Beware Advice

atheism-17I remember last year when I was trying to decide to stay in England or come home. There were good reasons to stay there, the chief one being the NHS (National Health Service). I had peace of mind about my illnesses and never worried about paying for doctor or hospital bills. I paid my taxes like everyone else and never once begrudged the fact that others were helped too. We were all helping each other.

Another factor in my decision was the fact that I was farther away from my kids. I wanted to be able to see them more often than once a year. My religious nut sister made a show of how I should come home and I’d be happier, blah, blah… But you know what, since I’ve been here she’s hardly called or come over or talked to me. Her advice only fit into her fantasy world. She only wanted me back because of her “patriotic” belief that America was better than any other country and I’d be better off here even if people die from not being able to afford care. She’s the most selfish person I’ve ever met.

No, my stay in England was invaluable. It showed me that there were people who did not mind if others were helped with “their” money, although once they are taxes they aren’t your money any longer. Sure there were “patriotic” idiots in England who wanted all immigrants to stay away and keep England “pure”, but every country has those. No, her blinders were religious in nature and explains Trump supporters: religious fanatics who scream about Shariah courts yet want our court system to be taken over by religious nuts like them. They want our Supreme Court riddled with rapists like Kavanaugh. These American religious idiots spew filth about immigrant caravans, forgetting that we all came from an immigrant caravan that imposed itself upon the people who inhabited this land before we did. They attend flat earth conferences (my sister) and believe no one gets shot or dies from mass shootings (my sister) because they spend inordinate amounts of time setting it all up to fool people. In other words; these people are mentally ill and incompetent. Again, my sister.

So I don’t believe we can extend a hand to try to understand such mania. That is a supreme waste of time and energy. All we can do is combat them by using laws against religious hate speech such as theirs. You see, they WANT violence. It feeds their persecution complex and “proves” they are right about how the world is getting worse and worse. They desire Apocalypse almost erotically. It literally gets them off to believe there will be a final battle to end all battles and they will work to that end. Our electoral system is fucked, which is why Trump got elected, but I see no change coming concerning that in the near future.

So beware advice from family members, especially religious ones. They do NOT have your best interests at heart. They have their own agendas and it doesn’t include your health or happiness.

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The Importance of a Father’s Love

I think that my lack of a father’s love started this whole mess.

My real father abandoned my mother and my sisters, and I when I was just 3 years old. My step-father did not have a loving bone in his body and ate cruelty for breakfast.  I was ripe for someone to come along and make me feel as if I were the most important person in their world; something daddy’s do for their little girls. Normal daddy’s anyway.

My lack of a father’s love probably contributed to my conversion to Christ when I was 23 years old. Feeling out of my depth as a new wife and mother, one day I felt an overwhelming sense of love and well-being from a father/brother figure.  That sustained me for quite some years. My marriage was not a passionate love affair, but merely a remedy for small town boredom and we parted ways when our children grew up and moved out of the house. Notice I don’t say our home because I’ve never really felt ‘at home’ anywhere. We never jointly created a home like some couples do; putting their particular stamp on a place to reflect their budding love. Perhaps a father’s advice about any of this would have been invaluable.

It was almost inevitable that I dream of the perfect romance. My romance fantasies led me to a couple of affairs and later to the online ‘romance’ that landed me where I am today. All I’ve ever wanted was be someone special to someone else. I wanted to hear the words, ‘I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life making you happy’ or those coveted words, ‘you are so special to me’.  I’ve never heard that, or felt it either while growing up or in all the years I’ve been married. My sister, mother, and I have always dealt with our pain alone, probably because no one ever sought us out to comfort us.  But still one hopes.

Maybe I’m feeling a tad maudlin but when I read of other people’s marriages, of the love and care and the grief that happens when such lovers are apart, I mourn for what I never had or have never known. I worked so hard to be a good wife and failed both times. Now I just wish someone would care for me. Just a little bit. Some people say that God can fulfil that need in me, but how can you have a fulfilling relationship with an invisible person?  I’ve yet to master that, even after all of these years.

I am broken by this latest betrayal and although I KNOW that acting with love toward someone whether they deserve or not is the Christian thing to do, just once, I wish that someone would be more concerned about me than I was for them. Just once. Is that too much to ask?

Church Times – If Jefferts Schori is at meeting, I won’t come, says Primate

The Most Reverend Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schor...

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Church Times – If Jefferts Schori is at meeting, I won’t come, says Primate.

First of all, “Primate?” Really? This about describes the good old boy network at work here.  Apparently, Rev. Ernest, Archbishop of the Indian Ocean (how can you be a bishop of an ocean?)  can smell the taint of woman thousands of miles away and refuses to participate in a summit because of the U.S. Presiding Bishop, Jefferts Schori’s attendance. It’s crap like this that convinces me that church hierarchical structures should do us all a favor and come tumbling down before it’s too late to salvage such nonsense.

The party line goes like this: Jesus was a man, therefore his priests can’t be anything but men. How about this? Jesus appointed men as apostles therefore women cannot be apostles? Or how about this? Only 4 women are named in the bible as part of Jesus’ inner circle therefore only 4 women are allowed to be disciples? Or, here’s a good one, Jesus and the disciples were Jewish. Therefore only his priests can be ethnic Jews? Right? Peter had a mother-in-law therefore all priests should have mothers-in-law? Makes sense to me. (Extreme eye-rolling here).

Better yes, how about women boycott all religions that exclude us because Jesus had different genitals? I’ll go first.

Quote of the Day

Ludwig Feuerbach's The Essence of Christianity...

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God, I have said, is the fulfiller, or the reality, of the human desires for happiness, perfection, and immortality. From this it may be inferred that to deprive man of God is to tear the heart out of his breast. But I contest the premises from which religion and theology deduce the necessity and existence of God, or of immortality, which is the same thing. I maintain that desires which are fulfilled only in the imagination, or from which the existence of an imaginary being is deduced, are imaginary desires, and not the real desires of the human heart; I maintain that the limitations which the religious imagination annuls in the idea of God or immortality, are necessary determinations of the human essence, which cannot be dissociated from it, and therefore no limitations at all, except precisely in man’s imagination….

Man has many wishes that he does not really wish to fulfil, and it would be a misunderstanding to suppose the contrary. He wants them to remain wishes, they have value only in his imagination; their fulfilment would be a bitter disappointment to him. Such a desire is the desire for eternal life. If it were fulfilled, man would become thoroughly sick of living eternally, and yearn for death. In reality man wishes merely to avoid a premature, violent or gruesome death. Everything has its measure, says a pagan philosopher; in the end we weary of everything, even of life; a time comes when man desires death.

Ludwig Feuerbach, Lectures on the Essence of Religion

Voice of the Day

Monastic spirituality says that we are to honor one another. We are to listen to one another. We are to reach across boundaries and differences in this fragmented world and see in our differences distinctions of great merit that can mend a competitive, uncaring, and foolish world.
Sr. Joan Chittister, The Rule of Benedict

The 11th of September

September 11, 2001

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I remember where I was on this day 9 years ago. I was working at a brand new job that year. I was down in the print room of my workplace and the business manager came downstairs and asked me if I’d heard the news that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. At this point, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever thought what the World Trade Center was, but I knew they were tall buildings. I thought immediately that perhaps a small plane had gone off course and was going to land but had accidentally hit the building. Then I went upstairs to turn on the television that someone had dragged out of storage and set up in the kitchen.

When I saw the images on television I knew it was going to be bad. And then I saw the images of the planes flying into the two towers and I knew it was deliberate. Images of people flinging themselves out of the highest floors, clouds of smoke and debris taking over lower Manhattan, people were running and screaming, some covered in ash and god knows what chemicals… I remember asking my boss, who had joined me in the kitchen to watch, “How many people had to have been in there at 8 a.m. on Tuesday morning?” He just shook his head. All day we kept the radio on, listening for news, and monitoring the internet. The news kept getting worse. There was a crash at the Pentagon. A plane went down in Pennsylvania. One learned to expect anything next. I watched President Bush on television being told on camera about it and I remember that he couldn’t have handled it better. He was calm and in charge.

Over the days and weeks following the event the anger began to set in. I was one who cheered when President Bush announced a retaliation against the cowards of Al Qaeda in their hideouts; Afghanistan and Iraq (and now Pakistan and Iran). I’d never been to New York but I suffered vicariously with its citizens that day, as did millions of other people. I tried to imagine what the spouses, mothers, children, and friends of those who had died were thinking and feeling, not only at that moment, but later when they had to relive the last moments of their loved ones’ lives over and over in their mind. Memory is a cruel master. I became angrier when Osama bin Laden gloated on video about crippling our nation by this act and angrier still each time a video came out of Al Qaeda beheading some poor victim of their fanaticism and filming their agony for all to see. I thought they were barbarians then and I think so now.

My anger really hasn’t diminished all that much since that day.  Before September 11, 2001, I gave no thought to Al Qaeda, the Muslim religion, imams, or anything about that part of the world. Now I can say that after that date, I know more about them than I wish to and I still harbor no good feelings about them. I know no Muslims. I’ve read the Koran and remain unimpressed. While there are some good sentiments in there, like the Christian bible, women are deemed as possessions and men are encouraged to “discipline” them as needed. Infidels (unbelievers in the Muslim God) are to be tolerated if they wish to convert, but eliminated if they do not. Peace is assured to those who accept this God as their God. Like those who take the Christian scriptures literally, the lives of those who don’t agree with their God’s diktats mean little. I understand this is a matter of interpretation and I have no problem with Muslims, who like their Christian brothers and sisters, do not take their scriptures literally, fanatically, or unquestioningly. Critical thinking about supposed “inspired” scriptures is a must for reasoned dialogue. My anger has indeed made me rethink how I view the world and the world’s religions. It’s brought home to me how much more civilized some nation’s people are than others, how much more freedom we have here in America than anywhere else, and how much more freedom of religion.

The big difference I think is the way we use our religion to further our own political agendas. Surely, religionists have to ask themselves, “what is my religion for?” Is it to cleanse the world of everyone but your own kind? That’s fanaticism. Is it to assure yourselves that those who rule religion will rule earth? That’s fanaticism.  You don’t have the right to make that decision for everyone else, especially if they disagree with you. Our response? We can ignore religion or not. Radicalism demands that we do not ignore it. Some choose to ignore it from a position of a-religion and ridicule, imagining wrongly, that this will suddenly hit home to such fanatics that they were wrong all along. The a-religionists imagine that eliminating religion will eliminate the hatred in people’s hearts. I don’t believe this for a minute. Religion is merely a tool of the human sins of pride, greed, and selfishness. Until we can all coexist peacefully, religion or not, we will have these kinds of acts.

Some choose to view religion from within a more progressive, open, and evolutionary stance which means that it’s open to new insight from the Divine in a spirit of cooperation and love. In this case, religion is transformative. Allowing your own heart to be changed is the key, not trying to force others to change theirs. Transformation begins at home, so to speak.  I’m still trying to process my feelings stemming from that day. I can honestly say that I’m not Christian enough or rational enough to put my anger aside and see it clearly. I was not injured in that attack. My loved ones were not killed. If they had been, it would have taken a herculean effort on my part to learn to forgive. But I’m still learning and hoping I can change my heart enough to do so. But, it’s just too fresh of a national wound. Until I can, I will continue to think America’s the greatest country in the world with the greatest people in the world. Unimaginable acts of compassion have resulted from this event and it gives me hope. Call being in this country what you will, accident, fortune, whatever. For that I’m thankful.

“We the People”

Cults and new religious movements in literatur...

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And right after writing about individualism in religion, I come across this assessment of the “Restoring Honor” rally at Religion Dispatch:

Individually, most Tea Partiers probably are nice people, trying to do what’s right, motivated by good intentions that extend from their faith in God and in their understanding of what this nation stands for. And individualism is exactly what the rhetoric of the rally was all about; from the website: “throughout history America has seen many great leaders and noteworthy citizens change her course. It is through their personal virtues and by their example that we are able to live as a free people. Our freedom is possible only if we remain virtuous.” Mirroring their Christology, salvation for themselves and for the country is an individual act.The convenience of individualism is that others cannot be held accountable for personal failures, nor can an individual be held responsible for the actions of another. The problem with individualism is that it fails to connect the dots between a movement or ideology and how one person might interpret that ideology, thereby taking a course of action perhaps incongruous with the party’s original intent.

Individualism is beneficial for leaders to peg success or failure of a movement on each person’s virtue rather than the power of the collective to effect change. Individualism is focused on personal attainment, personal happiness, and personal livelihood, and fails to see how each relies on a system that empowers, privileges, or dispossess either the individual or others in the process. As I discovered at the rally, to shift the conversation from “I” to “we” in speaking of a collective liberation was quickly flagged as anti-American and dismissed.

Since when did “we the people” become synonymous with Socialism? How can we convince people that “loving their neighbor” means more than just praying for them, that it means supporting a system that raises each of us up through access to education, health care, jobs, and a livable life? How can we encourage people to stop thinking of themselves as living in subdivisions and start living in neighborhoods? How can we shift from the Jesus of the comfortable to the “sell all your possessions” Jesus?

I don’t think we change the nature of the conversation by berating those with whom we disagree, further sowing the seeds of resentment and faction. We change the nature of the conversation by connecting our own work to the values or faith by which it is motivated. The Christianity I practice requires that I love my neighbor even when it isn’t easy, that I work for “the least of these” even when I want to quit, that I give my two coins even if they are the last two I have, and that Jesus died not only for my sins but also those of the tax collector, the Samaritan woman, and the Pharisee.

Alex McNeill is absolutely right about what makes the rugged individualists of America so opposed to anything they see as threatening by labeling it “socialist.” Forgetting that Jesus was a “socialist” in the purest sense, it’s easy for us to ignore the bigger picture and concentrate only on ourselves. I should take a lesson from my sister and mother, who are as viciously anti-socialist as anybody I know. It is convenient to be able to just pray for people rather than actual help them, and that’s the biggest critique I have of Christianity as a movement. I’m guilty of this individualism myself probably because I see the futility of engaging in debate with entrenched ideologues, my own family among them. But what do we do when those on opposing sides refuse to do anything but berate, deride, marginalize, and curse? When do you realize you can’t have a conversation with rabid ideologues and move along? That’s my question. No one seems to be able to answer it.