Faith In Outer Space (2015May03)

Sunday, May 03, 2015                                                       11:40 AM

Freedom of religion is a wonderful thing. It makes it possible for me to abstain from religion without being burnt at the stake or beheaded. That’s a good thing. It makes things better all around, for women, for gays, for children—the judgmental authoritarianism that allows the religious to marginalize women, condemn gays, and abuse children is prevented from becoming part of our legal system. And where such dogma is already infused into society, we have legal recourse to remedy the situation, as with the present argument in the Supreme Court over same-sex marriage.

Those with the notion that religious freedom should allow them to treat others differently, such as denying service to gays, do not understand the difference between religion and law. Belief is a mental phenomenon, not a physical one—where belief informs action, however, things get stickier. You can choose to live your own life as a believer, but imposing those beliefs on others is not ‘freedom’, it is its opposite—ingenuous piety notwithstanding.

Having gone from a civilization wherein religion was a given, to a civilization where religion is optional, we have achieved personal freedom. Those of us entirely without religion are tempted to view this as progress, with the inherent suggestion that religion is obsolete and will, one day, fade away. But believers see religious freedom as an accommodation to the variety of religions rather than as a step away from religion in general.

There’s a difference. We can be proud that human beings are the ‘only race’, the reason that God created the universe—or we can have the pride of a young race that is joining the galactic community by reaching the stars. If the former, we are encouraged to stay in our cradle, this fragile planet with limited resources and time. If the later, we know that we must leave this planet, colonize the solar system and perhaps beyond—or just wait to die out when the planet does. We can condescend to the stay-at-homes by justifying space exploration through its useful by-products, the science and the tech—but the real reason is just that we have to leave.

I can imagine some protest at that statement but be assured that I’m speaking in general terms. We don’t all have to leave—you, personally, don’t have to leave—I’m not expecting to get the opportunity to leave Earth within my lifetime. But eventually some of us have gotta go. Enough people have to populate the solar system to ensure the survival of the race beyond the Earth’s expiration date, whenever that may be.

The end of the Earth may not be coming soon, but it’s coming. We know that now—we know that Earth was once uninhabitable, that it will be again—we know that Earth floats amongst a sea of extinction-level-sized asteroids and meteors, any one of which could ‘hit the jackpot’ at any time. And beyond all the cosmological constraints, we also have to face the fact that our use of planetary resources may reach a tipping point long before any of these lesser probabilities manifest themselves.

We need to start getting our raw materials from further away, someplace where we’re not trying to breathe and drink water and grow food. And the human race could also use a little elbow room—one planet for seven billion people requires a lot of natural resources and a lot of real estate. Our solar system is begging to be colonized and developed. And our planet is begging for a break.

Does religion get in the way of this? Well, religion is authoritarian—it wants to be in charge. And those in charge are uncomfortable with change. Space exploration certainly qualifies as change. You do the math.

However, some changes might benefit us. Earth’s population may not benefit directly—even with the ability to emigrate to space, population growth on the surface wouldn’t change significantly. Overpopulation will eventually bleed this planet dry. But at the same time, a colonized solar system would see population growth as a good thing—and restless young people on Earth would have a frontier to turn to. If we’re going to overpopulate ourselves to death, it seems a small thing to allow some of that excess population to take a stab at perpetuating the species outside of our gravity-well. Think of it as back-up.


“The Explosion of the Spanish Flagship during the Battle of Gibraltar”  by Cornelis Claesz. van Wieringen, c. 1621    (Courtesy of the Rijksmuseum website)

Warning Signs (2015Jan08)

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Thursday, January 08, 2015                             3:31 PM

Madness is a part of life. We are all mad, to some extent. But the only time we call someone ‘mad’ in earnest and lock them up is when a person manifests a danger to themselves or others—and even this is not entirely the case, if you consider the dangers represented by certain politicians and businesspeople, not to mention gang-members and organized criminals. Even the slip-shod mechanic who neglects to tighten the bolts on your new tires is, to some degree, a public danger.

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So most of us are let loose upon the public, willy-nilly—hell, I could even run for elected office, if I wanted, and possibly become responsible for a whole town or county—talk about madness. But my unsuitability would stem from incompetence. The majority of elected officials are unsuitable for far darker reasons—reasons having to do with human nature, and with the connection between wanting to be ‘in charge’ and the type of person that wants that.

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But a touch of Napoleon Complex isn’t the end of the world. Outside of elected offices, we deal with such people all the time—they are often behind a counter, or teaching a class, or patrolling the neighborhood. Martinets are a fact of life. Having a touch of the compulsive, myself, I’m tempted to give them a pass.

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Then there are people who don’t care for children or animals—but even that is understandable. As both a parent and a pet-owner, I’ve experienced occasional annoyance at both kids and pets—so I can easily see where someone with a short fuse might well have difficulty appreciating the little darlings.

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So let’s agree that people can have a multitude of perhaps disagreeable inclinations or personality quirks and still merit the label ‘sane’. However, I occasionally run across a person who sends a chill down my spine—a person in whom I fail to detect a minimum level of what I would call humanity. These are people who slip through the cracks, using the variable standards we must have for personalities as cover for attitudes that are beyond the pale. I’m sure you’ve met them, too—the surprise white supremacist, the callous misogynist, the over-the-top fundamentalist—people who shock us with the nightmarish implications of their casual comments—people who, given responsibility for any group or organization, will make of that group a hell on earth—or use that group to spread hatred and violence.

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There are some warning signs. Today, a friend of mine shared the following quote on Facebook: “François Rabelais invented a number of neologisms that have since entered the French and other languages, but one of his words has been forgotten, and this is regrettable. It is the word agélaste; it comes from the Greek and it means a man who does not laugh, who has no sense of humour. Rabelais detested the agélastes. He feared them. He complained that the agélastes treated him so atrociously that he nearly stopped writing forever.”  — Milan Kundera

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Thus we have warning sign number one: no sense of humor. Don’t misunderstand—these people will laugh—everybody laughs—but they are only amused by the slapstick of human tragedy. Perhaps ‘wit’ is a fitter word for what they lack—one can imagine that ‘a sense of humor’ is an aspect of intelligence, the mechanism by which we recognize unpalatable truths, even about ourselves. People who lack a sense of humor will be generally constipated, emotionally—they won’t dance or play games, and they’ll be squeamish about intimacy. Somehow, they don’t stop at merely lacking this form of insight—they’ll usually react against it in others—which is what makes this a top warning sign for ‘inhuman humans’.

The second warning sign is expressed in one of my favorite quotes from the Bard:

“The man that hath no music in himself,

Nor is not mov’d with concord of sweet sounds,

Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils;

The motions of his spirit are dull as night,

And his affections dark as Erebus:

Let no such man be trusted.

—Mark the music.”

— Wllm. Shakespeare “The Merchant of Venice” Scene V, Act I

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One sees this aspect in very few people—music appreciation is pretty basic, as human attributes go—which makes it all the more chilling in the few that truly feel no response to the temptations of music. Unlike those with no sense of humor, the unmusical don’t really manifest their failing in any practical way—it is simply an indication that some basic connection to the rest of humankind is missing from a person’s psyche.

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Unfortunately, the third warning sign is one we see the most of—blood-thirsty fundamentalism. Most of us recognize that our spiritual lives are, at their core, personal journeys, interior workings-through of what our lives mean to each of us. The fundamentalist wants to put these spiritual workings-through on a worldly stage, making a life-and-death chess-match out of something they haven’t the subtlety to recognize as a personal struggle. They suffer no cognitive dissonance due to the joining of something as ethereal as faith with something as cold and concrete as murder.

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Here’s an example from today’s discussion of the murder of cartoonists in Paris. In a USA Today article, this unbelievable cretin, Anjem Choudary, wrote, “So why in this case did the French government allow the magazine Charlie Hebdo to continue to provoke Muslims, thereby placing the sanctity of its citizens at risk? It is time that the sanctity of a Prophet revered by up to one-quarter of the world’s population was protected.

This scum is suggesting that the murder was bound to be committed by some devout Muslim, sooner or later—and that the real problem is that the cartoonists’ work should have been against the law. And he has the lady-balls to suggest that such legislation, now, is the correct response to this tragedy. Why do wackos like him get their idiocy printed up in a national newspaper? Has the sensationalizing of journalism made newspapers champions of the ignorant and amoral? Do I have to ask?

Now you know how to spot evil people. No music, no laughter, or a tendency to confuse sanctity with sociopathic behavior. These are their ‘tells’—run if you see them.

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On Whose Authority? (2015Jan07)

I was frustrated by the senseless violence in Paris today, as can be seen by the essay below. But, just to lighten things up a bit, here’s an improv, too….


“At Least 11 Killed in Shooting Attack on Paris Newspaper”

– The New York Times


Wednesday, January 07, 2015                        11:05 AM

On Whose Authority?

In France today an editor and many contributing cartoonists of a satirical magazine were the target of Muslim extremists with AK-47s. Their offices had been bombed by the same people in 2011. These French terrorists have also been increasingly violent towards Jewish communities in the area. One is tempted to wonder what it is about Islam that makes it such a tempting badge for psychopathic, cold-blooded murderers? But one must remember that such behavior is just under the surface of Christianity and Judaism, as well. All three major faiths are really just variations on Western Monotheism, i.e the Judeo-Christian-Muslim heritage of Western Civilization. Between the Crusades and other Holy Wars, the Inquisitions, the Wars of the Reformation, the Nazi’s ‘Final Solution’, and the burning of ‘witches’, there is an ugly history of religion-based bloodshed, war, and genocide. The modern ‘Muslim’ terrorist is just the latest in a long line.

These wretches are not terrorists who become Muslims—they are Muslims who are weaponized by the Imams who lead their sects. Like all religious killers, they are authorized (and, to varying degrees, directed) by their leaders. Their targets are likewise based on threats to Authority—which puts cartoonists at the top of their hit list. Being laughed at has always maddened the puffed-up egos that dare to claim they speak for God. ‘Sharia Law’ is another example—the opposite of ‘separation of church and state’, Sharia Law states that no earthly authority can supersede the words of the Imam—as if some jerk in a kaftan is more in tune with the wishes of the Universe than any cop or judge or legislator.


We are no better. Our ongoing struggle against gay rights, and against the self-determination of women, shows the same tendency to ignore common sense in the face of Authority. Anyone with any sense can see that being gay is not a choice—the only choice gay people have is whether or not to be honest about themselves in public. And any man who believes he has more insight into pregnancy than a woman is an idiot. Only blind adherence to comforting Authority allows such hateful stupidity to persist. Otherwise, these Christian conservatives would use their heads and their hearts to understand and embrace the rights and freedoms of others.

We wonder how the Republicans, who seem to have it in for the human race, could have won both houses in last year’s election, when they are so dysfunctional, so corrupt, and so ignorant. But that question answers itself—the more ignorant and capricious a leader is, the stronger their authority seems. The Democrats offer benign leadership, while the GOP has a tendency to tell us to shut up and do what we’re told—of course we vote for the assholes—they’re the strongest-seeming leaders. More importantly, they absolve us from the responsibility of thinking for ourselves. Freedom is frightening—a true American lives on the knife-edge of responsibility. Like Spiderman, he or she cannot have the enormous power of freedom without accepting the enormous burden of responsibility.


Unfortunately, such responsibility requires education, engagement, and civic awareness—and not everybody lucky enough to be born here is capable of upholding these standards. We now have a population wherein those who cry most loudly about “The American Way” are the same people who flee from any of the difficulties inherent in maintaining our standing as a bastion of freedom. Plus, there are a vast number of us who confuse American with Wealthy—people for whom money is the greatness on which we are founded. They forget (or never knew) that America’s emergence as a land of wealth was a consequence of our freedoms, not their source. But let’s stay on track for now.

For years I have avoided criticism of Christianity in deference to my friends who take solace and meaning from it, who raise their children by it, and who find in religion a way of life. After all, there is much good to be found in faith, particularly in the teachings of Jesus. But the Judeo-Christian-Muslim tradition of Faith is also an unflinching supporter of Authority. And because Faith eschews Facts, religious authorities can justify, rationalize, and perpetrate any crime, any violence. “In the name of God” becomes synonymous with “Because I said so”.


If we look back into history, we see that monarchs operated on the same basis. Monarchies were a working system—so they could say, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” When more-enlightened rulers sat on thrones, they could take credit for the good works they did—and when despots made things worse, they could kill any critics. Religion, likewise, is a very good thing when it is used for good by good people—and unassailable when it causes evil. Their similarities are due to the similarity in Authority. Whenever people in charge are left to their own justifications, we get pot-luck—good things from the rare, good leaders, and evil from the far more numerous, perverted ones. In that sense, religion is as obsolete and corrupt as monarchy.

So how do we take the good things from religion and eliminate the bad? Can we believe in a beneficent creator, an afterlife, and purposeful living, without believing in priests, imams, and preachers? That depends. If our intention is to look behind the veil of existence to find meaning, then it is possible. But I fear that for most people, religion is a security blanket to protect us from the cold, practical reality of the infinite universe—their search is for safety, not meaning. In that fear for their safety, they surrender themselves to any Authority that pretends the universe is on their side, no matter how messed up and violent the practices of that religion.


The temptation to invoke religious authority is so strong that it may be impossible to have religion without it—it is certainly impossible with the old religions we now have, ancient faiths with their roots deep in our authoritarian past. Our founding fathers’ concerns over religion were based on their perception of Religion being, like the English king, a source of empty, non-representative, and divisive Authority. Much as I would like to overlook the failings of religion for the sake of those for whom it is a positive, it’s threat to our modern civilization, as indicated by today’s attack, makes that an irresponsible weakness on my part.

However, my feelings for or against are beside the point. The world we live in is suffused with religion, and with religious authority. The fact that they’ll kill anyone who laughs at them means that we must take every opportunity to hold them up to ridicule. The fact that they are incapable of laughing at themselves makes them dangerously narcissistic—not to mention lacking a sense of humor, which makes them ugly, stupid people, in my opinion.

Eastern philosophies see Good and Evil as counterparts, as a balancing of opposites to form the whole of existence. Our Western-influenced insistence that we increase the Good and try to eliminate the Evil shows a total lack of understanding of human nature. Even more ignorant is our predilection to give Authority to one who is presumed to represent Good, one who is devoid of Evil—there is no such person. The fact that, as a society, we are unable to learn this basic truth renders this entire essay a waste of time. But I don’t mind—it gives me something to do while I try not to think about the savage, animal bloodshed that is the hallmark of all true believers.

I Do Believe In Spooks, I Do Believe In Spooks, I Do, I Do…. (2014Feb26)

I Do Believe In Spooks, I Do Believe In Spooks, I Do, I Do….

Wednesday, February 26, 2014          1:00 AM

A Thought:

So I wanted to say to all my friends that in spite of my being atheist, I still believe in the impossible—and I believe in magic, spirits, UFOs, and anything else—but having said that, I don’t believe any of us really knows anything—thus it would be idiotic not to believe in the unknown.


The thing about most religions is that they seem convinced they have specific knowledge of something none of us can possibly know—like what ‘happens’ after we die. I haven’t the slightest idea, but I don’t think anyone else does either. And I’m highly suspicious of anyone who says they do.


People say, “You have to have faith in God”, but all I really need is to have faith in the person or persons saying that. If God wants me to have faith, he/she/it should say so, and stop all this passive-aggressive nonsense. If someone wants me to have faith, they need to start with first principles—why should I trust the person speaking? I’d be likelier to clap for Tinker-Bell than to pray to a God who is at once so unknowable—and yet so well-known-and-understood by the leadership of these religions.


Another Thought:

I saw a TV ad for a drug—the announcer was saying something about side-effects ‘may include swelling of the lips or throat’, but I misheard it as, ‘smelling of the lips’—and that got me thinking about random side-effects—this is a bit that Colbert (on his ‘Report’) does a lot—and I came up with—

Side-effects may include:

smelling of the lips, lobster-jaw, enphlegmation of the flamm, kitten-sneeze, and boxer/brief bruising..

(But, with my useless memory, I may just be sub-consciously plagiarizing Colbert for half of these.)


Yet Another Thought:

I’ve just burned my newest CD of improvs—a full hour and twenty minutes worth of what I consider some of my most listenable piano-playing ever—if I could just remove my first 1,332 videos, maybe someone might actually listen to the last 15—still, I had to post the 1,332 to get here, so nix mox…

I’ve also written an entertaining essay or two (although, as with my music, amongst the dross of hundreds of essays) but it has become clear to me that there aren’t a lot of people looking online for witty banter in essay form—who’da thunk it?

Lately I’m really upset about my hands shaking—drawing wild pictures was always my big crowd-pleaser, and now that I have the globe for an audience—I can’t draw!

Sucks to be me. But only once in a while…


I am now———-Thoughtless. 

‘til later….


It’s Not The Pope’s Fault (2013June30)


Golly-gee, but we like to quibble, don’t we? Just as the gutting of the Voter Rights Act’s oversight-powers was explained with talking points, without any analysis of the true issue, i.e. racial bigotry, so also did the recent ruling in favor of LGBT marriage (and inclusion, by inference) fail to address the true issue—religion.


We have, as a society, matured to the point of being less-than-serious about notions of hellfire, angels, effective prayer, and stoning (as a religious duty). While we remain polite and non-judgmental when confronted with fundamentalists who appear to be truly convinced of the reality of a God with whom all people are in daily contact—and are beholden to, in both deed and intention—we grow more and more to hear them as neurotics who are blind to a particular compulsion towards irrationality—like arachnophobics, you know?


While Faith remains a serious subject, it is nonetheless a good working definition of psychosis—to believe without evidence, to imagine what is not palpable to any of our senses, such as imaginary friends—it is only by the ancient roots of the major faiths and the immediate parental influence to adopt these fantasies that keeps us from laughing at how truly bizarre their cosmologies are, when compared to scientific evidence.


Let me stop here, now that I’ve used the word ‘science’. I can hear all the debating points racing through the heads of any evangelical who might read this. Let me just say that Science is not a religion, it is a tool. We use this tool for many things in our modern lives—we board jetliners; we get boob jobs; we use skin lotion and SPF protection; we make phone calls; we wear polyester blends. Some of us send robots to Mars, some of us dig up evidence of the Earth’s past, and even the evidence of people who lived before monotheism existed. You can quibble about biological points (like evolution) all you want; you can question the wisdom of using science (a far more attractive debate than the present debate—pitting faith and science against each other) but in the end, we use science because it works—and nothing can be done about that. It’s pitiful, really. With the medical advances made since Moses’ day, the infant mortality rate is way, way down—to the point where many of the zealots questioning Science would have died at birth, if not for the usefulness of modern science.


And let me just clean up a few loose ends: yes, no one knows anything about the why and how of Creation—even the Big Bang theory doesn’t explain where ‘everything’ came from, to begin with. So, yes, there was a creator—whether it was a being or a piece of energy—nobody knows; why someone or something would choose to create a universe—nobody knows. But Science gives us a hint.


In its discovery of the nature of our solar system, our cosmos, and all the billions of other galaxies and nebulae, Science shows that the God who supposedly spoke with Abraham, Moses, or Joshua didn’t know any more about Astronomy than those ancient people did. Thus we must entertain the idea that the God that spoke with such prophets was speaking from inside their brains. Science helps us here, as well—the perception of voices and visions is a natural part of the human condition—especially under duress, such as during a long fast, or the prolonged oxygen-deprivation of a smoke-house, or incense smoke.


Thus we find—those of us prepared to be sensible about things—that the science indicates religion was born from one-part magical thinking and one-part manipulation of groups through claiming spiritual authority. That second part was addressed by Karl Marx in his Das Kapital, and produced the phrase ‘Religion is the opium of the masses’. It still works today for many church leaders and hypocritical power-brokers—they perpetuate the myth that there is some sort of reason why the few are wealthy and the rest of us have to live on their leavings, working for their benefit, until we die.


By now, we’ve reached an even deeper level, where our society is a fragile, complex creation that must be lubed and fueled constantly—and any upset to the rich and powerful is seen, locally, as a ruined economy. In other words, we’ve created a civilization that can get by without cooperation from a few malcontents, that can get by while still firing millions of people, for years at a time—all as long as the cowed and silent keep worrying about their kids, about their elders’ medical care, and about keeping their homes.


So, don’t be misled by my jocular tone—these problems are not simple, nor are their solutions clear. Our society’s weaknesses are as much a part of our lives as its strengths—that is why ‘violent overthrow’ never accomplishes anything better than before the old leaders toppled. We cannot say, “This is bad. That is bad. It must stop immediately!” Absolutism is a great way to draw the lines of battle, even if it does cover up the heart of the problem.

Opnamedatum: 2010-03-01

We have to look for small incremental changes that trend towards a more perfect society. We have to bring our socio-political involvement up by an exponential rise—the bait-and-switch razzle-dazzle of the Media is trying to entertain us, not inform us—and certainly not educate us. We must take our political involvement away from mass media and network it as individuals, keeping open minds and searching for compromises that we can all live with.


And such an enlightened constituency would be big trouble for the Powers That Be—hence the constant mass media razzle-dazzle. However, an ‘enlightened constituency’ never even pops up, as a subject for discussion—we are all too busy playing the Media game, taking our debating prompts from their sound-bites and photo-ops. They pick sides and we jump to do likewise, approaching each issue from the same perspective we bring to our professional sporting events—when most major issues are more complex than the media ever even hints at.


The far-Right are disputing our society’s inclusion of the LGBT population as equally human, and they always boil down the reasons to Religion. Which is strange, when you think about it—I’ve read the bible—nobody gets stoned by Jesus because they went ‘against God and nature’. The only impetus for making this a religious issue is that homosexuality, as evil, has been in the cannons of the major faiths, put there by church ‘leaders’ with a bit of a self-identity problem. As children, anything of a sexual nature evinces the response ‘eew!’, whether hetero or homo, and these childish reactions have come to be established church dogma without, as I said, any direct instructions in either Bible on the evil of non-hetero impulses.


It wasn’t until the 1960s that we began a conversation about what was okay to ‘talk about’ so, in a way, even heterosexuality was considered ‘evil’ up until that time. It couldn’t be mentioned at a party, it couldn’t be debated by politicians, and it couldn’t be covered in school. The 1960s were the first time Americans recognized that teaching children about the biological facts of reproduction, birth-control, family planning, and disease might be worthwhile. Before then, it was very little different from the 19th century’s Victorian-era hypocrisies and ignorance.


At the same time, those rigid conventions disguised a society of misogyny, domestic child-abuse, racism, and an unstated, classist view of women, poor people, non-white people, non-Christian people, and the rich and powerful. So the LGBT community shouldn’t feel too badly towards their hetero brethren and sistren—we haven’t been out of the closet all that long, ourselves. Thus, that whole ‘spiritual purity’ business is somewhat be-smeared, and that was before all the priests got busted for buggery.


Another problem between the gays and the far-Right is the whole ‘division of church and state’ issue. The Neo-Cons, the Tea Party, whatever you call these yahoos, have actual been bending this rule all along—and recognition of gays is a repair of that leak in our national ideals. The Evangelists don’t disapprove of LGBT citizens as dangerous, they disapprove of LGBT citizens as ‘against God and nature’.


And I’d like to nip that ‘against nature’ business in the bud, right now. Naturalists and zoologists have documented many examples of homosexuality across the entire range of the class mammalia. As with tool-using and intoxication, our animal friends are similar to us in this way as well—so to describe it as ‘against nature’ is ‘against common-sense’.


No, their objections are religious in origin. “It goes against God” is their problem—and an especially knotty one, since there are no ‘Thou shalt not’s in the New Testament specifically against LGBT lifestyles. On the contrary, Jesus, as portrayed in the bible, is all about inclusion, tolerance, and love—the only thing that seems to upset him is money-changers. I wonder why we don’t have long debates about money being evil?—Christ didn’t seem too keen on it—But not a word about persecuting Gay people. I wonder why?


No, the ‘sin of homosexual behavior’ is dogma, not faith. It is something the CEOs of the churches included out of ignorance and fear. They could change their position on it. And they will. Acceptance of gay pastors and priests is already happening, and the new Roman Pope, Francis I, seems to see the writing on the wall, as well—and the Catholics could use all the good press they can manage, right now.


But for the present, that land-that-time-forgot, below the Mason-Dixon line, is still trying to tell folks that both archeology and evolution are delusions of satanic origin, that Science can’t have everything its own way (although it can and does—even against the scientists’  preferences) and that heterosexual, missionary-position-only reproduction is the only acceptable sexual activity. Now, these are wacky positions to take on issues which the vast majority of human beings have already become comfortable with on a secular level.

Opnamedatum:  2011-03-01

That vast majority is not atheists, either—it is the vast majority of modern day people who keep their religion for its benefits, not for its intellectual shackles. They believe in love, charity, forgiveness, and mercy—but they don’t believe in fairy tales. They believe that there probably is a life after death, but they don’t believe they will be judged by a St. Peter’s Basilica fresco that Michelangelo painted. They are, bluntly stated, the ones with some common sense.


But our nation’s guarantee of Religious Freedom forbids any attack on the beliefs of the fundamentalists—and I would be the last person to attack them—I envy those simple enough to truly believe the whole story. They know a happiness that is out of reach for atheists like me. And don’t assume I see myself as smarter than the fundamentalists —I am only less credulous. They have obviously used a great deal of brain power to keep alive the tatters of old-time religion—and they shouldn’t be counted out yet, by any stretch. It wasn’t all that long ago that pagans like me were ostracized and persecuted nearly as bad as Jewish people.

Opnamedatum:  2011-03-01

Ah, the good old days, when strangely dressed Arabs’ religions were beneath our contempt. Now a small group of them are a threat to world peace and unity. The extremist Muslim suicide-bomber is an iconic image in our current culture. Yet nobody characterizes the shootings of abortion clinic doctors as the acts of extremist Christians—nobody calls the DHS on those people.


The Protestants had a good thing going here in the USA. For most of the last two centuries of our country, while we espoused religious freedom, we actually had persecution of Jews (and Atheists). And our legislation has a particularly Calvinist bent to it—as if Protestants’ religious convictions had somehow innocently crept into the halls of power and leadership. Imagine.


But the civil rights of our LGBT citizens have brought into question a long-established, dogmatic rule—that homosexuality is a mental disease, a perversion of all that is good and sweet. There are still ‘clinics’ that offer a ‘cure’. Ha.


No, the big shots have had their diversion tactics reduced by one—support of LGBT civil rights is nearly unanimous in this country which, in this age, cannot be said about almost anything else! They’ll get by—they still have plenty of paper tigers plastered all over the media—people are still a long way from recognizing how wholly, how boldly they’ve been played. What was that rule-of-thumb? The bigger the lie, the easier to believe—yeah, that’s the one. Hitler’s fav, I believe.


There’s an old bumper sticker that read: Hire a teenager, while they still know everything!  —not so funny when you use ‘priest’ instead of ‘teenager’, though, is it? So, next time you’re tempted to watch MSNBC or FOX, or even CNN, when you think the story will support your ‘team’ in the politics-olympics, save yourself the agita, and read a book instead.

20130630XD-Wiki-Anthony_van_Dyck-ElenaGrimaldi_ Genoa_1623

(The illustrations for this essay were provided BY: and BY:

the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, from their collection of the works of Sir Anthony Van-Dyck (March 22 1599–December 11 1641))

NOTE: The Netherlands’ world-reknowned Rijksmuseum opened a new website, Rijksstudio, which allows downloading of hi-def images of the over 125,000 masterpieces in their museum’s collection–and provides software that allows art students to design their own projects using the museum’s digital-graphics resources. To join the fun, goto :

Pope Deferred


I’ve been where the pope is at—I can sympathize. He doesn’t feel he has the strength to do all that a modern pope is expected to do—the travel, the heated debates over orthodoxy, the public pronouncements and appearances across the globe. He is undoubtedly unhappy about ceding his life’s greatest achievement before his time—but he knows that he simply hasn’t the strength to do the job properly.


And I know what it’s like to be barraged with outrage and questioning—‘all the other popes died in office!’—‘how can he let the church down this way’—‘what is the real reason he’s abdicating?’ ..and so on. The questions only deepen his sadness at having to appear to ‘quit’ when he is actually acting in the best interests of his flock. How disgusting it must be for him to have pederasty be the most publicly discussed aspect of his church. How conflicted he must be about the conditions caused by overpopulation in the world’s poorest areas—and reconciling that with church dogma forbidding birth control of any kind.


It won’t be long before we have to discuss the status of manufactured humans—or, worse yet, creatures with only partially-human DNA. Are they property?—are they a crime against nature?—do they have souls?—is owning one a venal or a mortal sin—or no sin at all? The pope that gets that one in his lap will need a degree in biology just to issue an edict.


Women are being accepted into many faiths as pastors or priests—how can the Catholic Church respond to the self-evident equality of men and women when it contradicts their deepest beliefs? And consider Celibacy—it has been made painfully clear that priests have sexually abused children as far back as living memory—which implies that it’s gone on longer even than that. What good is a vow of celibacy when it is connected to that horrendous history? Catholics might be better off with married priests—they certainly can’t be any worse off. Can a modern pope process this unfolding tragedy into a renewal of dignity and self-sacrifice that has been, until now, only a false gloss over the real activities of working priests? I’d hate that job—kinda like being the judge and the defendant at a murder trial.


But worst of all is Obedience. It is a central tenet of the Roman Catholic Church—it really can’t be removed without losing the entire structure. But obedience is a problematic concept when it is used to hide stupidity and corruption. This is a problem for many faiths, really. The idea that authority shouldn’t be questioned is part of the zeitgeist of a religion—it draws a parallel to the concept of questioning the faith itself, and thus makes it forbidden.


This is the crux of the conflict between modern civilization and the major faiths—the world has learned that government should be accountable—that it is our duty to question our leaders and criticize their mistakes. The world has also learned much science—a practice based on never-ending questioning of everything! The validity of disobedience has been glorified by the American Revolution and the more-recent Arab Spring. The validity of scientific inquiry is even more desirable—weapons, medicines, agriculture—you name it, science will add some nitrous tanks and boost the hell out of it.


Where once caste systems, total power, and superstition made a nice, neat fit with Religion, the modern world has inverted the principles of both Government and Reason. Those two legs of the tripod of tyranny have become actively averse to their old teammate, Religion. Separation of church and state becomes more true with every passing year—even in places other than the USA. The Neo-Cons made an impressive effort to roll back time, for a while. But their need to do so was even more impressive—church memberships are plummeting, as are the number of divinity students and acolytes.


It can’t be helped, really. The example I always use is the bible story about God stopping the Sun in the sky. The fundamentalists have come up with debate-points that ‘teach the controversy’, but it’s hard to overlook the fact that the people who believed in God back then also believed the Sun moved across the sky. Science has overtaken this myth, just as it has turned ‘Heaven’ into our ‘Upper Atmosphere’, followed by ‘Outer Space’—places we regularly fly through.

We’ve gone ‘all in’ on global technology—and, too late, the pious have realized how thoroughly incompatible Knowledge is with Religion. In the Middle East, countries use nuclear-science-based weapons to threaten the infidels (the people with different religions) and blithely overlook the fact that the science of our universe is unchanged by one’s faith. No matter what superstitions we cling to, Einstein still applies. But then, Einstein believed in God—so, there you are.