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Still have any Gods? If so, who or what?

Found 67 results

  1. "I miss the good old days. You know, when things were simpler and purer. Like Mayberry was." A good friend of mine laments on this idea every time we get to drinking and talking about our childhoods. He genuinely misses those days in our lives when life was simple, and common decency ruled the land. The funny thing about his pining for this era of yesterday is that it never existed. Wanting life to return to the ways of The Andy Griffith Show is probably one of the most ridiculous notions in America today. Seriously. What makes it worse would be the fact that many Americans believe things should return to Mayberry-like conditions. They wish for this small town's worldview whenever they hear news about legislation that favors quicker immigration being considered. They cry for Mayberry's Christian family values whenever they hear that another state is willing to allow gay marriages or offer benefits to these couples. Even politicians use the good old times excuse when passing discriminating legislation. Take Asa Hutchinson, governor of Arkansas, for example. He was going to sign into law one of those Religious Restoration Acts that have been growing in popularity lately. After receiving backlash in Indiana, he became nervous about what he was signing in to law and ultimately decided to send the legislation back for revision instead. Hutchinson isn't the only example of politicians trying to pass zealous legislation across our great country. Many of these bills are passed through state legislatures at an alarming speed all across America right now. They are being promoted under the guise of protecting personal freedoms. Measures like these so-called Religious Restoration Acts are nothing new, but there are also a few types that are narrow and explicitly targeting minority groups like the LGBTQ communities. Child Protection Acts aim to prevent same-sex couples from adopting children because conservative groups believe that not only is it immoral, but these couples are forcing unnatural ideals on their children. At the end of the day, and a lot of wasted taxpayer money fighting them, these bills generally do not get very far. After deciding to back away from signing the Restoration Act, Asa said that "... In ordinary times, this bill would not be controversial, but these are not ordinary times." When one talks about ordinary times, s/he is referring to the charmed life portrayed by shows like Mayberry. I hate to break it to you, but the circumstances in Mayberry never existed in America. Never, ever. Never, ever, never, ever, ever, EVER. People watch that 1960s family show and treat it as an honest representation of the all-American family formula for success: god, common sense, and small government. This governor I was mentioning had grown up watching this show, as well as other programming with similar themes. He didn't understand that Mayberry, while being set in the 1960s expanding economy, was based on the simpler times of the 1930s. There was a desire for nostalgia to be brought into the show, and that is why folk music, church, and focus on the family was incorporated. So, what does this have to do with America's attitudes today? Let's go back to the 30s and have a look. Many say these were the good times, but how accurate is this statement? The main point of success when talking about the 1930s would be the increased desire for simple living, and that was out of necessity. Passion for simplicity brought an increasing demand for folk music and art. Jobs were scarce thanks to the Depression. Add an agricultural disaster like the Dust Bowl on top of it, and food had become scarce, too. Tradition became king during that decade before WWII broke out, and so did a tough as nails attitude when faced with the desperation to survive in a wrecked economy. Mayberry never bothered with any of this information. It used the 1960s as the story's backdrop to help keep the ugly realities of the Depression away. The Andy Griffith Show was brilliant in its almost seamless meshing of our conservative past with the modern societal trends of the 1960s. Writers of the show used earlier traditional values and the modern conveniences of the future to create an idealized example of American life to entertain us. Americans everywhere watched this show and considered it a standard of reality. But in truth, it was an illusion. It was a cushion for the depressing news of Vietnam's bloody loss of lives. It was an escape from the television coverage of the draft, desegregation, and riots in the streets at major university campuses. Mayberry never truly existed in our history. The good old days, depending on which generation you look to, never had it as good as Mayberry. The entire purpose of The Andy Griffith Show wasn't to highlight reality but to soften it. It hid the ugly racism that demanded blacks to sit at the back of the bus. This show avoided the sexual revolution occurring across the US and instead focused on what was perceived as wholesome. This is what television shows were supposed to do back then: provide a feel-good atmosphere to distract its viewers from the harsh reality of the world around them for a little while. I doubt the writers ever intended for its young audience to actually twist that small town into a distorted remembrance of a real time in history, but that is what happened. Indeed, the producers never intended for their little-imagined village of impossibility to become an actual goal for modern society. Still, that is what many who long for the good old days want to see us become. They want modern convenience, traditions of the past, and all the issues of the world to resolve themselves via a limited standard of reality. If you don't want to play along, go away and be quiet so everyone else can be comfortable. If you don't be silent, then they'll legislate your silence. These ultra-conservatives refuse to accept Mayberry's perfect storefronts, comical barber, and admired sheriff as the illusions they truly were. Much like their Bibles, conservative Christians cling to the idea that simpler times are a panacea for all things wrong in the world. After all, on the streets of this Vermont town, there is less temptation and less opportunity to wander off the divine path to Heaven. There is also the assumption that if everyone is godly, then society will automatically improve. This is something that Mayberry never remotely insisted upon in any of its episodes. Thankfully, Mayberry had several individuals that never quite fit in. Despite not fitting in, or even genuinely conforming, one character really did have a positive impact on the town. I think you all know who I am referring to in particular. Yes, Ernest T. Bass is who I'm talking about. Deputy Fife saw him as a nut. Myself? I think Ernest was an innovator. He showed ingenuity, determination, and a knack for making people think outside their own interests. This outcast even managed to garner support from Sheriff Taylor himself, all while clashing with the fundamental principles the town operated on. Of course, he wasn't the only one who showed doubt about the moral reasoning of his fellow townsfolk. Fife's character would often challenge reason. There is always wiggle room in the relationships depicted on the show, and even a willingness to understand different points of view on issues. One episode, in particular, demonstrates this dynamic of the show when Barney believes in psychic powers. You see that Andy indulges Barney's agnosticism about Aladdin's lamp. While this particular scene tries to be humorous, it shows a willingness to meet in the middle, and at least discuss why a person feels a certain way. On top of that, you also see it is okay just to agree to disagree and still be friends. This is how society should work to be successful. How all these genuinely beautiful examples of functioning society have been blatantly ignored in favor of an impossible one-size-fits-all lifestyle is beyond me. Many evangelicals band together because they share a common belief structure, with little care of how crude and divisive their behavior is to the society around them. They isolate themselves from the rest of America's citizenry. When one would rather be pit against the entire world than be willing to compromise, one will learn that this mentality will cost them dearly in the future. Someone needs to conclusively demonstrate that strength isn't necessarily in just numbers anymore but in that of overall unity on issues and goals which are inclusive. Being contrary simply because of cultural differences is both foolish and costly for our future. Will ultra-conservatives ultimately decide to leave our shores and found their own country like the Pilgrims or Puritans? I hope not. The Pilgrims at first found England too corrupt and oppressive, so they tried to immigrate to Holland. But once in Holland, their children began assimilating to Dutch culture, and this was unacceptable, so they returned to England. Over time, they left again, this time hoping for a possible future in North America. What happened once arriving in America? They started to divide against each other and formed their own separate churches. You had witch trials. Heresy charges. Adultery. Capital charges included methods that gave one jail time, public whippings, and more. The bottom line here is that Christianity has to quit running away from the world and consider picking up a few lessons from other cultures. This doctrine and its leaders obviously can't handle it out there on their own. They are continually running away from accountability and insisting everyone else must conform to their standards to avoid it. It's time for them to make reasonable accommodation for the world around them, not the other way around. Also, ultra-conservatives must begin to acknowledge the harm being caused by their repressive legislative tactics against those who don't follow their ideology. There isn't a stretch of land large enough or a television show whose interpretation is well-written enough to give these political zealots the perfect theocracy they desire. They are often the authors of their own misery, eating their own when confronted with non-conformity within their ranks. This constant demonstration of cognitive dissonance is foolhardy and oh so limiting in understanding how the world they live in actually works. Here's a reminder of what the 1930s simple life involved:
  2. "I'm going to Kurdistand in March. I'm going to fight ISIS." Not something you want to hear from a long time friend. Especially when it is followed up by, "This is something I believe in." Plenty of other platitudes followed. Empty assurances of safe zones he would be assigned to, all the while I am well aware of the ground war going on in Kurdistan, and know damn well what he thinks will happen isn't even close to the truth. Yet, this is a noble thing to do. Fight a treacherous, unconscionalbe enemy who must be stopped at all costs. It's the noble thing to do. I think it is extraordinarily foolish. The Kurdish forces battle against ISIS isn't anything more than defending a territory that isn't recognized as theirs, having grabbed large amounts of land as ISIS decimated other regions of Iraq. Both sides of this coin are somewhat rigid in their belief systems. The only difference between the Kurds and ISIS would be that the Kurds want to secede from Iraq and become their own state, not caring what happens to the rest of the world around them. ISIS is on a rampage, spreading Islamic law, or at least their version of it. It's an ideological war. And I refuse to believe it is noble to sink to the level of both parties involved. No, I don't think so. As I see it, there aren't any good or bad guys in this conflict. In fact, I would argue, they are both quite bad, and one is notably more violent than the other. Will my friend be able to handle the fire fights? Will he be able to kill the scourge called ISIS that stones women, hangs gays, and shoots dissenters? Will he be able to do this and turn a blind eye to the Kurds doing the same to their own people as he fights for their freedom to do so from the oppressive force known as Deash? The whole situation seems utterly useless and a waste of time for a foreigner to participate in the turmoil. Simply put, how do you justify killing one to allow the other to essentially be doing the same? Still, he wants to do something about all the carnage he is seeing. An atheist, completely wrapped up in the media storm of pain and suffering in the world. Wanting to do anything he can, even if it means giving his life. All under the notion of being noble. And what does it mean to be noble? What exactly is an act of nobility? Honestly it isn't much different than being moral, and we already know that the standard for that varies person to person. Much like the guidelines set out by many religions and cultures in this world, the concept of being noble follows along the same line. A preconceived idea of what constitutes a morally sound person or act. It's religious dogma 101, straight out of Phillipians. Killing doesn't seem to fall under the word noble. Seems killing for a moral cause would fall under vigilanteism. And even worse, if this killing is a desperate attempt to feel like you are making a difference in the world, then you aren't doing anything more than committing a self serving sacrificial act. Almost a Constantine type of move that will give you near martyrdom if you die. What's noble in that? This desire for martyrdom to gain recognized accomplishment in life is a big problem on both sides of the belief system in America, and globally for that matter. Everyone wants to run out there and be a hero. Running headlong with blind ambition into war zones filled with starving children, mourning mothers, and slain fathers. A conflict ravaged country side filled with underage rape of parentless children, puss filled bellies from starvation, and deadly disease that a five dollar prescription normally would cure within a week. It isn't just the dread Deash forces committing the atrocities. Many of these civilians die by the hand of their own countrymen who are fighting desperately to survive in a treacherous time of land wars. He can't just stop at killing the baddies on one side. To be noble would to show no quarter to anyone who participates in any type of inhumanity against the innocent, and the Kurdish forces would not stand for him to shoot their own too. One man's idea of beauty is different to the next. So is the idea of nobility, and how such an act is to be carried out. Regardless, I hope he doesn't get his head sawn off with a shitty field knife in the deserts of Iraq. I hope he makes it home. He won't ever be the same from it though, and I think he underestimates how bad things are. I sincerely hope this noble cause provides enough of a fuzzy blanket of denial for when he sleeps at night, so those dead empty eyes of those he killed in a religious war aren't haunting him with the purely futile and unconscionable behavior that he participated in. I love you, Ave. But there aren't any respawns in this game, and you can't repair your COH in the real world. Shits ethereal.
  3. 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!
  4. 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/
  5. 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.
  6. 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
  7. 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.
  8. "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 ***
  9. 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 ***
  10. 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....
  11. It was one of those little paper cups that one can put ketchup or tartar sauce in. A white little bowl of pressed edges and a crimped rim. Almost origami like. Just a shallow condiment cup that, at its bottom, held two impossibly small pills that held too many promises to believe. Help me sleep. Help me calm down. Help me have control. Help me feel normal. "Help me," I said to myself as I swallowed them down unquestioningly. This cup was my first introduction to psychiatric care when I was twenty-five years old. All these promises contained in a cup that was the size of a tablespoon. Goals of recovery pressed into the shapes of oddly colored tablets. I numbly took those medications, thinking at least for a few days I could get my bearings within the controlled confines of the hospital psychiatric ward. I would have one on one interviews with a doctor everyday for the three days I was under evaluation. Group therapy twice on each of those mornings. Arts and crafts for relaxation. After my three days were up, I might be forced to stay longer, or be released back into my world of fucked up living with nothing but referrals I couldn't afford to use. Welcome to the American mental health system. You could always get a diagnosis and medication in an emergency, but unless you're a danger, good luck after your hold was up. My own visit to the ward had to do with depression, scary thoughts, and an irrational desire to just run away from the world. Literally go back to the streets. For a long time, my rationale had always been survival. I didn't know how to exit that mode of thinking. I didn't really put any roots down and had little problem just moving on to new environs. That wasn't working out for me very well since I would struggle to hold on to jobs thanks to depression leaving me too miserable to even show up for the day's work. And the thoughts of death were almost hypo manic at times. It was literally driving me crazy. I didn't comprehend why I was experiencing all this, and assumed I must be genetically off balance. Every where in my family there was depression, suicide, violence, and so on. Obviously I must be a chip off the old block. At this first stay, the doctor did his best to help me sleep. Remeron, Respirdal, and Geodon were what I ended up taking and it barely snowed me under to sleep. Acute bipolar disorder with hypo manic tendencies was the cause explained to me. I lived with, and accepted that diagnosis without question, for nearly six years. Six years of failed medication attempts. Six more years of temporary homeless episodes. Six more years of suicide attempts to avoid feeling useless. Six more years of angry rant filled outbursts at family and friends. Six years of intense self loathing. I hardly remember those years. Probably because I barely survived them. What I remember most clearly was my last actual suicide attempt. I've never been able to go the pain route in death. My goal had always been to just not wake up anymore. Pills and alcohol were my usual instruments of self destruction, and in the midst of my family completely imploding after relinquishing my daughters, I tried again. To be honest, I think I succeeded momentarily. The doctors who examined me later agreed. My heart did stop at some point, and why it fired back up is a mystery. I remember all the bourbon I'd finished off that night. Had to be at least two fifth size bottles. Then I grabbed some Risperdal and Vicodin, and washed them down as I lay on the floor near my computer desk. I was happy in the moments before I blinked out, but only because I thought I was truly free at last. No more waking up. That was my last thought. It was about a day later when I woke up, and it was a struggle. My vision was watery black. Reminiscent of looking through a dirty periscope, it was an off center view and appeared tunnel like. My brain seemed to process my surroundings at a three second delay. It was hard to breathe too. That sensation of my chest feeling too heavy to inhale must have kick started adrenaline, and I managed to roll onto my side, barely feeling the rough textured carpet against my face. But as I lay there, straining to breathe, my eyes seeming to drag slowly back and forth in my eye sockets, I saw a piece of paper across from my face on the floor by my desk chair. It was a picture my oldest daughter, then about eight, had drawn for me. Just a simple drawing of me that she'd given earlier that month, but seeing it there discarded on the floor just hit me so hard. The way it just lay forgotten and taken for granted seemed to crush my spirits even more into dust. I was so ashamed of myself and my selfishness. I don't know how I did it, but I managed to get my phone off the desk and call for help. This suicide attempt didn't land me in a psychiatric hold. No, they sent me home the same night after that one. For about two more years I continued accepting the bipolar diagnosis, but instead of mostly focusing on the right medication combination, I prioritized self management and self awareness. I did have another hospitalization in that time, but not for being suicidal, just irrational thinking. That stay was more beneficial than any other because I realized my warning signs much sooner. Eventually I found a great therapist, and we realized I was not dealing with just mania, but PTSD. In fact, the mania was related to it. Three years of behavioral therapy, cleaning out of my emotional closets, and here I am now medication free. I have complete control and pretty much know how to manage in trigger situations. I also eliminated a number of people who would purposely trigger me in order to have control over me. I removed my mantle of illness. I let it be the definition of who I was for so long, that I had allowed it to relegate me to a non contributor in my own life! I believed I would be hindered forever, and it took a third of my life so far to find out it wasn't true. But that is how mental illness is treated in this country. I hope it changes. Not everyone can make a good recovery, but the lack of quality care and comprehension of mental illness leaves many hopefuls lost in the dark and feeling like there isn't a chance for real living out there. This has to change. We shouldn't rely on luck . There needs to be better standards of care with more than just medication goals and brief well checks. There needs to be future prognoses that are promising functionality and independence, not a non stop regimen of being treated like an invalid. ***Want to read more? Check out my short compilation with an additional nine new essays not published anywhere else. http://www.amazon.com/Badge-Survival-Amanda-Ashcraft-ebook/dp/B00UY2FOAU/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1426995310&sr=8-3&keywords=the+badge+of+survival ***
  12. 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?
  13. I hate to admit this, but I have a trophy folder on my laptop. Not game trophy images. Not racks of deer I've hunted. Not the typical photos of my children standing all posed with academic or sport awards. No, it's a folder full of screenshots. Frozen images in time, with winning moments in debates with religious followers who attempted sparring with me about belief. There was a time when I wasn't feeling confident about my lack of belief. I didn't realize it then, of course, that this was the case. On a daily basis I needed to feel superior, and crushing my opposition in an argument was my go to fix for said lack of confidence. It's not atypical to have doubts about your perceptions on life, death, and the Universe. It's even more common to find affirmation of yourself in the failing of others who have a different view than yourself. In atheism, it's often referred to as the angry atheist phase, and likewise in Christianity, I've heard similar behavior for affirmation being called the "crusading for Christ" phase. Both sides of the coin are still seeking justification, and I don't think either party realizes it's a lack of self belief. Now, I'm not talking about general discourse here. This isn't friendly debating I'm referring to. No, this is about the condescending "debates" that devolve into semantically driven arguments that lose the focus of understanding, and instead try to gain mental points for each zinger that can't be topped. You know, an old fashioned pissing contest. Anyway, I really started looking forward to these text based gladiator events. Entering various forum arenas. Sometimes just a comments section on CNN would provide challenges that would spawn day long battles of words, shared links, and pasted text from one scholar or another. Looking back, I can see how ridiculous I was, but it was a necessary place for me to be at that time. And for some, it will always be their preferred method of affirmation. And there isn't anything truly wrong with that. Like anything in life, there is more than one way to skin a cat, or in this case, justify your personal belief style. Though, my personal experience has shown me non believers tend to step away from the argumentative proof seeking. I don't know yet about the religious though. Some of my close Christian friends who range in their late 60's to early 80's, while not full of fire and brimstone anymore, still never fail to end a genuinely friendly discussion with,"Well, you'll find out later." A bit of a double edged joke. Recently I was having a discussion about this meme: It's fairly innocuous. You could see it as I did. A referencing to the early doctors of dissection who stole cadavers in order to continue their study. A tip of the hat to human determination to understand himself, if you will. One poster interpreted it as a good cop - bad cop reference. Mental inquiry of the third degree. He also made an interesting self statement. He mentioned that while defending his faith, the onslaught of people who didn't share his view often trolled him; they would leave him feeling sick and outnumbered. I think many of us can relate to that completely. Every counter to my perfectly thought out rationalizations for disbelieving would send my mind into a manic tail spin. Adrenaline would literally start pumping. Heart beat racing. Fingers slipping all over the keys as I would hurriedly to try to pound out a well crafted response to any loose ends I perceived I had left out there. So what changed? How did I go from an apex atheism debate predator to a quiet circling observer that was happy to just munch up insightful tidbits from the parameters? I started celebrating my disbelief. I took a page from some theists I know and applied some of their own dogma to my atheism. I began sharing more joy. I began empathizing. I picked my battles more wisely with the perspective I gained form listening and comparing experiences. Add a touch of more humbled attitude and I discovered my personal confidence in my convictions. This eliminated a lot of self inflicted negativity I would experience when in mixed faith groups and discussions. I've become the atheist that religious leaders absolutely despise. Calm, collected, confident, and convincing. I don't have be an alarmist. I don't give immediate argument when questioned. I'm downright affable and compassionate. I shock the shit out of people all the time with how giving I am. Even more flabbergasting is my genuine desire to understand while politely declining to join. Evangelists don't know what to do with the secularists who embrace the differences while maintaining boundaries. These religious leaders can't compete with real life proof that pulpit propaganda is bullshit. These leaders are totally scrambling because there truly are atheists out there who have no problem with religious believers, and are living examples of what Jesus meant by being forgiving. They can't blind their followers forever unless they lock them up in a cave. So, how can one celebrate their disbelief without sounding like a door to door missionary? By experiencing everything you can without dogma coloring it. By having those conversations with religious folks and not focus on who is right. By taking advantage of real discussions, and enjoying the fact you don't have anything to prove. Appreciating your own decision making skills on what is right for you. No where in the scheme of things does it say,"Whatever you personally believe must be proven 100% true." Contrary to what the internet seems to perpetuate about society, we aren't operating on a Reddit forum. Personal freedom is a simple concept, but with peer pressure and the daily conflicts of self, it isn't an easy thing to practice, even in our minds, the most prized of private personal space. Trust in oneself, along with publicly displaying it, is a difficult road to travel. Nothing is above questioning, but questioning isn't necessarily a judgement, and one must constantly be reminded of that. There are days when I am reading an off the tracks discussion, and I see the same traits of offense being taken by atheists that you can see in a theist whose beliefs have been questioned. This is why people like the commenter on my meme, get physically queasy. It's rattling to the very core of personal belief when being asked about certain aspects of faith, or lack of in my case. Rushing to defend when really, all they have to do is answer a question. This can cause an individual to to misplace the value in their personal choice of belief, making one look for the value by how many people they can successfully argue down instead. And when you don't win, or feel you could've done better, where's your confidence then since it is founded on the failure of others? So, Zomberina, are you saying we need to be blindly following whatever we want so long as we feel good about it? No. If you reached a place where you are committed, I am saying you should personally own it. Not gain your assurances by trampling on the beliefs of others. Simply put, don't allow yourself to be in a defensive position, but that of celebration instead. You'll find a more rewarding confidence outside the fray. This is just my take on it all, of course. As always, remember this:
  14. "Anyone who believes in that shit is an idiot. Feeble minded and stupid." Man, that is pretty harsh an assessment of those who believe in religion, isn't it? It's even harder to hear when you don't share the same attitude towards theists. Worse? What if that was your lover talking to you? These type of atheist attitudes can be difficult in a relationship with a friend, family member, or lover. I've found myself in this type of scenario, and in public no less, and it completely jived against everything I felt towards the religious. It's a broad encompassing judgement. As I have matured over the years, I have tried really hard to put the huge paintbrush of stereotyping away, and limit it to some extent when using it. The problem is that both of us grew into our atheism, and how we practiced our non belief. So what do you do when your partner is content to be almost Hitchen's like in demeanor towards religious believers, and those who won't outright condemn belief? I varied between completely disassociating from his displays, including not following his FB feed any longer, to trying to point out that it wasn't a fair analysis to relegate religious practitioners to complete dumb ass status simply for their beliefs. There wasn't a happy medium to be found though. I really was not comfortable with his level of vitriolic condemnations of the faithful. He didn't appreciate my own diplomatic thoughts on needing to tone it down. We were clashing in our disbelief. It changed my view of him. It changed my valuing of his opinions in my own atheism and thoughts on humanity in general. I didn't trust him with my own opinions and thoughts on the subject any longer, and quite literally declared it to be an almost off limits subject. It can be said he probably felt the same on some level. At some point, he definitely thought I couldn't stand his views on religion and thought little of him for being so arrogant. I know he was aware of the various groups and blogs I would post to, and he certainly felt like an outsider before too long since I would rather discuss with complete strangers than the man I shared my bed with. Of course, we also quit playing chess and Monopoly because of conflicts over how it should be played. He was also big on conspiracy theories, and I was always debunking his claims with Snopes and other sources. There were definitely other conflicts going on, but this was a pretty big one. It's like a Baptist being married to a Methodist. Their belief styles can be vastly different in practice which can cause some stress. Sometimes to the point that you have a difficult time even accepting that person in your life anymore. I know that back in 2008, Barna had conducted a research on marriages with atheists and religious, and had concluded atheist marriages last longer. They also concluded in a 2003 study that the irreligious get a tad bit more stressed out than the religious do. Essentially, this study (https://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/5-barna-update/119-views-on-quality-of-life-are-most-influenced-by-money-and-faith#.VO-tWSxO1pM) pointed out a few findings about how atheists and religious folk look at stress, and what things stress them out. Atheism has a large number of built in stress factors, the top reasons being public distrust of who we are, public scrutiny of our lack of belief, and religious fear mongering about how horrible we are, along with the more common stress of simply hiding our faithlessness in order to preserve our community we are dependent upon. Everyone deals with such stressors differently, including how to react and treat such horrible response to our unbelief. Coping mechanisms include fight or flight, pacifying and instigating, along with hiding or being open about our lack of faith. What do you do when you are in a relationship with someone like myself who is openly godless? What if you are not open about it? Do I have to censor my own relationship with you in the public eye in order to preserve your sanity from insane evangelical relatives that would put you on a published prayer chain in six different counties around you if they found out? This is what unequally yoked atheists deal with. One might be an anti theist by nature, while his girlfriend might be more humanistic. How will this affect children being raised in the relationship is a huge clash factor. One parent might feel it is essential that the child stand up against indoctrination in the classroom, and the other parent might completely take the attitude of wait and see. These are serious relationship issues any atheist couple can and probably will face at some point if they are with someone who is a polar opposite in atheistic practices. Unlike religious doctrine, there isn't a set of rules to follow. There isn't a right or wrong way to be an atheist, but like other social behaviors we look for in a potential mate, one should carefully consider the situation when dating a fellow atheist. Take myself for example. I'm openly atheist. I'm politically active. I have a blog spilling a lot of personal experience and information for all to see and judge. There have been a few blogs I've posted that have made a partner flinch due to the raw and uncut nature of the entries. An incredulous level of disbelief that I would put something so intimate in the public eye seemed to just flow out of this person in response. I'm not with this person anymore, and have made a point to make it very clear with others I might date that this is who I am, and I share it all. I'm taking my time finding the right people to be around me. I love my godlessness, and thoroughly enjoy my humanistic tendencies. This is something I hope to find with others, especially someone I share my most intimate of life experiences with. I also want to make sure that I can handle how others display their own disbelief. Hopefully I find someone who is either just as enthusiastic as I am, or at the very least doesn't see a big deal about it and lets me continue doing what makes me happy: writing, sharing, and being active in furthering understanding of non belief. I've come to accept that this desire is a deal breaker for me, and while that might seem like an extreme attitude, it's who I am. I figure the sooner I warn someone about that particular trait, the better chance we have to find a happy medium....or not. Still, I know that this particular discussion might be a "well no shit, Sherlock" type of entry, but I do find a bit of arrogance about atheist based relationships. It's a given that atheists dating the religious usually leads to very stressful relationships. We also know that religiously based relationships have their own set of stripes to bear, inflicted by the doctrine they choose to follow. Yet, it is hardly discussed what type of relationship woes atheists run into. Most assume it is your typical run of the mill problems like bills, kids, family, etc. Rarely do many blogs, forums, or atheist foundations speak on mismatched practices of disbelief, and I hope this changes. Evaluating the healthiness of godless relationships is very important as we see the trend of long term relationships without marriage continue to rise, along with how many identify as irreligious. There are plenty of pressures added on a couple's shoulders simply because they don't believe or ascribe to any kind of idol worship, and it's important that they have support out in a world so biased towards sanctified unions.
  15. Craig Hicks made headlines this week after brutally gunning down three UNC students over an alleged parking space disagreement. Many are saying in reports that his aggressive response was part of a larger ideological motive. Deah Barakat, 23; Yusor Mohammed, 21; and Razan Abu-Sallah, 19, were of Muslim faith, and Hicks is a self declared atheist. There are postulations abound to be read about Mr. Hicks and his deadly act of violence against these three young people just getting their feet into the grown up world. I have had a difficult time of making fact out of a lot of fiction, but consistently throughout the numerous articles, blogs, and forum discussions, one thing is clear: No one wants to claim Hicks as part of the tribe in the atheist community. Yes, many agree Mr. Hicks is indeed an atheist, but that's as far as it goes. The bright spotlight glaring down on us unbelievers is making many heathens squirm, trying to end discussion on the definition of atheism alone, and then even encouraging us to be even more individualistic in practice than unified. To throw our hands in the air and cry: Atheism is only a lack of belief. We got nothing to do with it from there!" This isn't just pathetic, it is downright cowardly. How many of us are raging with incredulity when yet another pastor has been caught hurting a young child, and all we hear from the faithful is: "Well, he wasn't a true believer in Christ if he did that." How can our own role models, writers, and outspoken scientists use a fair turn about strategy in response to Hicks and his despicable actions? I'll tell you how. Narcissism runs deep in human nature. Atheism, like other cultures (yes, I see it as a culture of sorts...another blog), has a problem with it too. See, narcissism is one hell of a defense mechanism. It pushes one to keep above the fray, even if perpetuating a state of denial in order to do so. That is why you hear the same moving of standards every time the religious, or in our case irreligious, are confronted with negativity in something held dear. We cannot have it both ways, friends. Right now, atheism is the boon of the free thought movement. It is also one of the most least regarded ways of moral structuring in the world today. It is a hard concept for those hard wired with doctrine to grasp the idea of setting your own standards based on your surroundings and culture. The notion that there isn't one set of moral standards to be followed, an absence of an engraved tablet of Do's and Don't s, scares people. Many folks would rather be trapped with a rapist in a stuck elevator than one of us godless blights on humanity. When we get bad press by the likes of Mr. Hicks, what are we supposed to do? It would seem the whole catch and release type of damage control is our default mode too. I would put forward that it is true that atheism is only about lack of belief. This very straight forward standard has a confusing effect on the masses though. For some reason, folks think that is where atheism stops, but that is not the case at all. The reality is, unlike Islam, Christianity, or even Hinduism, because atheism has only that single standard to be met, we allow for complete freedom of practice within our simple label. We have atheists who are sexist, racist, thieving, bigoted, and so on. You can be a buggerer of sheep for all I know, but your lack of belief qualifies you as a member of my ranks. I cannot boot your identifying as an atheist because you have a sexual penchant for sheep. Mr. Hicks is a murderer. He is also an atheist. He is part of my community. His actions are a wake up call in our family of non believers, and I hope you are listening. Unlike other faiths who disavow any association with members who sully their doctrine's image, we need to embrace Hicks, crimes and all, as a parent guiding a son or daughter. We cannot dictate a man's personal freedom to surround himself with bigoted tendencies. We cannot force another to drop his Hammurabi's Code notion of conflict-resolution as Hicks did. To the world communities hurting and watching our response, we can show a larger sense of accountability. Demonstrate we accept the laws of the land we live in, and that any difference in our personal ideologies or life style choices will not rise above those governing laws. Namely, thou shalt not kill. We can show a larger sense of presence in respecting the governing laws of the communities we live and participate in, and amongst our members. This isn't about making atheism have humanistic traits. That, to me anyway, flies in the face of individual freedom that is inherent in atheism. Mr. Hick's is not bound by law to respect anyone. Identifying as an atheist does not bind him to embrace humanism either. Unlike many of the supporters of Shariah, whether Islamic or Christian, we do agree that he is not above the governing bodies he lives under. We agree that he is not free from the consequences from his actions. We agree omnipotent beings have little to do with the situation, and we hope Hicks gets served appropriate punishment. He is, however, bound by the laws of the land to not take the governing legislation into his own hands, let alone deal out his own values on human life. Embracing horrendous acts committed by atheists, whether in the name of a particular lifestyle or not, is essential to being taken more seriously on the world stage. If we continue to perpetuate the same measures of avoidance as all the religions we don't ascribe to have done for millennia, I wouldn't trust an atheist anymore than a rapist either.
  16. Before you begin this blog, and if you are not familiar with Shalom Auslander's writings, I ask you to enjoy this podcast from This American Life that reads a brief short story of his called Chicken Coop For The Soul. This story is the basis for my discussion today. 8 minutes of your life, go ahead and listen. http://m.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/369/poultry-slam-2008?act=5 Okay, so hopefully you listened to the piece and I ask you, if you could reveal the truth, would you? Even more than that, should you? Obviously, this is a very situation based type of decision. If you were to actually be a first hand witness to that which is considered godly, and it went against everything ever taught, it's an almost unfathomable scenario. Whether Chicken made it clear it didn't matter to Him what you wanted to do with your life, despite your teachings, or the harsh realization you'd gone without for no gain, it seems a no win revelation. First, who would truly believe you? Secondly, would they even want to listen? Gabe seemed to point this out pretty clearly, and I wonder if the refusal to even consider the notion that everyone has their deity all wrong is due to confidence, or fear of not having a larger power in control. I tend to lean towards the latter reasoning. Maybe if there were a better scenario to be offered in Chicken's place, you might be given more credibility. But to just rip away the very foundations of a person's reason for existence never seems to go well without a consolation prize. Most of all, should one reveal the truth if it is known for sure. And take Shalom's story a bit further. What if Morganstern came back with PROOF that was undeniable? Literally, anyone who saw the proof would know without a doubt they have been following the wrong program altogether? Should you shake it up? I don't think I would necessarily do so. Maybe with the younger generation, and I might make it clear that such belief should no longer be taught. Let it die with the older generation, you know? I can't do that. To just rip it all away feels like theft. Like taking away someone's personal joy in gardening by pointing out all their herbs are still just weeds. As long as their weeds aren't ruining my own garden.....
  17. It was another terrifying experience. One of many throughout the years. This time I woke up, face covered in tears, mind in a panic as I took a few minutes to calm down. I spent a bit longer than usual getting reoriented, my mind's movie content having hit a NC-17 for a number of things. But confirming that horrible episode of disaster and loss wasn't my reality anymore always takes a minute after waking up anyway. Deep cleansing breaths of cool forced heat assured me of what my slowly waking brain already knew. Just another nightmare. Just a mental brush with terrifying childhood programming warping some very bad life experiences. I was in my apartment. Safely wrapped up in the blankets on my futon bed in the living room, both my dogs sleeping soundly on my head. This shit gets really old. I haven't surrounded myself with the persistent teachings of apocalypse and eternal torment for almost a decade. I haven't believed in such things for slightly longer. Thankfully, these episodes rarely leave me reeling for more than a few minutes after waking. Still, why do I have to deal with it after all this time anymore? Programming of my childhood mind is why. Like everyone else, I have fears. Some rational, some not so much. The one ingredient these little terrors have in common? The way in which they manifest is eerily familiar of things I learned in church. Almost always while I am dreaming, all these nasty little insecurities and past traumas come out. And it never fails they appear in doctrine type scenarios. Like a terribly written script of Job's trials, with Godzilla marching through the fiery burning streets of Detroit after Jesus has slain the unfaithful, and the whole while Satan and Yahweh are just busy fighting over who has the bigger dick in some nebula billions of light years away. Completely unconcerned with the mayhem unleashed on the object they supposedly became enemies over. My biggest fear is losing a child again. One day, I worry I will wake up and one of them won't be here anymore. It's a terrifying thought to me. Naturally, in my sleep, my entire world is empty. I'm madly searching everywhere I can for them, keenly aware of impending danger. Nowhere to be found, I run without direction, just desperation. I am alone, vulnerable, and something lurks just beyond my comprehension, waiting to snap me up in its jaws. Maybe it's that demon of my former self I could never pull out of the mirror that I am subconsciously blurring from my mind's field of view. (Didn't read about that yet? Here's the link. Warning, sexual content. http://www.ex-christian.net/blog/170/entry-887-desperately-yours-lucifer/) Sometimes it is past trauma. Unfortunately, my father is a frequent figure in my dreaming. Along with experiences from homeless days where I can still smell the smoke ridden interior of a 1981 Cadillac I slept in all the time. These visits usually follow me for the day after or longer. I wouldn't say I get teary or angry when this happens, but my introspection is overly intense. I don't know if it's my red flag warning system going off about a situation or new acquaintance I encountered recently, but I am definitely perturbed for a bit. Feelings of being too trusting, or maybe exposed, lurk heavily during such spells. Ironically, my dreams directly regarding death and God aren't nearly as upsetting. I am disappointed more than anything. Almost a feeling of being let down by a parent over a promise to do something fun. I'm never being directly punished or paid attention to by this deity. I would say neglected would be a better description. This thing knows of me, but looks on. I guess that's the upshot to my psyche's night time romps. It at least knows where to put the blame. Imaginary saviors aren't on the shit list. Now, a few paragraphs in, you might be wondering what the point of all these nightmarish examples are about to begin with. We all have our past, right? Some pleasant, others not so much. It's the fact that some folks - certain god fearing ones - seem to think that these are hidden messages being planted by the good lord. When I have discussed these experiences with religious folk, a large number of them immediately attribute these scary nights to "God trying to help you see how much you need His grace." A scared straight style altar call, which immediately elicits from me the following response,"He wants to help me, and won't take no for an answer, so instead He plans to drive me batshit crazy until I agree?" "It's not like that, and you know it" "Why do you insist on twisting His ultimate intentions for your life?" "He's showing your mistakes for a reason." (Yeah, it's my fault I was abused...) These responses to my rejection absolutely enrage me. Somehow I'm twisting, and purposely so, what God is trying to show me. I'm twisting the dream sequences where my father's will is being remembered on my body. I'm twisting the revisiting of pain from being punched in the face until I black out by a former lover. I am totally perverting the absolute terror and panic I experience when I cannot find my children during global pandemonium in the dreamscape of my demented mind. The fuck ever. Torture me until I say okay? I spent the first thirty years of my life doing that already. I know exactly what happens when you keep saying,"Okay." No more, thanks.
  18. Most of my mornings are filled with top 40 hits of pop music as I commute to work, kids in tow. This radio station is a clear favorite for all of us with its variety, and usually I can ignore the music and let the kids enjoy a little be bopping before going to school. Recently though, we discovered that on Sunday mornings there is a half hour of programming starting at 7:30 a.m. that is evangelical in nature. "We are going to tell you how to improve your life." "Through God all things are possible." "Cynics find a way to eliminate all the good in their lives...but I am here to bring Jesus to them." Insert the sound effect of a record being ripped off the player as I heard that last line above being mentioned. Wow, huh? Cynics find a way to eliminate all the good in their lives..but I am here to bring Jesus to them. Being in reference to non believers and doubters, apparently he is confident in the converting power of the Lord and his much celebrated Son. Because, you do know that a skeptic and a cynic are totally the same? That small thirty second sound bit was enough to send my pot of coffee fueled brain into overdrive, and I realized it is important to clear the air yet again about a skeptic's thought process. Even further than that, I think it is high time it is made clear that religious folk, especially Christians, that love to misuse a word's meaning in order to make their case, are truly the cynics here. Probably more so than any other group out there. First off, let's break down blatantly obvious differences between one who is a skeptic, and one who is a cynic. In general terms, a skeptic is one who is willing to question just about anything out there, including accepted opinions. Notice the key word "opinion" at the end of that last sentence. Most skeptics are not going to question facts. We aren't going to call bullshit on the theory of gravity. Falling from a building hurts and has been clearly demonstrated as deadly. Tell us men came from dirt and women from a rib? Well, that is an awfully vague creation account. We might need more information on that. Skeptics do not just immediately doubt everything out there. We are open to the idea that nothing is above questioning. Questioning doesn't mean something is automatically suspect or false. Questioning is essential to the learning process, and without it we would have a difficult time differentiating between fact and fiction or purpose and process. It isn't our fault if religion in particular doesn't hold up to genuine scrutiny. Skeptics don't simply outright deny a belief the first time they are exposed to it only because personal bias wants them to do so. Skepticism requires a certain level of rational knowledge, which we even, at times, have a hard time being sure is truly rational. And philosophically speaking, religious arguments do not accommodate for this type of thought. Still, when confronted with a skeptic, many religious believers like the preacher on the radio, try to turn skepticism into something sinister. A normal human learning process transforms into an unyielding denial. Skepticism turns into a a crusading philosophy laden with allusions to unreasonable suspicions of the intentions of everything in the world. A skeptic is hell bent on the idea that there is no selflessness in the world, and that anyone can have anything if they are willing to only put their own motivations above all else. The skeptic is a cynic. That is what the majority of the religious world have their masses believe about myself and others with agnostic belief sets. After all, they have to be a cynic if they are skeptical of God, creation, and the morality guidelines set out by the Bible. Skeptics are just like cynics is the war cry of the religious clergymen. They can't handle the Christian's desire for eternal ease and pleasure in Heaven. Hell, the skeptics have utter contempt for getting everything easy. Pleasure? Hah! Skeptics only want misery since they clearly want to go to Hell. Skeptics are cynics! The mental contortions that some believers in faith must perform is astounding, isn't it? In reality, this exercise is yet another projection to avoid a long hard look in the mirror. I would postulate that the true cynics, are and always have been, the religious. Rigid in belief. Suspicious of anyone's motives who are not part of the same faith. Shit, one of the biggest characteristics of believers would be their insistence on anything pleasureful, like masturbation for instance, or enjoyment of a Sunday in bed instead of prostrated in church, as too easy and sinful. Apparently, without God and His omnipotently planted morality chip in our being, there is no way skeptics could do anything without a selfish motivation being involved. If we do somehow manage to save a kitten from a tree, breaking a leg in the process? It's because Satan is using us to trick that little girl it belonged to into trusting us so we can blacken her soul and molest her. We are the evil influences of Lucifer's demonic forces, out to poison the faith of others with our mere presence in the same office space. I hate to break it to you believers out there who think about skeptics like this, though I do enjoy supposedly being in Satan's upper management team, but that type of thinking about skeptical people is a cynic's school of thought. We aren't out here trying to poison your belief, we just want you to keep it to yourself. Quit forcing it on others. We aren't going to convert, and you shouldn't be try to force us to sign up either. You have to understand we just want everyone to have the right to decide on his/her own if religion is a good program to base an entire lifetime on. If you get to apply pressure to convert via legislation, in classrooms, in the media, and in your home, how is this allowing for a fair discussion? To automatically call disbelief misguided, an easy way out, an avoidance of accountability, a clear sign of evil in one's life? That is cynicism. And it's abusive at that. One has to understand what skepticism ultimately provides that cynicism does not. To be a skeptic is more than just exploration of thought. It is examining of authority. Skepticism does not demand that a guilty verdict be handed down. It isn't a judgment process, it is a learning process. It allows for the final conclusion that everyone was right after all to stand. See, falling off a building will probably kill you. But it also allows for disagreement on whether Justin Timberlake really had his dick in that box. Cynicism doesn't care if anyone was right or not, or if that singer's penis really held that box up. Cynicism says that there is only one answer, and that answer has to be what you want it to be no matter what anyone else says because disagreement means there is a selfish motivation behind it, and people cannot be trusted on their own merits anyway. Cynicism eliminates the exploration of further explanation and understanding, instead happy to just keep following a path blindly because it fits whatever agenda that is in mind and doesn't deviate from it. To be a cynic is to automatically treat everyone in the world as a guilty party to a selfish plot. It is true that both of the words skeptic and cynic involve questioning. The first questions how a belief/practice/opinion is accurate and true, and then determines the veracity of the claim, the latter questions a person's motivations only and subsequently makes a judgement based on personal biases. As I have come to understand it, religion has become about questioning motivation of yourself and others, automatically handing everyone a guilty verdict to madly spend a lifetime expunging from their Heavenly records so they don't burn in Hell. That's a very cycnical world view if I ever saw one, and just one more reason I am glad to not spend time in organized religious environs anymore. You've gotta be a die hard cynic to keep rationalizing such thought processes within organized doctrine.
  19. I am a survivor of religious brainwashing and amplified abuse due to religious influences in my childhood household. I was trained from an early age that life was a constant battle between the divine and my imperfect flesh. I was regularly made aware that there would come a day when I might wake up and find everyone I loved gone; vanished from the very face of the Earth. If this happened, then I was obviously a failure in God's eyes and had to face the Tribulation period. I would have to willingly be executed in His glorious name if I wanted to make the final roll call. I was spanked. I was whipped. I was beaten. I was degraded. My faith scoffed at. I was molested, and I was eventually abandoned. All by the time I was sixteen years of age. This type of constant conflict and abuse requires focused recovery. There isn't a self help book out there which will make me feel safe when I wake up every night at midnight, momentarily hallucinating the sound of heavy footsteps approaching with an imaginary belt in hand to beat me. Weekly counseling sessions will not begin to put a dent in my reflexive urges to hide what my plans are for my future because I worry about being laughed at, being told I am a joke, that I am not ever going to be good enough. And there isn't a pill in a bottle anywhere that will eliminate deep seated anger at the irrational fear of everyone I love being taken from me. A fear that has been pounded into my mind since I would comprehend basic language and emotion. No, religious recovery is difficult, and at times, torturous. Professional help is never a bad idea, but seeking that out has its challenges. How easy is it to find a doctor that is even willing to acknowledge the abusive cycle of religious doctrine? It is quite the task. That is why I never fail to offer large online forum information of other religious survivors, in hopes who ever is looking for help, shelter, and understanding, will find a few people to be with them through the process of deconversion. But what about once one has gotten to the stage where a love interest comes along? A desire to expose oneself into the world of another? Couldn't atheism be the tie that binds a couple together? A liaison between two individuals, much like religion does. I am not so sure about that notion lately. There is only one definition for atheism, but like any simple concept, it is applied in many different ways, even in romantic relationships. Some atheists are extremely vitriolic against organized belief. A constant barrage of intense anger filled discussion can wear on a person's good mood after awhile. Then again, the more gentler atheists seem to be humanistic in practice, while others just don't care at all anymore and have no interest in discussing the subject of non belief. For myself, recent dating experiences have been interesting ones. Most I've had meet ups with are recovering from one religious belief or another. Well, except for one gentleman I've been around the past three months or so. And as our time together has continued, where I am constantly impressed with how much we share in common, I realized the other day there is a pretty large elephant in the room that could make or break our romantic relationship, though I doubt our friendship. To the short of it, he never experienced indoctrination. In fact, the whole notion of being fearful of demons, having night terrors about a rapture, losing family over lack of belief, or just being a recovering ex Christian, are completely foreign concepts to him. He really cannot wrap his head around such psychological damage being caused by belief. And with a lack of comprehension comes a shortcoming in the amount of empathy to be given to the victim's plight. This is the first time I have met someone who had no real first hand experience with religious indoctrination, and the resulting psychological damage that can be caused by it. When I recounted to him my father's suicidal phase after Jesus didn't return in 1988, he was at a loss, unable to appreciate the level of disappointment on my Dad's part. It isn't that this fellow I am seeing isn't empathetic to the suffering of others, he just doesn't appreciate the depth of damage that has been wrought against former believers, including myself. If you've never been a part of the Jesus Christ or Prophet Mohammed fan club, how could you know? You are always just a casual observer, watching a weirdly fascinating obsession with ritualistic fantasy. Because you are never participating, you never quite figure out if people truly believe what they are worshiping. And, if you live in a country that only associates positive events with organized religion, then what? You never see the rotting trail of abuse, deceit, and paranoid escapism. In his case, he is not from the U.S., but Europe. A very secular country in Europe. This inexperience on the part of my new found beau is also making me lose confidence in myself and the ability to not scare him off. Not only do I worry about the inevitable occurrence of a night terror during an overnight visit, but what about a trigger event like a street preacher announcing the end of times getting me upset to tears? Additionally, I worry about the fact that I might be too socially active in helping to dismantle religious influence in American culture. I am very big on educating the youth about appropriate time and place for belief. I won't sit by and allow the continued abusive programming of young children to happen anymore. It has to be stopped. Even if one child at a time. Yes, an activist girlfriend, one who lampoons cause after cause that you hardly can relate to, can make for a difficult time. I haven't worn down his tolerance of religious discussion.....yet. I still think our being together is a truly wonderful thing, and it has reminded me just how insidiously quiet American culture is with the dishonest portrayal of religious faith and the side effects it has had on our country. This is something he does seem to acknowledge. Being from out of the U.S., he never sees any major news discussions about how unhealthy it is to program our kids with preset guidelines from the Bronze Age on how we are supposed to behave and think. You can watch two hour long documentaries on the horrible results of Islamic radicalization, but nothing on Christianity. On top of all these musings, I admitted to myself that I am incredibly jealous of his irreligious upbringing. All his exposures to church were simply perfunctory in nature to appease an old relative, and his parents never made it mandatory. To have such freedom! To be raised without the constraints of dogma governing every aspect of your being. Thinking on it makes me want to cry in frustration sometimes. Luckily, my own children are being raised much the same as this man I've met, and knowing they have the open expanses of free thought to explore possibility after possibility as they see fit is a huge boon against my struggle with melancholy. Knowing I managed to bring mentally repressing dogma to a grinding halt in my children's lives is so rewarding. I would pay with my life if I could guarantee everyone else in the world could have the same, and this type of thinking will probably cost me a truly inspiring lover, but certainly not a friend. Fathoming not wanting to live anymore is yet another aspect of recovery that he will never be able to identify with, as my children will not either, and that is truly a huge relief in my heart of hearts. I know that as far as recovery goes, I'm only a little over a decade in now. I didn't really start dealing with all the abuse I was subjected to until I was thirty years old. The reality is that I will never regain what I have lost over the years. Forgiving and moving on are two very different beasts to deal with. While moving on isn't as difficult for me as it used to be, forgiving is an in the moment process that keeps being repeated over and over. Every time I face the gaping chunks stolen from my innocence, I am having to acknowledge that those chunks are gone forever. There is no restitution for what is gone, and I have to decide in the moment I am faced yet again with what is lost how I want to process the pain. Dating someone who doesn't have a similar background, or at least hasn't even been exposed to this type of damage will have a hard time dealing with that aspect of who I am. Especially with the fact I tend to embrace the depression anymore, and also try to be creative within its gut wrenching waters instead of drowning in sorrow. Irreligious or not, it's a tough thing to watch a friend go through. Though, experience has taught me that the irreligious person will likely not offer empty platitudes and consoling prayers which are insulting beyond words. Here I am, damaged and dating, and hoping I've reached a state of being that which is tolerable enough to find the right person to call mate at some point in my life.
  20. Let's talk about a past time I thoroughly enjoy now and then. LARP. For those unfamiliar, LARP is an acronym for Live Action Role Play. Essentially, a bunch of similarly minded folks get together and collaborate to have fun pretending scenes out of their favorite movies, books, comics, etc. This is strictly pretending, of course, but with rules involved. The basic goal of LARPing (yes, you can make the acronym a verb, how cool!) is to create a desired fantasy environment where participants interact in a way that produces an environment they enjoy being a part of. These participants follow set out guidelines in order to properly take part in events of their community they are playing a part in. This usually requires a posted rule book of sorts to study, follow, and enforce amongst themselves to help maintain the desired fantasy environs. Additionally, it isn't unusual for some type of hierarchal authority to be put in place to further interpret and lead others to appropriately follow the outlined rules. Now, take this very basic understanding for LARP and overlay a religion on top of it. Do we have a fantasy based environment? Check. Do we have a set of rules and etiquette in place so members can participate appropriately? Check. Do we have participants that work together to maintain not just the fantasy, but enforce the rules? Check. Do we have leaders to guide, encourage, and teach participants how to be a part of the fantasy? Check. Yes, religious ceremony matches with the basis of LARPing, just substitute Creflo Dollar for Gandalf the Gray, and Pat Robertson as Smeagol. Instead of polished leather Dwarven armor, picture a double breasted suit with complimenting tie and shined shoes. Scratch the orb holding staff, and imagine a rosary being clutched instead. No more Orcs chasing your party through the Haunted Wood of Candle Reach, it's just the Catholic priests rounding up choir boys in downtown Chicago. The foretold times of war with Zeus' children has become the battle for Earth between the arch angels of Heaven and the legions of Satan's hordes in the under realms. The fate of all mankind still hangs in the balance though, and it is on us pitiful humans that the futile struggle for divine acknowledgment resides in order to save us. Sounds all so eerily alike, doesn't it? That's because it is. The fantasies of Allah's masses, Krishna's orgy laden temples, and a charismatic Pentecostal church are drenched in the tell tale hallmarks of role playing fantasy. Fantastic tales of man's conquering evil supernatural forces set out to punish us. Inspiring songs of self determination and victory against Lucifer's meddling influence. Sorrowful recognition of imperfections that are bringing us closer to the sulfuric acid filled pools of Hell. And the always popular prophecy of untold wealth and fortune on the golden paved roads to Heaven never cease to be retold. Be wary of such adventures, readers. Not all who play the divinity RPG are truly welcoming. Much like the Borg, you must be assimilated to join their ranks of play, and like them, you might find yourself so lost in prophetic tales of exploring supernatural pleasures that you won't be able to tell reality from the game anymore. You could lose friends, and maybe some family, when you begin to incessantly play your role in the religious fantasy realms. It should be said that loss of long time friends and close family members will be by your own doing. When one takes LARPing to the extreme like religious ceremony does, you will find that you only want to be around fellow members of your congregation as you are too uncomfortable to face reality anymore. Being addicted to the fantasy games and role play assigned to you by the local priest, mullah, or rabbi will feel more real than your actual life. Psychologically speaking, role playing has been shown to be extremely addictive. The enticement of escaping who you are for a few hours a week is hard to resist. How about having the opportunity to completely set aside all the responsibilities, aggravations, pressures of your everyday life? This is what role playing offers - a momentary escape from your personal reality. Religion offers this environment at least twice a day Sunday, and at least during one evening mid week. This doesn't include all the extra curricular activities as well, like a Tuesday Word of Power walking group., and more. During these myriad of events, players get to drop their everyday pressure and assume roles in their fantasy filled communities. Some are the clerics, offering console and understanding for the weeping sinner cast players during an altar call during Sunday mass. Some are psychic and directly connect with their God, prophesier visions of approaching dark days in a mysterious lost dialect. During all this LARP style worship, there is no worry of being laughed at, judged, or ignored, because everyone else follows the same environment rules as you do. Unless you try to change or contest said regulations of play. Then you face possible banishment, prejudicial treatment, and mean spirited humiliation in front of your peers. So long as you observe the rules, everyone has to accept you. I've tried to have a conversation with a pastor at a local non denominational church (name rhymes with wine), about the similarities between LARP events and religious services. Naturally, I tried to not us Lord of the Ring references or anything based on Dungeons and Dragons, since these franchises do not sit well in most of these kinds of churches. The pastor eagerly followed along, but as soon as I equivocated prophecy and speaking in tongues with some kind of fantasy role play, he shut down his listening skills and began to challenge. Unable, or unwilling, to recognize the similarities I pointed out between speaking Elvish and speaking in tongues. Both are clearly in the realm of pure fantasy. "Of course Elvish is fantasy. It isn't based on anything real." Yes, he totally went there. Greg continued to insist that while predictions of dragons razing the world to dust were clearly ideas propagated by ancient mythology, I had "zero basis for dismissing personal experiences with God's awesome knowledge of space and time." Needless to say, I thanked him for his time and the conversations was over. He wouldn't even entertain the idea that at least some, not all but just a bit, of religious fan fare was pure show and fantasy to keep the crowd coming back for more. He did acknowledge there is definitely a community rules aspect,"But an individual is still an individual of their own choosing, as long as they stick to the basic doctrine of our church, anyway." Greg also agreed that most Christians tend to take their belief more seriously while at church events. "Birds of a feather," he told me, and then another awkward silence. So I pressed even harder, politely asking why he thought that was the case. "Sheep need their shepherd so they don't wander too far off from the pasture." I shit you not, this was his exact reply. My reply? "So, you are the dungeon master who enforces or as you say teaches the rules and lays out the map to follow so adventurers stay on course with the games end goal." "Kind of, but this isn't role playing. It's a life choice." This pastor pretty much convinced me of what I had suspected, that LARP and religious ceremony or one and the same. Whether one truly believes the story line takes little difference when comparing the two. LARPers understand the collaboration they work so hard to create, and participate in isn't actually real.I know some who wish it could be their reality. Religion's participants seem determined to make the prophecies come true, and they don't care how much of society they alienate to achieve their goal. Religious ceremony can be fun. No dice needed, just a prayer mat and a submissive personality is all you need to qualify!
  21. I used to be involved with a guy that liked to point out all my flaws, offer to work on our relationship, and then would do the exact opposite. Would avoid working on the relationship and blame me, screw around with many other women, and insist it isn't fair he has to change who he is since he likes himself as is. I was the problem, not him. God is pretty much the same. "You are a screw up. You need to do all this to be with me successfully, and I will do this for you in return." Then God turns around and does nothing, and supposedly blesses everyone else who isn't trying nearly as hard as you are. And of course, it is all your fault, because God is above needing to change. It is you that isn't trying hard enough. Yeah, religion is definitely inspired by man. Misogynistic ones in particular. Is it a wonder why so many are walking away from a shitty relationship like that? For some reason, many evangelicals do not understand the distaste for an emotionally abusive relationship with an unseen deity. Forever in love with the idea of suffering for attention, they cling to their abusive ideology, gaining self satisfaction in their personal martyrdom. To suffer, within the religious world, and to do so with a head held high and little to no complaint falling from their mouths, is an esteemed way of life. Especially when dealing with an unfaithful spouse or shaky marriage. Nothing makes a woman more noble than to suffer such treatment with an undying loyalty to her faith and her man. In reality, when you take off the religious blinders, maybe these women could see how actually pathetic they are for tolerating such treatment, let alone enabling it, and even being stupid enough to perpetuate such a mindset in their own children's perceptions of what relationships are supposed to be like. For at least a decade now, I've read, watched, and listened to many news reports and sermons where various religious groups cry that the traditional family is being ruined by liberal agendas. I never truly bought in to that analysis, of course, since the logic was seriously flawed behind such a claim. The supposed downfall of the traditional family, at least within the religious community, has to do with the fact that many people take life more seriously than just praying on Sunday. The availability of the internet has made knowledge about other places, experiences, and cultures so readily available, that many families have shifted their priorities as far as life goals. This includes perceptions on relationships and marriage. Many have learned that the whole "suffer to receive Heavenly rewards" doctrine doesn't have to be that way. Why stay in a relationship with someone if s/he clearly cannot commit to the responsibility? Unlike sixty years ago, it is not as difficult to branch out on your own, single with children. Unlike sixty years ago, wanting to be happy and make the most of the singular lifetime you get to live doesn't sound overly selfish. Especially with all the easy access information out there on how to accomplish said happiness. One is not limited to the small pool of potential mates in their home towns and church vestibules either. The advent of affordable travel has made such long distance relationships become a feasible reality. To stay in a non salvageable relationship is almost like giving up on life. What is to be admired about that? Martyr type behavior in a relationship not only enables the abuser to keep right on expecting that perpetual second chance, but it leaves the would be martyr in a constant world of "Poor me" and "You did this to me, and this to me, and this to me, and this to me..." diatribe. The same goes for those who suffer from depression and are waiting for their chosen deity to come heal them, or irresponsible families up to their eyeballs in debt just praying away for a miracle while everyone stands around watching their house be repossessed. This is a sick cycle of attention seeking. A constant tidal wave that echoes,"Look at what I am going through." Religion does not teach proactive behavior. Everything that a doctrine teaches one to do is reactive. The old saying about an ounce of prevention does wonders is often not repeated enough. In the case of religious proactive behavior? Why not encourage some accountability within the flock? Instead of Mrs. Jones walking in every Sunday, fake smile pasted on her face as she holds on to her lecherous husband's elbow, taking humble pride in how tough she is to stand up in public under such a scrutinized embarrassment, why not encourage her to be proactive and actually hold her husband, and herself, accountable for the break in the relationship? Because to do so puts God on the hook, as well. I normally do not dissect deities and their subsequent obvious lack of action, but this is a topic that has always held me in the most severest of attitudes when evaluating idols and their worshipers. The main reason for this lack of discussion is due to the fact the most common rebuttal is,"Well, God doesn't operate the way we do." Famously known as "God works in mysterious ways." Folks do not like hearing miracles being relegated to mere instances of good odds or just flat out dumb luck, but it is the truth of the matter. When one prays for their puppy to show up after being lost, or for a relative to make a journey safely home, and it actually happens, it is simply a matter of good odds that the puppy was not that far away to begin with, and that Aunt Martha had a very slight chance of 1 in 1,000,000 that her plane would crash. It has nothing to do with having prayed hard enough, or having been righteous enough in His word, that this deity extended a blessing. Folks managing to survive a car crash in the foot lands of Oregon without extra water for five days? That is determination, luck, and maybe genetics. Faith healers and psychics are never found working their trade in hospitals, and the same can be said of an unseen deity in the every day world. Yet, relationships are based around the promise of rewards from these deities anyway. "Pray harder." "You must have true faith (whatever the hell that means)." "Don't overthink it, and just trust Him." "God rewards those who suffer." All of this translates in to the religiously based relationships too. When a husband loses his job? "Pray harder." When a wife cheats? "God rewards those who suffer." When a child dies? "Don't over think it, just trust His wisdom." Where is the accountability? Husband lost his job? Why and how to avoid it next time? Wife cheated? Why and what can be done now? Child died? Why and can you help prevent such a loss for someone else? This isn't over thinking. This isn't showing doubt. It is finding accountability. Religion and accountability have a hard time reconciling with one another. In religion, accountability is fault finding. In a secular world view, accountability is reason finding. That is what I had to do when I cut ties with my now ex. It wasn't all his behavior that made me leave, it was my taking accountability for the direction my life was going and I realized he just wasn't going to be able to be a part of it. I either had to tolerate the continued shifting of responsibility of the relationship on to my shoulders as the unreasonable girlfriend who wanted his loyalty and communication issues to be rectified, or I could move on, and enjoy life without him there. I opted for the latter. We both can find happiness now, though sometimes, it is still a bit of a sour remembrance of wasted time. Always remember this when confronted with turmoil:
  22. We have all been there and done it. Sitting on a couch, consoling a friend over a terrible mistake that has been made, and used our own personal flaws as a buffer before giving advice on what to do about the mess at hand. This is self deprecation, and while a very useful tool while navigating social situations, there is a fine line between using it as a tool, and using it as a facetious psychological mind fuck. Usually, self deprecation is a general statement of flaws, like,"Well, Judy. I've been in your shoes, sweetie. I've had my bouts with - insert flaw here -. But I learned from it. Did my best to make it right, and now all is okay. And you will be too." Basically, what is being said is, "I'm a fuck up too." I think it is a given that in most awkward or stressful situations, one rarely goes wrong diffusing some of the tension with a little self deprecation. There is a time and place for doing so, otherwise you will come across as unbelievably modest, or as a conceited asshole that is rubbing in the faults of the other person(s). It seems Christianity, and most religions in general, have not figured this important detail out though. "I'm a fuck up too." This seems to be the motto emblazoned on every calling card, tract, and service invite that the religious use to spread their message of idol worship. While admitting one isn't perfect is admirable, there seems to be a twisted psychology behind its use in religious doctrine that I will get more in depth about as we go along. For the sake of length, I am not going to go into the fact that religious self deprecation is just another form of secret narcissism, as well. Nothing grabs attention like,"Oh, I fucked a married man before too! We all make mistakes, but Jesus it away, mkay?" First, as many reading this blog already have learned, it is important to recognize mistakes, seek to correct those mistakes, and try to seek the forgiveness of those you wronged. Additionally, it is essential to forgive yourself too. That is the problem with the religious and their usage of self deprecation. They skip the last step that involves forgiving oneself. Well, not really. They just do not realize that by going to God for forgiveness, they are simply granting themselves the right to move on. It's really messed up when you think about. Until one feels they have shown enough penance to God (I couldn't put in literal terms how one knows if it is enough), they live in a state of self perpetuated guilt. Now, this is where a Christian that I discuss such topics with likes to say,"See, atheists have no conscience. Why do you get to decide you've done enough for your sinning against another?" I know. With an eye roll, I explain for the umpteenth time I am not erasing what I have done wrong (which is impossible in the real world anyway). I am simply allowing myself to move forward so I can apply the lesson learned. One should always reflect on the mistakes made. Repetition needs to be avoided after all. Dwelling on mistakes for an unspecified amount of time? Waiting for an unseen deity to somehow communicate that enough penance has been suffered? It just doesn't make sense to do such a thing because it isn't truly helpful to the situation, and it is downright unhealthy. Now, it doesn't just stop at living in a constant flux of self hate and pity parties. Many take it a step further and try to pull others into this depressing view of reduced value when attempting to convert others. It is the same scenario taking place, only instead of an atheist consoling Juday, let's imagine it is a Christian friend. Not only will this Christian friend declare s/he is imperfect and has made many mistakes, this friend will also point out that s/he could not have learned the real leasson without accepting God, and that Judy needs to get a clue. Yes, that's right. Claims of not being able to accept who s/he is, an imperfect sinning child of Yahweh, until s/he laid everything at His celestial feet. S/He learned that without Him, s/he would have always been a fuck up beyond repair. It's like sitting down next to Judy, saying,"You aren't just a whore, Judy. You're a godless whore. And you will never understand how horrible it is to be a cock gobbling godless whore until you let God pull the cock out of your mouth once and for all. Put Him there instead, honey." Okay, maybe that is a little too crude, but you get the idea. "We're all fuck ups, but I am not as bad a fuck up as you because...God." Which translates even further into,"You are such a fuck up that you have no way of ever becoming better because you don't have God. You are not capable of improving your life on your own." It is a disgustingly facetious use of self deprecation, which leads into attempts at completely undercutting any positive self image in his/her target. Not only was zero tension alleviated, but the Christian in this example compounded the damage on a psychological level. Why is it necessary to further pound a person's self worth to dust in order to show how wonderful faith is? It is akin to a pick up artist at a bar, trying to find an emotionally vulnerable woman he can proceed to lay out all his accomplishments to while gently pointing out his target's failures. Ironically, this stands a chance of elevating his desirability as a role model in the victim's eyes, hopefully eliciting a knee jerk response to want to prove she is worth his interest. The bottom line within religious communities is that you are not allowed to decide for yourself what your true worth is. No, you aren't worth a wooden nickel without completely demoralizing your personal confidence and then allow it to be determined by God's influence in your life. Any boasts of "I am successful and am so happy in life" must be immediately followed by "but there was a time I wasn't. I owe it all to my Lord God for helping me stay on His path to heavenly reward." Self worth is always the primary target in any religion. An individual's healthy level of self confidence and value is equated to arrogance. To assess yourself ,and independently determine that you are valuable, is treated as self righteousness in religious circles. So, as you can see, self deprecation in proselytizing is just another insidious method of grinding down your personal confidence. This leaves you vulnerable, sometimes even desperate. Simple psychology that we all use from time to time in order to ease crisis, tension, or a really awkward first date. In Christianity, though? It is an effectively mean little hammer to beat you down into the mold of hopeless screw up. If you are ever in Judy's shoes, and wonder if your proselytizing friend might have a point, think before you act. Don't rush to any decisions while in a vulnerable state. Most importantly, understand what the real message is. It isn't only about accepting God, but agreeing you aren't worth two shits unless God is in your life.
  23. We've all been there at some point. You log onto your favorite social media website like Facebook, and as you scroll through the many status updates in your news feed with highlights about your Aunt Martha's cat, or your friend's son that lost a tooth, you see this: If you are irreligious like myself, all you see is this: Why do people do this? Where is this urge to shout from the digital rooftops about God's touching one's soul coming from? And even more importantly, do these folks even realize that their pious platitudes and preaching are nothing more than selfish cries for attention? Everyone learns something differently in church when it comes to appropriate social protocols when witnessing to the masses, publicly declaring your faith, and celebrating the glory of a god. One thing has always been made clear to me though during my 20 years in a pew. I was always told in the 6 different churches I attended that one should unequivocally be only giving the glory to God. God's amazing invisible finger of knowledge will automatically follow and anoint those you addressed if they are willing with little to no effort on your part. There was no telling someone how sad you were that they had no faith. It wasn't necessary to insist that you would pray for someone if they didn't want to hear your message. One certainly didn't have to debate for hours on end with atheists and other religious groups on Facebook in order to convert a few souls. No. My mere channeling of his divine presence would be enough to effect change in the person(s) I was engaged with. If I had to do more than just share a brief five minutes of His word, then I wasn't doing it right. What on earth has changed? Anymore, I feel like whenever I see a long copied post on my news feed, I am dealing with a Jim Jones wannabe. I mean this most sincerely, and I know this is not the intention of the witnessing spokesperson of Yahweh. These people really come across like charismatic psychopaths who think they can draw few flies in for dinner before mass. Quite literally they are pulling a Jim Jones maneuver from the man's own playbook. Let me explain. It is never enough to just have attended church, accepted Christ, and have lived as righteously as possible. It's enough for God in Heaven, but not enough for the interpreted version of Him within the church walls. This is especially so with all the constant nonsense about a war on Christianity that has started permeating the news. Last I checked, Christians are not being purposely put to death in this country. Hardly a war, but it makes for interesting talk around the Communion trays. Couple that with declining church attendance? Well, it's time to get the word out! At least, that is the mindset I had always come across. Proselytizing on Facebook isn't just about sharing faith, sharing joy, or sharing eternal life. It's a rallying cry to sign up. And like Jim Jones, while these social media soap boxers are full of scripture, they really don't want you to read it. As soon as you start asking about the scripture, you get rants about politics, disease, sexual abomination, and overall fear of Satan ruling the Earth. They literally pull a Jim Jones. They throw their Bibles down on the ground, insisting that you pay more attention to them than their original source of information. This same thing happens on discussion boards, even here on Ex-C. Someone posts a long opener about the seamless genius of a preferred deity. "It's so simple and clearly laid out, even a grade schooler can understand," this person says. Lines of scripture follow, including poorly made flow charts of historical context. Your eyes glaze over, but you manage to point out a number of errors in the flow chart by using the Bible said chart is based off of. What happens? Slam! Bible is on the floor, the patronizing insults of "You are over intellectualizing what I am saying" or "Your lack of faith is disturbing, I will pray for you" begin to flow. The focus has left the shared data and compelling arguments, with all attention shifted to the proselytizer. God is back in the wispy realms of fantasy, only being brought up as a holy reference to add to the pious demeanor of your rabidly biblical preaching poster. You will manage to somehow go in this discussion from lack of faith to the End Times, where all prophesies become interpretive dancing of fantastically hopeful outcomes. There might even be a bit of frothing as the witnessing individual's mind leaps from one potential sign of the times to another, as the influx of far fetched links begin to work this person's brain into an almost crack fueled frenzy. So, next time you have the urge to engage a lengthy Jebus post, realize it is just a psychiatric need for strength in numbers playing out on your wall. To solve this problem, and if you are on Facebook, do the following: If you are in a regular discussion forum, show restraint and leave the conversation. No matter how you engage, in the religious gladiator's mind, he's victorious. Either you didn't engage because of his awesome faith, or you didn't engage because Satan compels you to leave him alone. Those who engage in this type of behavior are addicted to this type of attention. They are usually very charismatic and have some very lofty ideas of how convincing their faith is on its own merits. Religious preaching on social media is a clear sign of addiction to the holy crack they are sucking in. Holy crack being fantasy and escape from a world that one is finding too difficult to reason out alone.
  24. 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.
  25. Everywhere I scroll, I find many atheist and secular minded individuals with my same mindset. No God. No religion. Acceptance for all. On the television, it is always the same faces of Dawkins, Harris, Silverman, and occasionally Cupp. I run into the same issues on blog sites like Patheos, Freethought, Secular Coalition, and American Atheists. Same male faces and the dash of a female writer now and then. I don't know about the rest of this movement, but I long for more outspoken atheist women to be contributing more openly to the dialog. Being completely rational in my frustration with the same rehashed points of view, I started nosing around even deeper. I KNOW there are many female atheists out there. I also know that there are plenty of us writing and blogging too, but none of us seem to find major organizations to pick us up. I'm thinking, "Just how male dominated is atheism right now?" This is what I found. On Patheos' website, under the atheism section, I found 25 bloggers. 5 are women. Now, in the website's defense, there are a lot of guest bloggers, but you wouldn't know it until you reach the end of the article because the website has a layout where the hosting blogger gets all the headline, and the guest author is noted at the bottom. It still doesn't eliminate the fact that out of the billions of people in the world, and you figure at least 50% are women, Patheos has not been able to find anymore than 5 qualified female bloggers? Seems like a lack of diligence in my opinion. It should be noted that Patheos is headed by a husband and wife, no women serve on the 3 member Leadership Team, 12 out of 17 members on the general Team are women. These general Teams are editors of channels, and it is one of the male members who handles the atheism channel. Another site, 9 out of 27 bloggers are women on the female founded Secular Coalition. It should be noted only men have posted recently since May 22nd.... 6 out of 8 staff members are female, 7 out of 10 board members are female, 2 women out of 16 members are on the advisory board, which has the likes of Sam Harris, Aaron Ra, and Rushdie on it. American Atheists has 3 women on staff out of 10 listed staff members, 6 out of 13 on the board of directors are women, 2 women hold state director positions out of 20. I wonder how O'Hair would feel about such low female representation on the state level. Another female founded organization is Freedom From Religion Foundation. FFRF currently has 5 out of 18 chapters that are headed by women, and only 3 out of 10 board members are female. Finally, I did some digging around Ex-Christian.net. Dum Dum Dummmmmmm. Ex-Christian.net is hard to measure, but I instinctively knew this place is fairly diverse, and is part of the reason I prefer this site. There are no qualifiers or editors to prevent you from posting. Now, I decided to go by the numbers of most popular blogs on the site. Out of the only 24 blogs that received 10k views or higher, only 5 identify as female (2 of those blogs belong to me). This week's featured blog has 2 women bloggers out of 5. 1 out of 4 featured posts on the main page belongs to a woman. So what does all this mean? Does this mean that men are holding the women back yet again? Does this mean that atheism isn't ready to hear the voice of its female members? Does it mean that atheist environs are hostile to female presence? Of course not. I noticed while looking through all the staff and blogger lists that women seem to participate behind the scenes more. I doubt this is a purposeful move by their male counterparts on staff either. Looking further into the atheist and secular cultures (yeah, I don't treat them as the same), I noticed that in social media, women tend to take a beating when we decry secular communities and their lack of addressing feminine issues in politics. Many women, like myself, find it difficult to accept that organizations like FFRF and American Atheists choose to focus on mandated pledges with the word "god" in them. Why aren't they rallying by our side when women are having their bodily rights infringed upon based on religious morality? Why can they not stand up for us when we are being blamed for rape culture in this country? There appears to be a desire to keep feminism separate from secularism, but by its own definition, secularism should embrace some aspects, and even stand up for, feminism in some aspects. One obvious principle of secularism is maintaining the right to be free from religious rule and teachings. And if in a state that is declared to be neutral on matters of belief, we are supposed to be free from the imposition by government of religion or religious practices upon us. Demanding we abstain from sex to avoid pregnancy is not secularism, yet our government representatives on the Right have that opinion and try to force it on us by making sex all about responsibility and not a "god given pleasure" that is innate to our humanity. SEX is our HUMANITY. How is it secular to deny us our humanity? The response to this, of course, will have the usual run of the mill,"You risk getting pregnant when you have sex. Why do I have to pay for your risk?" Or my favorite,"If you would keep your legs shut, you wouldn't need birth control." Why do I have to pay to ensure you get your prostate exam? Why do I have to pay for your Viagra to be able to get your wife pregnant, but we can't get assistance preventing it, let alone also getting treatment for hormonal disorders? Basically, women bloggers, who are out there putting their views to the public are beaten down. Slut shamed, threatened, being told we are making ourselves a burden to society. We cannot trust our emotional, and sometimes physical safety, from our other atheist members. PZMeyers and his Watkins debacle, and Amazing Atheist are some great examples of misogyny and misrepresentation within the movements. And what is worse, even when they are called out on their behavior? They refuse to see how they were truly wrong. Still, there is another reason why there are not as many outspoken female bloggers who get a Dawkins' level of following. Women are not recognized as a force within the spectrum of atheism, though we have done TONS to move it forward. When my favorite author Hecht's book "Doubt" was published, she made it clear that works by atheist women are usually "individualized". There isn't a larger recognition of an academic wave of enlightenment amongst women. At all. Everything is person to person, but amongst the men, there is a brotherhood status. Women need to be pumping up their fellow sisters like the men do with their own. Though, I think it would be more effective to advertise no matter the gender. Dawkins did give Hecht an acknowledgement in his book "God Is Not Great", though he still doesn't speak on her. The now late Stenger, while referring to Harris' work something of a dawn of a new age in atheist thought, never once mentioned Hecht, or even Gaylor or McCreighty. He did acknowledge though that these authors were in print during an interview, but publicly? Giving them free press? No. Atheism in the media world is a sell out folks. I think women have realized that and have abandoned themselves to the desk work and boardrooms.
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