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Found 98 results

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Over the last decade I have dreamed of being able to help students pursue education that helps them further important work needing to be tackled in separation of church and state issues and many fields in science. This can be accomplished if students decide to pursue political careers, community leadership positions, higher education teaching jobs, and so much more. With the onslaught of propaganda surrounding issues like keeping a god in school, governmental suppression on earth science, encouragement of people to remain ignorant about important social justice issues in the name of ideological purity, I decided I would come after your kids. I'm looking at you evangelical parents out there. I am coming for your children. To educate them, remove this naive idea that leveling the playing field for all communities to have authority is showing preference, and enable them to think logically about an issue and understand that sometimes, you just have to say,"I don't know" instead of filling in the gap with whatever unsupported reason one can find. And finally, I am coming for these kids to help sponsor their future careers in the areas I mentioned above. Well, at least one this year anyway. I'm excited to announce the creation of the Hillbilly Edumacashun Fund. This is a scholarship program that I am excited to launch this year on behalf of my podcast Unbuckling the Bible Belt. This year, starting 10/1/17 - 11/1/17, students ages 17 - 22 that are enrolled to start, or are currently attending college, can toss in their hat for the $500 award amount for an essay to be submitted that is judged the best for the topic of "Bad Ad Hoc Argumentation for Intelligent Design". Scholarship money will be awarded to one individual based on the best scoring in the grading scale listed below in the details section of this post. How could this get any better? Well, more money for entries next year! Part of my plan to start putting money towards next year's scholarship fund-in which we hope to raise $1500 to award to three students- will be a publication of all the entrants' submissions from this year in an eBook! All proceeds (minus processing fee by Amazon), will go directly to the Hillbilly Edumacashun Fund for 2018! We would really love to make this scholarship program larger and larger every year, so I hope this catches on. Our podcast celebrates youth and the future they are creating for the coming generations, and every little bit, even if just $500, will help them accomplish that endeavor. So, here is the official rules of the Hillbilly Edumacashun Fund Scholarship Event: Entrant Requirements: 1. Must be 17 - 22 years old, and identify as atheist, agnostic, humanist and/or secular. 2. Must be currently accepted/enrolled in college pursuing a career course that helps you further a higher level of secular activism. 3. If you are still in high school, you will have to provide an admissions letter and set to start at a college in January of 2018 (Winter quarter). 4. A resident of the United States of America, including its territories. 5. Provide documentation of all of the above using a state identification card, Admission letter, and college program statement. 6. Short paragraph outlining your current secular activism and biographical information. 7. Be sure to give three options for communication: -Home address -Two phone numbers -Email address 8. Applicants of all races, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation are encouraged to apply. Entry Requirements: 1. The topic is "Bad Ad Hoc Argumentation for Intelligent Design". Have fun with this topic. If you are unsure what ad hoc argumentation is, please go here: https://www.thoughtco.com/ad-hoc-explanations-causes-and-rationalization-3968430, or if you learn better by seeing examples, this YouTube video about Jibbers Crabst really shows ad hoc fallacy at its best: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZ_BtZ-5O60 2. Entries will be accepted from 10/1/17 at 12:00 pm EST - 11/1/17 at 12:00 pm EST. If sending via postal service, entries must be postmarked 11/1/17. A winner will be chosen and announced Live via our YouTube channel on Black Friday, 11/24/2017 at 12:00 p.m. EST. Be sure to give three options for communication: -Home address -Two phone numbers -Email address 3. Entries must be an original work and not previously used for previous essay contests. We do check for plagiarism, so Don't Do It. 4. An essay between 800 - 1500 words, double spaced, typed, edited, and in pdf format. Where To Send Entries Via email unbucklingpodcast@gmail.com. Via postal service: Hillbilly Edumacashun Fund, c/o Amanda Ashcraft, PO Box 72394, Newport, KY, 41072. Fax is not available. How A Winner Is Selected 1. If any of the entry requirements above are not met, it will not be considered for the scholarship. 2. We will be expecting a properly formatted and proofread submission. 3. We will be only considering entries that stay on topic. If it is off topic, we will not consider it for the scholarship. 4. Podcast members will judge each entry and decide on a single winner. Scholarship Disbursement Scholarship money will be sent to the college listed on your Admission letter by January 2nd, 2018. Award will be earmarked for your account with the college that can be used towards the cost of any of the following: 1. Tuition (Current only, not for default amounts) 2. Textbooks, Computer Software, general class supplies purchased on campus only 3. Dorm costs 4. Campus Parking costs 5. THESE MONIES CANNOT BE REFUNDED FOR CASH NOR REPLACED IF YOU TRANSFER SCHOOLS AND ARE UNABLE TO TAKE THE REMAINING AMOUNT OF THE SCHOLARSHIP WITH YOU. Miscellaneous When submitting your essay to the Hillbilly Edumacashun Fund Scholarship program, you must agree to the following: 1. All works submitted to this event will be considered the property of Unbuckling the Bible Belt Podcast who will use the material submitted as they see fit without any compensation owed to the submitting party. 2. Unbuckling the Bible Belt Podcast will always credit the original author for composing the submitted work when used in advertisements, compilations, fund raisers, and other marketing options. 3. Winner will be required to do an interview with Unbuckling the Bible Belt by 2/1/2017. Because we're proud of ya! Oh, and if we think of something we might have forgotten...Yeah, we will update these rules at any time.
  4. Cognitively Dissed

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

    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.
  6. An Unexpected Thank You

    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.
  7. Secular Rage Quit Syndrome

    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.
  8. Hey, kiddos! We've got the next online convention coming up on May 7th for the Atheists of Facebook Online Convention. These events are starting to really take off. We had Seth Andrews and Dan Barker on this last time. Anyway, we're starting our next casting call for May 7, and the deadline to pitch a presentation is April 8th, with announcement of who's on by April 11th. Content wise, it doesn't have to be ex-christian oriented. As long as it secular oriented, whether it be about business investment, or a skit about fallacies, travels abroad doing humanitarian missions or just putting together an outreach in your neighborhoods. Designing clothes for little heathens? Or maybe you create music, or write poetry. We want to hear about it. There are approximately 15 slots to fill. Submissions need to be sent to atheistsoffacebook@gmail.com for review. You can send a video, audio clip, or just an email, but make your pitch a good one. If you are passionate about your topic, be sure to show that. Keep it within a five minute range whether written or visual media. There isn't any major censorship other than the common rules of no genitalia, bigotry, or exploitation. There will be strict deadlines, and expectation of you vetting your material and sources. Snope that shit if you aren't sure.
  9. 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!
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Josh Duggar Sex Abuse Scandal

    Once again the poster children of the Quiverfull movement are in the spotlight, this time because of admitted molestation of minors. It should be noted, Josh Duggar molested fellow underage family members and possibly church members, while technically a minor himself. Granted, the victims were well under the age of consent. They were also sleeping. But, to make reparations for his crimes that repeatedly occurred over the course of at least 3 years, he helped build a house, received further guidance of sorts from a “role mode”, and promised he would never, ever, ever, ever, ever, do it again. In a statement, Josh Duggar said,”We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling,” the statement said. “I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life.” He understands he was on the path to ruin his life. He’s sorry. The victims? “We’ll be praying for everyone involved,” according to patriarch Jim Bob and wife Michelle. After all, according to most Christian faiths, your body belongs to God. What you do with it is your choice, but if you are harmed, God absorbs the hit points and you can continue on being strengthened spiritually from your ordeal. Somebody needs to hold my bra. Seriously. Read more at my blog here... http://thebluegrassskeptic.com/2015/05/23/josh-duggar-sex-abuse-scandal/
  13. You ever have one of those conversations with a friend, family member, or coworker, where you are describing your atheism or questioning of religion and you are asked the inevitable,”What/Who/Why did you/are you doubting the existence of God?” Ignore the entire question except for the who/what/why part. You are about to realize this person is probably one of the most singular thinking people you’ve ever met. This is because the fundamental core of scrutinizing the irreligious is locating the cause of the faithlessness in the individual under the microscope. Sure, you lost your faith and you know there are many factors involved, but to many believers like Jane Doe questioning you, there is at the heart of all those factors a single causation that created all the other reasons. Kind of like a domino rally display, they are looking for that starting domino. Like their biblical doctrine, believers have to assign an overarching system of single source causation to almost everything when it comes to understanding their world according to God, and then somehow apply their belief structure to their peers. Since most are taught that God is behind everything, believers easily sift through details and experiences to find a bottom line reason for everything else. Such as everything is man’s fault for being a sinner because of Adam’s transgression in the Garden of Eden. Or my personal favorite,”You are angry at God because you were sexually abused by a priest.” Take my own experience when my atheism is being questioned. When initially getting to know me, a large majority of faithful disciples always end up asking,”What happened?” I’ll explain that it was a series of events, each of which causing me to move away further from holy living. Some events managed to push me away from religion further than others. I will explain all of the events and experiences thoroughly, and without fail, one person will say it must have been my father’s religious hypocrisy. Another will hypothesize I am angry with God’s failure to protect me from sex abuse, and a few ....Read more here http://thebluegrassskeptic.com/2015/05/08/you-are-the-most-singular-person-i-have-ever-met/
  14. Spiritual Eugenics Is Really A Thing

    My eldest son and I were making the daily commute to school this past week, and we ended up on the discussion of extending human life to hundreds of years. He’d overheard a news article about slowing down the aging process, which got him thinking. Naturally, I’m somewhat against extending human aging. I think if we don’t die out in a reasonable time frame, society will stagnate. The younger generations keep human society always moving forward to bigger and better advancements. I was explaining this to my son, and he almost immediately realized another downside to extending one’s life span. What would be the cut off? And how would that be decided? Further than all that, I pointed out not only how would a limit to age be set, but is it really a good thing to live two hundred years? Does a longer life span mean one will find success and wealth? Or just an extra one hundred and fifty years of working in a gas station instead of forty? The realization that an individual with an extended life time could possibly spend three times longer in a dead-end job was staggering to my son. But I wasn’t done with that thought. Surely, gaining an extra hundred years would mean that eventually, humans would be forced to re prioritize their life goals simply because they possess more time to work on them. Would we humans then take more time for education? Or would many of us continue to follow our instincts of creating families and working our extra time away? And we never jumped into how much more social program would be needed. Instead we moved on to other good subject matter involving PS4s and Steam games. After I dropped him off to his school, I went back to the social risks involved with the extension of human life. For a brief few seconds I found myself justifying selective extension if the individual was an asset to society. I’d fallen into the murky pit of eugenics. For those who aren’t familiar, eugenics is often defined as a controlled and purposeful evolution of human races by controlled breeding practices. In today’s day and age, this is being considered (and experimented upon) on the genetic level. World War II saw the horrors of eugenics gone wrong after hoping for a more perfect German race. Extermination of millions of Jews, homosexuals, and more, all in the name of advancing the German gene pool. But Germany didn’t get this idea on their own. In fact, they had a role model that was already doing another form of eugenics that later would eventually bring about Germany’s defeat. Yes, America. There was a mandatory sterilization policy for the disabled here in the United States that started in the 1930’s, and lasted until the end of World War II. One could say that the Nazis took a page from the land of the free and went a whole step further, all thanks to our own eugenics programs we had already implemented. On top of these practices gone wrong, you can see a type of spiritual eugenics within many religious families, and even in biblical doctrine during this time, but it wasn’t dominating in society yet. I found it a rather disturbing realization that there is a weird belief of a family line being stronger through mutual religious faith. This started to really take hold after World War II when many churches began abandoning some of their support for sterilization and other .....Read more here at my new blog The Bluegrass Skeptic... http://thebluegrassskeptic.com/2015/05/15/spiritual-eugenics-is-really-a-thing-2/.
  15. Trial And Error Isn't A Complicated Topic

    "You're an atheist. How can you know right from wrong then if you don't have God to show you?" I was asked this by a representative of a local Catholic church at a community small business event last night. You know the type of event, where the businesses stay open extra late and let customers hang out till late in the evening. This church had decided they would be a "business" too. A business of saving souls. So, they were offering Communion to anyone and everyone. Well, everyone except me because I had to beg the question,"How is this a good practice? Aren't there standards involved for this?" Which immediately solicited a knowing look between booth staffing and my admitting I was an atheist and a quick false argument hurled my way. You know, this line of reasoning is mind numbingly dim witted. I'm just putting my personal opinion out there up front. Whenever I am scrutinized on a personal level, being immediately reduced to a potential criminal simply because of my secular way of life, I can't help but think you are extremely stupid. So stupid, I don't understand how you graduated high school, attained a college degree, or even had the right to reproduce. "Don't they have a general exam one must take before they reach adulthood?" kind of incredulity is in my mind when I am told I can't know right from wrong all because I don't bow to the throne of Jesus. It took a me a few years to really pinpoint what it was about such a poorly thought out assumption regarding my being an atheist that would just irritate me to a fury. In all seriousness, it wasn't so much insulting. I've been accused of being all kinds of things by people very close to me, so the moronic hypotheses of strangers really don't get to me very much. No, it definitely wasn't a feeling of being personally attacked. It was the sheer stupidity of such a statement. It was the fact to believe such a thing about atheists implies the believer is being simple minded, lazy, a re dubbed cassette tape filled with a diatribe of nonsense. Now, I could dig into the whole fallacy behind this and rehash the usual discussion regarding how human social structures work. But that isn't what irks me. It's the sheer contradiction in their own life experiences and beliefs which are in plain fucking sight (No, I am not sorry for the fuck given). Common sense dictates a few things in this morality argument I hear so much. Now I won't argue against God based on morals. It's a supernatural farce that cannot be defended or decently assailed because we're talking supernatural. Reality just doesn't deal with imagination fueled deification of myths. But, the nature and biology of man completely refutes the morality argument pretty obviously. I don't need to go into evolution, biological programming, or genetics for ...Read more here at my blog The Bluegrass Skeptic http://thebluegrassskeptic.com/2015/05/15/trial-and-error-isnt-a-complicated-concept-2/
  16. The Padded Cell Of Apologetics

    Friend of mine brought up his increasing frustration with how easily the religious swallow ridiculous doctrine and unhesitatingly apply it to everyday life. He cannot stand how easy it is to live with a mind so warped that even the word "the" might mean that the End of Days will happen by noon time after a lunch at Subway. He isn't the only one just flabbergasted at how easy it is for believers to accept that God doesn't do any one on one counseling anymore, and they are oblivious to the fishy way a prophecy is changed to fit a prediction after an unexpected earthquake shatters a small mountain community in the world somewhere. He wasn't sure how to put his thoughts on the subject into words, and while I follow his line of thinking, I think a bigger discussion on the pointlessness of arguing in apologetics is more on task this time. I apologize ahead of time how semi analytical this might sound, but after a few re reads of this entry, I just don't see an easy way to make it conversational at all. It's apologetics. They suck. So, first of all, compartmentalized thinking, especially within religion, protects one from the difficult concepts of life. Concepts such as failing in becoming successful or accepting the process of death and its permanency. Instead, compartmentalized thinking allows one to latch on to certain ideas about life and death with whatever fanciful ideology one chooses to solve the dilemma with, no matter how irrational. These notions are completely protected against scrutiny and enforce ridiculous concepts of what creates success or defines death. Notions like faith, everlasting life, and supernatural punishment for immorality are hallmarks of many Judeo-Christian faiths. Now, much like algebra, what you do to one side, you must do to the other. For every compartmentalized idea or belief, there has to be a real answer that can shatter the carefully bricked up wall one puts around it. So how do you rationalize the truth of what you believe to actually equate into a result that you want? You have to use a handy little evangelical tactic known as dispensationalism. Dispensationalism provides a proposed historical timeline, on an evangelical level, to reinforce the aforementioned compartmentalized religious thinking process. It provides a cushy soft barrier of excuses and rationalizations to bolster one's aspirations to achieve the sectioned off understanding of how life works. Again, reality is not required, just targeted interpretation of biblical events that are neatly divided up into sections that cover certain time periods in scripture and .... Read more at my blog The Bluegrass Skeptic http://thebluegrassskeptic.com/2015/05/15/the-padded-cell-of-apologetics/
  17. Hello, World. I'm Openly Secular

    Hi, from Covington, Kentucky! The neighbor of Cincinnati, Ohio. My name is Amanda Ashcraft. I work for the postal service, write numerous articles about ex religious life and childhood abuse, parent four beautiful children, and live openly secular as a humanism practicing atheist. I grew up in a charismatic home in southwest Ohio, my earliest memories being that of a Pentecostal church with wonderful music, a very loving pastor, and always trying to get God's direct attention so I knew he was real. We had congregation members who would get "slain in the spirit", my own mother often cried in euphoria while speaking in tongues during services. The day I was saved at age five, all I could think of was how proud my mother would be of me. I really didn't understand who Jesus was and what his sacrifice meant at that young age, but my pastor still pronounced me saved when I repeated his magical prayer of acceptance. You have to understand why I sought my mother's approval instead of that of God. My home life was abusive, but on the outside, my family appeared like an everyday middle class family in the 80's. My mother was a teacher, and my father was a machinist at a large tool factory. Being an only child, one would think I had it made, but as I mentioned, my home life was abusive. It started off just verbally, eventually escalating to more physical episodes, and even sexual abuse came into my experiences before I was ten years old. This type of home life caused me to act out in some of the worst ways possible, had me believing I was being tormented by demons, and truly set me on a path to get God to somehow help me, or at least get Satan himself to punish me for being so bad. To accomplish that would mean I had proof that God knew what was happening to me. By the time I was sixteen, I'd managed to get out of my family home but it was like going from one bad situation to another seeing how I was pregnant and married by the time I was seventeen. My parents had agreed to sign the license for me to get married under age. This was a disappointment on many levels for me... Read more at my blog The Bluegrass Skeptic http://thebluegrassskeptic.com/2015/05/15/living-openly-secular-openlysecular/
  18. No Tattoo For You!

    For the last few months, I’ve been scrimping away money to restart my tattoo collecting. I currently have three altogether, all from different shops in my area, and out of the three who did the work, I decided to return to one in particular. I liked the artists that worked there, and trusted their professionalism so much so that I’ve unfailingly recommended this tattoo parlor to everyone that would ask me where to go for quality artistry. That all changed this morning when I received a response to an inquiry I’d sent a week ago. Now, I’d already contacted the shop prior to the message I received this morning, and even had a Saturday appointment set. The email said the following about the piece I’d requested to be done: “What on earth did you request to be tattooed?” , you might be wondering. Take a look for yourself, and keep in mind where the turtle is, I was wanting a stack of holy books instead. You know, the Bible, the Qur’an, and probably the Talmud. Essentially a sci fi Alice in Wonderland being depicted as having conquered religious fantasy. I really wanted her as a centerpiece to my science fiction themed sleeve I planned to create. Now, I found his response to my original design inquiry to be preposterous. Especially as this refusal is on behalf of the entire shop, and not just a particular artist not wanting to do it. Even more frustrating is the fact they’ve already done an anti religious fashioned tattoo for me a few years ago, and Alice is a sweet picnic in a park compared to the previous tattoo I am talking about now. Check it out. So, I responded as civilly as I could muster. I mean, I felt my anti religious attitude was being equated to racists or gang behavior. I was angry and confused at the change in standards. I wanted to know why anything anti religious was taboo, and more importantly, why this shop didn’t recognize the hate inspired by crosses, bible verses, and so on. All I got for an answer was a whole lotta avoidance. At this point, I realized it was hopeless to argue, but I called out his obvious discrimination, and made it clear this kind of supported societal “correctness” flew in the face of the freedom of expression that is intrinsic to tattoo art. And of course I said I’d quit crediting his shop. Now, in my mind this discussion has ended. And frankly, I am the one ending it, so this is a business owner’s dream scenario when disappointing a customer. He wasn’t going to really explain why he lumps anti religious material in with gang art or racist propaganda. I was wrong about that. In fact, Godwin’s Law came into full display. Yes. He played the Hitler card! Insert the Reductio Ad Hitlerum... Read more here at my blog The Bluegrass Skeptic http://thebluegrassskeptic.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=463&action=edit
  19. It seems with Easter, and the improvement of weather from freezing to tolerable, that there is an uptick in religious pursuits. As if after getting through the last rather heavy Christmas and Easter seasons, the rekindling of faith hits a critical mass and a bunch of stupid just starts flowing out of religious mouths with increased zeal. I tried to see if any research has popped up on what time of year is also more common for atheists to come out of their closets and put a stop to the social pressures of religious dogma. I couldn't find anything at all. I highly doubt it's coincidence that in my own wanderings around the various atheist websites and forums that I peruse, I have seen a lot of recent activity of those who are dealing with increased pressure to convert, increased insistence to fall in line with family, and thoughts of escape. All of this right after the last six months of holidays is hardly a coincidence in my book either. So, we'll just call it a hunch that this time of year, many of us reach a burn out point. In all honesty, this is the time of year I go meticulously through my various social media news feeds and stop following certain friends. It's a smart way to help me avoid "Good news" burn out. In fact, I jokingly refer to it as my safety plan. It protects my acquaintances from my own "tired of Jesus" attitude being shot their way after reading the same chain letter about divine glory three times a day for a month after Resurrection Day. If you haven't guessed, having a safety plan is the topic du jour. Often we read how to shut down unsolicited religious recruiting, or how to protect ourselves from discrimination in the work place. This is only a small part of the social blending many of us have to do in order to live in our communities though. At some point, many of us can't pretend anymore. We feel disgusted with ourselves for hiding, and are tired of having to bask in holy celebrations. We're leopards that can't change our spots, and like any other species, we can't be our best when we can't even be in an environment that will allow us to survive and flourish. But revelation means consequences, and for some, their very freedom is at stake. Recently, I became acquaintances with a young college age woman. She lives at home, mom pays for college, and she came out as an atheist not too long ago. She couldn't take the mandatory belief that was being required of her anymore. Her mother didn't take the revelation very well at all, and the situation at home has degraded to communication being restricted, and even talk of the daughter being possessed by demons has started floating amongst the family. This is a very serious threat to the young woman's human rights being violated, and her mother holds all the cards to her current state of living. We're talking college financing, room and board, and so much more. This is turning into an extortion scenario. Fortunately, this college student planned ahead a little bit by making others in our community aware of her predicament, and actively sought advice on how to deal with it all, as well as trying to understand what resources are available to her if she were to be on the street or unable to leave. Another online contact of mine in Nebraska had an intervention put together by his uncle and the church he was required to attend. He is twenty-four years old, living with his uncle while he finishes school. He didn't see the harm in pretending until school was completed, but his relative figured out he was an atheist, and took action. No less than twenty church members showed up at the relative's home that day, convinced there was a terrible evil at work in this man's life. They wouldn't let him leave! Instead, they made him sit there for hours, being prayed upon until they thought they'd convinced him he needed God. As soon as the parishioners left, this kid left as quick as he could, happy to couch surf with friends until he could arrange campus housing. Both these examples illustrate the need for safety plans. Especially if you are covert about your disbelief, and kind of have a good idea your lack of faith could cause a huge fluster within family or church communities. The reality is many believers think they own a monopoly on keeping their flock in the pasture. Lawmakers and pastors alike have skewed their understanding of religious freedom to include having little consequence to worry about if too forceful in their practice of faith. "Oh, they didn't mean any real harm by cornering you. Your family just was trying to show concern." Do not tolerate this kind of thinking from anyone! Here are a few things to do if you are living as an atheist in secret due to fear, or if you decide to come out to an unwelcoming crowd. These are basics, and always see room for improvement depending on your situation. Buddy Up! Even if only via internet, a larger social group of the same ideology is always a benefit when in a jam and looking for options. Sometimes you need to just become friends with someone local, and they don't have to necessarily be an atheist. There are many moderate Christians out there who absolutely abhor the abuse they are seeing in their faith. Reach out and meet people. Share your story. You might just find a rock to hold on to. Have a resource list for other human service agencies. This includes domestic abuse hotlines, shelters, and even secular advocacy groups. If you are attending college or school, have your counselor numbers on hand. Here are a few links that can help you out to understand what constitutes actionable abuse, and ways to deal with it or escape. http://projectrising.org/domestic-violence/types-of-abuse/spiritual-religious-abuse/ http://projectrising.org/domestic-violence/state-coalitions/ http://recoveringfromreligion.org/hotline-project/ http://www.thehotline.org/ Do your best to keep a bug out bag somewhere accessible that only you and a trusted person know the location of. A bug out bag is a lightweight emergency bag that you can grab and go with little notice. Include items like food, bank information, prepaid phone minutes, and even documentation of your housing situation. Try to also include in that bag any updated documentation of abuse you've suffered. ****EDITED TO ADD UPDATED HELP INFORMATION*** Did you know, as a minor, you don't have to have parental permission or knowledge to get a post office box????? It's true! I confirmed with my Post Master a few days ago this fact. The only way the post office can deny you a box is if your parent writes a letter of objection to the office...but that's only if they find out! I'm going to update this in the blog, but wanted the information in plain site here so it doesn't get lost in a comment. http://about.usps.com/forms/ps1093.pdf Talk with the local police or sheriff in your area about your situation. Just asking questions doesn't mean you automatically have to do anything. Ask them if you happen to be living with family, can they just throw you out? Can you prosecute them if you aren't allowed to leave at will, or are being harassed all night? Is a driver' license enough to prove you legally have a right to stay in the home and not be thrown out? Think about what you might have to face if church members or family call your boss? Can you have the police write a harassment report? Know your rights so you can handle possible situations. If you are being threatened with an unwanted intervention, exorcism, eviction, job loss, or anything along a menacing line of action, try to get it documented. Even if simply via text messages or emails. Save those voice mails where Aunt Sue says you have to talk to the pastor or you're kicked out of her house. This is evidence for abuse and extortion. Save it all! When you have to deal with Aunt Sue, possibly with the police involved, or in a court setting, you can smash her "good Christian woman" image with her threats and manipulation in black and white. I really want to say use this option as a last resort, but sometimes, you just can't. If at any point you fear for your safety with family, friends, or church members, Call The Law. I can't stress this enough. Worse case, the police can at least calm things down, and this can buy you some extra time to search out options to exit. At no point is it acceptable to abuse someone because they do not believe in the same sky fairy as you. You do not give up your personal freedom simply because someone is doing you a favor or service. Never. A little reality check from the authorities will also help reinforce your right to be who you are. Boundaries are tricky, and sometimes a police cruiser pulling up will encourage a bully to back off, even if long enough to let you safely leave on your own terms. In addition to calling the law, and how law enforcement can calm things down, keeping calm is something you need to focus on. There is only one rational person in the room during a "crisis of faith" scenario, and that's you. As much as it hurts, as much as you are offended, angered, frustrated and just sick of the bullshit, do not lose your control. Any moment where you sink to their emotional lows of "concerned" interventionists, you immediately confirm their neurotic claims and beliefs. Just quietly remove yourself from the situation if possible, or call for help. In closing, you might not be able to avoid the parallels between escaping religious abuse and domestic abuse. Honestly, there isn't a difference in practice, it's just society doesn't see religiously motivated control measures as abuse. Yet, a husband restraining his wife against her will is abuse. It's a scary double standard, flimsily protected as a religious freedom to some extent. Times are changing though, in that children are dying from simple disease because of faith healing, LGBTQ are being discriminated against in business, and women's rights are being legislated away, and the courts are starting to step up. And the change in thoughts can be seen in the court rooms. Children that have died thanks to faith healing are now having their parents prosecuted, and civil suits against bigoted business practices are awarding those who were discriminated against. This shows that the definition of abuse is broadening, and religious oppression within Christianity is being seen added in to some cases that are being tried now. And this broadening figures into your safety plan.These ideas for a safety plan involve thinking ahead, understanding what constitutes abuse, and some preparation for the worst case scenarios. Even if you can't use all of the suggestions listed, to utilize just a couple will still aid in your journey to live freely. We are guaranteed the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in this country, but sometimes you have to keep fighting for it. I hope some of the tips and resources I listed here will help maybe even spark a few more ideas not mentioned here. I really hope there will be recognition that what some view as acceptable behavior to keep religious members in the spirit actually are abusive control measures, and are not acceptable at all.
  20. The Value Of A Life

    Normally, I try to focus thought and discussion on religious themes. This is due to the fact that I host my blog on this similarly themed website. Not the case today, though. Based on just my title, you might think this will be an abortion piece. Maybe I might be referring to all the police shooting deaths as of late. The reality is I'm discussing the value of my own life. Well, actually, how some in my life seem to have put a value on me, and how I mistakenly agreed their valuations were accurate. Worse, the most recent experience with being told my worth was quite literally in a monetary sense. And even more worse than that, I actually allowed this to be true for a very long part of my life. "Oh my God, Miss Z! Did someone put a hit contract out on you??" Yeah, I'm kind of infamous, but certainly not that inspiring. No, I've just had some experiences over the last decade that really kind of culminated into a single sentence I received in a text message this week. It was kind of amazing how just cold and uncaring these words were, and it made me seriously reflect on relationships I currently have. I was told,"You've been my kept woman for years." Essentially, that I am bought and paid for based on money that this person has spent on my behalf during an on and off relationship of fifteen years. Bought and paid for physically, by the way. I literally had been reduced to chattel. It doesn't matter any sacrifices I might have made, abuses I had tolerated, and blame I always just accept as automatically being mine. I cost this person a dime, therefore I am in debt, subject to flimsy conditions of reimbursement. And for the longest time, this has been acceptable in my book. My always being there when needed, focused recovery of my mental health, and dogged rationalizing of me being responsible for us to get along? Worthless. This is incredibly painful. Also, it is like hitting the bright red button on a Looney Toons show that sends the rocket from Marvin the Martian's lab to blow up Daffy Duck. I was seeing red. Enraged would be a wonderful word to describe my state the other night when reading the message I'd received. Enraged at such shallow disrespect towards me, and further indignity at my own fault in allowing such relationships to even exist in my life. A lot of you that read my blog are familiar with my situation with family. I deal with manipulative ex lovers, abusive parents that are in denial about how toxic they are, and so much more. And being on the outside looking in on my life, you have said to me,"What made you put with all of this?" Simply put, I put up with this treatment because I agreed I was such a screw up, that the people who act like this type of loan sharking of friendship had me convinced me they'd done me incalculable amounts of good. So much for using logic, guilt reigned supreme in my mind for many years. I devalued myself to the point of a paid whore. How could I be anything but? I hurt my kids. I hurt myself. I hurt my finances. It's the whole "once a fuck up, always a fuck up" mentality. Even more ridiculous is that, on principle, I never apply or believe this type of thinking about people. I am forever the optimist when it comes to human nature. Despite my own upbringing in a fairly sheltered home life, I saw the error of my parents' constant alienation of family and friends. Everyone makes a mistake, even the same one time and again. Does that equate a death sentence for their success in life? Of course not! Humans are notorious for changing and maturing. Yet, I never applied this reasoning to myself. I constantly denied myself the opportunity to pursue nicer goals, firmly believing my chance was already blown. I'd put my life to the value of zero without having a fair chance to even attempt living. Thankfully, years of therapy started to plant seeds of doubt about just how rational I was being about my mistakes in life. Ultimately, I have reached a point of zero tolerance for this type of thinking, and treatment. It took me the last three years or so to finally be comfortable with who I am, where I have been, and gain the confidence to know I can be successful and deserve it. Taking the rockier path has never been easy, but that's the road I took. Getting off the super highway of punishment hasn't been easy either. All the usual roadblocks tell me I can't exit, but the potholes are fewer as I keep crashing through the barriers. "You aren't anything without me." I hear this at least once a month. My goodness, the level of absolute disregard for anything I have ever done in this world is so sharply heard in such a statement. It's almost God like in the argument that is made. "I am Alpha and Omega. The beginning and the end." I could never be what I am today without these people, yet according to them, I am nothing. It took me forever to realize there was a huge contradiction in their attitudes. Just like Yahweh, the true contribution in my life by always being a liability was at best double edged. While supposedly protecting me, I was at the same time being controlled with guilt and money. When did my freedom become a bargaining chip? I can tell you. The day I deified these people in my heart. The day I took their verdicts on my life as gospel. But like all gods of ages past that are now insignificant tales of creation and lost power, so have these people been relegated to my personal history. They are nothing more than dim shadows in the bright adventure of my life. My life is finally relevant to me. And I owe it all to myself.
  21. I Dream Of Mayberry

    "I miss the good old days. You know, when things were simpler and more pure. Like Mayberry." This is probably one of the most absolutely ridiculous notions in America today. Seriously. What makes it worse would be the fact that everyone wants things to be like Mayberry. They wish for Mayberry whenever they hear news about legislation that favors quicker immigration is being considered. They cry for Mayberry's Christian family values whenever they hear yet another state is willing to acknowledge and offer benefits to married gay couples. Even politicians use the good ole times excuse when passing discriminating legislation. Take Asa Hutchinson, governor of Arkansas for example. He was just about to sign into law one of those Religious Restoration Acts, and after seeing the backlash in Indiana, has become nervous about what he is about to do, deciding to send the legislation back for revision instead. His public statement? "....in ordinary times this bill would not be controversial, but these are not ordinary times." Which basically is saying,"Why can't we be in Mayberry again?" I hate to break it to you, but the circumstances of Mayberry never existed in America. Never, ever. Never, ever, never, ever, ever, EVER. People see that 1960's family show and treat it like an honest representation of the all American family. God, common sense, and small government. This governor I was mentioning grew up watching the show, and others with similar themes. He doesn't understand that Mayberry, while set in the 60's expanding economy, was based on the simpler times of the 1930's. There was a desire for nostalgia to be brought into the show, and that is why folk music, church, and focus on family were incorporated. So, what? Then let's go back to the 30's then. They were good times, right? You tell me. The only thing good about the 1930's was the increased desire for simple living, and that's mostly because they didn't have a choice back then. With the desire for simple living came an increased demand for folk music and art. Jobs were scarce thanks to the Depression. Add the agricultural disasters like the Dust Bowl on top of it? Food was scarce too. Tradition became king during that decade before WWII broke out, and so did a tough as nails attitude when faced with desperation to survive. Mayberry never bothered with any of that. It had the lush economy of the 1960's story setting to keep the ugly struggles of the Depression away.... Read more here at my blog The Bluegrass Skeptic http://thebluegrassskeptic.com/2015/05/15/i-dream-of-mayberry/
  22. "The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living... as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language. Thus Luther put on the mask of the Apostle Paul...Entirely absorbed in the production of wealth and in peaceful competitive struggle, it no longer remembered that the ghosts of the Roman period had watched over its cradle." Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon. I've dwelt a lot on Karl Marx the last few years. Like many philosophers of his time, there was a recognition of the re application of past control tactics to shape the future, and I am sure we can all see this trend even now, some 150 years after Marx wrote the above quoted work. This particular analysis of revolutionizing of society really came into sharp focus while I watched news coverage of Indiana's Governor Pence sign in to law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) on March 26, 2015 (S.B. 101 https://iga.in.gov/legislative/2015/bills/senate/101). He was surrounded by representatives from the American Family Association, Franciscan Monks, nuns, orthodox Jews, and lobbyists who contributed to the writing of the bill. Micah Clark, most notably, was in attendance, who is the leader of the Indiana branch of the American Family Association, as well as Curtis Smith (President of the Indiana Family Institute), who actually helped write this bill. From the just the presentation of the situation, you get an icky feeling. Still, I held out hope that the war cries of "discrimination", "legalized hate bill", and "Jim Crow is back act", were misunderstood and overblown. It isn't uncommon for both sides of an issue to misrepresent what an impact of new legislation is, would, or just could be. Here is the digest of this controversial bill: "Religious freedom restoration. Prohibits a governmental entity from substantially burdening a person's exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless the governmental entity can demonstrate that the burden: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering the compelling governmental interest. Provides a procedure for remedying a violation. Specifies that the religious freedom law applies to the implementation or application of a law regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity or official is a party to a proceeding implementing or applying the law. Prohibits an applicant, employee, or former employee from pursuing certain causes of action against a private employer." I'm going to call this for what this is. It's a line in the sand. It's the trench being dug in before a big battle. It's the grim determination as one is facing that fateful hour of fighting against the inevitable. And it isn't just in Indiana that the line has been drawn. In fact, these RFRA laws have been around for decades, it's just that Indiana has gotten more creative and has pushed the envelope a bit further than the rest. As everything in legislation, the devil is in the details, specifically I think it's just the last couple of lines, coupled with existing anti discrimination laws in Indiana: "Specifies that the religious freedom law applies to the implementation or application of a law regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity or official is a party to a proceeding implementing or applying the law. Prohibits an applicant, employee, or former employee from pursuing certain causes of action against a private employer." I will try to keep this from being overly legal-ese in language, but no promises. To understand how Indiana's RFRA is different than that of, let's say the state of Maryland, you have to first look at the anti discrimination laws that are already on the books. These laws are pretty similar to legislation in every other state, except when you start looking at what classes are protected. Race? Check. Gender? Check. Disability and age? Check, check. Sexual orientation? Uh....no. According to NOLO , these are the protected classes in the state of Indiana. You cannot discriminate against anyone in these classes. Race Color National origin Religion Sex Disability: physical or mental (15 or more employees) Age (40 to 75, applies to employers with one or more employees) Ancestry Off-duty tobacco use Sealed or expunged arrest or conviction record (Courtesy of NOLO, http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/indiana-employment-discrimination-31981.html) Now, compared to Maryland. Race Color National origin Religion Sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions) Disability: physical or mental Age Genetic information Marital status Sexual orientation (Courtesy of NOLO, http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/maryland-employment-discrimination-31809.html) This is a huge deal. Legislation like that of RFRA are always trumped by anti discrimination laws, but what happens if LGBTQ has no class protection in that state? This is where Indiana is taking things further than any other state ever has. Now, this isn't an automatic pass to just start denying service to those who are objectionable to your religious beliefs. You can, and probably will, be drug into court for denying services or showing disfavor to an employee based on sexual orientation, differing belief system, or what ever it is you didn't like about that person. Essentially, this legislation is going to test every possible instance of denying services based on religious belief since there isn't any existing class protection for LGBTQ in the state of Indiana. All in hopes of finding just that one single case, or scenario, that holds up and provides a bit of an umbrella for the evangelicals to hold onto their version of America underneath of. My gut says that these cases will more than likely find for the side of the one being discriminated against, though I imagine there will be some judges who will initially support the right of the believer first, and let appeals sort it out over the course of many years later. The mess from all these cases, in the meantime, will be costly, polarizing, and just plain ugly. There is no way to convince me that this isn't directly aimed at the same sex marriage cases that are winning all over the United States right now. This bill's success hinges on the fact that there isn't any class protection for sexual orientation. Indiana is trying to hedge its bets by leaving the LGBTQ community as an unprotected class and pursue preemptive legislation that they think somehow protects the rights of the religious. What these politicians fail to comprehend is that the right to to your beliefs is already protected to some degree. Religion is a protected class. I can't deny a job to a Christian. I can't give promotions to atheists over Christians just because of a shared common lack of belief. I can't deny a loan to a pastor because I think it is bullshit that he won't have to pay taxes on the church he is getting a loan to build. I certainly can't be hired on as a mail carrier and then turn around and selectively choose to not deliver mail to the Christians on my route simply because I find their beliefs offensive. This is what class protection is all about. Not to give protection to your personal efforts to make every aspect of a person's individual freedom fit neatly in the square peg hole that you personally find palatable. What has been even more disturbing is the almost stoic behavior of the larger evangelical associations since the bill was signed this past week. While there were a few enthusiastic social media posts about the bill's passing, there weren't too many shared thoughts on the act being signed from the larger advocate groups. There wasn't any major chest pounding incidents by the local churches, AFA branches, or even by Pro Life Indiana. It has seemed oddly quiet, other than the general public doing the gloating or decrying of SB 101. This silence isn't from fear of being bullied or turning the other cheek. No longer willing to stamp their feet and throw tantrums to get their way, conservative evangelical power players are settling in for the long haul. It's a grim determination you can see and feel in their posturing, as these politicians, lobbyists, and followers, see the looming storm of change coming at them. They are going to find themselves on a peg board with different sizes all around them. This isn't good for their constituency. You see, It isn't enough to just fit in the life style that is so desired to be lived in by these people. Their surrounding scenery has to match what they envision for their lives. The old meme about making donuts illegal since one is on a diet always comes to my mind when I see this kind of demand for accommodation. That's all this bill, and other similarly motivated legislation which are claimed to "protect religious liberty" really are designed to do. It is an extra accommodation to keep the pot kind of sweetened when other classes start to reach the same level of benefit. It's outright indulgence in special interest pandering, which is exactly what a protected class is not about. Protecting a class of people means ensuring their constitutional rights are equal to that of everyone else, not enhanced to allow rights that circumvent the laws or offer exclusive perks. It gives the opportunity for the public to start segregating legally, no matter how misguided their intention to buffer their world to only one type of peg hole truly is. It is a stubborn irrationality that is determined to keep itself entrenched in government legislation in a last ditch effort to save their pristine beach front view of divine living. May their God forbid having to actually agree to disagree and carry on with an unsightly difference in lifestyle living next door. So, in a nutshell, Indiana Senate Bill 101 does not automatically allow shop owners to put up "No Gays Allowed" signs in their windows. It does open the door for easier legal challenges, though victories are certainly far from guaranteed for the religious trying to escape the rules of the proverbial playground sandbox. The move to keep one of the core values of a religious person's sanctity has moved from the public referendum to the majority rule of right wing dominated congressional buildings. The reality that there isn't a majority of public support has motivated this change in field of play. I don't know if the rationale has to do with the idea that somehow just getting the law on the books will unite the rest of the nation and turn it into the perfect representation of what our founders intended. Or maybe it is the idea that they can unite the rest of the splintered religious groups under one party and then more conservative politics can rule the land. I think it all has a ring of truth to it. I do know it has little to do with being closer to God. This is simply because the long run goal to being religious is Heaven, and one doesn't need to legislate religious law in order to get into the blissful graces of divine companionship. A simple prayer and heart felt talk to those you love would fulfill the demand of sharing the "good news". A propaganda laced call to unify isn't the answer, and I really think they are missing the clear disconnect that is going on between the general public and their efforts. Propaganda is scary, and the younger generation has picked up on this quite clearly thanks to the access of information out there. Mom and Dad's Fox News channel isn't going to be enough anymore. Long term, bills like RFRA will require a lot of clarification and trial by fire in the courts. They won't hold water for very long either as the discriminatory days of the past being revisited will be too obvious to deny. As Martin Luther put on the mask of the apostle Paul, eventually, politicians like Governor Pence will not be able to look in the mirror without seeing the likes of Ross Barnett or George Wallace smiling back at him. A daunting visage of times past being used to justify the repression of the future rights of America's billions. All in the name of religious pandering. ***Want to read more? Check out my short compilation with an additional nine new essays not published anywhere else. http://www.amazon.co...dge of survival ***
  23. Judas: Sinner, Saint, Or Catalyst?

    I read an interesting article on CNN the other day by Craig Gross. For those who aren't familiar with Craig, he's a pastor and founder of xxxchurch.com, which helps fight porn addiction. The article he wrote was entitled "Is Judas In Hell?" , and you can read it here: http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/19/living/judas-hell-jesus/index.html. In a nutshell, he acknowledges that Judas made a big, big mistake. As did Thomas. But, he skates the question for a larger dialog about what is important to focus on this Easter, which is that "we all fall short and deserve death....", and of course JESUS! Now, I can't leave the main question alone because I think the wrong question is being asked. I differ with Craig's article in that he seems to be agreeing with the rest of Christendom that Judas made a huge mistake. We need to decide if Judas actually did something wrong. Is Judas a sinner, saint, or catalyst? It seems to me, from a mythological stand point, that Judas' actions were necessary for Christ to ultimately intercede on man's behalf. Up until Jesus' execution, the ministry was struggling. Sure, there was a following. Many had started to become interested in Christ's ministry of eternal reward, compassion, and forgiveness, but it wasn't gaining much political momentum. The Sadducee were crawling up Rome's ass more and more every year. The Pharisees didn't think the inflexible interpretation of the religious laws, and subsequent application, were fair. There was an ever growing rift between the two political factions, and Rome sat back and took advantage. Meanwhile, Christ is inspiring hope, but he has to be careful where he is performing at. How many times have we read him getting scrutinized by the clerics? Too many to count! This prophet didn't pick the outskirts of villages because he needed a large venue. He didn't go blend in with the Egyptians because he liked the food. No, he didn't have a strong enough momentum to influence the political war that was brewing within Jerusalem. His meddling more of an annoyance, and borderline heretical. Christ had no teeth. He was another of many self proclaimed prophets of his time. So how do you propel yourself to the top of the dog pile in those days? Martyrdom. This is the classic go to plot twist of any good lore. Politics, drama, intrigue, and death. Osiris was betrayed by his brother Seth. Zeus was betrayed by his former comrade Prometheus. Vibhishana was betrayed by his half brother Ravana. Thor was betrayed by his brother Loki. And Jesus was betrayed by his apostle Judas. Without the needed climax, what would have happened to Jesus ministry? Would Jesus still have drawn the crowds on his own at age eighty? Or would miracles eventually be all he was remembered for? Jesus was not much more than another Simon of Peraea before Judas came along and stirred things up with the Sandhedrin and Rome. Granted, Jesus did cause some notable scenes at the temples, but he didn't burn them down. He certainly didn't want to lead an uprising. Jesus was a hands off kind of boss. He would give a great show and expected followers to somehow become cohesive and effect a social change among the different classes of Hebrews. Jesus sought unification, and to do that requires more than just creative interpretations of the same old message. He knew this, and that is why he later made vague announcements about his death, not just at the Last Supper, but several times during the year prior. Check out Matthew 17 and Matthew 20. On top of it all, not all of his apostles were okay with his miracle working (walking on water scared some shitless). Not all were comfortable with his associating with the ill repudiated (whore and perfume). And not all were even sure he fit the description of the predicted Messiah (Judas' betrayal). Jesus was a walking contradiction, and Judas was the key to the final sell. But I'm not playing fair here. If I have to answer the question: "Is Judas in Heaven or Hell?" I would posit he is in Heaven. He certainly was remorseful, after all, he did try to return the silver. And he never blasphemed the Holy Spirit. Never do you see any sign Judas absolutely doesn't believe, in fact, his actions could be interpreted as out of his control seeing how as Jesus handed him the dipped bread, Satan entered Judas and then he went and betrayed him. Judas had a lot riding on this rabbi, and at this point of the biblical tale, Jesus has had to watch out for being arrested, thrown out of towns and so on. The man would not step up to the plate and really lead. John the Baptist wanted to lead, and Judas was originally following John, so his appetite was wet with change. So, nothing Judas did was unforgivable. Only outright blaspheming the Holy Spirit gets you unforgivable doom. Judas didn't do that. Yes, he ratted out the hidden location of Jesus. Yes, he initially accepted blood money. Yes, he committed suicide, was stoned to death, or was crushed by a chariot (you decide which). His remorse is of little doubt though, in my opinion. And because of that, I would say Judas is in Heaven, if a location must be picked. Whether his betrayal should be considered a sin or not truly means nothing. Without Judas and his classic story book behavior, Jesus would have faded into the annals of supposed history and be no more appreciated than all the other random philosophers of his time. Judas was certainly no sinner in my book. He made no mistakes in my view either. He made Jesus put up or shut up. He was a catalyst. ***Want to read more? Check out my short compilation with an additional nine new essays not published anywhere else. http://www.amazon.co...dge of survival ***
  24. The Badge Of Survival

    As requested, a compilation of some of my essays are now in eBook format. There are fourteen total compositions, nine of which are new and not published until now. This short book focuses on some of my reflections of childhood abuse, loss of religion, and so on. I know most who read my experiences enjoy them simply because one can relate. And if one can relate, then you aren't crazy. Book is approximately 40 pages, and available in either pdf or epub format. Does include a lame cover art graphic (a la yours truly), and a forwarding note. Available here on Amazon for $2.99 in eBook format. http://www.amazon.com/Badge-Survival-Amanda-Ashcraft-ebook/dp/B00UY2FOAU/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1426989901&sr=8-3&keywords=the+badge+of+survival Or you can pick it up for two bucks here https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rotted-Thoughts/266325053550001?sk=app_410312912374011, click the link below and then do what the graphic here shows....
  25. Where Am I Again?

    A lot of politicians and congressional members have been making the headlines in some of the worst ways lately. Headline making behavior like writing treasonous sounding letters of hate and rebellion against diplomatic talks directly to Iranian leadership. Making the phrase "climate change" an unrecognized term when talking about Earth science. Trying to declare Christianity the state religion. Submitting legislation that proposes punishing homosexuals....wait for it...for being homosexual. There are even some senators out there who believe wage disparity doesn't exist. I cannot reconcile the general air of selfish interest with our country's reputation of being a land of opportunity. When I look at my fellow countrymen, I see a lot of frustration, and even when speaking to them there is an obvious problem with recognizing the larger good. The important unity of being a country is forgotten. The benefit of wanting to take care of one another isn't even on the table for consideration. It's like a scene from the Coen brothers' movie Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? "I've got to do for me and mine!" This is the depths of survival no one wants to be a part of, and definitely not own their part of. You hear this mentality when discussing coal reforms with boilermakers. They have bills to pay and kids to feed, but who cares about the environment once their children are grandparents. It's hard to miss the misgivings in tone when discussing universal healthcare with conservatives. Why would they want to invest in their neighbor's health? Why pay more taxes to finance better health services for everyone, including their future family members? After all, it's not like their neighbor does anything for their family...like, say, paying taxes to support schools the childless neighbor doesn't even have any children attending. "Me and Mine." That's all I hear on the radio news. It's the underlying message that is consistently peddled in political legislation so riddled with pork barrels, I don't know if any bill that is funded actually has money for anything but the special interest groups that pushed it through. This ridiculous battle cry is all I hear in churches that preach on about needing more God in schools, courthouses, and state offices. It's become the go to excuse to abuse your neighbor, financially struggling waitress, aging mother, and your aspiring student in college. You need help affording food? Can't you do it yourself? I've go to look out for me and mine. It's a sick delusion of one against all. That somehow, going it alone and only looking out for yourself will yield you the best opportunity and results. Isolation brings success? In what country am I living? In what reality am I living? Surely not the America that bound itself together to become its own nation despite differences of opinion or practice. Definitely not the United States that recognized the right of the individual above the majority rule. Not the country that has emblazoned on our welcoming mother of liberty: "Bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tossed, to me: I left my lamp beside the golden door." - Lazarus Where am I? Where are these embittered denizens of long ago Rome's hierarchical class coming from? HBO and Showtime? Jerry Springer and The Voice? How did they get here and turn my world into a piranha filled tank of Hammurabi-esque reasoning? Fine and imprison gays. Treat immigrants as a nuisance. Act like food, shelter, and healthcare are merely privileges. Demand all citizens live by one ideology. All because, just like the big corporations, no one is willing to sacrifice any part of their bottom line. Not even for future generations of their own progeny. No. Them against the world. Everyone is within a delusional combat pit, fighting battles that wouldn't exist if they put their resources together. "I've gotta look out for me and mine!" ,they cry. Without "me and mine" (and everyone else's for that matter), you wouldn't have the products you love to buy. You wouldn't have emergency services. You wouldn't even have your job, probably. If we have to invest in you, the least you can do is say thank you and try to do the same for us. I especially have a beef when the religious blather on about End Times and Heaven's second coming. If they genuinely believed this crap, then let Caesar have what is Caesar's. Why does it matter if you are taxed into poverty? You'll have the eternal buffet of the wedding feast. Why do you really care if homosexuals want to marry? They'll be in Hell later anyway, and not your concern. This blatant abuse of logic tells me the "me and mine" attitude is just a front in religious circles. It's the pitiful caterwauling sound of being imaginably oppressed so they should be able to fight back by being bigoted towards those not in their cults. America is not what I remember from my youth. And with the advent of social networking it seems it is even more changed from a decade ago. I feel like H.G. Wells' time traveling scientist. Every place I go, as every year passes, my country changes to a land of bizarro attitudes and social standards, and I feel more rejected, unaccepted, belittled, and unwelcome. It's like trying to find a seat in the cafeteria in a high school and everyone literally enjoys seeing your rejection. Maybe it isn't so much change in the world, but my growing maturity that is picking up on more details in the scenery of society that I hadn't noticed before. Either way, I don't like it, and someday I really can see myself being the same way in return in order to preserve my sanity. If you can't beat them, join them, right?