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  1. TheBluegrassSkeptic

    The Bluegrass Skeptic Is Coming Soon

    Remember that scene in Star Wars when Obi Wan Kenobi heard a great cry within the force and immediately knew something terrible had happened? That's because he heard the death rattle of Zomberina Contagion shattering the Universe in my mind. Her voice whispered from deep inside the cosmic oceans of my mind,"Help! Help! I'm being repressed!" And then her presence was exiled to the abandoned remnants of my inner self to never search for brains again. Zomberina died this past 28 April around 11:32 a.m. while I was working my mail route. Her character had been hovering towards the pitch black nothingness of non existence for several days prior, and while stopped at a red light, the depressing piles of mail filled trays still needing to be delivered quite suddenly overwhelmed me. In that moment, I knew she was gone forever, the repugnant stifling of her desires to just be free to be herself were finally crushed; she was ground into small bits of neuron stored proteins forever. I silenced her despair without even a good bye. Miss Z's persona was becoming irrelevant, much like how I already feel in my day to day living. While I wanted to use her in a bigger way, I realized that most can't relate to a zombie woman seriously, and I wanted a persona to better reflect who I am, not just what my interests are. I also want to bring in others with the same mindset to contribute to a more larger dialog about atheism, humanism, social trends, politics, healing, and so much more. And I didn't want to have a legion of zombies being the ones hosting the dialog. Yeah, no more zombie princess. Just me, Kate. The pushing forty, mother of four, blog writing, super captain of insomniac writing binges. But, I had to do more than just have a blog called Kate. And it would be hard to put the rest of it in there too, so I thought,"Hmmmnn. I want my own website. I want to freely express whatever I feel like. I want a blog name that is directly related to what I write about, but at the same time, not sounding overly anti religious. Something that shares where I live, and some of the social situations I deal with being secular." Voila! The Bluegrass Skeptic was born. Kentucky has me loving the field of science, the practice of reason, and its many varieties of bourbon. It's tough being an atheist in the South, but at least I have bourbon. In all seriousness, I'm a very real, down to earth, goofy, socially missing clues left and right, kind of person. My name is Kate Ashcraft. I work for the mail service, have a passion for writing, a huge lack of sleep, and I've discovered that living in Kentucky has some up and down sides. Mostly down in my opinion. Between crappy seasonal weather, Republican dominated politics, and God? This free thinker is screwed in all the wrong ways but the good one! My website TheBluegrassSkeptic.com will highlight more than just my thoughts on religious ideologies, but also I will be hosting interviews, and even a few movie reviews. So, this place is like a fleamarket - something for everyone. I'm still learning about tweeting, but you can find me here https://twitter.com/bluegrassskep. Youtube you can catch a few older videos here https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdQTowJacDjnZF2OL38EIGw?view_as=public. And I'll be creating The Bluegrass Skeptic on Facebook shortly, as well. I would also like to put out a call to anyone interested in submitting guest blogs, offering up any kind of media for public use, or are wanting to have a talk! All kinds of things will be discussed from parenting as an atheist so surviving those altar calls for Christ. I really hope that there will be plenty of variety and not a constant rehash of the same old discussions. Mark the date down! 15 May The Bluegrass Skeptic will be visible on any internet ready device near you!
  2. TheBluegrassSkeptic

    When Secular Children Fly Solo At Church

    This weekend was a personal test for my parenting. As an atheist parent, I am pretty adamant in presenting both sides of an argument and using context when discussing religious belief with my kids. The only confirmation of how fair of a job I am doing is when the kids end up in awkward situations of religious types where I am not present. I eagerly wait to hear about the results later. Before I go into my eldest son's adventure in the land of Woo, I should probably elaborate on the foundation I've helped him create for his basis of logic. Much like newly minted adult atheists, my kids went through a lot of similar rationalizing, denial, and even outrage of religious doctrine. Fortunately, secular kids get to excel through those stages much quicker than indoctrinated adults who are fresh off the biblical ark. One of the most important life skills is free thinking, and I encouraged this so much in my own children that it is intrinsic to their thought processes now. One effective method of encouraging and teaching free thought processes actually has nothing to do with questioning religious doctrine. That is just one path that develops later. No, you encourage your children to think outside the box by allowing them to explore your authority. You, the parent, are the leading role model and authority in their lives, and while your children must respect that authority, never discourage them from questioning and verifying your role outside your own declarations. When you use the attitude of "Because I said so", you are actually stunting the learning curve. One learns best by exploration in thought, so allow these trips outside your constructed realm of parenting. Additionally, respect is very important; I doubt I need to dedicate a whole paragraph to this pillar of self, but one thing should be said. Respect, while given, does not always need to be earned either. Esteem for something and respect for it are very different things. Not everything in life is give and take. By insisting respect must be earned you make the willingness to give respect a commodity to be traded for unnecessary platitudes and ceremony. Essentially, unless otherwise known, assume everyone deserves respect. Finally, I breed self appreciation in my children. This is an essential piece to being secular, in my own personal opinion. I want my children, as cliche as it sounds, to appreciate who they are. To appreciate who you are, why you are, strengths and weaknesses, teaches empathy and accountability. You can fully appreciate a larger portrait of what individuality truly means. And by having the ability to look at the whole in oneself means one can do that in relating to others. All of these main pieces to my parenting has rendered open minded inquisitive children, who decisions are mostly well informed and extremely fair. I have little to no worries about how they handle awkward religious situations overall. So, back to my eldest son's experiences at a charismatic (Pentecostal based) church this past weekend, and how he carried himself during the two hour service. I had planned to take him to a charismatic service myself, but my fundamentalist parents beat me to the exposure when having him over for a night. It should be noted the grandparents know damn well my kids are secular. I've made it clear I didn't want my children exposed to this sort of thing without me present at first, as well. So much for that. Undermining me is nothing new in their play book, but ultimately, I think it worked out. My thirteen year old got the full Pentecostal sideshow. Anointing of believers, prayer circles complete with talking in tongues, music induced spirit slaying, choreographed interpretive dancing, a five minute lesson on the Trinity, and Jesus tag. It couldn't have been more perfect. Oh, it was. He mentioned he really enjoyed the refreshments. Can't be a good service without a snack and some juice, am I right? He found the lesson on the trinity boring, and could barely control his laughing when telling me about Jesus tag. Essentially, the goal of the game is to infect (tag someone as it) with the Holy Spirit. He thought that was semi perverted in a funny way, and I agreed it was a good thing they called it Jesus tag and not something like "clergyman tickles". "Talking in tongues was really weird," he said,"because Grampy is a steward, so he was in a prayer circle around some people, talking that nonsense." He also felt awkward with his grandmother next to him with arms up high, doing the same as Grampy. My son knows it isn't a real language, and struggled to reconcile this kind of clearly misguided emotional abandon. These are two grown adults he just spent the better part of a day with. Ate dinner with. Played video games and fed chickens with. People he can laugh, cry, and joke with. And here they were, disconnected with reality, participating in rituals. My son better understands someone moved to tears by the vast beauty of a starry night over the Grand Canyon than a group think situation in a tiny church building. This teenager is learning how to view, and treat, irrationality in those he loves. And unlike diagnosed mental illness or drug abuse, he has a completely invisible adversary. An adversary that stole two hours of his visit from his relationship with his grand parents. Truly, he was mildly incensed that his grand parents chose a two hour church service as a priority above a rare visit from him. The music and prayer was annoying, and he said most of the kids were glad to go to youth class so they didn't have to witness the adults' service. "Those kids were NOT happy to be there. Seriously, they were miserable." Seeing one's parents jumping, writhing and dancing in the spirit of the Lord put performance pressure on these other kids. "Someday," I explained,"they will be out there doing it too." "Do they have a choice?" "What do you think?" He didn't answer me on that one, possibly he already knows and is glad he had a choice. Either way, he left there with independently gained knowledge, confidence in his lack of belief reaffirmed. He doesn't debate anyone yet. I discourage that until he has studied what he wants to argue, and he seems content with that. For now, he just hones his religious shut down skills.
  3. TheBluegrassSkeptic

    Purposeful Childhoods

    Some days, I sit by and physically go out and watch the world, and other days I watch the television. Both provide me with flashes of childhood and adulthood, insight and regret. I might catch a glimpse of small child, say about three, struggling with a parent, unsure of where they were going, but having some unknown blind intent declaring not to go the way of urging. The parent, in the midst of trying to reason with the child, is sure of where they are headed, a clear purpose in mind. This scenario always makes me pity the child. Pity my own childhood. The lost time of intentional purpose. The type of purpose that lasts a lifetime, and is your ultimate goal. I look at the average lifetime expectancy for members of my family, which is roughly 76 years. I spent nearly 24% of this time as a child, a minor by law. I didn't get a real sense of who I am and what I want to do until I hit 30. I realize that for each person this number varies, but it is still staggering to me, and I will say, grossly unfair. In all honesty, I would have been happier to have a more focused childhood. I don't always think we are doing our young a favor letting them live day to day. I do believe at some point, maybe when they hit 10 and 11, that we could start to focus them a bit more. Whether it be towards the arts, or science, anything but just living day to day without a larger picture in mind. I know the argument could be made that we are indeed giving them a larger picture in mind. A larger picture of just becoming an adult and living as a "good" person, but I feel that is innate within most of us anyway. I know my parents were not good teachers of living as good people, and I still have managed to figure it out for the most part without them. Why aren't we inspiring big picture thinking in our kids? Especially pre-teens, when it comes to life? I'm not talking career goals necessarily, but at least a general focus on a particular interest. Their brain cells are double and tripling during this time, this is the prime time to expose them to this type of thinking! This is the time for that self discovery that helps form pathways and interests to a truly productively full life. I know it was during this time I glanced onto writing much by accident, and if it hadn't been for all the shit I caught from friends and family for what I was writing, and instead maybe some focused guidance, I might have started the journey of authorship a lot sooner, and more successfully. Additionally, I would have found my spot in the Universe and the comforts that go witht hat realization a lot sooner as well. I do not agree that letting "children be children" is good enough. We are not robbing our youth of happy memories and childhood experiences by encouraging them to think ahead. I'm not talking about the ridiculous nature of dance schedules, sporting schedules, and band practice. I do agree there is an issue with parents trying to get their kids to do too much. I'm talking about a common interest and start focusing them early on it. It isn't hard to pick up early on what truly gets your child's attention. It isn't hard to see what is a passing fad and what is a common thread in their minds. A great example would be that of my eldest son. He's 12 and has an intense interest in design and creative arts. Everything from building Lego projects to wanting to learn how to go about forging ancient style weapons. His fascination for the creation of things is astounding. You can never go wrong buying him a book with illustrated examples of Steampunk themed creations or a visual encyclopedia of weaponry from the Stone Age to Present. He literally wears those books out, trying to understand how they were created. He has been like this since he could crawl. As soon as he was able to get out of his bouncer, he was crawling around it, and literally disassembled one before the age of 1. Did the same thing with many of his toys. It wasn't until he was about 8 or 9 that I realized it wasn't so much an engineering interest, but actually liking to create mechanisms of enjoyment. Didn't have to have a purposeful use, he was more into the art and aesthetics. So, we are following along, keeping him tuned into that. Everything else has faded by, but the art remains in his intentions in everything he does. Yes, he'll probably be a comic book guy with a side fancy for gadgets to compliment cosplay. In all seriousness. Hollywood artist is probably where he'll end up, and that is awesome. Like myself, he sees the value in creation. It's your ultimate thumbprint on the world. Yes, I'm a little pissed about how unfocused my childhood was. It didn't help I had very selfish parents to begin with either, but it seems like a double burn to me at times. If you don't already actively help your child think big picture, it is never too late to start. Trust me, your encouragement will be cherished in the long run, and I believe it will provide even more fond appreciation for growing up within your child's reflections when an adult.
  4. TheBluegrassSkeptic

    #shitmas - A Remembering Of Holidays Past

    It had been hours since I had left my home, children in tow and my boyfriend behind the wheel of our once gently used 2004 Subaru Forrester. As we seemed to run into endless red lights, street lanes filled with like minded holiday shoppers and travelers waiting for the red glow of waiting to become an emerald hue of continued lack of turn signals, ballet circles between lanes and generally frustrated driving attitudes, I wanted to say the hell with all of it and just go home. This notion wasn’t a possible reality, of course. It had taken twenty minutes to get my two sons to get their shoes and heavy coats on amid protests of wanting to stay home and play video games. My man would most certainly say no to the idea because he was on a mission to make me happy, and the previous twenty minutes of determination to get the boys out the door signaled to him I was determined to get out of the house in order to be happy. It is his mission to make me happy, regardless if I change my mind because he has heard enough of the boys and just wants to get this done. Like a determined military general leading a final push through enemy lines to get to the base with the weapon stash, my boyfriend is weaving around cars that hesitate more than a half second when the light eventually goes green. He is peering up at the overpass above us, and at the regular back highway we are currently on, trying to decide which way would save us even the slightest of seconds because I have to get to the store and be happy dammit! So I sat there, trying to tune out the irritating squabbling of smart alec threats of “telling mom” if someone inched too far past their side of the back seat. All this to pick up presents, food, and …. I don’t know what else, but I’ll think about that once at the store. If I remember, once we get there. After all, I have two sons to keep after, a boyfriend who will most certainly wander off and leave me on my own while dealing with the pushy crowds and disorganized aisles of goods for purchase. The type of shopping adventure where you will find the item you need, but naturally the right pricing sticker is no where to be found on the shelf. This means that with two over stimulated kids in tow, you will try to seek out any employee of the store possible, and more than likely this will happen when you check out since you couldn’t find anyone before hand to answer your question. Now, not only do you have a mystery priced item that you really need so that you make Aunt Martha’s cobbler recipe perfectly, your children begin to play with the disarrayed shelf of toys by the checkout register, and you have a line of at least three people behind you that are now doing that “thing”. The “thing”. You know what I am talking about. We’ve all done it. Where we glare at the back of the disruptive shopper’s head, psychically kicking him/her in that same head for bothering to try and go through checkout when some of the items are not priced. After all, isn’t this the busiest time of year where we have to get presents, food, and those other things I can’t think of right now, to make our celebration the most heart warming, thoughtful, and delicious time of the soon to be passing year? Forget the need to make sure everyone around us gets this experience, it’s just about our family and our celebration. This dumb ass trying to get a price check on an item at checkout just needs to tell the cashier to keep the item and finish checking out, right? Let him/her go to a different store on the way home. What’s another round of navigating through a store with obviously rambunctious and rebelling children in tow? Yeah, this is Shitmas. Trapped in a nightmarish adventure of getting in and out of the car for at least eight or nine stops. You originally planned to only go to four places, but it always doubles because you realize the original store didn’t have the item you needed priced, and you figured the hell with it. Hand it back to the clerk and try your luck at the next stop. The day is still early; it’s only noon time. This couldn’t possibly take all day. Right? Eventually, my sons have turned into zombies. It’s pushing into the late afternoon. Shuffling along quietly, my eldest son’s black shoe string lazily flopping along the polished floor of the local superstore as it drags behind his black gym shoes, his red coat hanging off his head by the hood and he is twisting around, making the loose arms swirl around his torso with that annoying whooshing sound that accompanies the polyester material it is constructed with. I’ve given up telling him to not do that because “you might hit someone with your coat as you walk by them.” I know I told him to stop at least forty two times, having not thought to grab away his coat from him. What’s the point? I have been bumped by carts, ran into by stray children of some other stressed out parent, and have had at least three different shoppers have someone join them at the register with fifteen more items to scan. Why not live vicariously through my son’s annoying tango with his coat in the middle of the department store’s walk way? Let him whack a few people on my behalf, and unbeknownst to him, I’m smiling in side when that annoying lady who insisted on parking her cart in the middle of the toiletries aisle was smacked across her ass by his coat sleeve as we pushed through her pitiful blockade. I will get my toilet paper, and I refuse to turn around and walk all the way around and back up the other side of the row to get to it. Why? Because by the time I get back around the other side to the toilet paper, she will have pushed herself further down towards where I need to be, making the entire exercise of avoidance completely pointless. My youngest is leaning on my lover at this point, begging to be carried or plopped into a shopping cart. He is only seven and easily floats from mindlessly bored to suddenly excited when seeing a brightly colored cardboard box with a prominent graphic of a pirate plastered across it. We are near the toy section of this store and the onslaught of excuses to stop and push the display buttons and demo triggers has begun. Naturally, I just want to move on, but I will try to use this section of the store as a momentary reprieve for my boys. Let peruse for a few minutes. He pushes the button on Buzz Lightyear, reciting the mantra “To infinity and beyond!” He spots another box with a Spider-Man figure and accompanying mask for a child to wear. Pushes a couple snoring Santa Claus figure buttons, causing the pajama clad holiday giant to snore loudly, only in triplicate. Things are going good, but the minutes feel like hours, and I pull him away, promising this is the last store and we will go home. Of course, I still have to make two more stops, but he doesn’t need to know that yet. I’m counting on him falling asleep on the car ride home. Naturally, our family stops for some food on our way home. A spilled Dr. Pepper and tears of a tired child grace our repast within moments of feeling relaxed and out of the hub bub, and that is when I can officially call it quits. Screw the cobbler, I’ll buy some Jell-O pudding! That means the last stop will be the gas station a half mile from my house. Kids are groaning as we park in front of the Thornton’s. My boyfriend eyeballs the Red Box and I know I will be taking the boys with me into the convenience mart. 89 cents for a fizzy freeze the signs read. 69 cents for a Reese’s peanut butter and chocolate Christmas tree shaped candy. Everywhere I look, signs advertising treats and all of them are easily read by my seven year old who desperately wants something, ANYTHING, just so he has a reason to feel happy after our arduous day out in the world of consumerism. It’s half past 8 p.m. We are a half mile from our house. My dogs are in the kennels probably screaming to get outside, and my youngest, and now my oldest’s interest is perked, want to go on a shopping spree inside a gas mart. What the hell…… And I do what any tired mother would do. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes…hurry up. Yes, yes, yes… Let’s go. Yes to everything, just c’mon. It’s beginning to feel a lot like Shitmas. Two multi-flavored freezies, bags of candy, beef jerky sticks, and a couple scratch off later, we get the hell out of there and make it home eight minutes later. Five minutes later, everyone is in the house, bags are left by the floor, freezies left in the car, the dogs are let loose on the yard, and as I ease into my recliner, it hits me. I forgot the pudding.
  5. The title of this entry says it all, doesn't it? Yes, my youngest son stood up to my father regarding some background religious insults that were being thrown at me when on a visit. The situation when down as such (according to my son): Grandpa (my father), went to pick up my youngest son to go out to dinner one evening. At some point, going from pick up back to my parents' home, Brett said that I don't love God. Grandpa then said that is sad, and that I love the devil. Yeah, not a lot of context there, but that is my youngest for you. Now, I first thought maybe there was a misunderstanding about what Brett heard. The boy is not the most accurate of reporters, and he didn't give me a reason why he even mentioned the fact I don't love God to my father. It isn't a huge family secret, I am very much out as an atheist. So, I asked Brett how the conversation came about and he said he didn't know. Personally, I know my Dad has a tendency to audibly thank his deity quite regularly...even at random moments while walking through a store. The guy just feels the urge to blurt it out. I think he had one of those "Thank you, God" moments and my boy chimed in his own thoughts on the comment. See, my youngest son is 7 years old. At that age, kids are very curious about the world and beliefs around them. He knows I don't believe in deities at all, and he has been to church a couple times and heard about Jesus. He clearly has not made up his mind on the matter, and I leave it at that. He goes to church now and then, and we discuss why deities can't be real now and then. A nice little balance. I really think he used my lack of "love" for God as a stepping stone to a broader dialog about lack of faith and what that means to a believer, only he heard something so atrociously shocking, he had to ask me about it. Anyway, my child is adamant his Grandpa said those exact words. Since I have caught him making up stories about conversations with friends in the past, I called his bluff and said I would call his grandparents immediately. I reiterated that this was a very serious phone call I would make and asked him if he was sure about what he is saying or if he was just joking (like he would normally say if fibbing). Normally he would panic if not telling the truth and he really does enjoy my parents, but on this occasion he didn't bat an eye and agreed I should call them up. I ended up getting a voice mail, and honestly, I laid it on really thick with my son able to hear every word I said, so if he wanted to renege on his accusation he could and nothing would be stirred up since I could abort the voice mail. I made it clear on the message to my mother that my son insisted that Grandpa told him that I love the devil. I told her that no matter what their beliefs were, I expected my children to be respectful of them in their home so long as no danger was imminent. I expect the same in return. Additionally, I told her I would not allow any further contact with the kids since such comments about me and Satan were highly inappropriate, and that I could tell he wasn't lying about what he had heard. So unless proven otherwise, their relationship was severed. Mom called me back about fifteen minutes later claiming that these conversations did not happen at her house and that she never heard my father ever say anything like that to my son. She said, and I quote this,"He is such a God loving man, Amanda. He would never say such things." Imagine that in a deprecatory tone. I made it clear to her this isn't about what SHE has heard said by my dad, but what my son says he had heard. She assured me that a discussion would ensue shortly with my father and would call me back. I made it clear that my decision to sever contact would remain in place unless I knew my boy either misunderstood what had been said or proven a liar. She then began to back peddle a bit saying that she has heard my boy say that I don't love or believe in God, but that they don't say anything in response or just agree with him and move on to a different topic. NOW she wants to admit that in fact these discussions have occurred. "Let me talk with your Dad and find out what is going on," she says nonchalantly like it isn't a big deal. "Well, you better. I wouldn't normally lend complete credit to my son about this, but Dad has said the same thing straight to my face many times over the years, Mom. This wouldn't be the first time he has done this." "I know. I know." About another half hour goes by and she calls back, this time I put it on speaker phone. No, she says my father didn't say anything like this at the house, ever. I tell her that I will try to get my boy to "break". What I mean by this is get him to admit he is confused about what was said or is lying. It isn't very hard to do. If he is the least bit unsure about what he heard when pressed, or is lying, he will "break" and admit it. I tell her he will apologize if he lied, but not if it is just a misunderstanding. Naturally, my father is not participating at all in this conversation, which is really raising a lot of red flags in my mind. Again, we hang up, and I go talk to my 7 year old in the other room. "Can you do me a favor, sweetie? Can you think really hard for a minute about your talk with Grampy and what he said about me? This is really important. If you heard him wrong (I give him an out), then it isn't a big deal, okay? It's important we get this straight." "He said you loved the devil, mommy. He picked me up from Daddy's, and we were almost back to his house and I told him you don't love God, and he said you loved the devil." "Are you really sure? This is really serious." "Yes, he said that!" "Are you willing to call Granny and talk to her?" There is no way in HELL he would want to talk to her if he were lying. "Sure." So, to really test him for a bluff, I pulled out my phone. The dial pad was lit on my phone screen, I looked at him and began to dial. Not a peep of protest. This kid was being honest. Still, I went through with the dial, and I assured him I would leave it on speaker phone and would step in if anything got mean. He didn't seem phased at all, in fact, as soon as my mom answered, he demanded to know why Grampy wasn't telling her the truth! Straight out of his mouth with authority! MY stomach was in knots, but obviously his wasn't. My mom of course told him that lying wasn't nice and that he makes up things sometimes and he needed to stop it. He immediately responded, calmly I might add, that he wasn't lying and then retold what he told me about the car ride conversation. "You know what, you need to talk to Grampy," she says in an authoritative tone, thinking that would scare him from the phone I guess. My mother always used Dad as the bully stick. If I made her mad, she would say,"Wait until your father gets home!" knowing full well that meant he would take the belt to me. Sometimes, she wouldn't even warn me. I would go to bed, only to be woken up at midnight and have him yelling at me and hitting me with his hands or a belt. He would get carried away on occasion and she would step in telling him to stop, but always doing so calmly, and never checking to make sure I was okay afterwards. My father was her personal pit bull, and she just sicked him on my 7 year old. I looked across the bed to him nervously, hoping he would back away and finally admit he was confused about what was said, ANYTHING, but not be subjected to my dad's wrathful temperment. My son didn't flinch or back off the phone at all. As soon as Dad got on there saying,"Boy, what is goin' on?", my boy leaned towards the phone speaker and said,"Grampy, why are you lying? You said mommy loves the devil, remember? In the truck?" "I don't have those conversations around here, son, and you need to think about what you are doing right now. Lying ain't nice." My mother can be heard in the back ground at this point telling him it has to do with the truck ride, not conversations at the house. See, mom wasn't in the truck that day, it was just grandfather and grandson, and I could tell she was panicked a bit. Dad says to her,"I don't know what happened in the truck. I don't care about that, and I don't want to be a part of this either. You hear me, son? You need to think about what you are doing. It ain't right to add things on to what is said. I'm not going to be a part of this. I don't know what your mother is trying to stir up, but I don't have those conversations. You need to quit adding things that didn't get said to conversations." My son looked like he had been smacked, but he wasn't looking sad, he was looking angry! He leaned over and said loud and clear,"I am not lying, and you did say that. I don't want to come over anymore." "Excuse me? What did you say?" "I don't want to come over anymore. Bye." And he got up and walked away from the phone, going back to his video game like nothing happened. I was floored as I hung up the phone. I was sure I would have to step in somewhere or that my boy would tear up and admit he lied, or something, but he didn't. He didn't even break a sweat, and I envy that. I was so worried about his well being, but I think it was because of my own unresolved feelings of intimidation and anxiety when dealing with my father, I just assumed that would be the natural reaction for the child as well. Apparently, I still have a lot to learn about distancing oneself from emotional situations involving my children's struggles with family and friends. I can't let my own baggage overshadow their own coping skills and obvious ability to handle it. This is the same lesson I learned when my eldest daughter proudly proclaimed her atheism on FB and she had my father, and another family member ramming scripture at her from every direction. I was worried about her feeling intimidated, but then I saw she simply deleted their comments and continued on. As she put it, "I don't force my beliefs on them, and I don't think they have the right to do it to me." Man, I've got a lot to learn from my children.
  6. An atheist mother and her two younger, impressionable kids, walk into a Family Dollar store in a city in Kentucky. It's October 19th, and in just twelve days, their favorite holiday will arrive. Yes, Halloween! So the trio eagerly makes their way through the usual malfunctioning door of the converted mini-mart and excitedly round a few aisles to check out any last minute decorations that might be for sale. Then the unthinkable happens as they find the decked out orange and black aisles of Halloween fan fare. Just above the glitter encrusted pumpkins and mega packs of jelly filled eyeball candy hanging off a display hook, there is a familiar red and white Santa hat sticking above the shelf divider. Groaning in disbelief, mom asks her twelve year old why there were Christmas displays being put up just a week after all the Halloween items had been fully stocked? He shrugs, and walks around to see what is being offered, returning a few seconds later looking rather nonplussed and saying it is the usual crap. So, the small group continues perusing the meager offerings of the macabre and spooky, laughing sometimes when they notice angel wings from the other side of the shelf outlining a devil's mask. Yes, Christmas has officially landed. In my home, it has been a gradual transition from hollowly celebrating the motions of the holiday for the sake of the kids, to now not observing it at all, and instead holding a New Year's Day celebration. Santa died a slowly drawn out death into non existence amongst our children, but the trade off has been a good one. I have learned that completely putting my foot down and knocking the practice of the holiday itself is not an effective way to explain to kids the fallacy behind it all. We prefer conversations in our home, and the holidays are a fantastic medium for it. Especially when exploring other cultures and what their observances entail on such occasions. You can imagine the delight my children experienced when I read to them about Saint Nicholas resurrecting three boys who had been chopped up by a butcher during a famine. And the whole deal with the Yule log was a particularly fascinating story that ended up leading to a deeper thought on the naivete of early man and his understanding of the sun. In essence, our lack of belief in deities has brought us closer to what so many Christians strive to accomplish on Christmas Day: Observance of the value of family, and observance of the meaning behind the holiday. We value the stories and the lessons to be learned from the fable told. Too often I watch religious families break down with aggravation and stress due to the high demands they impose upon themselves to make the Christmas holiday perfect, completely sidestepping what they are supposed to be observing. There is such a pervasive selfishness within the workings of the Christian observances, it is hard to imagine how they take anything away from the experience at all. Which is more memorable during a holiday? A pumpkin pie or a meaningful conversation? A wrapped present, or the closeness you can have with the person who bought it for you? I cannot understand how anyone gets the "reason for the season" from a wrapped up IPad. Giving a gift to impart a religious message is not logical, especially so when the gift is way cooler than a 2000 year old religious book. Further, you have all of the excessive gift giving being enabled by the talking heads at Fox News and the AFA claiming their is a war on Christmas because a Walmart sign only says Happy Holidays. I would argue these same people that decry the generic Happy Holidays slogan are, in fact, encouraging the religiously faithful to lose sight of what the real message is for their culture. It is not the secularists asking the AFA to shut the hell up who are declaring a war on Christmas, but in fact, it is the AFA who has declared the war. The AFA and other pundits like Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity should be avoided if one is truly concerned about the sanctity of Christmas. I doubt the three Magi who visited baby Jesus had any concern as to whether the markets they bought the gifts at were observant of Christian culture or not because it did not matter. After all, all things supposedly come through Yaweh, right? So, what's the problem? If one is concerned about where they purchase gifts and if that store is willing to acknowledge Christmas on a simple store sign, I would recommend they get back in their bawbles. Earthly possessions are not important and to put such value in whether you purchase a 99 cent Christmas toy made in China from a Walmart without a sign worded with Christmas versus the Kroger that has the desired verbiage is ridiculous! All of these antics above were the main foundations for my family completely tossing away the Christmas observance altogether. There is such a negative connotation with the holiday anymore. It's too commercialized. You are supporting sweat shops. Kids are not appreciating what they are given. You aren't showing enough respect to Christ. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Now we enjoy a gift giving celebration on the 1st of every year. It makes sense that with a new year beginning, one should get a few new things and look back on accomplishments from the previous year while looking ahead to what is in store during the next.
  7. TheBluegrassSkeptic

    Discussing Tragedy With Children

    "Mom, what happened?" My eleven year old son's curiosity was peaked when seeing my emotional and very teary eyed face yesterday afternoon as I watched the Boston Marathon bombing coverage on my lap top. Looking up at him, I realized I had to tell him something simply because I didn't want him to have it explained by someone else at his school the next day. Up until this point, he really had not a single clue as to what had happened other than my obviously distraught demeanor. See, I was on my laptop. I also had my ear buds in. This mom likes to keep tragic news and graphic imagery under wraps from kids until answers are to be had. I do not condone keeping children up to the same pace as the rest of the world unless their safety immediately depends on it. So, here I am with my eldest son wanting answers and there really weren't any answers yet. What do I say? What do I show him? Obviously, I told him what happened. Explosions at a world famous running event in Massachusetts. Many, many, many people were hurt, some were killed. They don't know who did it yet, but law enforcement was on it. Then, the next morning, he is on his way to school and I told him that if the school shows any news coverage with graphic pictures, I want to know about it. He has seen 9/11 images at school, which I am not pleased about. So I told him to not watch until he got home and let them know he does not have permission to watch news coverage of the event. I also decided to warn him about what people might be saying. Where I live, many people are prejudiced against those outside a European heritage. Phrases like "We should just kill 'em all" is tossed around a lot, and I do my best to make sure that my children understand the problem with that type of attitude and judgement. I related that some news outlets were saying it was someone of Middle Eastern descent which in turn might mean he has friends running their mouths about people of the same heritage. I emphasized not only how wrong this type of stereotyping is, but it can be dangerous. I recounted some episodes of violence against Sikhs after 9/11 because folks were too ignorant to know the difference between cultures, let alone that they shouldn't blame all for the actions of a few. Of course he immediately agreed and identified with what I was saying. I also made it clear if anyone was joking about the bombings, or joking about how funny it would be if the school were destroyed, that he should get away from those kids and report it to a teacher immediately. After this ten minute or so discussion, he asked me just how bad did it end up being. So, I opted to show him a couple photos. One of the explosion plume, and another of the now empty, blood soaked sidewalk. That was enough and clearly made him understand the gravity of the situation. I also explained that there was a mass bombing event across Iraq that same day, and scores were hurt and injured. So again, if he heard anyone running their mouth about any type of racial stereotypes he was really going to give them hell for it. This is the kind of communication I have with all my children on varying degrees of information. I think it encourages empathy, a big picture outlook about the world they are a member of, and that regardless of how scary the world is, it is not the majority of experience. Then they had a bomb threat later that morning at the school... Oy...
  8. TheBluegrassSkeptic

    Breaking The Cycle Freed My Mind (Reblog)

    **This is a reblog since I have some nosey relatives following me around on the net. Might as well just give it all out there, right?** I have been on a journey of disbelief in religion for my entire life. Over the last six or seven years, I finally reached that final destination of atheism and am confident in who I am and what this means in my life. Getting to that point, has been one hell of a fight of control over my life. Only child, born in the late 70s to a Pentecostal family, I was indoctrinated early on in life. My earliest memories are not without this church. This place of worship was a kind one, filled with a lot of love and enthusiasm. I do not remember a single sermon threatening fire and brimstone, but we only attended until I reached 9 years of age, so I never got anything more than learning right versus wrong and the evils of temptation from Gospel Bill shows. But I had been involved in the church long enough that the motivation to succeed at being a good follower of Christ was already burning within. I remember the day I asked Jesus into my heart. Pastor Jerry was knelt next to me at the pew and leaned over and asked me,”Amanda, do you want the Lord Jesus in your heart?” My mom was standing near by, tears streaming down her face with pride, and naturally, at age five I did not comprehend what it meant to let this guy name Jesus in my heart, but I liked the attention so naturally I said yes. I was baptized a week later. Several months after that a select number of us from Sunday School were gathered in one of the quieter classrooms, and we were taught about speaking in tongues. Then we were encouraged to pray, and feel what god was trying to tell us. Then we were encouraged to vocalize what we were being told. Thus began the recruitment competition for a gifted child in the class. I tried so hard to hear what the Lord was saying. He spoke through my mother all the time. My mother sung in the choir, fervently spoke in tongues when services reached a fevered pitch during the singing and prayer, and was generally an obedient wife. I wanted to be the same naturally. I prayed and prayed. I wanted my chance to be in the light and acknowledged by something positive in my life. I started praying, feeling that desire to know God, or know acceptance in general. I even kick started the process by mumbling under my breath Boom-shaka-laka. It sounded similar to what the adults would say when they prayed so maybe this would put my own tongue on the right track? Needless to say, after about 20 minutes the spotlight landed. But it was on the girl next to me. She actually was crying and speaking in tongues. She had me beat. And so did my father. Ironically, my father was active with the other "brothers", intensely studied the Bible, and believed that Christ would surely come back in 1988. With my mother, they seemingly modeled the picture perfect family. Naturally, the model didn't match the reality. My earliest memories of my father are angry ones. Shouting behind closed doors, hearing various items crash off the sides of the walls, and his general contempt for me and who I was. I ended up being angry and depressed early on. My mother often defended his abusive rages. Needless to say, I continued to wet the bed until a very late age (nearly 12), habitually lied, stole and destroyed items that were special to them out of anger (this started by the age of 5). I was one hot mess, and either received whippings, slaps, punches, threats, and even forced to pack my bags several times over by the age of 8. My parents did not seek true professional help for me though. They would speak with the pastor of the church, or their religious based marriage counselor who tried to explain to me (on only two occasions) that the lying, bed wetting and theft were symptoms of my flesh overruling my spirit. Not very helpful, but pretty much teaching me it was my fault these two adults couldn't maintain their marriage. All this under the pretense of religious duty. We dropped out of church for a year. I am unsure what the falling out with the church was all about, but when they banned my grandfather from seeing me anymore around that same period in time, I overheard the accusation that dad broke away from the church because they wouldn't help with childcare. Either way, we ended up at a new church called Trinity Fellowship. It was in its beginnings and we held services in an elementary school gymnasium on Sundays. Eventually, a new church was built. Good memories during those days. Life wasn't as angry at church. It was a fresh start. That year I was abused sexually by my father as well. Mom was ill and hospital ridden, and dad panicked. Not excusing it, just what it is. I remember him sitting on my bed one of the mornings afterward and apologizing for what he did, and not to tell mom since she was too ill to handle the news. He assured me he would talk to her about it. Naturally that never happened, but at the same time, in a way I wasn't angry at first because it was the first time I received attention from him that didn't involve being threatened, screamed at or hit. This was 1988. Mom eventually got well and came home after a month away. God didn't return, and I remember hearing the screaming and yelling behind closed doors again. Mom trying to pacify this monster of a man and items crashing against the walls again. I remember laying on the couch downstairs, pulling my grandmother's handmade afghan over my head and crying out of fear. Church members eventually showed up and counseled my father, but after that night we randomly attended church. The physical and verbal abuse escalated once again and I behaved even worse. Still no help. By the time I was thirteen and fourteen, I had begun sharing what had been happening to me with friends, but with all the habitual lying I had already been caught at, no one would believe me. You would think they would connect the dots with my behavior right? I had NEVER spoken of being mistreated. I had lied about simple things like attending a concert I hadn't really been too and such. That is when I realized that despite my dad's behavior behind closed doors, the man actually had a sparkling reputation in our town. I couldn't bring him down, or my mother, a first grade teacher of some nearly 20 years at that point. Needless to say, at 16, I ran away with my very first boyfriend and got married. We ended up having two children together in the 3 years we were together off and on. Sadly, the abuse cycle continued with me. During this time I found myself completely rejecting God in my heart, but would still call on Him to help me during times of stress. When I look further back on my life and the things that had an influence on my belief and lack there of, I think the two biggest factors that contributed to my waking up would be the family history of abuse I had to confront, and the fact that since I was 5, I was reading newspapers, keeping involved in world debates and in general educating myself in my free time. I just wish I could have applied it sooner and avoided all the heartache in my life. Needless to say, it all hit a crescendo about 8 years ago. My youngest daughter, at this point 8 years old, and much like myself, experienced abuse by her own father and uncle, add to that my frustration with her misbehavior (bed wetting, lying, theft, violent rages towards her siblings). I couldn't get help from her doctor, the schools wouldn't step up, and I was so poor I couldn't get her help. Add to that my own personal life drama. I was so blind and lost in my own problems that I ended up whipping her with a belt one night and turned her bottom black and blue. It is eery when you suddenly have an epiphany and look back at that moment. It only took 15 minutes after whipping her for my blind eyes to open to the reality of what I had done. I'd become my father. Needless to say, I immediately called my ex-sister inlaw (remarried and divorced again by this time) to come over, along with my newly ex-husband. We went to the hospital to document everything, had the kids go home with her for the night and contact the appropriate authorities. I called my mother, ashamed for what I had done and neglected to do for my daughter. I needed someone to talk to, and since my parents had alienated extended family, they were the only people I had to call. And I was dumbfounded at her reply when I told her what happened. She literally asked me why I would have bothered to get children services involved? That was it. I was finished with God. I realized what a delusion I had really been living under. I was dismayed at how I had neglected to step up and pay attention to what was happening in my home because I was so wrapped up in my own blind search for answers. The last 8 years has been a process of rebuilding my life. Confronting my demons and getting help, not trying to pray them away. I will not show the arrogance of my parents and take the attitude that if God forgives me, then that is enough. I want to make sure that this stops, and stops NOW. I was ordered to only 6 weeks anger management by the court, but I opted to extend that and attended intensive therapy for 3 years. I served time in jail, worked on a reunification program, but realized my life was so unstable I needed to protect my daughters, so they were lovingly adopted by a wonderful family near by. I still have contact with them whenever possible, and overall, their life is stable, safe, and they are getting the right structure they need to be sure that they know what normal is. I never would have accomplished any of this recovery if I had remained with a church. My own father is attending yet another church, but I highly doubt he has confronted what he has done with other church members. I know he has still never admitted the full truth to my mother about what he has done to me sexually, and she was there when he verbally and physically hurt me and did nothing. I hold no hope for her whatsoever. I still get reprimands about how I live in sin and need to find god in my life. And I look at the examples I have personally seen, I look at the transgressions against my own children that I had previously justified under biblical thought, and I refuse to submit to such blind behavior any longer. Sadly, I have been to several different therapy groups and have met many more in my shoes, and I realize I might receive some heavy handed criticism here for my transgressions against my family, but I want others out there who have been victims, and have created victims, to know that you have to take responsibility and step forward out of the haze you are living in.
  9. So, my kids like reading about Zeus, Osiris, and even the Japanese Kotoamatsukami. With this, I thought, well, why not rewrite the biblical stories a tad? My kids ended up LOVING this one better than the previous. Especially because I discount the importance of the mystical creator in the end, and show the creator put trust in the creatures to handle themselves without him. ********************************************************************************** Once upon a time, in a faraway realm that none had seen or had the scope to imagine, there was a being. In this place beyond understanding, this being was quite uninvolved and uninteresting. This entity was very, very boring. Nothing to be done, nothing to see or hear. Just constant nothingness as far as the eye could see. Before our existence materialized from the vast encompassing nothingness of what we today suppose would be space and time, this being just was. No histories were lent to its doings. No happenings. No thoughts. No emotion. It. Just. Was. And at some point, in this being's existence, an awareness awoke. We cannot say what time or place, for without a history, there cannot be time attributed to it. With it existing in a place that is unfathomable to our mere mortal consciousnesses, it is hard to say what, if any circumstances , prompted its awareness. Yet at one moment, it became aware. Most surely this thing felt creative because at this exact moment, our beginning began. "First," thought this creature, "let there be space and planets." With a blink, there was suddenly a new realm, called space, that appeared with stars, galaxies, and icy comets. In the midst of all this wonder, a little round planet formed from spare space dust and gas; very dark and motionless. This being instantly found inspiration in such a small muse and decided to make it more magnificent than any other planet in the galaxy. So, knowing such stillness and shadows would not do, this being again set to create something else even more spectacular. In front of our planet, a giant, fiery star of heat and fire came forward by mixing in bits of comet, bits of left over asteroids and a lot of extra gas that was built up from all the commotion of sudden existence. And by making this Sun, the creation of night on one side of the planet and day on the other happened! Since the sun was so bright, even at night, while one half was in darkness, there was still light as the Sun's rays illuminated a distant moon in the distance. All that was left was to put the tiny world into a steady motion so that all the planet could enjoy the beauty of night and day. Thus the orbiting solar system was formed. Like any good artist, while observing what was created, a realization popped into the mind of this magic like creator. The little planet now had night and day, but was nothing but water! Vastless, empty, cold, and very, very dark water. Thinking that while water was beautiful to look at, a little variety would definitely be in order, with a simple thought, massive mounds of land rose from the depths of the azure oceans. Ripping through the surface of the waves came forth mountains; the land pushed the water down, creating the sky. And as water receded from the summits of these mountains, plains were formed, and many rivers sliced through the valleys to allow for plant life to begin to grow. And at the end of the day, when the birth of sky,dust, and dirt had settled, this being sat back and admired the work that had been wrought. Much work had been accomplished in four days, but still, there was a sense of something missing. Land, water, sky and plants. Still, this world seemed empty. The sky seemed empty during the day because of the Sun's blinding light, so birds were made in all varieties and colors to please the eye and stand out in the glaring rays of sunlight. The oceans too needed more use. The vegetation had spread across the sea floor and so fish were created to help maintain the growing fields of seaweed in the ocean bottoms. And then a thought occurred, for the being grew weary on this fifth day. Instead of constantly making new creatures, why not let the animals interbreed amongst same species? More types and colors would occur naturally and save creative power for better things? Further than that, why not let happenings in the weather, food and even star dust from space have an effect on what comes forth as life? Variety is a good thing! And with that fantastic thought, the mystical being made it so, again taking a break and enjoying what was wrought. On the morning of the sixth day, it was time to tackle the idea of creatures on land. Land was a special place. Anywhere you walk, you can feel the dust between your toes, the long grass tickling your shins, and the bushes and trees brushing your hands. While observing all the activity that was hustling and bustling in the skies and waters of this art project of a planet, a sudden thought occurred. The rustling on the land was only that of leaves and grass. And with that realization, every kind of creature for every kind of terrain began to appear. Monkeys filled the trees, ants burrowed into the ground, horses filled the plains with their bodies paced at majestic gaits. Every kind of creature that could be imagined sprang forth. Not all survived that were created. Some fell off the mountains, other drowned in the rivers when trying to cross, but the being who created them planned this to allow for young to replace what has died. Also, some creatures that were created for land, were just a bad idea in general. But, all creatures were designed to improve if given enough time. Some would find ways to camouflage, others would find ways to improvise tools. Those that were meant to survive, would find a way. When all was said and done, this mysterious being who only days ago had no inspiration or inclination to BE, became further inspired to CREATE. Lunchtime rolled around, and after an afternoon of watching and being amused, a spark of further wonderment popped into the thoughts of this omniscient planet builder. If it weren't for the creatures, this would be a rather boring place to look at after awhile, and it occurred to the entity that a short walk through the forests and plains was in order because a view from space could simply not do justice to the appreciation of such a breathtaking place! So down came the creator, and while on this walk through the many lands created, and while observing the beautiful blooms of irises, and the striking flowering of the lotus, there was a warm feeling of contentment and pleasure rushing through this creature's soul. The guffawing of the donkey gave such a rush of pleasure that the being couldn't help but say aloud, "Isn't this wonderful? Isn't this marvelous?" And with much dismay, there crept in the realization that no one responded. Instantly, knowledge of what was missing became clear. Intelligent life was no where to be found. How could one appreciate what there was to be had if not intelligent enough to realize how good it was to begin with? Certainly it was impossible for the creator to create more intelligent beings. Creators cannot create creators. So, looking around on the planet, much thought was put into which creature would best develop more appreciation for its surroundings? Observing the tiger, at first, because of the adept movement and ability to hunt, it was quickly discarded because it played with its food. Fish were out of the question because they could not survive on land, but land creatures could swim in the seas. Definitely a land creature would fit the bill, but which one. And while sitting there, carefully evaluating all the creatures available for potential, a small monkey fell out of the tree nearby. Watching it with captivated interest, the monkey's group members called out to it, reached out for it, and even came down to find out what was wrong and help it back up the tree. Nimbly walking across the land, easily harvesting food for its group, and most certainly could cross water if necessary, the mysterious being decided that potential for appreciation and development lay within the hominid species that was created some days ago. On top of that, seeing the basic foundation for such behavior was already apparent in this species, the being decided to not worry about such things since they would most certainly take care of themselves, and went back to space from whence it came, observing and enjoying the spectacle of the little planet below that is now called Earth. To this day, no one knows for sure how we were created. Some say a magical being did it, some say it was the mixing of different elements in space, and others say we were slugs that crawled off an asteroid millions of years ago. Some say it was a little of all three! What do you think? ****************************************************** I just wanted to reiterate this is a rework for my kids. They are 85% atheistic in their views at this point, but they love mythology and understand the ridiculous nature of it. That was the whole format for this as well.
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