I read a lovely blog post. It is about people with disabilities. Please read it.
My comment on this:
I grew up with a learning disability. I was teased, bullied. But I’ve succeeded beyond what any of those people who made fun of me, or even most of the teachers and guidance counselors could. My son has autism spectrum disorder. Family, friends, strangers in the supermarket, all would try to tell me how to handle him, how to raise him, how to “fix” him. He is not “broken”. He never was. He is his own person. He is my son.
I saw this drawing on DeviantArt today.
While it is outwardly whimsical, at second glance it is full of horror.
The Story of Noah’s ark is often told as a story of salvation. God has saved Noah, his family, and two of every creature from a world wide flood. He sets them down in a new world with the sun shining and a rainbow in the sky. It is given to us as a story hope and a lesson in God’s unending love for us.
In this story, God decided to destroy his creation. It is claimed that he did the because humans had almost all become sinners, loving nothing but sin and debauchery. So he decided to destroy them all, all except Noah and his family, who loved him and we good and decent people.
What is overlooked in this story is the complete horror and incomprehensible death and destruction that was perpetrated by a vengeful, capricious god who thought nothing about wiping out almost every living thing on earth. Even if you accept that everyone but Noah and his family were sinners, were they all so completely evil that they all deserved death? Even if you accept this, what about the animals? Were they all sinners as well?
What this artwork shows is a glimpse of the horror of the wonton death and destruction that this “loving” God visited upon his creatures. What about all of the people? Can you imagine seeing millions of bodies floating in the ocean, stretching from horizon to horizon? What this reveals is utter destruction and death on a scale unimaginable perpetrated by a vengful and evil god, one who’s anger is far greater than his love, and who requires destruction and death in return for salvation.
This is the unacknowledged and overlooked horror of religion. That message is that God will save us. What is unspoken is that he is saving us from himself.
I went to my Son’s church today to hear him sing in the choir. They were really quite good. The music was a mix of gospel and soul with some latin rhythms thrown in. Of course, the lyrics were all “praise the Lord”, and “Jesus” repeated ad nauseum.
I could see that people were moved by the music; many singing and swaying to the beat. It was inspiring. Not inspiring in a spiritual way, but in a “isn’t this great that we can all enjoy this together” kind of way. I can understand why people would be moved to feel as if some kind of spirt was among them.
I felt that too, but it wasn’t a spirit of gods or angels or anything like that. It was a spirit of belonging and sharing. I’ve also felt the exact same feeling at rock and pop concerts. When I saw Elton John, the crowd sang and swayed to the soulful lyrics of “Rocket Man” or “Candle in the Wind”. When I saw Simon and Garfunkel, it was “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovey)”. When I saw Paul Simon solo, it was “You Can Call Me Al”; Barry Manilow, “I Write the Songs”; Chicago, ”Saturday in the Park”.
These musical experiences were all moving and inspiring because it allowed us, as an audience, as humans, to share common emotions of love, joy, tenderness, and excitement. It is the spirit of togetherness and sharing of emotions that is at play here, not the spirit of the lord or any other supernatural entity. Music unites us and allows us to share our humanness.
The pastor (this was a Protestant service, in contrast to my last church experience) gave a sermon titles “The Dangerous People”. According to him, the people who are truly dangerous, “to themselves and others”, are those who “think they know, but don’t know” (his exact words, not mine). He said that we need to be willing to accept council and instruction from others. He couched this in knowledge of the Bible, using Apollos and Paul from the New Testament as examples.
He said that Apollos was a great preacher and very knowledgeble in the scriptures, but that he only knew of John the Baptist, and since he didn’t know of Jesus, he was somehow dangerous to himself and to others. How Apollos was dangerous he didn’t say. What he did say was that once he was told of the true way of Jesus, he learned from that and started preaching the gospel of Jesus. That, somehow, was supposed to show us how we must listen to wise council and not assume that we know everything.
He never said how we can differentiate good council from bad, truth from falsehood, only that we must be willing to admit that we don’t know everything and to listen to those who know more. He also didn’t tell us who “those” are. I found the message pretty muddled. I suppose that you could take from this that we must be humble and open to new ideas, but I didn’t get the feeling that this was what he really meant. To me, he seemed to emphasize the idea of “dangerous people”, but without ever letting us know how to tell “truth” from falsehood.
One other thing that he said really struck me, because it was so self-contradicting. He said that we have the liberty of praising and doing the will of God. How can you do the will of an all powerful god and still have liberty? This is subjugation disguised as liberty. It is the same as saying that Americans value liberty, but then say that we are not real Americans if we don’t say the Pledge of Allegiance, completely missing the fact that by pledging allegiance to anything, be it God or country, we are trading our liberty for servitude to some higher master.
I’ve been learning quite a bit from my forays to church. I’ve learned that there are some wonderful ideas out there about how we can be better people, but they always get watered down by the trappings of religion. Instead of using the example of how we should be humble and admit that we don’t have all the answers in order to think for ourselves so that we can learn and grow, it comes down to just having faith. Well, you can’t have faith and truly think for yourself, because to really think for yourself means to question everything, which faith can not allow.
I find it almost sad to see such potential for real understanding of the human condition and the world we live in lost in a morass of faith, platitudes, and servitude to a “higher power”. This makes us compliant and docile, just like the sheep that the shepherd figure of Jesus requires us to be.
I went to church today because my son was in the choir. I haven’t been to church for a long time, and not a Catholic one for even longer.
Having been raised Catholic, the service itself was familiar enough, even after all these years, that I could ignore it. The sermon, on the other hand, I listened to intently. When I used to go to church, even as a kid, I remember always listening to the sermon. I listened and I thought about what the priest had to say. Today was no different.
He talked about desire. There was some very well thought out and interesting points that he made. He explained how desire run amok can lead to greed and he used the international banking crisis as an example. I couldn’t agree more. Here was a perfect example of greed and how it can affect millions. Here was a very humanistic call for equality and a curb on selfishness and the policies that promote it. He contrasted that to a desire to do what is right for everyone.
This would have been a perfect sermon, but then, of course, he pushed that aside and said that the real positive role of desire is to know and see God. Damn!
This is where myself, and humanists like me, see the great difference between our goals of those of religions. We seek to promote the positive aspects of humanity, like channeling our desires to do good for, not just ourselves, but others as well. While most religions do see this as an important task, it is secondary to a desire to please God. As far as I can see, this is just as selfish as the desire for personal gain. It is replacing the desire for money and possessions with the desire to gain wealth in an afterlife that may not exist, and which certainly does no one here on earth any good
Now, if desiring to gain points in a possible afterlife leads you to do good here on earth, great, but there is still a selfishness to this that I thin can, and does, lead easily to arrogance. Many believers use this thought of reward in heaven to make themselves, in their eyes, better than those who either don’t believe as they do or don’t believe at all. This can easily lead to the extreme of believing, and worse, telling those people that they will burn for eternity in hell. This dehumanizes those who disagree and breeds hate.
Most humanists, on the other hand, believe in doing good for others simply because it is the right thing to do. They expect no reward, no glory, just the satisfaction of doing what’s right and helping others. All without judgment, arrogance, or hate.