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.
Ok. They have a new Pope. Pope Francis.
Here is what CNN said about him:
“Until last year, Bergoglio was the archbishop of Buenos Aires before stepping down because of his age. He is 76.”
So if he was too old to be an archbishop last year, how do you figure that he’s not too old to be Pope now? I guess that is religious logic for you.
What an auspicious beginning of his new reign. Ugh.
In my last post I mentioned how I am out of work.
I had an exchange on FB today with an old friend. I’d shared a post supporting workers’ rights. Her response was:
“They” didnt take anything from u; it’s called a … paycheck! It’s a new day in a brilliantly rebounding economy that bends over backwards to help small business thrive. Go start one! The time is ripe! Hire someone off the burgeoning, I mean, shrinking unemplyment rolls. Be a role model; show the evil capitalist, free market business owner how it’s done. Have u ever written a paycheck for somone else? Do u have any idea what it takes to actually run a business? Sry, the incessant ‘Being Liberal’ whining is … incessant!
I was pretty hurt by this. As I said in my reply to her, I’ve worked hard all my life. I’ve been laid off several times, which has set me back financially each time. My real, effective, take home wages adjusted for cost of living are less now than 20 years. I’ve regularly put in 60+ hour weeks at salary, working hard for raises that never came (not for anyone, not just me), bonuses that were cut, and 401k and stock options that lost money. Not because of quirks of the economy or changing markets, but because of short term strategies by company execs who were trying to maximize their own and their stock holders returns in as short a time as possibly, while ignoring planning for long term growth. Such has been the High Tech, and many other industries of the past 20 years.
What really gets me about this is not that I’ve been forced to start all over again, looking for a job, starting at the bottom at another company, struggling to pay the rent, bills, and buy food and clothes for my kids. This stuff happens. I’ve been though it before, I’ll be ok.
What really bothers me is my friend’s attitude. The idea that I should be grateful for my paycheck (which I am), and not complain when I’m used, overworked, underpaid, and the thrown away. Go start a small business. Sure, let me go get those several thousand dollars I’ve stashed away to start one up. Oh wait. I had to use that to pay my rent and car payments and car insurance, and electric bill, and buy food after the last time I got laid off. And don’t forget those medical bills. You know, the ones on top of the $5,000 in premiums I paid last year. Oh, I got a kid with special needs who requires a $60 co-pay every week when he has to get therapy? Ah well, just be thankful I’ve got health insurance at all. What, the $400 a moth in prescription medication co-pays? No problem. Just write them off on my taxes. Maybe I’ll get an extra $1000 break this year.
I spent time two years ago where I put in 370 hours in overtime in just three months. I got no extra pay. I was never thanked for all the extra work. I didn’t get a raise or a promotion for saving my business group’s ass because of their poor planning and lack proper resources. What I got was a whopping 8 hours of comp time. Not even a atta-boy pat on the back. And that is par for the course for every high-tech company I’ve ever worked for.
So to be told that I should be grateful to my company for giving me a paycheck when they work me like a horse, pay a less than inflation pay raise every year (one company I worked for no one ever got a pay raise for 4 years. Given the rate of inflation, I lost several precent per year in income), makes me angry because it reeks of the “fuck you, you’re on your own; at least I have mine” attitude that has taken over at least 50% of the population. I didn’t build that? Maybe not, but we sure as fuck kept it running and made it work. Me and millions of other workers who did the real work that made the products and kept all the businesses going.
I’m appalled at the assumption that just because I am angry about how unfairly many American workers are being treated, that somehow that means that I think capitalism is evil. That is just knee-jerk, Faux News regurgitated bullshit. I’m all for capitalism, but I’m also for fairness. When a company lays off workers, but the officers of the companies walk away with their millions, and then are hailed in Forbes as paragons of business, that’s not capitalism, that’s unadulterated greed and a misplaced sense of where the real success of a business comes from: it’s workers.
But the real problem with her attitude is not the economical aspect. It is the human aspect. The implication is that I should just be grateful and STFU. This reeks of a sense of privilege and lack of compassion. And what makes it hurt all the more is that I knew her to be a kind, caring, gentle person. But that was a long time ago.
She claims she is a Christian. Well, I was raised a Christian; I spent most of my life as a devout Christian. I remember the stories of Jesus preaching kindness, forgiveness, mercy. I took joy in reading how he urged us to give to those in need. That if someone asks for your shirt, give him your cloak too. If you feed the poor, care for the sick, comfort those who are destitute, it is as if you were doing these things for him.
Where are the examples of these beautiful words? Where are they being put into practice? Certainly not here in America, at least not by the vocal, fundamental Christians who, like my friend, seem to have no problem dismissing those in need and who are struggling and suffering.
I spent years studying the New Testament before abandoning religion. Rarely do I see a self described Christian acting at all in a Christ like way. This is one of the main reasons I gave up on Christianity, and all religions. I saw that just believing didn’t make you better or moral. I’m not perfect, far from it. But I try hard, every day, to ease the suffering of anyone I meet. I work hard to support causes that help people who are in need. I don’t just say, well I have mine, go work for yours. I ask myself what can I do to help them help themselves. What can I give, even if only a kind word or action, to make their day just a little brighter. I put myself in their place and try to understand why they suffer and why they are where they are.
I’m no longer religious, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t think some religious thought can’t be useful. There are lessons to be taught in most religions. So, for the Christians out there reading this, please remember what Jesus meant when he said that if you do these things (feeding, clothing, caring) to the least of you, you do them to him. But also remember that the reverse is also true: when you belittle, berate, insult, and cast aside those who are less fortunate than you, you do those things to him. If I learned anything profound from my priests, it was that.
That is empathy. It is compassion. And that is what is lacking in the words and actions of many of the pious, devout Christians that I hear about and know.
Yesterday I talked about the horror behind the story of Noah. I had considered expanding on the concept horror embodied in the idea of sacrifice found in the Bible by also talking about the who Jesus story, but decided to just keep it simple and stick to Noah. I saw a comment on the Noah post that made me wish I had talked about Jesus.
It’s sad to hear that this is what the message of Christianity is becoming about. Dead religion will tell you one of two things about God…(1) He’s schizophrenic (He loves you but He hates you) or (2) He’s mysterious (nobody can figure Him out). But here is Jesus, who arrives later on as the Messiah. It is in Christ where God’s nature is revealed, and He is a God of Love.
Things may still be unclear about the Bible and there seems to be a lot of contradictions on God’s nature. But, the Cross made a significance, a proof, to how much God loves us (John 3:16). Hope that helps!
His argument is one made by many Christians to negate the nastiness of the Old Testament: that God suddenly became a merciful and loving god once he sent Jesus (or became Jesus, the Bible is a bit confusing on that point) to save us all.
Even if you grant that this argument is valid, the whole idea of sacrificing someone, someone who is supposedly innocent, is just as horrible and depraved as anything in the Old Testament. Sure, it’s just one guy, not every person on earth, but the number of those sacrificed isn’t the issue. The issue is the need for a blood sacrifice at all.
I was raised Catholic. I could never understand why God required a sacrifice to free us from sin. If he is all powerful, why not just forgive our sins and be done with it? The priests explained to me about Original Sin. That didn’t make any sense to me either. Why would God punish every human who ever lived just because the first two people sinned? Why not just forgive Adam and Eve their sins? Or if He couldn’t find it in his all loving heart to do that, why not just strike them both dead and be done with it? He’s God. He could just make more.
The idea that Jesus, the only son of God, the innocent lamb, had to die just because the rest of us were sinning bastards is insane. That isn’t love, it is sadistic and cruel. Worse, it is pointless. If God is all powerful, then either forgive each of us our sins or smote us, don’t go killing your only son, especially when he doesn’t deserve it.
The idea that the god of the New Testament is now a loving, merciful god as opposed to the angry, vengful god of the Old Testament; that he is somehow a new and improved god, is absurd. The sacrifice of Jesus is no different than asking Abraham to kill his son, or the killing of all the first born of Egypt. It is just as cruel, just as horrible and depraved.
The fact is, God, both the old and new versions, is a dick, pure and simple.
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.