Saturday, April 18, 2015

Death, Grieving and Belief: Is it easier for them than us?

My eighty-seven year old neighbor from up the street died last week.  He and his wife were among the first people we met when we moved to New Hampshire - a delightful couple. Both were old and frail, but sharp as  razors. 

They did not have a formal funeral, but today there was a memorial service, a celebration of his life,  at the local Christian – Lite church (about the only kind we have around here) for friends and family. Mrs. Hump and I paid our respects, sitting in the back of the church.  
The agenda included prayers, testimony from attendees praising the deceased’s gentle qualities and goodness, readings from the bible, and hymns (who knew that the old Cat Stevens ballad “Morning has Broken” was actually a 19th century hymn?). 

As I sat there and listened to the pastor talk about the old gentleman being beyond pain and sickness, and being in heaven forever in the comfort of Jesus’ presence it became very clear that the concept was to his widow's and the mourners’ sadness like a pain relieving salve on a serious burn. How nice for his wife, herself ailing, to imagine rejoining her husband of some sixty-five years for an eternity of peace and love.

To think that their reunion will be but a couple of years or months, in the future; to believe that the pain of his absence, thus her loneliness, will be but a brief moment of separation; to “know” that an eternity of renewed life awaits surrounded by ones welcoming ancestors and loved ones who have passed before must be enormously comforting.

Oh, to be able to willingly accept without a moment’s doubt the imaginary lands of the dead that await the believer - Valhalla, the Elysian Fields, Vaikuntha, the Fields of Aaru, Paradise, Heaven and their promise of the ever lasting embrace of those we loved and who loved us.

Alas, for the atheist, the freethinker, the self deception of these fairytale lands and renewed eternal life can never be. We are condemned by reason, by intellect, by our respect for reality to face the finality of death, ours and our loved ones’, as a finale to a life well lived; to the return of our wasting corpse to its basic elements - what Carl Sagan called “Star Stuff”; to be no more; to enter that state of non-existence that preceded our own birth; to share the very same condition to which every life form, animal or vegetable, must inevitably succumb.

When I consider these things I must admit that the true believer benefits emotionally from their buy-in when it comes to dealing with the end of life -their own or their loved ones’.  It is perhaps the one aspect of supernaturalism that trumps reason. I’m happy for them in that one regard.  But given all the other baggage that invariably accompanies religiosity, I’ll take the pain of reason and self reliance over the self-imposed deceit, and dulling of the sensibilities and intellect of belief any day... and wish them peace. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Christians Demand the Right to Discriminate. Oh the Irony!

States passing their versions of the so called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” are spreading like wild fire. Kindled by the religiously homophobic, and fanned by the GOP (who else?), Right Wing Christians are trying their damnedest to fight against the rising tide of rights and equality for gays as if their very faith depends on it.  

Pat Robertson (R -Bizarro World) has come out and said he is convinced gays are conspiring to get everyone to like anal sex, while freshman congressman Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) said gays shouldn’t complain because in the middle-east they kill gays.  Meanwhile, Glenn Beck (R- Asylum Escapee) says opposition to Indiana’s RFRA would lead to concentration camps for Christians.  It’s become that insane. All three stories here:

”No, it’s not a bill to permit discrimination. That’s a distortion, besides, we’re changing it!” protest some of the devout Christian Republican governors and lawmaker chameleons under fire from the thinking; while the very authors of the bill contradict them saying “We demand the right to discriminate against those who our scripture tells us are an abomination!!”  Well, someone is lying.

Confusing?  Not really. It’s pretty much an attempt by the Right to justify discrimination and refuse service to anyone they despise and get away with it under the guise of “religious freedom”.   The difference between the two statements above is simply a matter of honesty. The latter being the honest statement, the former being a bold face lie.  But then, lying for the faith has always been a sacrament; while lying to preserve one’s political reputation is a virtual prerequisite to governance. 

What’s ironic about this whole issue, which is lost on less intellectually adept Christian fanatics, is while they are seeking to discriminate against a minority based on their so called religious convictions, these same good Christians are themselves crying about how Christianity is being persecuted and discriminated against by a nation wide conspiracy of the 8-10% atheist minority to strip them of their religion and force them to “hail Satan”…or some such idiocy.  Never mind how insane that is given the 76% Christian majority, the 90% religionist population in the US, and the 100% religionist makeup of the Supreme Court.

Is it possible that they are blind to history?  Blind to the fact that what they are doing is equivalent to standing in the door of an Alabama public school to prevent a minority from gaining equal rights - in violation of the law and the inevitable societal change- which similarly was justified by fanatical God-fearing Christians as religiously supported?  Perhaps so, since Americans are famous for ignoring history, being only marginally educated, and for being blinded by their Christian fanaticism. 

Imagine a gay person, transsexual, black man, Jew, Muslim, Christian, Wiccan or atheist having walked for miles on the edge of a great plain or desert to find gasoline for their car and being told by the station owner that their beliefs or presumed behaviors were offensive to his god and religious beliefs.  Thus, dispensing the gasoline would be compromising his beliefs and insulting to his god - telling them they should try elsewhere - the next station being 35 miles that-a-way.  And all of it protected by state law? Now substitute the devout druggest in a small one horse town who refuses an anti-biotic for a sick kid whose parents are of the offending class.  It boggles the mind.

Look, Christian fanatic homophobes and GOP defenders of the faith - this isn’t rocket science:  

First: Nowhere in the Bible does it say that by engaging in commerce with a gay person you are blaspheming against your man-god, or engaging in an unclean act or approving of it, or defying “God’s will”, or doing “Satan’s bidding”.  Jesus never said anything about gays. All the Bible does say is you should be killing gays.  So if you aren’t going to stone them to death in accordance with scripture, then take their money, move on, and shut the fuck up.

Second: The First Amendment guarantees your right to practice your religion.  However, when your religious practices come into conflict with the ethics, morality, laws, and societal imperatives of the nation - like human sacrifice, animal cruelty, slavery, temple prostitution, or discrimination against your fellow Americans - then said religious practices come in a poor second place.  That’s the price of living in a non-theocratic nation.

Finally: No one is asking you religious nutters to have sex with your gay customers, watch them consummate their marriage, give them a wedding gift, attend the service, or bless their same sex union. All our society expects is that people engaged in public commerce treat all prospective customers / clients the same. Period.  And if you cannot abide by that American value, then you shouldn’t be in business.

No, Christian Right Wing Crazies - America will no longer accept your prejudice and let you hide behind your myths and legends for its justification. The times they are a changing - with or without you.  Get over it, get used to it.  

Monday, March 30, 2015


The Body of Christ Found- Pope Cancels Easter
Associated Press 
Jerusalem March 30, 2015 -
In what is being called the greatest archeological find in history, archeologists sifting through what was thought to be an ancient trash dump have unearthed the grave and recovered the remains of Jesus Christ.

Dr. Eli Ben-Yehuda, head of Archeological Studies at the University of Tel Aviv has confirmed that the remains have been positively identified. “The inscription, the method of death, the burial accoutrements and a scroll confirming the identity and date of death leave no room for doubt.” Dr. Ben-Yehuda said.

Discovered late in February, the corpse and accompanying relics have been intensively studied by scientists and reviewed by senior clergy of the major Christian denominations. The confirmation of authenticity is unanimous.

“It appears everything we thought to be true is a lie.” lamented Ireland’s Archbishop Phillip O’Shea, “I’ve already notified his Holiness of my resignation. I’ve wasted almost 50 years of my life believing in a myth, I won’t waste one more minute. I need to find a real job” said the clearly emotional sixty-five year old O’Shea.

Pope Francis has issued a papal bull cancelling the celebration of Easter, the holy day that most of the world’s 2 billion Christians previously celebrated as the believed day of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The pontiff’s closest adviser, Monsignor Benito Calducci, told reporters that the pope is deep in prayer, albeit he wasn’t sure to whom he was praying, adding defiantly “… and frankly I don’t care. I need to find a real job.”

In the United States evangelical televangelist Pat Robertson is in seclusion. A close confident of Reverend Robertson speaking under condition of anonymity said. “Pat is unsure what path he will take; the rug has been pulled out from under him, from under all of us. He is financially set, but I’m going to finally have to get a real job.”

The human remains are remarkably well preserved owing to the dry climate and air tight ossuary. The corpse shows that Jesus had only two lower teeth and a severe overbite. He was bald and seems to have suffered from syphilis and cirrhosis of the liver. It has yet to be determined if he had club-foot, or if the deformity is a result of injuries incurred during crucifixion. Based on the unusual dimensions of the ossuary, Jesus appears to have been less than 4’ 2” tall, but was rather obese perhaps weighing as much as 250 lbs just before death. He appears to have been a hermaphrodite; the minute circumcised penis was still intact.

In a related story, the Shroud of Turin has been sold to the Gucci fashion house where it will be cut up and used in their exclusive spring line of April Fools hand bags.

(an oldie but one of my favs from April 2010)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

An Ex-Jewish Camel's Sad Epiphany on Israeli Fanaticism

As some of my readers may know, I was raised in an upper middle class Jewish family. My parents were  reformed Jews, as secular as can be, although my father  had in his bedroom closet a velvet pouch containing his prayer shawl and  phylacteries, a leather strap with two leather boxes containing scripture from the Torah that one wrapped around one's forearm during prayer.  I actually saw him don the shawl and phylacteries only  once in my life during attendance at some high holy day service at temple.  Family attendance at synagogue trickled down to never once my older brother was bar mitzvahed and before I reached my teens.

By that time I had already begun to question religion and the existence of God, although it was only a casual perception and did not occupy my preteen mind.  I opted out of Hebrew school and the offer of a bar mitzvah

I did however retain a very strong identity with the Jewish people, and empathy for their two thousand years of persecution and injustice heaped upon them by the Christian world. My mother lost some distant relatives to the Nazi extermination camps.  I could easily personalize the fear of the European Jews. The horror of the holocaust and pictures of the victims, children and adults, both the dead and survivors, easily brought me to tears.    Given this background it's not hard to imagine that my support for a Jewish homeland  has been adamant and unwavering for my entire life. 

Fast forward to the fifteenth year of the 21st century ...

Today I received an invitation to "like" a facebook page entitled "JEWS NEWS".  I followed the link to that page and immediately realized I cannot in good conscience endorse it. Not only because  it dishonors and demeans President Obama, implying he was an enemy of the Jewish state at worst, or a Neville Chamberlain to Israel at best; and not only because the "news" it reported was tantamount to  FOX News with its politics being so far right and  with a pro-Israel / pro-Jewish slant so steep that it was no better than propaganda thus making impartial reporting utterly impossible; but because in the last few weeks I've come to reconsider my half century of undying and unshakable support for Israel born of my upbringing and empathy for my distant kinsmen.

I have come to realize that the Israeli Jews have more in common with fundamentalist Dominionist Christians, and Jihadist Muslims than they do with me.  They share the commonality of extremism.

I can not ignore the mindless fanaticism of Netanyahu's disavowing the thirty-five year understanding of the West's and  Israel's commitment to a Two Nation solution to the never ending Palestinian/Israeli conflict.  I can no longer support a people who, by their vote for Netanyahu's hawkish and uncompromising mentality, endorse that reversal and who insist that continued conflict with the Palestinian authority and all out war with Iran is the only path, let the peacemakers be damned. 

No longer does this reality permit me to keep on the blinders of the history of Jewish victim-hood, with clean hands and in search of peaceful co-existence. They destroyed that facade forever now that their partnership with the End Times Prophecy seeking Christian money men in the US Congress has been openly declared.   

This epiphany was long in coming, but for the first time in that over half century of unyielding and uncompromising support for everything Israeli, I see them in the same light as I do any other flavor of  religious and nationalistic fanaticism, and it disgusts me.  Times have changed, and so too have the Jewish people of Israel. I'll have none of it anymore.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

“Don't judge people who believe in God." Don't get me started!!

If there’s one way to get my hump in a twist it’s to tell me "...don't judge people who believe in God.", as though they are due some special exemption from criticism and derision. .

What exactly does that even mean? That we shouldn't pass judgment on Pat Robertson, Rev. Hagee, Joel Osteen and his wife, or Ray "Banana Boy" Comfort, and their ilk who spread hate and lies and steal from the religiously afflicted - unencumbered by either a conscience or reality?

Nor should we judge those who kill abortion doctors in the name of their man-god; or those who decree that gays are not full citizens due equal rights because the bible says they should be killed? That we shouldn't judge those who want this to be called a "Christian Nation"; reject the “separation of church and state” as some kind of liberal ploy; and  who would deny the full rights of atheists? 

Or shall we ignore those who demand Creationism be foisted on the young instead of the scientific reality of evolutionary theory? Or those who kill apostates in the name of their god? Or those who let their children die from curable disease by withholding medical science, preferring prayer? Or those who would elevate to sainthood an old woman when in reality she was an abusive, sadistic, demented, money grubbing witch (Mother Teresa)? 
Why the hell should we not judge people who believe in god? Why are they exempt from being judged as imbeciles, ignorant throwbacks, and sheeple who are deluded by superstition and who follow the precepts of pre-scientific bronze age nomads and 2nd century cultists if it is to the detriment of freedom, reason, equality, and scientific advancement and discovery?

This is not to imply I endorse judging people simply because of their belief (or non-belief) and nothing more. To do so is to make snap judgment, prone to mis-characterization. I have been guilty of this myself.

We must judge people based on their actions and their speech. We do it every day. If their actions trespass on the rights, freedoms and equality of others, on the intent of the founding fathers, on scientific advance, on educational advancement then their actions should be judged and judged harshly - their invoking “God's intent” or citing their book of horrors and fable doesn't insulate them from judgment. To do otherwise would be to relinquish ones right to condemn those who make this world "less' ...never mind if they believe in a God or gods or not.
To hell with those who think they are somehow above criticism / AKA being judged. It is not only our right, it’s our obligation. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Amputating one’s genitals for Jesus: The godly thing to do?

The man pictured above cut off his penis.  He is a devout Christian, a member of the   Redeemed Christian Church of God in Lagos, Nigeria. His reasoning…if one can call it such…is that his penis was a distraction, leading him astray from God.  He expects it to grow back in three weeks. I’d proffer that he is in for a disappointment.  The whole story here:

There is a passage in the bible about plucking out ones eye if it "offends thee" or dismembering a part of the body that is doing evil. It’s a parable. Here's the preferred Christian explanation that evidently no one mentioned to this fanatic:
"The cutting off of the hand or foot, or the plucking out of the eye will not solve the problem of sin. Since Satan uses these avenues to make us commit evil and sin, Christ was advising us not to give the members of the body to be instruments of the devil. Our hands, our eyes, our feet, our tongue, our ears, and all our body parts need to be guarded and protected from the evil one as he uses these avenues to make us corrupt."


But there is also Matthew 19:12 in which Jesus is purported to have said:
For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

Uh-oh! Sounds like an endorsement of genital amputation to me. Origen, a 2nd Century CE Christian and scholar, is purported to have castrated himself for the faith based on this verse.

Now some people would take a sympathetic view point on this unfortunate’s action.  I cannot.  People blow themselves up in the name of their god, they kill others in the name of god, and they initiate wars in the name of god.  Many obscene and tragic things are committed in the name of god/religion. My sympathy is reserved for their innocent victims, not for the religiously inspired / driven / obsessed perpetrators of religious horror.

Some would say that those who are entranced / deceived by scripture and who thus hurt themselves are also victims. Perhaps so. But then, shall we also shed a tear for the third generation adult Christian Snake Handler in the Appalachians, who after seeing his father and grandfather die from venomous bites, knowingly and gleefully takes up the cult practice because he was deceived by his progenitor and the scripture they embrace in spite of what his own eyes tell him? I'll shed not a tear for his demise. His religious affliction is ostensibly terminal. I will only hope that his child can avoid it, and that the cult will eventually die out either via extinction from snake bite, or abandonment through the recovery of long lost common sense. 

I'd rather 10,000 hyper-religious neurotics or psychotics castrate themselves than for one child to be born to them and be subjected to the madness inherent in fanatical superstitious belief - not only for the child's sake, but for the sake of civilization which will benefit from the prospective parent not procreating and thus contributing to the eventual demise of religion and its hurtful, often insane, practices.