Like a reverberant pang of regret, the tolling of the bells echoed the hollow sentiments that had gripped a of hold me. The deep pangs of grief I had begun wrestling with physically pulsed in my ears as every dark note rang out from that church tower. The red light seemed to last forever. Seconds like minutes. My thoughts becoming a monsoon of physical discomfort. And that red halo cast down onto the sliver hood of my car, also colored me with a shade of self loathing I hadn't experienced in years.

 

A cold reality I had doggedly avoided for almost two years now, crept into my future planning quite painfully just a few minutes before I had reached that light.

 

I sat there, seething with a raging disbelief that I had once again shown my penchant for using shitty enabling patterns for coping in life. I once again ripped my own heart to shreds. I knew I had willfully ignored the flags for months. I once again ignored the lack of results when expressing my own needs. I had straight up given away three years of dedication under a personally enforced blind eye - and now was being asked for potentially fifteen years more of the same. To continue a perpetual state of unsatisfying relationship roles. I sat at that red light and blistered with incredulous laughter, tears, and white-knuckled fingers on a steering wheel.

 

Could I really be so angry at him for what I so plainly continued to enable? A friend in public, but spoken for in private. His holding back on communicating relationship issues with me under the guise of "looking out for my feelings". His absence in my everyday life. No. I wasn't going to lay all of this at his feet. He didn't make this the norm. I allowed it. I did this. My fear of demanding for myself that which makes my life enjoyable. My fear of admitting it isn't okay and it needs to change immediately. My lack of belief that I do deserve the good things with someone I care about.  With every bell that tolled, I was mentally going through the checklist of what I needed, and not one box was marked off. A voice that was not just acknowledged, but respected and adhered to. Equal control of the relationship. Self-respect to demand and enforce what I need to be happy too. A fucking picture together. A good hump at least once a week. Yeah, three years - no pictures together. What was I thinking?

 

The light turned green, the bells were silent. My mascara shown all over the back of my hands in that emerald hued spotlight as I made my turn. No goddamn picture. Still invisible to the public. So many flags and no check marks.

 

This is the devastation many feel in life. Especially when you have all the dreams in place at the other's behest, but not a single step has been taken to make it a reality. It's devastating because you realize that you compromised yourself for a shiny, dangling piece of fancy that you eventually knew wouldn't take off - but you chased it anyway.

 

Now three more years of my life are gone, and it isn't even a new lesson learned.

 

TheBluegrassSkeptic

If you haven't seen it yet, there is a hashtag floating around the past week that says simply #MeToo. This is in response to the growing fire storm in the media this past week about Harvey Weinstein's despicable behavior towards women he worked with. Many have come forward alleging instances of unwanted sexual advances, sexual touching, and even rape. Additionally, some other male actors have come under close scrutiny after being confronted about their own behaviors towards fellow female actresses in Hollywood. Much of what has always been acknowledged in the movie industry is now becoming a banner to rally under for the respectful treatment of female peers not just in the acting industry, but everywhere across the United States.

 

But, as I posted my own recognition of this very important hashtag, it brought out a lot of deeper reflection on what this is all about. This is not just about women coming forward and sharing that they have been sexually harassed or abused in life so that others do not feel alone in their suffering. This is about male victims too. And it is a physical showing of hands on the national stage. It is a movement that is putting a sea of faces out there for all to see and measure. It is showing the grim reality that it isn't a rare occurrence at home, work, school, or public bar scene. Turns out that sexual harassment and assault are more common place in our communities than most want to admit or ever realized. This is mostly in part due to under reporting to appropriate authorities. Under reporting is a tell tale symptom of the lack of support we have in our nation for those who suffer sex crimes. As a victim, I can appreciate this feeling of lack of support. In my case, police officers had my father's own admission, and they still insisted I go back home later that night after everything was brought out in the open. 

 

This is the cruel reality  for many sexual abuse victims. 

 

An even crueler reality? There is a growing awareness in this country of what is happening, but it stops there and isn't blossoming into a larger community outreach to fix this problem. Case in point. Friend of mine and I were discussing my own sexual abuse and assault experiences, and he made a comment along the lines of this kind of thing is all too common a story among the women he knows. He then recounted how one previous girl friend had been raped by an ex that broke into her home one night, another by her father growing up. Another close friend of his had been molested by family members growing up. Then he recalled his own half sister having been raped repeatedly by his estranged father. He found out about this from his half sister some years ago. Even worse, her mother knew about it, and even watched and yelled at her during the event because it was considered a just punishment. All of this he found out years later from his half sister, and at that point he pretty much decided he would avoid his dad from then on.

 

But our conversation didn't stop there. He then realized he knew at least two men who had been sexually abused in their youth. And then of course his own experience of being fondled by a Boy Scout troop leader when he was young. He often down plays this experience though, as he doesn't see how it has affected him other than it being awkward, and never went further than fondling. Nonetheless, our conversation really made him put into words what many are realizing this week: The majority of people he knows have been sexually abused, molest, assaulted, etc. 

 

What does this awareness accomplish after this moment? What do we do with this shared knowledge and perspective once we have it? Does it mean he is now more sensitive to trauma? Possibly. Is he going to call up his local city leaders and state level officials to start putting money into programs to help victims report the abuse? Maybe push for a counseling initiative? Or insist we get comprehensive sexual education in schools? Probably not. 

 

What do we do once we get others aware of the epidemic that is sexual abuse?

 

Not everyone can be the activist that is beating down the doors of legislators to get funding in place. The reality is that this is where the local community has to step in and find their own initiatives to develop solutions to under reporting, lack of education on sexual consent, and poorly funded crisis counseling. It could be something as simple as volunteers getting schools on board to do two week elective classes on sex ed and consent. Or volunteering at crisis centers to man the phones and be that rock for victims to cling to at 2 a.m. in the morning after being hurt by someone they trusted. Awareness is a key part of the problem, but it is not enough. We cannot just leave it as sexually abusive behavior happens everywhere to everyone. 

 

If you cannot contribute money to funded education or crisis programs, consider contributing your time. Or at the very least, sit down and have that conversation with your kids, your parents, your neighbors, or a teen that you know is possibly struggling with these issues. Have the conversation and get them help immediately.  Don't just be a visible reminder of the trauma, help fight it any way you think you can.  

 

#MeToo

 

 

TheBluegrassSkeptic
I'm just going to say it.
 
I have had it up to fucking here with the Atheist Role Model Who Is Causing A Lot Of Drama In My Personal Circle bullshit.
 
This is utter BULLSHIT. I have had the opportunity to interact with him for a three years or so now. Granted, it was usually one sided, and when he wanted something, but I have been privy to a lot of background discussion he authors. Ever having a shoulder and ear that many of us mutually shared to let him vent his woes. In all honestly? I'd known him  approximately 6 months, and tried to shake off my red flag warnings. But goddamn, once again, I should have listened to my inner voice.  He is a dishonest person, and while we can't be perfect, repeat behavior like this is a problem. 
 
A little background as to why I am so vehemently stepping out here. As many of you know,  I'd dealt with a dishonest man for 17 years. Prior to that? Well, let's just say my ex-husband didn't fall far from the tree on the standard mistake of men I have a penchant for. He was father of the year in the streets, a selfish bastard in the sheets. He would always tell me to communicate with him what I wanted, and I'll be damned if he would ever acquiesce. All the way down to coitus. He would ask my advice, if he didn't agree, he treated me as if I were infantile, and then of course, if he would use my advice? Declare he had come up with the chosen action all on his own. I was never considered a contributor, unless he was showing off his family. Relationship wise? Oh, we were monogamous, but he would serial cheat, telling the other women either that he was single, or in an open relationship. Of course he would insist I pleasure him on demand whether I wanted to or not (god forbid he went more than 3 days), and blame me for everything that ever went wrong. If the world wasn't in agreement with him, then surely something was wrong with the world.
 
So, when dealing with a certain atheist super hero of the South, I began to feel an odd atmosphere of deja vu. I tried to shake it, but then the drama with a particular non profit erupted. And seeing and hearing his own testimony, behind private group doors,  on what was going on versus what they said, I took a grain a salt from both parties.  Worse, I let slide the fact this atheist "role model" only approached me if he wanted "crowd sourcing" ideas, wanted to be sure whose side I was on when I was reading through past posts of the non profit mess, or shared a thumbs up if recent pictures of my tits looked amazing. In all honesty,  I could give two shits less if he didn't stay with the non profit, I just didn't want a good service disappearing due to drama that BOTH parties should have taken to arbitration. I know damn well if he were in the right, that non profit would have been on the hook for the arbitration bill, and vice versa.
 
I now am faced with what I suspected he would do to a friend mine, who is also a former girlfriend of his, coming into reality. Trash and burn. And frankly, I understand that it is his relationship and none of my damn business, except...
 
He violated consent. Not once, but at least three times. With his now ex-wife. With my friend. And now another friend. And I don't mean he sexually assaulted anyone, but he took sexual advantage. He changed the rules without consent. Cheating is a serious consent issue if you didn't know. If I am in a monogamous relationship, and I decide I want to sleep with other people and not clear this with my partner, or the other partner I am sleeping with, I am taking away their consent to the relationship because I have changed the dynamic of the relationship. Yes, if you sleep with a different partner, and the other does not know, a little bit of advice: DO NOT FUCK YOUR ORIGINAL PARTNER AGAIN UNTIL YOU TALK ABOUT IT. More partners mean more risks. Health wise, emotionally, and financially. I used to take a very different attitude about cheating. My standard rule of thumb has been if someone cheats, just move on, let it go, and treat it as another lesson learned. I no longer take it so lightly because of the earlier mentioned reasons. I've been a victim of disease being brought to my bed. I've been a victim of the emotional toll of desperately trying to save a relationship I was told was still monogamous-despite his cheating. And I have been a financial victim because I had to move almost immediately as my ex-husband couldn't stand me living in the home if I wasn't going to be in a relationship any longer, or wouldn't at least still fuck him in the mean time till I moved.  And I have walked the fine line of cheating, more like disappointing future expectations, but still came clean before engaging my partner again. I gave him the option to stay or walk, and he walked. Deservedly so. I gave him the choice to continue. I gave him a voice. I didn't lie. I didn't hide my actions. I didn't seek to possess him on terms that would have been against his will.
 
So,  I do not take this continuation of behavior as just a "life lesson" that this role model continues to repeat.
 
Does he really need consent explained? I highly doubt it. In fact, I think he needs to be honest about who he really is, and what he wants in a relationship. Quit being a coward. If he wants an open relationship, then go into a relationship that is open. Do not promise whatever the lover wants to hear in order to have this person in your life, making you feel special and wanted. That person is not there for you only, and selfish desire is never a good reason to manipulate someone to get what you want. If this person isn't open to being open, then you can't lie and violate them like that. No, means no. You will just have to live with the rejection and move on.
 
FWIW, my ex-husband got 17 years of my life. 17 years of constant lying, possessiveness, secrets, disease, narcissistic torture, and violation of my consent to the terms of the relationship. He never once said to me,"Kate,I cannot be in a monogamous relationship." He never gave me the opportunity, or even show the respect to allow me to participate in our relationship. No, he used me. He abused my role as mother and caregiver. He also stood on the backs of countless other women in order to fill his starving ego and insecurities, and he also used them to punish me, and further his career that took him out of town for weeks at a time.
 
This role model for secular and exiting religious alike, is violating consent on every level. It is disgusting and below him, especially when writing
 
"“We are a sex positive community if we are nothing else. Personally, I’m proud of that fact, because as a former Southern Baptist I am so very done with the body shame and antiquated approach to sexual relationships that I inherited. But people also use the freedom this affords to exploit others and take advantage of them."
 
What he is doing isn't just a small matter of cheating. If what is said is to be trusted, he outright abandoned a family he created, and then proceeded to wreck another. 
 
So why am I acting like I have any part of his circus? His behavior has had a negative effect on my own social life within certain secular circles. I passed up on what he refers to as a "fight club" get-together last year because I knew he would be there. You know, some of these gatherings are a very intimate settings, and the idea of even shaking his hand, or worse hugging him,  made me sick to my stomach. I skipped out on two conventions because I knew he would be there, and there was no way I was going to stand by with a happy shit smile.
 
And the fact I am passing up on events to avoid him, and the drama attached,  is bullshit. Who is he to have this effect over me? I will tell you. He is a trigger zone of red flags for me. I know his fan club will be jumping all over me, and so be it. Unlike the majority of them, I have dealt with him on a much more intimate level. I've seen and read enough from his fingertips to be justified in my scorn. To be clear, my scorn isn't for him to personally answer to. He owes me nothing, and this word salad might seem unnecessary to many, but it's my rally cry for him, and others like him, to get help. This role model is burning out fast, and I don't know if he can see it. So let me hold up that mirror for him,  and let him decide. He can claim that this is me projecting past bad relationships on to him, but it isn't. His own actions have triggered my own warning flags to stay away and avoid.
 
Please do better, oh Southern Secular power house. Your own kids could be your next victims simply because of the example you have set.
 
 
****Special Entry Update****
 
I have screenshots from the accusers, and am not going to retract one iota of what I have penned here now that I have read it all. I am glad they are working together to not only share their experience and eventually put the screens out there, but are keeping a stiff upper lip with the absolute hatred they are receiving in the fall out. There have been some who question the use of words and phrases like "sexually violated", "sexually assaulted", etc. I leave that up to the discretion of the accuser, as I am not in her shoes. I will say a violation of consent is most definitely an issue here, and I stand by my assessment that the women involved were most definitely sexually taken advantage of by this spokesperson I am blogging about here. Don't like it? See my field of fucks, and that it is barren.
TheBluegrassSkeptic

I have severely scaled back participation in Pride and LGBTQ community activism over the last year or so because I have reached a major crossroads in my life during this time. I openly have lived as a bi-sexual woman for approximately a decade. I have also added a slight addendum to that and expanded my bi-sexuality to include those who are also genderqueer, gender fluid, and trans, as I have really found I am attracted to pretty much anyone. I have come to realize I will love and be sexually attracted to just about anyone out there. There is no specific type that I look for.  I do not know if this is being worded correctly, as trying to explain my emotions do not always come out as a clear message on paper or blog pages. 

 

With all this rehashed, this past year I have been trying to figure out how to describe a larger elephant in my closet that I have not truly addressed head on, nor have I even attempted to just kind of word salad it out in mildly veiled inquiry. Usually I like to crowd source my perceptions so others can help me verbalize better what I am thinking. I literally struggle with this. There are days I would describe my feelings as brown, or my attitude as a number. I can't make it translate into intelligible words when leaving my brain where others can actually understand what the hell is going on up there. I am kind of reaching a breaking point, and maybe I have the correct letters and punctuation to make it all present itself in an understandable dialog.

 

Somehow, I doubt it, but here goes.

 

For the first time today, I used the word dysphoria. 

 

This is a big deal for me. I have thought about this word for the past couple of years or so thanks to so many of my friends out there being able to put a word to what they are feeling when having trouble accepting their physical selves. This word they used gave me a starting point to discuss with my own therapist, and of course research it, in order to see if it somehow applied to my own emotional state about my personal self. There has been a lot of personal conflict and nights of quiet contemplation for hours on the subject of what I am. I use the word what, because I know who I am. I am Kate. I am funny, have a bit of dry with, a need to be right, an avid lover of all things robots and scifi, and I have goals in life for my later years where I will be so happy with my family that all the past years of struggle will be eclipsed by the few I will have left of joy. I know who I am. And this is where I might be using all the wrong language, so I am so very sorry if I offend anyone with my words to describe my journey to find the what of who I am.

 

Little thing about me most don't know. I consider my gender the what of me. What are you? Male, female? Gender has always been a what for me. It has never been a part of the definition of me, as if I have always treated it as optional. I really do not know where I got this from. My parents never exposed me to the LGBTQ communities growing up. Some have said it is probably from me disassociating myself from childhood sexual abuse, and for awhile I bought into that a little since I had no other explanation. My therapist and I discussed this finally, and he seems to think my doubts are well founded and this has zero to do with the sexual abuse I went through as a child. We have looked back on my childhood, and I shared equal enjoyment in things that would be considered predominantly male and activities seen more as female related. The same was true of dress, hair style, and everything else you can think of. One thing is very clear. I never really latched on to the idea of gender roles at all, let alone worried about being perceived as male or female. I only worried if people got my name wrong. And I always corrected them and got offended if they insisted on not calling me correctly. On a side note, it still deeply hurts me today when people butcher my name, and keep on insisting on it. I have a boss that does this now, and while I actually love her dearly, it hurts she insists on calling me what she does despite my protest.

 

Relationships. Public image versus my personal image. My general attitudes. Anyone that follows my public work, sees my secret group postings, or has dated me, will undoubtedly say,"You obviously do not have a problem with being female. You use your feminine wiles, you try to appear attractive as a female, and you certainly enjoy sex toys designed for females. So, obviously, you don't hate your vagina or breasts."

 

I'm not saying any of this. Again, my female body is part of the what I am. And after being abused as a child, and trying to survive abusive relationships, one tends to use their body as a tool. It got me through some pretty tough times, and it has given me plenty of pleasure. What can I say, orgasms are amazing. I love sexual intimacy. Yes, some days, I adore my curves and the little button I was born with, and other days it disgusts me, and I wish I could trade out for other experiences. My body is a what. It's like a canvas that I get to decorate and find innovative ways to create fun visuals and sensations with. The past year I have come to realize that more often than not, the pretty images I share on profiles, the extra effort I put into looking nice on a podcast, it isn't for my benefit. It is something I've been in denial of for awhile, and I just need to admit this isn't me being too poor to afford taking care of my look. I have been in a steady, and rebellious, direction of no longer doing this to myself. It has been depressing me. No amount of make up will make me happy with who I am when it isn't a visual that I want to wear to begin with.

 

This is my dysphoria. This is where my elephant in the closet comes bursting out.

 

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I have come to finally put the words together for something that has been in my everyday life for too long. I would say I am on the fluid spectrum of gender identity. I don't want to wear the pretty eyelashes, mascara, or any of that. Or at least, not for the reasons I have been doing so. The pressure to look appealing is hard enough, but to do it in a manner that doesn't fit what you are seems to make it worse. My clothing wardrobe is experiencing a similar deal. I had to go shopping for an outfit for an important job interview, and while I told my lover that the store just didn't have any complete suit sets available, the reality was that I was revolting against the idea I have to present myself in a strong, feminine, power outfit. I just didn't want to do it. I got overwhelmed walking around that store looking at all these clothes and thinking how I would rather have a nice shaved cut, some gel, and a flat chest with a fit shirt and slacks. Little touch of lipstick would be good, and just some foundation to even out my face. I didn't want to be feminine at all for my interview.

 

And then there is a festival coming up and there is a sundress I would love to wear with a floppy hat and some sandals, and my painted toes to boot.

 

Welcome to my struggle. Hopefully I can get this in a more understandable format at some point. If I could offer a plug into my head and you feel it all, I would gladly share.  Anyway, thanks for reading. <3

 

 

 

 

 

 

TheBluegrassSkeptic

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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:

 

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TheBluegrassSkeptic

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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.

 

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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. 

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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?

 

 

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TheBluegrassSkeptic

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   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:

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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"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.

 

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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.

 

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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:

 

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"He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged. "

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TheBluegrassSkeptic
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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.

TheBluegrassSkeptic
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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.

TheBluegrassSkeptic
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"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.

 

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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?

TheBluegrassSkeptic
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The past few weeks, with the onset of Summer and seemingly aggravated like insects by climate change, many incidents of straight up assholery has permeated all manner of news. It could just be an intensely socially focused political season, but I still think we are animals in our behavior. This has been especially felt by me in the secular community, where activist networks have been tearing each other down.

 

Yes, I realize that this isn't new, but it seems more intensified. Maybe because many involved I've actually worked with, or have networks of close friends in common. Bottom line is that this rash outbreak of everybody raging has arrived on my doorstep.

 

I don't know if this is the Trump effect in action- considering any press good press, or if fellow writers and podcasters have just gone off the deep end the last few months with their need to reinterpret what secular, humanist, and atheist qualifications are. The amount of litmus testing made me wonder if anyone cares about being a rational family anymore.

 

Now before I go into a much needed venting on my part regarding all the audio and written dramas lately, I need to put out a little disclaimer for the sake of those affiliated with me. Lately a bad case of "guilty by association" has been passed around too. What I speak on is my personal opinion as the Bluegrass Skeptic blogger. This isn't anything to do with my friends, family, or podcast crew members. Don't worry though, I don't need to announce there might be triggers, butt hurt, or NDA's. And feelings shouldn't be hurt with what I want to express here, unless you seriously just want a fight. I highly recommend you take yourself out of the equation for the next few paragraphs while I express my thoughts on the matter. I also don't plan to name drop. If you want free press to show off divisive behavior, this woman won't be a platform to get it.

 

To the point of this article, these past few months we have all witnessed intensified animosities among members across many communities, but I have felt the hurt within the secular activist community most acutely. The drama of Reason Rally announcing rules for behavior and the fall out that ensued was terribly timed, as were some of the reactions by attendees to those who disagreed. My attitude at first was along the lines of allowing people to rage quit and continue on with what is planned. But then more incidents started pervading my news feed, my inbox, and chat conversations with friends and associates.

 

Lately, I feel like someone who has to pick a side within church politics. You know, that awful scenario where a pastor's direction for the congregation leads to a split, and no matter who you side with, you know you are going to lose part of your community you cherish due to requirements for allegiance and alienation of the dissenting party. Worse, your character is assassinated during the fall out by the party you didn't side with because there is no way you should have picked the side you picked. That proverbial line in the sand in many cases leaves bystanders like myself stuck in no man's land.

 

Fellow writers, bloggers, podcasters, activists, and listeners, this is atrocious and below our diverse secular communities standards. This type of emotional extortion for loyalty does not serve as a unifying tactic to elicit agreement or compromise. It's an exclusionary maneuver that rivals the community politics you find within the faith communities we work so hard to be a healthier alternative to.

 

Naively, at the beginning of this article I said I wouldn't name drop, but the RFR versus Godless in Dixie debacle is a bit too infamous to cloud in anonymous naming. I mean, it is a more followed soap opera in our community than Days of Our Lives at this point. You have money, deception, betrayal, power hungry interlopers, and NDA's supposedly layered so thick, I doubt anyone in the organization remembers if they are even allowed to say their organization's name any longer. 'Cause you know, the first rule of Fight Club and all that.

 

This situation is an upsetting issue to even bring up. I'm friends with members on both sides of the dispute, have had the depths of my allegiances questioned, have been assessed as to whether I should be allowed to remain in “the know”, and personally have been told I might be too much of a risk to keep connected within certain circles. This was very insulting, emotionally distressful, and downright wrong. I'd considered flipping that situation around completely and instead alienating all the parties involved for even attempting to elicit a choice of sides from me like that.

 

On one side, I have an organization offering services in a desperately needed sector of secular humanism – outreach for those struggling with religious programming. Recovering from such brainwashing is seriously taken for granted in the atheist community, and RFR is putting a louder voice to this issue's need for recognition.

 

On the other side of the table you have a very talented speaker and author who has lived through what RFR is trying to help individual's navigate: recovery after belief. GID is a positive public figure who puts in the flesh what many hide from the rest of the world. This is invaluable on so many levels for those unsure or hiding their disbelief.

 

This is a dream union in the making, right? Apparently not. Due to financial politics, and demands for allegiance within RFR's board, their rich pool of contributors and spokes people are splitting from one another. Regardless of what one did to the other, this partnership has made personal reputation and self-defense priority over larger goals which has caused a polarization in the secular and humanist communities overall in regards to supporting either party involved. Seeing hashtags followed by team RFR or GID is upsetting.

 

I am not waylaying the right to receive funding owed, or dismissing the demands for certain details to be kept private in order to preserve organizational credibility, but at what cost? Both sides have lost my own personal support on some levels because the bigger purpose of supporting ex-religious members has been overshadowed with cries for party allegiance. This is unacceptable.

 

Just a head's up to those involved, I won't be promoting anyone at this point and work with another organization who is trying to do what all of you have sidelined. It is true business is as usual from the front for the most part, but the toxicity of the back office has colored my desire for product. My only advice is take the initiative, any of you in that hot mess, and hash your shit out with arbitration. Not in public postings, podcasts, or any venue where those who are not direct parties to the conflict might be exposed to it. I am not saying exposing one another's misgivings and abuses should be hidden or completely unspoken. I am saying that average consumers have little need for such exposure to inner workings and as drops in funding have shown, it's detrimental to the long term goal of your organization: helping people.

 

When you focus on face saving, you don't save face. You don't help anyone involved, including all of us consumers out here. You just raise questions of credibility of the mission. And that makes us go elsewhere. In the public realm, even with those hanging on every non pertinent post about surprise podcast questioning to public shaming for defending one's reputation, we, the audience, do not care about personal drama. We just want to see the fruition of our support, which is effective outreach. Flame wars burn your fans more than those being targeted.

 

And on the topic of flame wars....

 

This past week I was catching up on a couple podcasts (imagine actually enjoying my medical leave for a few hours!), one of which that ended with me unsubscribing, hoping to never listen again. I rarely unsubscribe from shows I have in my daily line up over difference of opinion. I count on differences because perspective helps balance out my personal perceptions. But this was more than a difference of opinion I encountered, it was straight up character assassination, under the guise of doing me, the listener, a favor by revealing who the scumbag, bullying, cool kids are in the humanist activism community.

 

And if I didn't agree with this podcaster's determinations of people that he even declared he didn't know or wanted to know, then obviously I am part of the larger problem, being happily fed by these alleged scumbags on that which I want to hear. Essentially, my own character was being assassinated too, because by the podcaster's personal standards, I don't know what humanism truly is if I don't see things his way.

 

Can we not go down the Atheism + path again?

 

Don't misunderstand me, though. Like with RFR versus GID, I think you don't have to hide the issues, but presentation is important and should be thoughtfully planned. Have your differences, air them in a useful manner. When you refer to a long list of people with a long list of ad homs, focusing on how they are using their audiences, don't care about their audiences, dismiss their activism as not truly humanistic (no true Scotsman anybody?), and announce they are scumbags, and then have the audacity to brow beat the audience you claim to love if we don't share your view? You come across as a pastor emotionally bullying his congregation. Please take this kind of hypocrisy back to the church where it belongs.

 

One friend in particular made this scumbag list of bullies that are disingenuous and fame hungry. Again, the podcaster calling out my friend said he didn't know her and didn't want to. This doesn't make logical sense in the process of rational thinking. It's not a very humanistic one either. To decide that one person's opinion on a matter should be enough to dismiss that person in his/her entirety under the guise of practice being a “true humanist” is cognitive dissonance by the podcaster's own definition of what humanism is.

 

In the skeptic community, humanist community, and even the faith community, one would be hard pressed to not go a day without recognizing cognitive bias every half hour. We're wired that way thanks to our frontal lobe conflicting with our emotional primitive bits. Lost? Here's an example:

 

That podcast called my show stupid. Personally attacking me like that is not cool. Here is a list I made up of people that are scumbags and bullies. (This is not a literal quote.)

 

I understand this particular podcaster felt that other shows had different motives for success in activism. He also kept bringing up the money factor and how those who get larger amounts of money from supporters tend to drown out the small fries. Unfortunately his argumentation involved only ad hom, false cause, appeal to emotion, tu quoque, and appeals to an authority who couldn't be disclosed. There is a burden of proof to be met here for his claims. And frankly, when declaring that no true humanist would disagree with him? I felt like a personal standard of humanism was being applied to all. This podcaster was being as inflexible as the doctrine of Christ. You can't expect to be taken seriously when treating all parties involved (including your listening audience) as sheeple if they don't agree with your opinion. Anecdotal evidence does not a compelling argument make.

 

By the end of the podcast, after being told I am contributing to a larger problem (I guess fake humanism?), that a large majority of popular skeptic activists are using me and don't care (pot meet kettle, buddy) and that humanism doesn't allow for facetiousness, disingenuity, or excessive success, I realized humanism doesn't mean what this podcaster thinks it does.

 

Humanism doesn't need to be ruined with Atheism + standards. You don't have to be humble at all times to be a humanist. You don't have to forsake pride in what you do. You don't have to support members of your community that don't have the same standards as you, and you certainly do not have to sink to the depths of ego and personally slander those who don't agree with your standards. And most importantly you don't have to step up and be a champion of humanity at all times. And you certainly don't have to feel bad if there are certain areas of humanity you just aren't good at helping with. There are 7 billion more people in this world who are willing to help take the lead. You know what you can do though? You want to tout a badge of humanism, then stay above the levels you accuse others of instead of wallowing in it. This podcaster was rolling in the same mud puddle as the rest, but had the nerve to claim he wasn't in the mud puddle.

 

When you add personal bias to a standard in the proverbial line in the sand, and essentially condemn people if they don't come to your side, without rationally and fairly figuring out your own biases, you aren't just alienating your community, you are living in a very padded cell of personal apologetics while rationalizing away your illogical disagreements. When you start creating poorly founded and completely unrepresented standards to be considered in your personal network, you might as well go sit in a church pew.

 

I'm sick of these kinds of attacks among one another. Just because someone initiated it does not mean you go down to such an immature level. I watch everyday transwomen being booted out of feminist, women only groups because they aren't "women" yet in the genital department. I see leading role models like David Silverman reply caustically and without care for members who disagreed with Reason Rally's focus on LGBTQ and Trans issues, instead of being a leader and helping dissenters understand that standards have to be met to insure safety of all since even the secular community has major issues with sexism.

 

My own friends even practically turned on me on my birthday this week. I was telling some friends of mine yesterday over a lunch of sushi that I don't mind Donald Trump. You'd thought I'd signed up for the KKK and planned to work for Westboro Baptist Church. It took no less than half an hour of knee jerk name calling, heated assurances to calm down, and a barrage of degrading word salad before these two dear friends of mine came off the edge of incredulity.

 

No, I don't mind Trump.

 

I find his method of campaigning fascinating. I've read up on him over the past year and colorful doesn't begin to describe this guy. But he'll never get my support or admiration.

 

The simple fact that I didn't hate him, though, had almost turned my friends against me. Fortunately, they have a flexible appreciation for how perspective works. They admitted they don't know shit about Trump, don't want to and agreed that it's not fair to hold me to the same standards for not sharing the same vehemence against our orange faced Dr. Evil personified.

 

Inflexibility and doctrine purity (in this case humanism) is an alienating mix. This pick me or you're an ignorant skeptic type of demand doesn't make a community unite. It doesn't encourage us to re evaluate the party being opposed, but treat the one trying to divide as suspect. How about demonstrating directly how harm was caused by these “scumbags”? Could this podcaster explain whether I can be a scum bag or not if I haven't harmed anyone? What's the standard for being a scumbag anyway?

 

Presentation without cognitive dissonance coloring this podcaster's whine would turn the presentation in to a much needed talk about the real issue within humanity itself: hypocrisy and how much damage it causes when behaving no better than the supposedly fake podcasters you claim have attacked you. This type of behavior proves only one thing: You don't care about what you are trying to convey, or you would not duplicate the same scumbag behavior.

 

Stop the emotional violence. Instead of being sour grapes about others' seemingly atrocious behavior fueling their success, do something about it and not treat the ones you love, the audience, like pawns in games of popularity.

 

Personally? I want to take my ball and go home because these types of games aren't any fun. I just want my gang back, to feel part of a functional community of diverse like minded people. Differences are healthy. Disagreements do not have to divide us. Debasing one another is atrocious. Think of your family first and how compromise is a wonderful attribute to being secular. We're allowed to be flexible without surrendering our individuality, and I'll be damned if any group, or individual, will force me to conform, allow myself to be dismissed, or worse, abandon me.

 

Family doesn't do that. Gods do.

TheBluegrassSkeptic
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Bernie Sanders has said that:

 

"I think the overwhelming majority of the American people know that we have got to stand together, that we're going to grow together, that we're going to survive together, and that if we start splintering, we're not going to succeed in a highly competitive international economy."

 

Bernie supporters, I ask you this honestly. How does one affect change when even the DNC is actively splitting apart its base with supposed corrupted delegate counts like that in Nevada this past week? Is Bernie Sanders in denial of the reality that is American politics right now? Are the GOP and DNC splintering and isn't this exactly what he was calling for not even a month ago when saying major DNC party members are part of the "establishment"?

 

How does one affect change if one fails to secure the nomination and goes to stand in support of the same problem that is being targeted by your campaign as too corrupt? You do not affect change in this manner.

 

Bernie Sanders has a huge following within the DNC base. As it stands today, he has an estimated 42% of the raw vote count, not talking super delegates here, just popular votes among Democratic voters. The reality of the actual delegate race (which I agree is ridiculously controlled by the party) though, makes it clear he will not be getting the delegates he needs. Super delegates will not bend to support him despite the wishes of their constituency. This reality is what made me hold back my enthusiasm for Sanders since he has made it abundantly clear he will unite with Hillary Clinton when push comes to shove.

 

I've often pointed out that Sanders, whether he realizes it or not, is a shill for Clinton's campaign. Before you quit reading this article, bristling at the way I am sounding dismissive of Sander's efforts, please understand I am not even going to approach that type of narrative. Hear me out.

 

There is only one reason why he is a shill for Clinton's campaign: he won't break away and run independently, and he isn't holding all parties to the election process accountable (which includes the voters). He has made it clear he will support Clinton if he loses the nomination. His inevitable endorsement of her will cause some of his supporters to swing her way. These will be supporters she wouldn't have normally received as his crowd is rife with first time and disaffected voters who feel they have finally found a candidate that wants to move this country forward from corrupt government's suffocating control of the populace's will. With all the apocalypse style headlines bombarding this group, they will back Clinton out of programmed fear that the United States will regress to a pre Suffrage Movement type of government if Republicans win the general election. I'll give my thoughts on this scenario later in this article.

 

Then you have those who self describe themselves as "Bernie or Bust" who will not cast a ballot for any candidate except Sanders. The number of voters with this mindset shouldn't be downplayed. It's nearly 25% of his supporters. Now, imagine if Bernie decided to go ahead and run independently. How many of his base would follow? I would wager more than that quarter, IF it is under the clear understanding it isn't because we want him to to become president.

 

This is where things might seem almost anarchist on my part and maybe it is. My political atheism is going to flame brightly here, and I really believe it has some merit. Whether you are Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or feeling the Bern, you have to understand that we have to break our system. Let me put out a quote from George Washington's “Farewell Address to the American Nation” to frame my argument:

 

.....With such powerful and obvious motives to union affecting all parts of our country, while experience shall not have demonstrated its impracticability, there will always be reason to distrust the patriotism of those who in any quarter may endeavor to weaken its bands. “

 

This first quote states the obvious. Any individual, any group, any government, any media, any nation, that would want to purposely weaken our unity as a republic should not be trusted. Whether the motivation is to push agenda, create a better economy, or better the lives of our people, if doing so requires alienation of the other, or worse, depriving voice and freedom to decide, we have to step back and recognize this is not how we do things at all. It is obvious that creating distrust, breaking the bands that join us together, and creating future generations of apathetic citizens in our wake, is exactly what President Washington is cautioning against. It's not always about influences from outside countries. We all have heard the saying that the ones closest to us can hurt you the most. And lately, it seems that has come true. This threatens the very bedrock of our nation's founding and future.

 

As a unified nation, it is hardly contested we get the job done the majority of the time. All corners of our country, while separated by state borders, still rely on one another. It takes all of us together, not a handful of states, to send aid to stricken countries. It takes all of us together to keep our populace safe, and protect our liberties not just from influencing powers abroad, but sadly from our self created oligarchy. To be clear, I am referring to unity as a people, not political parties. We the people, does not stand for "we the appointed bureaucrats", " we the corporate lobbyist", or "we the self appointed".

 

Sanders, as I had quoted earlier, pretty much touches on the same idea, but not to the extent that President Washington did. At this point, his campaign should be about about splitting up the corporate lap dog that the DNC has become, and more importantly, continuing to wake up his base to the fact their consistent lack of participation enabled a lot of the political misery we are enduring today.

 

To be American includes to be accountable, but not just holding everyone else accountable and standing clear of the consequences one helped enable to occur. This is the toxicity within our system we suffer from now, as we have essentially left all of our patriotism to be represented by parties and factions. This, again, is something that President Washington warned about, and I cannot help but share his cautioning before I go into why these parties need to be destroyed, or at the least, rendered powerless.

 

I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.

 

This Spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but in those of the popular form it is seen in its greatest rankness and is truly their worst enemy.” (George Washington, Farewell Address to the American Nation)

 

Yes, I said destroy, or at the least, render nearly powerless. I do not view parties as inherently evil, but it's plainly obvious that they cannot have the level of influence within our republic as we have allowed them to possess because parties are polarizing in the long run. I've yet to experience a party in my lifetime that doesn't utilize alienation and divisiveness among the very public of this country in order to accomplish specific agendas.
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This is where I've been called a social terrorist, an anarchist, and an idiotic cunt, for my views a number of times because of the short-term consequences I think we as a nation deserve to endure. Many, like myself, who favor more progressive, humanistic, invested social policies, and funding, tend to lean towards the DNC. I will admit though, I am like Sanders and remain independent, because I am well aware of the less than unifying way the party goes about pursuing a handful of interests we share. This has left me feeling dirty the last ten years when casting a vote. I know that while my ballot that is cast for a levee to support a local health program was a good vote, it was also a form agreement to other issues I don't agree with continuing to be lobbied and pursued in separating tactics among my community. I wonder sometimes if it is worth the price tag, and more and more I am thinking it is not, unless we actually change the terms of the political process. Namely, break the system. I know I am not the only one watching the run up to election day feeling that shame, frustration, and motivation to change things. Many of us have watched the political side shows that are purported as primary elections. The incidents up in Chicago, Nevada, and other primary events have us wondering who to believe anymore.

 

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In a nutshell, it is you and I, dear reader, who have assembled a Frankenstein's monster of a political system. Our previous generations of Americans more than participated in this cobbling together of political gamesmanship too. The purported incidents of voter fraud we have watched blasted across every television, radio, and social media feed the past two election cycles show this is a systemic issue. But there is something about this broken process that no citizen is owning up to.

 

These conventions followed the rules. Sanders' campaign wanted the rules changed without following the rules to change the rules. Everyone is upset that such rules exist to begin with. That last sentence is key, by the way. Please don't focus on what Sanders did or didn't do wrong to dismiss the reality of what I am saying in that statement. All I can do is wonder how much more can Sanders' campaign be anymore polarizing? Sure, he is exposing ridiculously contrived rules designed to not exactly keep things clear and fair to the public, let alone actually reflect what the majority of the voter districts want (super delegates are a leash to control the general population's voice). Still, it cannot be ignored he is also failing to expose a bigger injustice: the failing of the citizenry to participate and understand what rules they are playing by before it comes time to elect.

 

Bernie needs to be made great again.

 

Pointing fingers and yelling “cheater, cheater!” isn't what makes this outspoken politician inspiring. It's his honesty, and he needs to be more honest with his supporters. Go ahead and show everyone the lopsided favoritism to be found in party politics. Expose the easily bought out politicians who offer contracts to their biggest super PAC contributors. Quit scapegoating corrupted politics and money as the only reasons why America is struggling. This nation's corruption is only a symptom of the larger issue of the electorate remaining complacent.

 

Let me go back to splitting up the parties for a moment though. For me, politically, the DNC plays just as dirty as the GOP when it comes to facing loss of control and platform purity. Like I stated earlier, I've not seen a political party system that does not put self serving interests above congruity. Change is merely a selling point, but not an actual practice when it comes to structure and control. Only in policy making do I give the DNC higher props than the GOP, and it's barely a few points above. Seeing the foul tactics that have been purported upon the DNC base, and the GOP base for that matter, means that Sanders' true calling isn't the presidency.

 

Yes, I said just said that. Presidency is not his calling.

 

It's busting up the system. It's breaking the monopoly like control that is being exercised over the voting constituency. It's the chance to exercise our power above and beyond the party leashes. This is Sanders' true mission if he were serious about bringing reform to Washington. He would be much more than another spoiler like Nader was. Sanders would be an authorized catalyst brought on by the American people to wake up a party, and maybe awaken the awareness of future generations of voters, that has fallen into the abysmal practices of bureaucratic mafia politics. The idea being he would be the start of a larger movement by other public servants, and local citizens, to break a few cogs in the political two party machine that is eating up our unity to further special interest gain.

 

Please don't misunderstand my vision here. Sanders is only a single man who isn't wearing the tweeds of unity all on his own. He gives us a face to connect with a larger ideology we all desire within our American dreams. Until the last few weeks of his struggling campaign (you can deny the mathematics all you want), he has been a speaker of thousands of voices of our disconnected population, somewhat neatly articulating what many of us want not just for our future policy wise, but also the path that requires us to travel away from the two party system that has slowly been tearing our brotherhood apart.

 

A unity between us as a people, not politics.

 

This is why Sanders needs to continue his campaign, and I am glad he hasn't resigned yet. I hope he finds motivation to break from the DNC if he loses the primary and continue on as a third candidate option. Could a Trump presidency be bad? Yes. Will nominations for the SCOTUS go to pot? Likely. Will women's right, feminism, racial equality, wage disparity, and healthcare get sidetracked? Quite possibly, and some of these issues will suffer more than others, even overlapping. I'm not trying to come from a position of privilege when I state this. This is something that troubles me deeply. What cost is too high for a long needed reshuffling of our political system that is already barely giving many disadvantaged minorities and workers minimal benefit anyway? That I cannot say, because I cannot speak from from one of those categories.

 

So, what is the benefit of throwing votes to Sanders? What would his garnering enough popular votes to create a third party recognize? Or worse, what would his further damning Clinton, and the DNC agendas, accomplish, besides set backs?

 

It sets a lifetime example of what the authority of what the American people can do to oligarchy that is overrunning their will. It demonstrates that yes, indeed, we have the power to give and take away said authority, even if it means some of us have to suffer in order to teach that lesson and help a system see we are seriously demanding it to straighten up its act. The GOP is nearly in the same boat right now with Donald Trump. I personally feel that Trump has been a very healthy disaster for the GOP in the long run. The party has lost control of its support base and is scattered within its congressional ranks thanks to Trump's securing the lead position in the nominations. Short of outright ignoring the very pronounced decision of its constituency, the GOP has zero options but to accept their agendas are about to become more moderate. Nearly a third of their party doesn't even know if they can identify as Republican anymore because of Trump's less than conservative views on many different platforms.

 

Now it is the DNC's turn to feel the same within their ranks with a leader like Sanders to help deal just as hard of a hit. While it is true the GOP will likely come out ahead this election season (numbers are not favoring Clinton), their candidate, and a good 2/3 of their party, support his less than conservative and openly compromising style of authority. Will he be a disaster in the area of foreign affairs? I have little doubt. Thankfully, he will have a large Rolodex of cabinet options to tap, and one thing Trump has never shied from is delegation. Knowing he is in the Oval Office still makes me wince though, but we survived Reagan, right?

 

To see party systems genuinely scattered is a valuable demonstration to the control we Americans hold over the powers that be in Congress. Instead of allowing ourselves to be bombarded with fear and propaganda about loss of guns, loss of privacy, loss of jobs, and keep allowing these parties to hold our processes at a virtual stand off for even more decades to come, we now tell them,”Here is the real apocalypse you have been worried about, Senators. You must rebuild and listen, or continue to be powerless. Even to our own short term detriment.”

 

And that is the final piece of this article I want to end with. Short-term and long-term detriment. Short-term would only be a few years to a decade. Long-term is a generation. To make this type of commitment is to be selfless and accept that this will be a generational change, and we might not reap benefits until my own generation sees retirement, or possibly longer. Somehow our nation has been sold on the idea that change happens quickly, painlessly, consequence free, and under the leadership of one man.

 

When you buck the system, causing necessary chaos to cause a re aligning of interests and purpose, sometimes those who are forced to restructure will purport fall out as a reason to never do such a thing again in order to stop one from realizing the long term benefit of the short term price. What we see being depicted as chaos within the party races right now is not that. It is a controlled burn, like you see with forest fires, to curb the direction of the flames engulfing the landscape.

 

You see, we are the controlled burn. A more vivid example would be imagining a fox hunt. We are the fox, stumbling in a panic through a forest of politically charged issues that are hounding us towards the glen where we will be caught by the awaiting party line voting agenda we have been carefully chased towards. We can feel the breath of disparity on our heels chasing us. We can smell the overbearing scent of degradation. And we can hear the trumpeting blasts of potential powerlessness in our ears as we are chased to the trap waiting for us in the perceived path to safety that all these outside divisive issues are doggedly running us towards. And the first few years in that political cage seems like the right choice, until you realize it was an orchestrated path to get us there to begin with by both factions of our political system. Then the fatal bullet of complacency ends it all for us, as we refuse to realize we enabled our entrapment to begin with. We become content in that cage, forever a victim of our own refusal to take a stand and bite back. Or, our fear to handle the consequences of tearing down what we allowed to be constructed around us to begin with.

 

Sanders brings about a need for selflessness, investment, and willingness to pay part of the price. Unfortunately, he needs to add on the price tag of what we owe as a nation and brotherhood, not only what we are owed by a construct we helped create. If he would do this, and break the system, the ensuing chaos would help put steps forward to not only end the monopoly in politics, but it would demonstrate what we have forgotten we have: authority.

TheBluegrassSkeptic
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It's funny how many lessons we learned as children that we like to attribute to mom or dad. The respective holidays for our parents every year tends to make us all reflect a bit on their parenting skills when raising us, and it's nice to look back on thoughtful advice and recipes. You remember those heartfelt talks about life, parenting, education, or morality, and many of us out there treasure them. Some of us end up seeing those moments of advice and conversation as the bread crumbs that lead us to the players in our abusive childhoods that we didn't realize were participating in harming us. This discovery can discolor those childhood life lessons, or sometimes, make the message even stronger and more important to actually utilize.

 


My own discovery of how much my mother participated in my abuse was not an easy one. She was always the martyr in our household; she would tolerate my father's belligerent, angry outbursts that would end with objects hurled across the house at walls and doors, verbally abusive words being shouted to tear her and I down, and sometimes his disappearing for a night or two. Seeing her constant struggle to keep him appeased gave me the impression that she was a saint. I would give her a pass when she would just lay on the couch all weekend sometimes, obviously depressed, and tell me to please "go outside and play".

 


I would also give her a pass when she would tell me that my father would deal with me later when he got home from work. Which meant I would get the belt, and who knows what else, when she would recount the day's aggravation I had put her through. Sometimes it was just a threat, sometimes it was a malicious pay back because she understood how frightening this man was to me when angry. She knew how he easily would fly off the handle and rough me up physically beyond the normal standard of a simple swat on the rear end. Countless times she would step in while he was busy hitting me with his belt and screaming at me. "Stop, that's enough", she would say. Sometimes though, she would just stand in silence watching from the doorway to my room. So, she knew my anxiety of dealing with this man losing control while punishing me on her behalf was near torturous.

 


But I always gave her a pass for this.

 


I didn't understand that this behavior on her part was emotional abuse. I didn't understand that she was being a participant in the physical abuse I experienced, as well. I figured that people were supposed to lose control and give you both barrels of pain and admonishment for being a "bad" child. No one had ever said it was bad to punish your child. It never occurred to me that while the concept of punishment is okay, it's the method to punish that should be called into question. Instead, I grew up and even utilized her same mindset for a number of years: If you were bad, you got pain. And you deserved every minute of it.

 


It took me until I was thirty-two years old to fully accept that I was the victim of not only my father's sick idea of structure and correctness, but also that my mother enabled him, not just because of codependency issues, but out of her own vicarious desires for me to be physically hurt, and purposely using him to do it.

 


Don't get me wrong. Her blatant use of my father as a bully stick to frighten me, inflict retribution, and generally handle all the physical punishment is really just the tip of the iceberg of her terrible parenting moments. Long term, I would say that did the least amount of damage to me overall compared to the way I was programmed to respond to stressful situations and how I was taught to develop relationships. In a nutshell, she made me a rug for people to walk all over so that later I could use my pain as ammo to manipulate others to give me what I wanted. Admittedly, what I wanted from people in relationships was way below a healthy standard anyway as she didn't give me any sense of self worth, but I'm sure you all understand how martyr complexes work:
one takes away the need to be responsible for life by scapegoating others as the reason for disappointment and failure.

 


The codependency issues transferred to me too, but until the last four or five years, I was still in denial about being a victim of it, instead believing I was in total control of the abusive relationship I was currently in. Surely, I could just walk away and start over no problem. After all, I recognized the flags for codependency, and I was sure that because I was educated on what it was, and how to avoid it, then I could be in a potential situation for it and just walk away without issue.

 


For those who have a vague idea of what codependency is, let me break it down for you. Essentially, you are in a relationship where one partner either enables or even supports the other partner's failures, immaturity, bad mental health, or even lack of responsibility.

 


There was absolutely no way that I could ever become codependent.

It couldn't happen to me.

I was in control.

 


The reality? I was codependent long before I ever left home as a child, and that is in large part thanks to my mother's own example of what a normal relationship should look like: tolerating abuse and only demanding accountability when it suited her needs. This general attitude has never wavered over the years. "If you are wronged in a relationship, you should have the advantage" was something she always demonstrated to me. Sometimes she even nearly said it outright when making statements about her relationship with my father letting me know that she could easily make it without him. I often heard this after he had angered her, was incredibly insensitive to her needs that day, and so on. But she would never since that meant she would tarnish her family image and make her readjust her priorities.

 


She could have demanded the situation be remedied immediately to avoid future incidents. She could have insisted on a better standard of respect from my father. She could have taken control of her situation and never put herself in a relationship with an abusive partner again. Instead she stayed in for the long haul, and ultimately, I discovered that the reason why was because she wanted to be the more successful than of all her siblings, even if only in appearance. A divorce would fracture that thin veneer of superiority she had created which covered over all the cracks in her marriage.

 


Ironically, she never instilled that desire for appearing successful in me. I was always a participant in making sure her life had that enviable sparkle, but my own future was never in the discussion. Anything I did was an enhancement for her, which is why I was never free to discuss family business if she weren't around for the conversation. This last bit of selfishness on her part is probably what ultimately saved me from going through my entire adult life being a codependent martyr at the expense of anyone I claimed to care for -- though sadly, I did end up that way for the first half of it.

 


Her lack of desire to help form my future helped wake me up to the reality that I was doing a lot of the same things she had, but I didn't do it to look perfect to the outside world. I only did it to feel I had control, because if I had control, I had worth. And if someone wasn't willing to fight to keep you, then you weren't worth anything. Guilting my partners in order to keep them with me became a cancer to my relationship style. Even worse, due to my parents going out of their way to alienate family and friends, this guilting on my part served a double purpose: it gave me ammo to dismiss one from my life at the slightest provocation because of all the pain inflicted on me. I still struggle with that last section a lot.

 


Emotional stress is still very difficult for me to process, so when I am attached to someone emotionally, and I perceive rejection, dissatisfaction, or any other emotional consequence from a relationship, I have an overwhelming desire to cut bait and run, and I try to bury the individual in all the fault of it. It's been a challenge, but I'm winning when it comes to recognizing that my urge to run has little to do with what the other person might be putting me through. I now have the awareness that it is my lack of ability to deal with level of stress that comes with partnerships. And point scoring is weeding out of my day to day life too. It has taken a lot of behavioral therapy to recognize when I am doing this, and I still have times I utterly fail.

 


With all I've shared so far, it should be noted that I have nothing to do with my either of my parents. My mom took the longest to walk away from though. Like I said at the beginning of this article, it took me a long time to really comprehend the level of damage and general element of toxicity she had injected into my day to day living. Do I regret ever having had her as a mother? I do thanks to the fact that I didn't realize how damaged I was until I had already hurt my own children. So far, my kids have healed from it, but I know at least one of my children deals with codependency and martyr complex issues, and this child is floundering. I've tried to explain to my child that this misery is self-inflicted and unnecessary, that there is help out there, but right now, I can't get through. It's a horrible feeling to see a child behave this way, and I wonder how my mother was okay with seeing me do this and not want to fix it?

 


It's a simple answer as to why: My mother used me for her own emotional gain.

 


She might have taught me the basics of sewing, how to use a crock pot, and sang lullabies to me at night, but she also showed me how to manipulate, be unattached in relationships, and use abuse as a means to control a situation to get something I want. I think it would have been easier to Google the first three things she taught me so I would never had learned the latter and passed it on to my own children. I would rather have learned from an early age how to create positive situations where everyone I love benefit and grow, not remain within a repressive rut of failed relationships and alienated family.

 


Now that I have reprogrammed my way of thinking to focus on bigger picture benefits, and understand that love is unconditional and selfless, I can't imagine demonstrating any other way of living. I try to live by this kind of mindset with my family, friends, and community whenever I can. The biggest benefit I discovered since walking away from my mother and programming has been that selflessness benefits everyone involved and breeds a more positive environment for success. Why would anyone want to continue living in survival mode, trying to subsist on scraps of respect and self worth? And why would one want to perpetuate this horrible cycle of relationship abuse if you know this isn't healthy?

 

Mothering isn't about being perfect. And it certainly isn't about making that child into someone. Robert Heinlein had once written that “being a mother is an attitude, not a biological relation.” (Have Space Suit, Will Travel). This I completely agree with. I firmly believe I didn't have a mother, but a ring master for a personal circus. There are many moms out there who are like this, and if you meet a fellow alienated orphan, give them an extra tight hug today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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TheBluegrassSkeptic
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Going to be a fun night on political issues. The esteemed Alan M. Gold, funny man Joe Dixon, and my opinionated self will be having a discussion of the 2016 elections, issues surrounding it, and how we see the impact of the years to come with a new president from our current selection of terrible options. Catch it tonight!

 

TheBluegrassSkeptic
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Bible Stories Few Read to the Bitter End, Episode 4: Lot, Biblical Proof of PT SD.

 


Copeland and Robertson say PTSD is not biblical, but the story of Lot begs to differ. I also bring up Sarah Palin's demonizing of combat vets suffering from PTSD, and share some tips and networks if you or a loved one needs help dealing with PTSD.

 

TheBluegrassSkeptic
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Episode 2

Jacob: Dick for Hire

Genesis Chapter

through all of 30.

This tale literally plays out like an episode of the Jerry Springer show in telling. If you like HBO soap operas like Spartacus or Borgias, then you will enjoy this pretty juicy tale of love, politics, sex, and man whoring.

Join me, the Bluegrass Skeptic, in enjoying some of the more colorful tales of biblical tales and myth in their full entirety that most don't hear in church. The Bible doesn't have to be all doom and gloom. Especially if you read it purely for entertainment purposes only.

 

TheBluegrassSkeptic
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Dear Cute Guy on the bus,

 

Today's ride home seemed like it would be the usual fare of crowded seats, faux fur hood linings tickling my shoulders, coughing behind my left ear, a man preaching about this holiday's "real" reason, and a driver frustrated more and more with every time he had to slam on his brakes. And this expectation held true all the way until the Kroger stop, when half the bus unloaded. Then with the sudden opening of empty spots, everyone reshuffled and there you were across from me in the aisle giving me an oddly familiar smile. To your defense, it might not have been as odd a smile as it seemed. After all, you ride the same route all the time, and I'm usually oblivious and writing by the time we hit the next stop after boarding.

 

But I digress.

 

You lean over to me, and wave a hand to get my attention to remove my headphones. You have a very genuine and disarming smile. Your hair is dark, matted down, and a mild ring around your crown can be seen from a hard hat you probably wore all day at your job. But nonetheless, your interest and inviting smile puts your whole approach together perfectly.

 

As you are tilting forward to talk over the noise of the bus roaring off from that fateful Kroger stop, you playfully pulled at the gray edges of your work shirt collar, casually looking side to side for a moment as if you don't want to be overheard revealing some interesting tid bit of news. When you do this, I notice the lightly bristled edge of your jaw squaring up for a second, and your dark brows and green flecked hazel eyes focus right into mine, and I'm completely entranced with amused curiosity in this social spectacle that lasts all of five seconds. And you speak; a deeper baritone escaping from your throat than I could've imagined coming from such a treat to watch, but it works for you. A complete picture of a man with intent, and I like it a lot.

 

Your lip pulls away from teeth whiter than I could ever hope to scrub my bathroom tiles, and you introduce yourself. And with the utterance of your name follows a monstrosity of a conversation starter that riled every red flag in my mind. Three words shattered my ballooned anticipation of experiencing a possible kindredness on an average Thursday bus ride. I heard these words and I immediately damned my pensive mind. I cursed my hyper active reasoning. I loathed my damaged experiences and the wisdom they lent me.

 

A perfect five seconds demolished by the quick firing response of my synapses and protein transfers thanks to three poorly timed words.

 

All because of three lousy words that conveyed an intent that means the shallow acquaintance at a bar before a drunken fuck at two in the morning. Words that don't mean "I want to know you", but "I want permission to justify expectation". Consonants and vowels that are arranged in a manner to dictate whether I have an owner or not.

 

Yes, my flirtatious man about town, I am single.

 

Why does that matter right now, in this moment of everyday meetings and conversation? Is it really that necessary to clarify I am worth talking to based on whether I have a current lover or not? In what world do we live that even in America people see it as disrespectful to possibly befriend a stranger who has a lover? Some would blame women and the "games" we play, but asking a person's relationship status as a qualifier for even engaging in conversation isn't just consent to converse. It's affirmation of sexual availability before ever even considering sharing what music I like! I find it absolutely detestable the need to clarify ahead of time whether my vagina is already an assigned sperm catcher. Even worse, is one determining I am not worth further conversation unless my vagina is unclaimed.

 

Whenever I am asked if I am single before even engaging in casual conversation, it feels like I am being asked for some type of consent. Consent to be approached sexually. A mutually understood agreement of having "a fair chance" at dating me. Consenting to a societal standard that I don't even want to be subjected to.

 

"Are you single?" My stomach knotted up when you asked me this. It's an uncomfortable question that I see many people treat others with suspicion if the woman doesn't want to answer, or hesitates before answering. As if this anxiety to respond is something to be ashamed of. I realize that it is important to know if someone is in a relationship if your intent is to date that person, or just offer a flirtatious greeting. I understand that there are some out there who become highly offended at even being simply approached in conversation by the opposite sex. But there are many women, like myself for instance, who understand asking me my relationship status immediately upon approach is code for,"Am I allowed to approach you sexually." Handsome man, I am never going to fault you for the social construct you are programmed with, but I will fault you for refusing to consider my side of the equation when being approached. I certainly do understand yours so show me the same grace.

 

Honestly, those three words immediately told me I probably didn't want to even answer you and just disengage from the moment. There is a time and place for wanting to know if someone is available for dating, sex, and whatever else. The opening greeting is certainly not the right time.

 

Yes, I'm single. No, I'm not constantly looking and wanting to try on every guy or gal that approaches me with interest. My being single NEVER equates to consent of anything, and it doesn't commit me to your expectations of availability. Cute Guy on the bus, you spoke to me briefly on the bus and had asked me if I were single. And as soon as I answered yes, you told me how attractive I was, said I should have a "guy that wants to treat me out", and then asked me out on a date, which I politely declined. I don't know you, and I'm not comfortable with this initial approach towards me. I even suggested that maybe we can talk more during the commute tomorrow, but you wouldn't hear it.

 

"But you said you are single," you whined, an annoyed grimace deepening the shallow laugh lines around your cheeks. Your eyes went from open and inviting to incredulous and suspicious. You wondered aloud if I were really even single, or if I was just flirting with you to get my kicks. You felt that I was indebted to you since I had, in your mind, given consent to be pursued by stating my relationship status. You are sick of women leading you on you tell the guy behind us, which confirmed my identifying was giving you the unspoken nod of sexual intent. So, of course I just laid my head back against the window I was sitting next to, pulled my earphones back over my ears and went back to the monotonous bumps, coughs, and brake slamming that I had grown accustomed to expecting on my evening commute.

 

I know I am going to see you on the bus again Monday morning. Maybe I will explain to you that looking for women to date is different than shopping for a coat. You can't seriously believe women want to try men on and off like a coat at a department store until we find one that fits. Some coats are just not my style, and I wouldn't even bother to try them on. Kind of like you.

 

.

TheBluegrassSkeptic
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I'm going to probably catch some serious flack for what I'm about to say, but bear with me.

 

I'm not offended by the whole #PrayforParis bit. I have several reasons for this, all of which I think are fair enough. The first being that many folks cannot comprehend what they can do to render aid to such a large scale tragedy, let alone console those who have suffered. This is not a condemnation of their humanity. This is not a failure to act. This is the variations of the biological responses we are all hardwired with in our very nature.

 

Secondly, the statement "pray for Paris" is necessary. While many, including myself, see that religious conviction fuels the recruitment and propaganda of ISIL to commit such atrocity, it's necessary that the religious communities step forward and embrace the injured and hurt. A show of religious support is not an insult. This isn't merely a lazy man's way of shirking guilt or responsibilities to help their hurting compatriots.

 

It's a humongous "Fuck You" to ISIL.

 

ISIL condemns sympathy and empathy for their victims. Praying for Paris is a political statement of defiance against the warped ideologies of jihadis like ISIL. And this prayer is not only coming from Christians, but Muslims. Yes, many feel the Muslim community needs to curtail ISIL, but Islam is not the direct sponsor of ISIL or other similar extremist groups. Islam, much like Christianity, and even Hinduism, has outdated principles that opportunists will use to scapegoat their violent agendas. I cannot lay the fault of all extremists on the step of Islam, Judaism, or even my own atheism. These ideologies, much like guns, bombs, and money, are simply vehicles being used to perpetrate hatred.

 

Many have pointed out that Christian communities condemn Westboro, and other hateful religious organizations. When the Covenant, Sword, and Arm of the Lord carried out their terror, did everyday Christians gather in mobs and hunt them down? No, they did not. Christians gathered and counter protested their hatefully inspired exhibitions or gave helpful leads to the police. They allowed the governments to intervene on their behalf.

 

They also prayed.

 

When the Olympics were bombed in Georgia, did we scream at the Christian majority in this country to get their followers in order? No, we relied on the authorities to figure it out and deal justice to the criminal. Why? Because we knew the Christian community held very few extremists that would bomb, maim, or kill fellow Americans.

 

And again, they prayed.

 

Prayer isn't just a feel good tactic, it's also a religious rally cry for communities to join together and recognize a problem. It's a way to gather everyone together and get them on the same page about social issues. An encouragement to put aside spiritual differences and focus on their fellow man. As a straight-laced atheist, I can appreciate the social aspects of prayer when it comes to major events. Now, if you want to get into science, I completely agree to just toss the practice out of the window.

 

Put aside the spiritual meaning and implications of practice of praying for a moment, and consider the social purpose of such a ritual. It encourages unity and acceptance in grief and tragedy. I would rather all of France held a large prayer rally than hold separate demonstrations against jihadism, Islam, and refugees. When rallies are held highlighting tragedy in a light that looks to lay blame, deeper schisms are formed among the community's varied cultures. That isn't healthy, and it gives the results that ISIL wants from the people it terrorizes: fear and alienation.

 

Alienation is the biggest tool ISIL uses when recruiting its fighters. This group relies on disaffection, bitterness, and orchestrated persecution to round up more supporters. Gathering together, joining in prayer is the opposite effect ISIL seeks from its killing and hate. As small of a purpose that it seems to serve to the average atheist like myself, I can also see it's at least some type of unified response everyone can participate in.

 

For the sake of Paris, Lebanon, and the rest of our world neighborhoods, let them pray together. Not in hopes of a miracle, or cure for disease, or peace, but for awareness.

TheBluegrassSkeptic
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The Christ’s Rebellion series is here! Book One: The Wayfaring Son hits the Amazon bookstore on 9/14/15, and is available for pre-order by 9/9/15. Only 99¢ if you pre order, otherwise will be $1.99. Each episode will be released every two weeks. This novel is complete.

 

Son of a carpenter, or son of God? This is something that Jesus of Nazareth is on a journey to discover, but he isn’t sure where to begin until he meets his future mentor John the Baptist. Little does Jesus realize he will become more than a student of John, but eventually take over leadership. The journey is full of politics, trials, and supernatural visitations that leaves the bond between Jesus and John the Baptist strained almost beyond repair, and making them both question the sanity of the would be messiah.

 

No one can say for sure if a wayfaring child of Nazareth is the predicted king destined to unite Israel, and Jesus cannot be sure if he is even sane to believe what he hears whispered from the heavens. The only way to know for sure is to follow this ethereal guidance he has received since he was very little, and hope he eventually arrives at the answers he is looking for.
Is he the predicted savior of the children of God?

 

Christ’s Rebellion is a six part series taking you on the mind bending journey of Jesus of Nazareth and his disciples from the beginning of his ministry until their eventual demise while trying to pull man out of the middle of a heavenly battle for acceptance from the very being that created them. This is not a simple retelling of the New Testament account, but instead an exploration in missing depths like perspective, politics, and the more human side of the participants that many Christians have come to cherish and strive to be similar to in their daily lives. It’s a new adventure filled with supernatural warfare, heart ache, and desperation between the creator and the created.

TheBluegrassSkeptic
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Jehovah spoke to me, told me to act. Vester Flanagan.

 

America, we have to stop the double standard being applied to Christianity. Just like in Islam, and even within Hinduism, you have your extremists. Still many Christians beg me not to judge the entirety of their religion, yet turn right around and denounce the entire lot of the Islamist community as extremists.

 

Jesus lovers everywhere, it’s time to understand that this is where extremism starts. In the actions of lone individuals, who inspire other loners, who eventually band together and cause devastation. We do not need another rampage of Christian terrorism like the Sword, the Covenant, The Arm of the Lord. We do not need more of Waco, Jim Jones, Heaven’s Gate, or Christian Identity.

 

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Don’t recognize any of the groups I’ve named, or only Jim Jones or Waco? You need to get your head out of the sand and start paying attention to the devastation, tragedy, and terrorism, that has been wrought on the innocent in this country. You must start recognizing that your doctrine in this heated time of politics and belief will produce tragedy, and you can help to prevent some of this.
Temper your anger. Temper your message.

 

If you cannot do this because it is watering down your Lord’s importance in your life and the world, how am I wrong in seeing your doctrine as encouraging violence? How can I not be convinced there is a gaping hole between practice and interpretation? And the latter, I believe, is the biggest condemnation of your so-called relationship with the divine of woo.
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I’ve been meaning to ask about this for a while now, and I plan to have a conversation with several pastors of varying denominations in my area over the next month. Over the last few years of the increased incidents of violence, many revolving around some type of bigotry and sense of self-righteous justice, I couldn’t help but see how most churches immediately disown the perpetrator of tragedy. Nine times out of ten it’s a No True Scotsman type of attitude. “He isn’t a true Christian because we never do that sort of thing.”

 

I’ve got news for you, you can’t change the rules for qualification when a member shames your community.

 

Fact is, a person committing atrocity fits one of the main qualifications for being a believer in Christ everlasting. Being a sinner that is. You can’t judge the individual’s level of sin either, and worse, you cannot judge one’s remorse or even a claim of divine command for the crime committed. It’s not within your realm. But..... Read more at my blog The Bluegrass Skeptic here: http://thebluegrassskeptic.com/2015/08/27/jehovah-told-me-to-act/

TheBluegrassSkeptic
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Hey girl, you’ll drive me to ruin…

 

Zeppelin seemed oddly appropriate listening for tonight while I was reading more and more articles revealing well-known celebrity men being revealed on the discreet cheating site known as Ashley Madison. A large majority of the men being outed are Christian, have families, and a few have already had major headline backlash for other incidents of malfeasance that are recently made public. One such fellow would be the seemingly headline plagued Josh Duggar. Honestly, though, the fact these fellows were on a website that facilitates cheating isn’t much of a surprise.

 

I grew up during the Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker scandals. If you aren’t familiar, these guys are mega church televangelists who ended up crying on television screens across America and the world, asking forgiveness from their audience members and wives for extra marital activities. Swaggart had a thing for prostitutes, and Baker treated his secretary as such. Swaggart actually remains in religious preaching positions to this day, where Bakker ended up being kicked out of his church, only to end up creating a whole new show still popular today.

 

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So, seeing the newer scandals of today where pastors and holy rollers for Christian values are being caught with their digital MasterCard racking up membership fees on sex clubs isn’t much of a shock for me.

 

Getting back to my opening lyric from Led Zeppelin’s Communication Breakdown, I wanted to bring into focus what I find more upsetting in all of this public airing of dirty laundry. The wives, partners, and families, of these men. It’s not just that Satan was at work in their hearts, as Sam Rader claims about his own membership on Ashley Madison, or that their idol Jesus is ashamed of their hypocrisy. It’s the fact that Jesus comes first and the families of these lecherous men are required to forgive because their marriage isn’t about them, but God.

 

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This is my beef. It isn’t the fact of hypocrisy being committed. I will never hold anyone to the unrealistic moral codes of religious doctrine, even when being told it is possible and the only way to live one’s life. Let’s just say that the concepts of avoiding temptation at all costs, marital purity, and everything else inside that stupid book are a bit more than I think a person can really chew, and I’m okay with that. My beef is that Jesus is the Sham-Wow being used to soak up the mess this kind of hypocrisy leaves behind. Jesus isn’t just used for the men to deflect responsibility to, but he’s also the main pillow for the jilted lovers and wives to hug and cry into at night while still proclaiming dedication without reservation to the hypocrite they are stuck with.

 

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I’m pissed because this is the only choice these people are programmed to use when Read the rest here on my blog:http://thebluegrassskeptic.com/2015/08/23/hey-girl-stop-what-youre-doin/

TheBluegrassSkeptic
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Many times as an atheist, I enjoy the quick synopsis of horrible Bible stories that are available online via other atheist groups or secular networks. You read about all kinds of outlandish tales like that of haunted vaginas, girls seducing their father with alcohol, or an entire town wanting to rape angels.

 

Some of the stories want to make you laugh or cringe, while others make you want to cry and rage at the horror they share. Then there are the ones that you thought you already knew the story behind, only to find out the tale takes an even more outrageous turn to the left than you could ever have imagined. There are a number of stories out there that people have thought they knew the entirety of that they learn they actually didn’t.

 

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Job’s replacement family is a good example. A lot of folks don’t put together that not only did God restore this poor tortured believer’s wife and children, but he got completely new people. That’s right, his original wife and kids? Never restored to him. He got upgraded to a newer model instead, because what’s a wife but a replaceable commodity back in the days of wrathful Yahweh. Or maybe the Lord knew something about Job’s relationship that we didn’t, and just knew a complete replacement was in order.

 

Recently, I had a reader ask me to share a Bible story that I really remember the most, whether in a positive or negative light. And I thought,”What story do you always remember the most, Bluegrass?” It took less than half a second for me to start putting down my thoughts about this particular tale of rape, carnage and political gamesmanship. So, tonight I’ll share these thoughts I have about a Bible story that many don’t quite ready completely. The story is the Levite and His Concubine, which is found in Judges 19 & 20, and 21.
Most folks give a very generalized run down of this story, focusing in particular on the fact that the concubine was put to the street when gangs of rape minded villagers came after the husband in order to “know him”.

 

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The initial plot sounds eerily similar to Lot’s, but it gets worse. Worse than her being thrown to the villagers to be raped all night, she eventually returns back to where her husband was hiding and at some point between leaving that ramshackle hell hole of a town and their final destination, she dies. There are no reasons given, but many accounts I have read claim she died there in the original village she was raped in, just later in the day, supposedly succumbing to the previous night’s assault and injuries. Despite the discrepancy, many agree that the husband did in fact chop up her corpse and send it as evidence to the other Israel tribes as evidence of a wrong being committed that needed some serious payback.
This is where the story seems generalized the most, and I finally had to just sit down and read it for myself.

 

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The tribes of Israel decided they would launch an attack against the entire tribal territory of Benjamin, who was also part of the Israel tribes. Confused yet? Essentially, there was an inter-tribal war over this woman’s assault and subsequent death. And the upcoming carnage was sanctioned by Yahweh too, which is very sad when you think about it. But this is back in the day when they had no king apparently, and could do as they saw fit. Somehow, Yahweh’s authority wasn’t the same as having a king, though I thought he claimed to be a king of kings.

 

So, what happened? The tribes that decided to go to war against Benjamin eventually won out, but they lost a few times and beseeched their deity for favor in battle, and they got it before their last battle. And it wasn’t just one town that the warring tribes razed to the ground, it was many towns, all of which belonged to the Israel tribe called Benjamin. Women, animals, children, and the men, were all put to death for the honor of the slain concubine.

 

Now, whenever I read the quick run down of this tale, often they include virgin women being taken as spoils of war in this part of the story, being taken as prizes back to the winning tribes, but that is actually not accurate. And this is also where we travel into the land of What The Heck Did I Just Read?

 

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The tribes fighting for the dead concubine did not spare anyone in the tribal territories of the Benjamites. They slew every single living thing. By the totals given in the story, it would appear that a total of at least fifty thousand lives were lost in just soldiers alone, so adding in all those in Benjamite villages that didn’t fight? Add in the animals that were slaughtered? It was a blood bath, despite the fact that much like a fishing story, the original number of Benjamite soldiers only totaled twenty-seven thousand, but inexplicably doubles in number as the story progresses. Who really cares about the details, anyway? A lot of people died. And puppies too.

 

So, where does the pillaging of virgins and more slaughter come into play? At the after party celebration, of course! This is the part a lot of folks seem to muddle up, and I think that should not be happening because there is a whole lotta what the fuck is going on here when it comes to story logic.

 

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See, after the tribes kicked the shit out of the Benjamites for not helping turn over the rapists from their territory, everyone got together to offer more sacrifices in thanks to their god. While they were there, the victors felt kind of sad that they essentially decimated an entire part of their people, after all, the Benjamites were one of the tribes of Israel.

 

At some point during the party, a group of the Israelites got together and thought it was a damn shame that the Benjamites were going to pretty much die out since only about six hundred men were left out of the entire former territory of Benjamin. The only way to restore the tribe would be to get them some wives, and let them start to repopulate. Yeah, I know. Why didn’t they think of the end result prior to committing atrocity? But there is a bigger problem. Unbeknownst to us dear readers of the story, the tribes of Israel had taken an oath prior to battle swearing they would never allow any women of their tribes to marry a Benjamite.

 

Genocide really was on their minds when they went in to Benjamin, and apparently these victors didn’t realize it.
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This is where I find this story just takes you down a road of dumb and dumber. You have a couple of problems, the first being that the Benjamites are essentially going to die out, and second, the first problem is unacceptable to everyone because you can’t just let an Israelite tribe die out. The third problem is that they all swore an oath to never give their women to the bastards that allowed the concubine’s murderers to go free.

 

How the devil will they solve the first problem then?

 

They did a head count there at the celebration. Who didn’t show up for the sacrificial party? An Israelite tribe out of Jibash Gilead didn’t bother to come kill a goat and burn it for Yahweh. Because of their absence, they were put on the hook for the six hundred wives... Read the rest here at my blog http://thebluegrassskeptic.com/2015/08/11/a-bible-story-that-few-read-to-the-bitter-end/

TheBluegrassSkeptic
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Jesus didn't approve homosexuality.
Jesus Saves!
WWJD?
Jesus take the wheel.
Jesus is Lord!
Y'all need Jesus!

 

Then?

 

Jesus on stationery.
Jesus on itty bitty gold crosses dangling from your mom's neck.
Jesus on billboards.
Jesus in politics.
Jesus on South Park.
Jesus on toast.

 

Jesus fucking Christ! I get it already.

 

Every time I hear someone tell another,"I'm praying for your healing." Saying this while standing next to a friend, bedridden with cancer. Every time someone lets me know that I am loved by the ever-watching Him of the divine invisible planes of Woo. Every time I turn to friends for advice, and I am offered scripture for consolation.

 

Seriously, I fucking get it.

 

All the way down to your Jesus fish with the shiny fake chrome finish that you put on the rear of your car, just below your stick figure family decals on your back windshield.

 

Yeah. Jesus makes your world go round in countless ways. But unfortunately for millions of us around you, we'd appreciate less Jesus pep rallies. When we cry, what is more consoling? The motivational examples of blessings in the lives of others, like that of your aunt finally conceiving that long awaited child? Or would some of us just prefer a hug while we deal with the devastating trauma of loved ones suddenly vanishing from our lives?

 

The world's suffering doesn't need Jesus. It needs you.

 

Is it so hard to admit you are at a loss when you see me suffering? I know you are uncomfortable and pained, but don't pass your anxiety of my pain off to a very obviously absent deity. Do something. Admit something. Acknowledge the helplessness you feel, and find a way to help. Ask me what will truly make a difference in my situation. This works across the world on a daily basis in more visible ways than an invisible comforter.

 

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Hold a hand.
Help someone eat.
Donate a few bucks to research.

 

Being part of humanity, we see situations every day that we sometimes cannot READ MORE HERE at my blog The Bluegrass Skeptic http://thebluegrassskeptic.com/2015/08/02/j-is-for-jesus-fucking-christ/