Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Bad Samaritan

Dr. McGrath shared this interesting image yesterday with a twist on the Good Samaritan. There was a bit of a debate in the comments on what the image meant. There is a bit of a political message in the image but this is due to the blurring of the lines of self identification. I believe this image is a left leaning response to the Christian conservatives who support being armed (which I have no problem with those choosing to be armed). The Parable of the Good Samaritan begins with Jesus being asked to identify who is considered a neighbor. The despicable foreigner, the Samaritan, became (or should be) the Christian example of how to be a neighbor, in which Christians are called to love. The disconnect is when those who self identify as Christian conservatives blame the victims of tragedy instead of turning to their gold standard of morality, the Bible, and seek out a viable solution to help prevent similar tragedies in the future. I'm not saying ALL Christians are guilty of this disconnect mainly because there is no singular definition or group representing all of Christianity. I'm talking about people who believe you can't be a Christian if you don't own a gun, and believe God deals out collective punishment because we've been unfaithful. They lean on their own understanding and call that "trusting God". The Bible is not simple to read or even interpret. But the message of the Good Samaritan seems fairly straightforward: be merciful to your neighbor.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Surviving "The End"

So with another doomsday come and gone I thought I would bring up some questions I've been pondering.We've survived several lesser known doomsdays from "prophets" as we neared the Mayan 2012 apocalypse. I never believed anything would happen on 12/21/12 but now that it's passed without a bang will people fall for these doomsday predictions again? With the most well known doomsday come and gone I believe (and hope) people will be less willing to lend an ear to the boys who cry wolf. There will always be more prophets heralding the end, and more charlatans preying on the fears of the people. Which brings me to my next question: how will this affect the belief in end time prophecies of religious believers? Will they continue to believe in their prophecies because the Mayan apocalypse was a false, secular prophecy? Or will this cause them to question their eschatology?  Will this also lead to questioning their beliefs in Heaven, Hell, and the afterlife?

Feel free to chim in with your thoughts. I hope to get some feedback from religious believers who've been affected by the passing of this non-event.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Conversations with Ourselves: Making Sense of It All

Throughout this series the core theme I want to get across is the importance of asking questions. Questions allows us to explore and create within our vast universe. And as we explore, our interconnectedness to each other and the universe is strengthened. But living with all these questions rattling around in your head can be unnerving especially when you're trying to make sense of it all. On the surface, questions don't offer an immediate peace of mind. This is why people gravitate towards religion which offers answers to many of life's questions. I'm OK with religion being used in this manner even though some would say it is a crutch. Sometimes life is too hard to deal with and there is no shame in believing in something to help you through life's obstacles. What I am against is people bashing others in the head with their "crutch". You can't serve love on a plate of hate.

So how do we make sense of it all? How do we make sense of life with a bag of unanswerable questions or, worse yet, questions which leads to other questions? What has helped me in my personal journey is coming to terms with the chaos of life and knowing that we are already There.

People desperately seek out a constant state of happiness, they want to know that everything will be OK. They want the assurance that nothing will go wrong, they want control over the future. But no matter how hard you struggle no one's future is ever secured. (And in terms of Christianity and the afterlife, no knows for sure that they will go to Heaven, they can only hope and believe they will.) So what then? Do we go through life a nervous wreak waiting for the axe to fall at any moment? That would be as pointless as a dog chasing its own tail! Once we come to the understanding that life is full of chaos and we stop trying to control the uncontrollable we can begin living. Shit happens. Life is full of ups AND downs. Instead, we should surround ourselves with good friends and family to celebrate the ups and to comfort each other during the downs.

It is easier, and much more interesting, for me to live with the questions than accept a prepackaged answer. Questions help you connect with the world around you, they help you to grow spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. They help us to discover and embrace our humanity more fully. So sit back relax with a few good friends and enjoy the moments we have on this pale blue dot.

Part 1) Conversations with Ourselves: The Question
Part 2) Conversations with Ourselves: The Internal Struggle
Part 3) Conversations with Ourselves: The External Struggle
Part 4) Conversations with Ourselves:  Reflections on Who We Were
Part 5) Conversations with Ourselves: Making Peace with Chaos
Part 6) Conversations with Ourselves: Making Sense of It All

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Conversations with Ourselves: Making Peace with Chaos

One of the most frightening things about my journey into the realm of endless questions is the chaos. For Christians, or any believer,  their faith grounds them to a tangible answer, it can give hope during chaos. But even then some of those religious answers don't make any sense especially when bad things happen to good people. How then do we deal with chaos?

A believer would hold on tighter to their foundation, to their god, and hope and pray for the best. If things go their way they thank god for watching over them and move on, if not then the most likely acceptable answer is that god had different plans for them. This mentality exempts you from really dealing with the chaos of life. As long as god is in control you don't have to face the chaos of life, you don't have any real reason to empathize with the suffering of others because god is in control of their lives. Whatever happens is suppose to happen for a greater plan (which begs the question why even pray during hard times when your suffering might be a part of The Plan?). This was one of the breaking points which caused me to drift away from Christianity. I absolutely can not accept that human suffering is "good" and necessary in fulfilling a divine plan. Any suffering is just that, suffering. But instead of wishing it away or hoping that an invisible, silent god (who apparently thought it OK for you to suffer) would take the pain away, we should be seeking out a more human approach. We should support each other even if we're powerless to help, sitting silently with those in pain does more good than a powerful, silent god.

The best visual example of the struggle with chaos is in the 2009 dark comedy film by the Coen brothers, A Serious Man, a film about a physics professor, Larry Gopnik, whose life begins to crumble around him even though he's been a good man, a serious man.

It was a difficult transition moving from a reliance on a silent god towards making peace with chaos. There were many low points in my life where I truly wanted to wish/pray things away. But that wouldn't have solved the problem nor helped me to deal with my emotions.  I feel this transition has strengthened my empathy towards my global neighbor as well. And as we strengthen our relationships with our global neighbor the easier it gets to face the unknown. Where once I simply blamed the troubles of a stranger on their lack of faith I now realize that the rain does indeed fall on the just and unjust. So why not reach out and share an umbrella?

Part 1) Conversations with Ourselves: The Question
Part 2) Conversations with Ourselves: The Internal Struggle
Part 3) Conversations with Ourselves: The External Struggle
Part 4) Conversations with Ourselves:  Reflections on Who We Were
Part 5) Conversations with Ourselves: Making Peace with Chaos
Part 6) Conversations with Ourselves: Making Sense of It All

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Conversations with Ourselves: Reflections on Who We Were

The idea of having a conversation with 2006 Sam is what inspired me to write this series. What would 2006 Sam think of 2012 Sam? Would '06 cringe at the thought that everything he believed in would be out the window 6 years later? Would '06 avoid taking this journey knowing he might end up like me? I thought about writing this one in an interview style format but I can't think like '06 Sam anymore and I would probably make him sound too cartoonish. I thought about seeking out someone who shares the beliefs I held in '06 but even then that would fall short because every spiritual journey is 100% completely unique. It can not be copied or duplicated. Oh there can be similarities but all spiritual journeys are unique.

[Summit by David Hayward (Naked Pastor). This is part of David's Sophia series. I highly recommend checking out David's work if you haven't already.]

Looking back, I don't have any regrets for how my journey has taken shape. There were many dark moments along the way but in the end I made it through. This journey is not about a destination or any kind of spiritual enlightenment. It is about learning how to be human, it is about embracing all the chaotic moments of life and cherishing my remaining years I have on this pale blue dot. '06 Sam was looking for something, his missing piece, and what I've found is that I've had it all along. I was chasing my own tail. As I migrated away from Christianity I found myself more accepting of those different from myself. My basic human morality (don't steal, hurt, lie, etc.) has remained the same. I've just widened the definition of who I call my brother. This doesn't mean that Christians are closed minded people, but for ME and MY journey I am more embracing of my global brothers and sisters. The journey I've taken can still be taken within religion, it doesn't necessarily have to lead you away from your original faith but what it will do is help you discover who you are and who you can be. It is a noble goal to be your best self, but you can't get there if you don't explore.

So if you are still sitting on your doorstep fearful of taking that first step my question is why are you sitting outside instead of safe and comfy inside? What's holding you back? Something drew you to step outside so why not explore a little?

Part 1) Conversations with Ourselves: The Question
Part 2) Conversations with Ourselves: The Internal Struggle
Part 3) Conversations with Ourselves: The External Struggle
Part 4) Conversations with Ourselves:  Reflections on Who We Were
Part 5) Conversations with Ourselves: Making Peace with Chaos
Part 6) Conversations with Ourselves: Making Sense of It All

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Conversations with Ourselves- The External Struggle

So far we've covered the struggle with mustering up the courage to ask ourselves who we really are and the internal struggle it brings when we open up Pandora's box. It's one thing to internally wrestle with difficult questions but the external struggle with what others may think is different and can be just as challenging (even more so for some). Keeping the internal struggle in is near impossible, we want someone to talk to, someone to share in the journey.

We gravitate towards a community where we can be comfortable. A place where we can suffer and journey with one another instead of alone. We first try to reach out to our friends and family members because we trust them to accept us for who we are and to be understanding. This can be difficult if they firmly oppose what you may be struggling with (i.e. change in religious beliefs, change in political stance, or sharing something like sexual orientation) and the fear of rejection by your loved ones can be too much to bear.

How do you handle both the external and internal struggles? Some would say it's far easier to give up asking and go back to who you once were. Go back to what? We are constantly changing, evolving, so there's no way I could be the same person I was before I started questioning. In my situation I did not have anyone locally who shared my same evolving views. And that's when I turned to the internet and sought out a digital community of like-minded people. If it weren't for people like Don (Simple Thoughts from a Questions Man), Doug B (Groping the Elephant), Andrew Hackman (Hackman's Musings), and Ronnie (Dreaming with Captron52) I wouldn't have progressed as far as I have without their experiences and insights they shared (there are many more so don't feel bad if I left you off, I appreciate you as well). The internet grants us the ability to connect with others across the globe who share the same interest. My recent post on the spirituality of Facebook touches on this global connectedness. The web also grants us with a digital dose of courage allowing us to say things we wouldn't normally say to people face to face. Believe me, I've gotten quite a few suggestions that I should jump off a cliff or that they're praying for my lost soul and one interesting "I hope your children kill you for what you believe". I believe the interactions, comments, and squabbles on social networking sites like Facebook depends solely on the participants. If you're a jerk (or I should say "troll") then your external struggle is going to be much harder.

I know some of the things I say may offend, but why are you offended? Have you tried to examine why you may feel offended by my non-belief? If I say "I don't believe that Jesus is the son of God", or "the God of the Bible is too violent", why would it bother you (if you're Christian)? It's just a statement of what I believe (or not believe) and declaring a statement should not destroy your beliefs. I don't go out of my way either to pose these questions to those who may feel uncomfortable (I have certain Facebook friends filtered out from receiving certain "blasphemous" posts).  HOW and WHY we say things is important but more important is the quality of our relationship with our friends, family, and neighbors. I want to improve that relationship while also discovering who I am. Along the way I may ask disturbing questions and I don't ask them to be a jerk but to discover and explore. Dr. McGrath at Exploring Our Matrix sumed it up best: "let's be human first."

Part 1) Conversations with Ourselves: The Question
Part 2) Conversations with Ourselves: The Internal Struggle
Part 3) Conversations with Ourselves: The External Struggle
Part 4) Conversations with Ourselves:  Reflections on Who We Were
Part 5) Conversations with Ourselves: Making Peace with Chaos
Part 6) Conversations with Ourselves: Making Sense of It All

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Conversations with Ourselves- The Internal Struggle

In part one of this self reflection series I had talked a bit about what I love about self reflection and the creative sacred space born from asking questions. (On a side note before I get too far I have a copy of The Sacredness of Questioning Everything by David Dark which I believe relates to what I'm talking about but I have not gotten a chance to reading it yet. Will dust it off as soon as I finish reading Cloud Atlas.) The courage to even ask any question which may challenge the faith of your parents is a HUGE step in it of itself. Asking questions doesn't mean you are betraying God, your faith, or even jeopardizing your place in the here after.  Questioning your beliefs merely means you want to explore your spirituality, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If you're a part of a religious community then your spiritual leaders will most likely say that asking certain questions may lead you astray. The "believe what we tell you, ask only the appropriate questions" should fire off all sorts of alarms in your head. If it doesn't then you're not ready to ask, explore, discover your own spirituality if you allow others to decide your spiritual life.

[Litany Against Fear by Gavin Aung Than, you MUST click here and see the entire Litany Against Fear cartoon at Zen Pencils. Incredibly inspiring.]

I'm not advocating leaving your faith altogether but to recover the reins to your own spirituality. If you can make the decision to choose which house of worship to attend then why can't you decide the boundaries of your spirituality? Any relationship which requires certain unflinching, unquestioning loyalty is bound to cause pain. If you see God as the source of unconditional love, why then are there conditions to receive and experience that love? You must believe X or God will love you if... are conditions, plain and simple. Some will say that God loves everyone, but then continue with you must accept God into your heart or you must accept Jesus' sacrifice, etc, etc. But what happens when you begin to question the religious teachings that surround that unconditional love? What happens when certain events lead you to question your relationship with the divine all together? What happens when you just can't accept any of it?

How do you struggle with the questions which may unravel what you believe to be foundational to your human experience? It's difficult, I believe even more so than the external battle with friends and family members who may not agree with all this self discovery. For me it eventually turned into a spiritual practice. To sit and meditate on who we are and the enormous creative potential of who we can be is very spiritually rewarding. And that's the clincher, what's keeping you from discovering yourself? Is it fear of the unknown, fear of what others may think of you, fear of what you may discover, fear of becoming something/someone else, or fear of losing your beliefs? All of these hurdles include fear, but we must not be a slave to fear. Although I don't pray I do recite the following prayer before a test, interview, etc.:

The Litany Against Fear

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

This is recited by an order of women called the Bene Gesserit in Frank Herbert's science fiction Dune universe. It's a bit silly to recite a science fiction prayer to battle the fear of something like an exam. A string of words is not going to help me ace the test, so why recite it? To help remind myself that the prayer is just as silly, hollow, and weak as fear itself. The questions you are afraid to ask are just a string of words.  They are not incantations to a spell which will immediately turn you into a monster. They are just words. The questions are simply a mirror to discover yourself. How can we love our neighbor when we're afraid to know, let alone love, ourselves?

Part 1) Conversations with Ourselves: The Question
Part 2) Conversations with Ourselves: The Internal Struggle
Part 3) Conversations with Ourselves: The External Struggle
Part 4) Conversations with Ourselves:  Reflections on Who We Were
Part 5) Conversations with Ourselves: Making Peace with Chaos
Part 6) Conversations with Ourselves: Making Sense of It All

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Conversations with Ourselves-The Question

I love conversation. I love the interaction, mingling, sharing, and even merging of thoughts produced by conversing with one another. It is a way in which we can grow together. Of course there are many pitfalls to conversations in which I will not get into today (name-calling, being argumentative,  miscommunication, assumptions, etc.). I want to focus on the power of conversation and especially on self reflection.

(H/T to McGrath from Exploring Our Matrix for sharing this photo).

Self reflection is something which I enjoy so much it's almost second nature to me. Asking questions is what guides me through my daily
self reflection moments. I am a thinker, and I always will be. I can get lost for hours down the rabbit hole following question after question. I can't help myself from asking questions, to think and wrestle with those questions and see what (or, more importantly, who) emerges. Answers are too easy, and easy answers can be messy and come with strings attached. But when you wrestle with a question, you come from the experienced a changed person. Not necessarily good or bad ( that's too black and white) but a changed person, a new creation. There are no easy answers to life, although some of us may feel better with easy answers, being human is an experience which must be experienced. And with each experience we are transformed, with each thought and wrestling we become something new, and in our actions we create a space for new things to flourish. THAT creative space is what I used to call God and what I still hold sacred.

So the question I ask others, but mostly myself, is "who are you, really?" For me THIS is the question which catapulted me into a sea of questions. Are we merely a collection of experiences, memories, genetic code, characteristics? Are we afraid to ask, or afraid to discover? What if we discover something about yourself which causes us shame and embarrassment, what then? What if what we are is completely alien from what we've been told since childhood? How do we wrestle that? How do we live? How do we be human? How do we love? The questions can go on and on, and we can either wrestle and learn to live WITH them, or we can take the easy prepackaged answer.

So who are you, really?

Part 1) Conversations with Ourselves: The Question
Part 2) Conversations with Ourselves: The Internal Struggle
Part 3) Conversations with Ourselves: The External Struggle
Part 4) Conversations with Ourselves:  Reflections on Who We Were
Part 5) Conversations with Ourselves: Making Peace with Chaos
Part 6) Conversations with Ourselves: Making Sense of It All

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Spirituality of Facebook?

"The universe, it is vast and dark and makes us wonder if we are alone. So maybe the reason we make all of these things is to remind ourselves that we are not."

Oh Facebook! I love thee as much as I love Youtube. This new promo both tickles and inspires me. In celebration of their 1 billionth active user Facebook has released this new commercial comparing Facebook to, well, chairs. You can read more on the video here and Zuckerberg's statement here. In his statement he says,
"For the first time in our history, we've made a brand video to express what our place is on this earth. We believe that the need to open up and connect is what makes us human. It's what brings us together. It's what brings meaning to our lives. Facebook isn't the first thing people have made to help us connect. We belong to a rich tradition of people making things that bring us together."
 While Facebook can sometimes (scratch that, most of the time) be a narcissistic stage where one can shout to the world what you ate for lunch, at the core it is a place which does indeed bring people together. That yearning for interconnectedness is what drives my spirituality, and Facebook does a decent job of creating a digital connectedness (even though we are bombarded by game requests and random advertisements). It has been argued that social networking sites (and we could throw in the whole of the Internets for the sake of argument) causes more harm than good by keeping people glued to their computer monitors instead of interacting with real people in the real world. That would depend on your level of self-control but I admit it can be addicting. On the other hand social networking sites have the potential of bringing the lonely and isolated together. I mean where else can an Atheist or Agnostic surrounded by fundamentalists neighbors go to find a sense of community? I believe the online digital community is vital for those leaving established religion behind and seeking their own spiritual voice. I'm not saying Facebook is THE place to congregate digitally, but with 1 billion active users it's a good place to discover and connect with like-minded people. Remember, you are not alone.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Internal Battle

David Hayward illustrates what many of us believers in exile have experienced.When David shared this on Facebook he said  he wasn't going to say anything to "just see what happens". That rascal. On his website he says that he is a graffiti artist on the walls of religion. I'd go one step further and say he's a holy rascal.  

[Intellect vs. Belief by David Hayward]

Has this happened to you? I struggled with this internal war for years before letting go of religion. My beliefs have changed. I feel it has led me to be more compassionate and loving towards my fellow man. This works for me because I've realized that our spirituality is uniquely our own. You don't need an outside force (religion) telling you HOW to be human. It can be useful but not exclusively necessary. Churches are hemorrhaging members and they are doing everything they can to bring lost sheep back into the fold. Most use fear tactics which backfires mainly because people they (churches) fail to understand one of the main reasons people leave is because they don't feel comfortable in that community. They leave because they don't feel welcomed, they feel alone within the community, and even feel that there is more fear than love being spouted from the pulpit. It just doesn't work for them. But just because it doesn't work for them means your faith is meaningless. Quite the opposite: by discovering your spirituality is your own allows you to grow in your faith, to grow in love.  THIS works for me. What works for you?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hobby Lobby's Hurt Feelings

I know this is a bit outdated but here's another gem brought to you by On Knees for Jesus. Hobby Lobby filed a lawsuit against the government over the health care mandate because they don't want to provide abortion inducing drugs in their health care plan. Hopefully you won't lose too many customers from this.

Hobby Lobby, I know you feel that providing coverage for something which goes against your beliefs is important to you. In the end you WILL be providing abortion drugs to your employees one way or another. If you don't provide it in your health care plan you'll provide it through the paycheck you give to your employees. Either way you, the company, are paying for abortions (and probably a mess of other things you'd rather not know about). That is unless you see fit to monitor what your employees do with their paycheck. I believe abortion should be a minor issue. As a civilization with contraceptive technology why aren't we promoting pregnancy prevention instead of terminating them? People are going to have sex, especially teenagers, so why not give them the means to have safe sex? Using contraceptives will not condemn your soul AND you can choose when you and your mate are ready to have a baby. If the religious right focused more on birth control the abortion issue will be disappear on its own. But of course every group needs something easy to rally behind, Christians against poverty and homelessness seems too much like hard. You can't handle a Bible with dirty hands.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Love Thy Neighbor... with a Chicken Sandwich

Oh Chick-fil-A! I don't know the real motivations why Chick-fil-A did a 180 and pulled their funding from anti-gay organizations but it's a move in the right direction. I want to say they did the right thing for the right reasons but in my gut I feel it was financially motivated.  I gave them my thumbs up via Facebook and perused through some of the comments being posted there.

I highly doubt that the masses that came out in support of Chick-fil-A this summer will come out and boycott them now because let's face it, last time they got to eat a sandwich and support their cause. It's no fun boycotting a delicious restaurant. I just hope The Daily Show and The Colbert Report cover this bit of news (won't see tonight's broadcast till tomorrow morning on Hulu). Cross your fingers that Huckabee will rally the troops against Chick-fil-A, sadly there's still no word from him yet on Facebook or Twitter.

(Warning: The kid in the following video talks so fast it'll make your head explode. You've been warned.)


 Update: Oh Chick-fil-A, you sly thing you. Although they've been quite silent about the recent events they have released a statement found here. But Chick-fil-A apparently has found a loop hole to have their cake and eat it too. Read more on the funding loop hole here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Homegrown Extremists

This photo has been floating about the internet for a couple years but this is the first I've seen it  "Liked" by a friend on Facebook which appeared on my radar.

We are worried about terrorists getting a hold of nuclear weapons but what would happen if some trigger happy Americans got a hold of them first? Now, I'm not saying all Americans want to nuke the Middle East and the same goes for Muslims. We are talking about extremists and extremist thinking (or lack thereof). There are extremists who would love nothing more than to wipe Mecca off the map. Shoot first and recover from an economic catastrophe, oil shortage, and environmental (dare I say planetary by the size of this impact we're looking at nuclear winter) annihilation later. All to settle a score. If you can look at this photo and not feel disgusted I don't think I could consider you human let alone a "friend". Here's the link to the Facebook page which posted this picture if you want to peruse through the comments. I posted this photo not because I feel I have better morals than these people but to demonstrate how poisonous a twisted ideology can be if left to fester. 11 years later and some Americans feel justice has not been served even though we have taken out Osama bin Laden.

This is not justice. To quote one of my favorite moments of the Bible Abraham challenged God
"Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Gen 18:25
We've come a long way from OT morality, or at least most of us have. Loving your enemy is hard, but a way towards that goal is to understand them. Once you understand them you will find they're no different than we are. There is no They, there is no Other.   We can be better than this. We are better than this. Or at least we should teach our children to be better than us.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Jesus Tattoos!

I love the internets! I somehow stumbled upon containing odd tattoos merging the image of Jesus with historical figures, film, and even cartoon characters. Here are a couple of my favorites.

Jesus Spock Tattoo. The script below reads "Live long and prosper" in Spanish. I'll let you guys try to decipher this one ( I'm looking at you Dr. McGrath).

Jesus Rides a Dinosaur. This tattoo based on a fantastic image floating about the interwebs a few years ago. I wrote a post about this hilarious image and on the spirituality found in one of my favorite films "The Land Before Time". An oldie but a goodie. Life wouldn't be the same without Creationists. 
I have a couple tattoos myself but nothing this crazy. Check out the above link to find everything from Gumby and Hello Kitty dying for our sins to Zombie Jesus Fish (yeah, I said zombie Jesus fish). Enjoy and feel free to share other links or images similar to the ones above, I'd love to see them. (Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Wondering if Todd Bentley has any wild Jesus tattoos? Check out his tattoos here.) This random stroll through the internet made my day.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Religious Hostility

Thanks to On Knees for Jesus for posting this recent video on Romney and the Religious Right I stumbled upon an interesting survey on religious hostility.

Towards the end Tony Perkins mentioned a survey on the rise of religious hostility stating there have been over 600 recent cases of religious hostility. Here's the link to the website where you can download the report but I wouldn't bother. First, you have to give them your name and email to gain access to the report (I gave them an email address I use for junk mail) and I'm sure I'm on a email database somewhere. Second,  a large portion of religious hostility cases are by far cases of disputes over religious displays during Christmas...err the holidays, zoning disputes, religion in school, or cases of hurt feelings. The cases range over the last decade which would put them on average of 60 a year, hardly an onslaught of religious hostility (To clarify the report was just a listing of cases and did not graph the "rise" of religious hostility cases. I like graphs.) . I downloaded it primarily for my own curiosity and I found a few interesting cases. I was a bit surprised that the Family Research Council and the Liberty Institute (both conservative Christian groups) would include non-Christian suits but lo and behold they did. There aren't many in the report and most are zoning or workplace related which to me suggests they were included to fill out the numbers. Here are a few of my favorites.
Jewish Police Officer Filed Employment Discrimination Claim After Run-in With
Mel Gibson
A Jewish police officer claims Mel Gibson verbally abused him because of his religion,
and then the officer’s superiors forced him to delete the anti-Semitic statements from his
report. The officer claims he was later ostracized and denied promotion because of the
Oh Mel, how can we forget your drunken tirade.
Despite City Approval, Court Orders Construction of Tennessee Mosque to Stop
The Murfreesboro Islamic Center was within three months of completion when a
chancellor court ruled that not enough public notice was given before the zoning
commission approved construction. The Plaintiffs have been fighting the mosque’s
construction, fearing that it is a “sharia compliant” organization. The county has the
option of reapproving the building as long as it gives proper notice of the public meeting.
As of now, the mosque has not been reapproved.

They omitted that "the plaintiffs" were local Christians fighting to keep Muslims out of their town. 1000 points for religious liberty when the mosque was finally able to open their doors.
Child Evangelism Fellowship of Maryland, Inc. v. Montgomery County Public Schools,
373 F.3d 589 (4th Cir. 2004)
The Montgomery County Public Schools refused to allow Child Evangelism Fellowship
(CEF) to participate in the district’s take-home flyer forum to distribute flyers about the
Good News Club, citing fears about the separation of church and state. A lawsuit had to
be filed to end the religious discrimination.
I mentioned this one in particular because my son recently started Kindergarten and was sent home with one of these flyers. I considered mentioning something to the school but..meh, we live in the Bible Belt. We have Christian radio, tv, billboards, a church on every corner, it's not worth ruffling a few Christian feathers for a tiny flyer I can simply ignore. And that is the point I'm trying to make. There are some legitimate cases of infringement on religious freedom but I wouldn't label the cases contained in this report as hostility. Someone burning down a house of worship or gunning down worshipers is hostility, not squabbles over zoning and building permits. And if you still feel your religious liberty is threatened you can  talk it over and compare your plight with that of a non-Christian neighbor. And in the event that a non-Christian neighbor can not be readily found you can take this neat online survey. With Halloween and Christmas around the corner I'm sure there will be a surge in religious hostility cases.  I wonder how much moneys I can get from city hall for not properly displaying baby Jesus waving the American flag?

Monday, September 10, 2012


Somewhere there are kids in church reading slang words into the Bible while snickering during the sermon. Satan just got served! (Or was it the cardinals getting served?)

(via FailBlog)

After a little digging on the interwebs I located the original artist, Cosmo Sarson, and work here. Apparently this was inspired by a  Polish youth group which breakdanced for Pope John Paul II.

El Papa approved! As long as it's not pole dancing for Jesus.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

You've Changed

A big thank you to Andrew Hackman of Hackman's Musings for sharing this recent cartoon by nakedpastor (seriously can't believe I haven't subscribed to his RSS feed. Subscribed!).

[You've Changed by David Hayward]

I've gotten the You think too much and you read too much the most when I speak to others about my deconversion. Although, I would rather describe it more of discovering my own journey than a deconversion. I was never converted to Christianity in the first place (I was one of the lucky souls born into the faith) and there was no single moment where I abandoned Christianity cold turkey. This cartoon vividly describes my departure from the church. I believe if we look beyond the snappy one liners we'll find the pain of separation beneath and in between the statements. Anyone who's left the church (or any faith) can attest it is a painful experience to wrench yourself from your community, friends, and family. Those left behind feel betrayed, and the one leaving feels alone, exiled, without a home. It's not an easy decision that many are willing to make, yet feel they must to feel true to themselves.

I remember one conversation I had with my wife about my change of faith when I had an epiphany and I freely admitted I could not pray without feeling I was somehow lying. I had convinced myself for months I could stay in the church and go through the motions only to realize in the end I would  be lying to everyone around me. This doesn't mean I refuse to go to church if invited. I would bow my head out of respect and reverence but I would not be praying to any god. I pray with my kids at night and during meals because we had decided to raise the children Southern Baptist. I keep my beliefs to myself unless asked directly.  So when I have these types of interactions with believers I don't take it personally anymore because even the beliefs and ideas I hold now are subject to change.

It is not an easy decision to step away from any community. And as someone who thinks too much I thought about this constantly before making any public declaration on straying from the fold. The fact that we ("the straying sheep") thought about the social ramifications means we do care. Our ties to family, friends, and to our community and roots are very important, but so is our personal quest of self discovery. When I left the church it wasn't because I was being led astray by the devil or that I love sin too much. I left the cackle of voices telling me how to be human and set out on a journey to experience my humanity. I had questions to ask and wrestle with and no environment in which to tackle these questions. Some would ask "why ask these questions in the first place?" and then go on to show me their bag of answers.

I'm not looking for easy answers, I'm looking for questions that will last a lifetime answering.

I'm looking to discover myself in others and others in myself.

I'm looking to simply be.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Blog Series: Sunday Sermon Podcasts- That Rascally Rabbi: Holy Rascals

I am very fond of my old Religious Studies teacher, Rabbi Rami, so I decided that I would share podcasts weekly of his talks with the Unitarian Universalists of Murfreesboro I visited back in 2010. Today's podcast was recorded back in February 2012 entitled "Holy Rascals: Crazy Wisdom for Crazy Times."


Podcast Powered By Podbean

I've always enjoyed Rabbi Rami's storytelling style. I love the concept of breaking out of your "cage" and pursuing that place, whatever that place may be. So what do you think? Is there anyone else you would also consider a modern holy rascal? Rabbi Rami and his fellow holy rascals have been working on a film project for quite some time you can find here.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Education I Haz It

I thought I would share a couple of gems floating around the internets. Although you might receive a slight headache afterwards, enjoy!

(Both via Unreasonable Faith, I love you guys!)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Chattanooga Mosque Now Open!

The Chattanooga mosque I was hoping would open soon has been opened since July 20th. The official opening date is August 25th and the Chattanooga Muslim community has welcomed churches and city officials to the event. It opened so quietly and without ANY controversy or resistance that I thought it was still under construction. I've been following the construction of this mosque for quite a while and I'm glad there was no grass roots opposition. The long embattled Murfreesboro mosque has also recently opened its doors after 2 years of construction and delays due to lawsuits (video below).  You can read the full story and video of the Chattanooga mosque here.

 I am hoping to visit both mosques one day and I sadly won't be able to attend the opening of the Chattanooga mosque. Even though there was no opposition in opening of the Chattanooga mosque I'm hoping others will also visit and at the very least learn something about their neighbors. Hopefully the more visible and the more we learn about our neighbors the less likely there will be another shooting because of religious intolerance and ignorance. For more information on the Chattanooga mosque and driving direction visit their website here.

 I am ecstatic and proud to call myself a Chattanoogan!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tcha, You know what... Uhh-Uhh

This clip is insane. INSANE! I can't even begin to describe what just happened. I believe I actually got dumber after listening to this clip. On the Dana Show, hosted by Dana Loesch a conservative radio talk show host, Kay called in to voice her concerns about Chik-Fil-A-gate. Kay barely got a sentence in the entire time as Dana bombarded her with a series of accusations, literally shouting her down.Literally.

(HUGE h/t to On Knees for Jesus)

Let's run down a list of the statements/points made by Dana:
  • You don't sound like any Christian that I know
  • Doesn't understand how Kay can practice Christianity while claiming another Christian's viewpoint as hate
  • What is hateful about Cathy's statement (true, nothing innately hateful but is missing the real topic behind the controversy. The issue is about the group he funds which wants to criminalize gay marriage.)
  • You only subscribe to certain aspects of Christianity
  • That's not how the gospels are presented.
  • You sound like anything but a Christian
  • Doesn't understand how certain aspects of the Christian faith is hateful
  • You think God is hateful then?
  • You're essentially calling Christ hateful.
  • Is astonished over the statement that Christ doesn't directly address the gay community.
  • (My favorite line) Give me the verse. Give me the verse. Give me the verse. No, no, no, no. Kay, give me the verse.
  • The burden of proof is on you, you called my show.
  • I want you to show me in the Bible where Christ preached hate?
  • Stated that false Christians like Kay ran Dana from church. 
  • and another favorite, Kay is the type of person that embarrasses the faith.
There is so much here that I can not begin to compute what I just heard. I literally jumped up, darted across the room to share this clip. It just boggles me how people can be so relentlessly unyielding to simply sit down and listen. Just listen. All Kay wanted was to be heard, even for a brief 5 minutes. Yes it is Dana's show and I'm sure she loves her job, (I once worked at a college radio station and absolutely loved it) but it is a talk show. If you invite listeners to call in at least give them the chance to make their statement. This spiraled out of control quickly, which is why people can't talk properly about gay marriage and the Chik-fil-A incident. Listening doesn't equate to losing ground in a debate, it means you care enough about the subject to pay attention to both sides of the issue. That and you don't come across like a total a$$hole.

I don't know much about Dana but she reminds me of someone else who likes to plug their ears.

Give me the verse. Give me the verse. Give me the verse. No, no, no, no. Kay, give me the verse.

La la la la la,
 la la la la la. 
Thank you for playing.

Monday, August 6, 2012

I'm on Cloud Atlas

I recently stumbled upon this incredible trailer of Cloud Altas to be released on October 26th.

I honestly never knew this novel existed until seeing this trailer. I know trailers are meant to hype up the film, and boy am I hyped for both the film and novel. Written by David Mitchell the 2004 novel consists of six stories spanning from the 19th century to a post-apocalyptic future. The stories are connected through the characters where, for example, the  main character of story #2 reads story #1 in the form of a diary found on a shelf. Each story is interrupted by the following story and after the closing of the 6th story the novel returns back to finish each one with the novel ending back where the reader started (Wikipedia). It is an interesting way to write a novel which I hope won't be too confusing to those watching the film. I'm just concerned if the audience will have enough time to appreciate the characters and different story lines in just under 3 hours.

What I really enjoyed was the theme of interconnectedness woven throughout the characters of the six different stories and time periods. The concept of how our lives are interconnected into the lives of others I can't describe it. A part of what inspired my spiritual journey (and this blog) began when my wife and I found out we were having our first child. My mind exploded for weeks daydreaming about our new family and beyond (I recently turned 22 at the time). What followed were months of deep self reflection and mediation. How will I inspire my children? Will I be a good father? Will I repeat the actions of my father and his father? What if I screw it all up? Do I have anything worth passing on to the next generation? Will I have enough love for all of them? (I know this all may sound chessy and it'll get extra cheddary in a moment.) For the first time ever I felt truly connected to mankind ( cheddar). I felt as a link in a chain, a part of something bigger, grander than myself. Years earlier in high school I had designed a symbol and got it tattooed on my back. I had this idea to start a family tradition having my children (voluntarily) receive this symbol on their 18th birthday. I envisioned myself years in the future posing with my grandchildren also showing off their new tattoos. I felt this would be a way of passing on a part of myself and securing immortality.

I'm looking forward to reading the novel and watching the film. Has anyone read the book yet and if so feel free to comment below (try to keep it spoiler free though). For those who've read the book does the trailer appear to be faithful to the novel?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Why Christians are Upset about the Chik-Fil-A Controversy

I'm sure all of you know about the uproar with Chik-Fil-A so I won't go into detail. But I do want to touch on a related theme of the Christian God changing her mind. Christian Piatt wrote an excellent article about a Billy Graham letter and the moral decay of America. Graham wrote in his letter how his wife, Ruth, made a comment after reading the section on America's moral decay in a draft of a book Graham was writing. She stated that  “If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.” That got me thinking on two things: why can't God apologize for a past sin against Mankind, and if God can't or won't apologize/change his mind, what is preventing us from apologizing?

This also brought to mind the story of Abraham questioning God's morality found in Genesis 18.
25 Far be it from you to do such a thing —to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Genesis 18:25
Abraham's question will not the judge of all the earth do right is one of those timeless rare gems found within the archaic stories of the Bible. To stand up to a powerful force and question their authority and judgement is something we should reflect upon especially on the topic of basic human rights. Sure, Abraham was okay with the destruction of everyone else except the righteous, he still stood up to a supreme being with an ability to zap him. God DID change her mind, many times throughout the Bible. Of course this is explained away as all being part of a cosmic Divine Plan, if that plan changed before why can't it change again? Many (but not all) Christians believe that God is constant and she never changes. They hold this belief because life is chaotic and need a Rock to weather the storm of life. But if God went from complete genocide to sparring the city if ten righteous people were found, why can't we ask the question Abraham failed to ask? Will the Judge of all the earth spare the city if none were found righteous? Will the Lord forgive the city for its sins, forgive us for being human?

What if the story had ended with God never bending to Abraham's pleas? What does this say about how mankind viewed (and continues to view) the divine? And most importantly what about us? God can and does change throughout scripture so shouldn't we as a society change as well? In America we've changed our minds on slavery, genocide, and gender inequality (well, we're still working on that) so why stop there? Is allowing gay marriage worse than any of the past injustices we thought were just and righteously mandated by God? Will society actually crumble if we allow gay couples a piece of paper stating they are legally married? As I've said before divorce, spousal abuse, and infidelity are all real dangers to the institution of marriage. The God of the bible is okay with slavery, genocide, and gender inequality and since we as a nation have turned our backs on these America has not been wiped out like Sodom and Gomorrah. Are Christians actually asking us to turn back the clock? No I don't believe they are, well maybe a few of the more radical types. The reason why Christians are so upset about the Chik-Fil-A controversy is that it challenges their sense of security and safety found in God and the Bible. (Well that and they find homosexuality icky.) They know that another big civil rights change is no longer on the horizon, it is already here! Attention, attention!  Christianity is not going to disappear, there will be no massive Christian persecutions, no massive gay agenda brainwashing programs in school, society is not going to crumble, and most importantly for you Christians, God will NOT strike us down. Society will adjust and gay marriage will be the new norm like freed slaves and women in the workplace. So take a deep breath, have a delicious chicken sandwich at Chik-Fil-A and go home and watch a wholesome Christian film on Netflix. Everything will be okay.

Oh and I wanted to share this comical take on the controversy. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why SBNR? Top 10 Reasons has recently finished a top 10 reasons why they (or I should say we) call themselves (ourselves) Spiritual but not Religious on their Facebook page. Here are the top 10 reasons created by SBNR Facebook members and my response.

# 10. We want compassion not politics to be our spiritual service to the world.
 I've discovered in my interactions with other SBNRs that many call themselves Nones or SBNR as a direct rejection of traditional faith. I mean it's even in their title, Spiritual BUT NOT Religious. Many focus on this distinction because spiritual and religious have been used interchangeably until recently. I believe spirituality (however you may define or practice the term) can and does exist outside of religion and that is exactly what a lot of Americans are seeking out. We feel that traditional faith has strayed away from service to our fellow man (compassion) towards self preservation of the institution (politics). If you get paid to preach a certain message it is in your best interest to toe the line if you want to keep your job. [I remember once when my wife and I went to our Baptist pastor in Smyrna with our marital concerns over my straddling the fence between Islam and Christianity, our pastor gave the best pitch trying to keep me in the faith. At the closing of the meeting he gave a "biased prayer" (his words). I give him mad props for trying though.] Established traditional religion needs to transform itself if it wants to relate to today's society, and what people need now more than ever is compassion not politics.

#9. Because everyone has their OWN path.
This is the very core of my site. Everyone has their own path (even if they claim they are following God's will they still follow what feels right to them) and in understanding that each and every path is unique we recognize our shared humanity. If I hold anything sacred it is in our interconnectedness found through our shared experience as human beings.

#8. Because we share this planet with all living creatures.
 My response to #9 is similar to #8: by understanding our relationship with all living creatures on this planet we may be able to live more harmoniously with nature. I know, I know. That sounds a bit too much lovey dovey tree huggery than I would like but there it is. This one I may not care for as much as the next SBNR but that's the great thing about SBNR it is a term which covers a wide spectrum of people with diverse beliefs.

#7. Because this child deserves a life filled with wonder, not guilt.
 To help clear the confusion each of these reasons were accompanied by a related photo. #7, similar to #10, can come across as arrogant stating that religion is all about guilt and being a None or SBNR is free from guilt. Religions do contain a lot of guilt but that's only because they were created by humans with human emotions. This one could have been worded a bit differently, instead of ignoring guilt (life is peppered with plenty guilt) we should struggle and wrestle with guilt when we come across it. By seeking and giving forgiveness within that empty space where we carved out guilt we can fill it with wonder.

#6. "The moment you think you know God, you have made yourself bigger than God." -Rami Shapiro
 I admit my bias up front for this one since Rabbi Rami was my professor during my years at MTSU. Although few may admit it we all put God in a box. I believe this is a core part of being SBNR, to live and wrestle with uncertainty. God is often used as a source of assurance and certainty in a chaotic universe. But a part of being SBNR is diving head first into the mystery and exploring the infinite in both the inner and outer verse. (On a side note Kerry Miller over at Heady Brew has recently written several intriguing post on the infinite internal worlds found here, here, and here.) We minimize God when we say we think we know the mind of God (This all, of course, depends on your definition of God or even if the term is important at all.) In actuality we use the term God as a bully pulpit to say that the universe is on Our Side. We win every time. But as an SBNR we strive to accept the chaos by admitting we don't have all the answers, we just like to look around.

#5 Our diversity gives us many chances to learn and grow on our own spiritual path.
Our diversity is no different than the diversity found in any other faith, we just choose to acknowledge and share freely in our diversity. But the only thing I worry about in taking on a religious identity/label is being stuck in an echo chamber. The same issue rises in interfaith meetings, people only talk about what they share in common but hardly ever touch the areas of diversity. We should embrace our uniqueness and freely share in our differences, and most importantly take a part of each others diversity with us to help in our own spiritual path.

#4 Because in our spiritual diversity we have found a spiritual community.
 If there's anything I miss about being a Christian it is being part of a community. Websites like helps to fill in the role of the community but still lacks that human interaction. An online community can only go so far. And with the recent rise of Americans claiming no religious identification I believe our community will grow in the coming years and will benefit from the diversity within the group. The hazard once again becomes setting identity boundaries too high which discourages people from SBNR or setting them too low and wrestling with how we identify ourselves. Our sense of identity does play a part in finding a community. If the community is too diverse or too narrow we may feel that we may not belong there.

#3 Because here I am safe to be my unique spiritual "ME".
This reason ties in with #4. People want to feel safe in their new communities with their new spiritual identification. But, I don't want to feel too "safe", yet it wouldn't be a community if I felt threatened (i.e. constantly being bombarded with conversion requests). I want a rest stop not a home while a travel.

#2 Because I am free to have my own relationship to the divine "ultimate" with or without people. I can choose...
See how all of these are beginning to connect? Reason #2 also ties into #3 and #4 so again won't go into long detail. When we come to realize that our spirituality is own and doesn't have to be defined by any man made institution we are completely free to follow our own path. Many people think this means we like to pick and choose, buffet style, from all the different faiths to cover our behinds (i.e. hell insurance). We choose that which speaks to us, that which inspires us to be better more loving people, that which connects us to the All, to each other.

#1 Because I'm empowered to find my "highest" self on my own spiritual journey...
This is what drives my spirituality, to be the best Sam I can be, to seek out my highest self. But in seeking out my highest self I also want to come to terms with my own imperfection/brokenness. The Missing Piece by Shel Silverstein is a perfect example in describing my spirituality.

Anyone one else consider themselves SBNR? If so what do you think about the top 10? Leave your comments or better yet I encourage you to write your own post as to why you consider yourself SBNR.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

1 in 5 Americans are "Nones"

Well there's a new survey out by the Pew Center stating that nearly 1 in 5 Americans, 19%, are without any religious affiliation up from 15% back in 2008. You can read more details about the survey here. What caught my attention about the survey is the correlation between those born as a None vs. "Switchers", those switching between religious affiliations. The article mentioned a 2009 survey stating that 10% of Nones are switchers, and also mentioned was an interesting factor which may keep their (our) numbers low: Nones may not be having enough babies. The issue then becomes whether a young None couple will actively raise their children as Nones or allow them to decide for themselves. This ties in with my previous post on passing down religious identities, I'm raising my children to decide for themselves rather than actively raise them as Nones. And I believe most Nones (including SBNRs) would be more inclined to allow their children to explore than those within an established faith. (At the time this was written my 5 year old ran back downstairs after I put him to bed and reminded me I forgot to pray with them.) I would like to see a survey done exploring at what age most people begin to question their faith and switch.

I also believe the numbers stated in the survey may be a bit low since many Nones may not want to come out as an unbeliever, mainly to avoid the risk of losing social and family ties. I know I'm the only None I know in the Chattanooga area since the majority of the population has a religious affiliation. They (We) are still slowly growing even without a wave of babies or active recruiters, but I highly doubt that the non-religious will be a major category as a religious identity in America. Well at least not during my lifetime, but who knows we did see the first African American president elected into office and possibly the first Mormon president in the coming months.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Retaining Your Identity

Dr. James McGrath over at Exploring Our Matrix recently asked "if you are a 'none' or even if you are connected with a religion, do you care if your children shift identities?" The short answer is no, not at all. The main reason why is because I shifted through several different identities myself within the last 5 years. I hope they remain open-minded and I don't care which faith they eventually settle with as long as the faith resonates with them. Although, I would rather they don't become fundamentalists of any faith.

[My Alien II by Bloommer. Follow the link to check out some of Bloomer's other works.]

I admit I would like to see my children follow my beliefs but I realize the beliefs I (currently) accept are the result of years of questioning, exploring, and evolving. I believe two people may follow the same faith tradition but their personal religious and/or spiritual experiences are unique. My wife is Baptist and since I (currently) consider myself a None we are raising them in the Baptist tradition. Religion is a touchy subject in our family so as the odd man out I try not to stir the pot and I'm fine with attending whatever church we call home (we begin church shopping next week). What I DO want to pass on to my children is to be loving towards your neighbor and to follow the wisdom of Ecclesiastes: eat, drink, have a few good friends, a career they love, and be merry. As a None I personally believe that as the globe becomes more interconnected people will begin to question their previous tribal and religious boundaries. I don't care if my children shift identities, what I do care is how they relate to their neighbor.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Here Comes the Wambulance

I'm not familiar with the discriminatory laws pertaining to private businesses but both of these videos, via On Knees for Jesus, remind me of a bunch of kids throwing tantrums.

Now businesses may have the right to refuse service but in the end they're only shooting themselves in the foot by reducing their target markets. Now if a Christian business wants to only market to Christians then have at it, but eventually they'll realize that if they'd broadened to include non-Christians and provided a service people will throw money at them for they would be much more profitable. When my wife and I don't enjoy a particular restaurant or business we choose not to go there. I'm not going to complain why I didn't get a senior citizen discount, I'm not a senior citizen. (Well now that I think about it, if I'm not planning to come back anyway why not throw a hissy fit until the manager either escorts me out or accommodates me. I either get physically carried out of the business, which saves me from walking out, or I get free dessert. Win win!) Entitlement whining makes everyone look foolish but especially makes the business look uncaring towards the clients and customers they're trying to cater.  But I'm not a businessman so what do I know.  

Saturday, July 7, 2012

How Good Do We Have to Be? Part 5- Is there Enough Love for Everyone?

  [I started this blog series well over a year ago on Harold Kushner's How Good Do We Have to Be? and life got in the way and I never got a change to finish reviewing, let alone reading, the book. I recently recommended this book to other people which caused me to dig up this long unfinished post.]
"The Original sin that affects virtually every one of us and leads to other, worse sins is the belief that there is not enough love to go around, and therefore where someone else is loved, he or she is stealing that love from us." Harold Kushner
In chapter 6 Kushner moves on to a topic most people with siblings struggle with: sibling rivalry. I admit I fought daily with my sister (she's 2 years younger than me) over simple things like who got the last pudding cup, but I don't remember fighting over anything major like my parents' affection. My sister, however, saw it differently, she's mentioned many times how our parents loved me more than her and supported me and my endeavors. We're both in our mid to late 20's now so that resentment and rivalry has completely vanished and my sister and I are closer than we ever were. Kushner points out that the book of Genesis is a series of sibling rivalries as siblings with opposite qualities and personalities fight over their parents' affections. He also states that the Original Sin is not disobedience or lust but of hatred and resentment born out of our fear that we will not be loved enough. Kushner goes on to say that this is a fear so primal it follows us into adulthood and our pain and suffering resurfaces throughout our adult years.

As a parent of three I admit I am also guilty of subconsciously attributing certain roles to my children (e.g. good vs. problem child,  responsible vs. care free child). I believe I am more blind to these subconscious acts as the eldest who was given everything, the greatest amount of love (I don't personally believe I was given the most love I'm just illustrating how younger siblings might view the eldest). These roles given out by the parents causes all sorts of guilt and pain as the child come into adulthood. The eldest, as the responsible child, feels guilty if they ever let down their parents and resentment towards the younger for not also being able to lead a carefree life. The younger, as the carefree child, is allowed to make more mistakes but feels is not given enough love and attention as the eldest and is often negatively compared to the eldest ("why can't you be more like your big brother?" or "your big brother/sister has finished school and has a career, what have you done with your life?").

Even with all this sibling rivalry Genesis also demonstrates how we can overcome this original sin: by coming to terms with our feelings towards our siblings (and also friends, coworkers, etc.) and by understanding that love for one child doesn't negate or reduce the amount of love given to the others. Like Isaac and Ishmael coming together at their father's, Abraham's, grave and Joseph reunited with his brothers who sold him into slavery, we can outgrow the roles given to us in childhood and move past the primal fear of being unloved. That is the great thing about love there is plenty to go around, the only restrictions on love are the ones we impose on ourselves. This doesn't mean that suffering will disappear, it just means we don't have to go through it alone. We don't have to wander through life restlessly like Cain who murdered the only other person who understood what it was to fight for a parent's (i.e. God's) affection. We don't have to be alone, and in the end that's all we really want, to love and be loved.

Part 1: A Story of Emergence
Part 2: Guilt and Shame
Part 3: The Cycle of Guilt
Part 4: The Wholeness We Seek
Part 5: Is There Enough Love for Everyone
Part 6: Final Thoughts

Sunday, June 24, 2012

What Love Looks Like

I'm a follower of the Believe Out Loud Facebook page, a pro LGBT Christian movement, and they shared this cute little picture today that I thought I would share with you guys. Nobody can deny that more people today are for equal rights for LGBT than we were 10 years ago. People try to explain away why this group of Americans can't share in equal rights for several reasons but the loudest of these is that God said so. God also said a lot of other things which either get ignored or explained away as irrelevant to today. But nothing can be more relevant today than equal rights. How can America continue to be a beacon of freedom and equality we want it to be if we withhold certain rights from our own citizens, our neighbors, family and friends? I don't believe in the "gay agenda" any more than I believe in ancient aliens visiting our planet. What I do believe in is Love. Love isn't something which can be explained it must be experienced. I can't understand how some find it so easy to prevent others to take part in this human experience.

Now some are comfortable with LGBT folk in being who they are as long as they're not visible. This and the "love the sinner and not the sin" doesn't cut it in my book. Nobody should have to hide their love, nobody should have to jump through extra hurdles to experience it and enjoy equal benefits of being in a long lasting and loving relationship. As I've said before divorce, abuse, extramarital affairs ARE the real threats to marriage not two loving people wanting to spend the rest of their lives dedicated to one another. It's that simple.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Get Out!

"To the Atheist watching this telecast if our belief in God offends you, Move!... We don't want you and we won't miss you." John Hagee
I've been silent here for well over a month for personal reason I won't go into too much detail. Let's just say that I had to part ways with an unnamed major cellular company. I worked at their call center for the last year and a half before the stress got to me and I snapped. I am going back to school in the fall to get my M.S. in Computer Science so I'll have a bit more free time to post. One video posted yesterday by Vorjack at Unreasonable Faith (love these guys) caught my attention this morning.

Hagee and the rest of his Super Best Friends are in their death throes clawing and gnashing at everyone and everything that doesn't fit their version of Christianity. What can you do when the latest surveys and reports in the last few years state that churches across America are hemorrhaging young people? Shut the door, plug your ears, and yell. They feel that their existence is in peril, and it is unless they change. And since change is seen as a threat, as polluting the holy, it is out of the question. To them it is much easier to tell your neighbor to move than to shake their hand. It is easier to ignore their existence and even threaten them than to coexist with them. Why? Because they, Hagee and friends, are so stuck on the idea of exclusivity that reality becomes a cosmic battle of dominance. It is either us or them, only one side CAN win. Like the dwarfs sitting in a pitch black stable in C.S. Lewis' The Last Battle some (not all) evangelicals would rather live in their version of reality than embrace the possibility that our neighbor may not be the boogie men some megaphone-mouthed pastors portray them as, but may even be *gasp!* human. What bothers me about this video is not Hagee and his comments, but the audience's overwhelming support. It's the everyday people and their support of these unloving comments in a "house of love". I'm sure at some point the congregation sang a hymn about how much God loves everyone. An ideal which unfortunately has been sacrificed for the temporary survival of the group.

As the shift continues towards more non-traditional forms of spirituality (or even None at all) the fundamentalist theists will get louder and more violent in their rhetoric. The non-theist, agnostic, atheist and non-traditional spiritualist must hold our ground not in fighting fire with fire but to extinguish hateful words with love and understanding. Our goal should be to lessen the suffering of others not add to it. And for those still in a religious group like this one who feel uncomfortable I urge you to leave, not to convert you to my side but to urge you to find your own path, your own cosmic song to sing. Get out and follow that which inspires you to be a better you.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Savage Morality

It's videos and stories like this one which make me giddy about the interwebs.

What Dan Savage is doing is not "attacking" the Bible but tearing down the self imposed veils of ignorance and hypocrisy when it comes to what the Bible actually says. Some students who came to the convention thought they were going to hear about anti bullying and walked out when they felt their beliefs were under attack. I have yet to find a full clip of his speech (I'd like to hear it in its entirety) but the kids who walked out missed the point that you have to attack the source of bullying. What is fueling bullying against gays? It's not the Bible (which only has a handful of references to homosexuality) but the people using the Bible to bludgeon people different from what they consider the norm. Andrew Hackman (Welcome Back!) at Hackman's Musings summed it up best with the following:
 The anti-homosexual position does not belong to a deity.... it belongs to you.