One night I dreamed I was walking on a beach with the Lord. In the sky I saw scenes from my life. In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints side by side. Other times the footprints were single file, like Sand People who travel that way to conceal their numbers. This bothered me because the single file footprints seemed to precede all of tumultuous times in my life.
So I said to the Lord, “You promised you would always walk with me. But the footprints say that each time the shit was about to hit the fan you were no longer by my side.”
The Lord replied, “The times you see single file footprints are the times you stabbed me in the back.”
At times religion can be a beautiful thing. At other times it can be more like a barrel of monkeys. Believer or not, I think most people can agree at least that much is true.
In the news recently was a story about a high school teacher claiming he was fired for being an atheist. Let’s take a look shall we?
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Note: This might seem like yet another post about abortion but really it’s not. I’m going to try (and fail) to make some broader points. Points about Mitt Romney, Planned Parenthood, religious freedom and beliefs, the “terrible power” of government, societal control, and so much more. I’ll try to do it with my usual grace, style and aplomb…
Is this like preaching to the choir? I wouldn’t know. I’ve said some of this before and, no doubt, I’ll say some of it again.
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Sometimes there are moments in life that are more memorable than others. Some moments stand out.
On the other hand, there are also moments you can’t remember no matter what, like where you put your car keys last night. I guess I’m going to be late to work.
I remember a moment at my latest job when the conversation turned to religion and I decided enough time had passed and I was secure enough in my position that I could out myself. I revealed my atheism.
The response was not easy to forget. My boss turned to me and said, “Can I ask you a question? Why don’t you kill people?” This from a religious person who I have come to regard as being much less ethical and moral as I am.
It’s a weird world we live in.
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This is a mid-day “I’m at the office” quiki-post spawned (heh!) by something that just ejaculated across my display during my lunch break. Condoms are only 98% effective and in this case my post burst through…
Speaker of the House John Boehner is ragin’. In fact, he was out on the floor of the House sportin’ a boner. Boehner got a boner. See what I did there? God, I’m so clever.
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Living in a small town can have its ups and downs. Besides all of the other pitfalls I’ve mentioned before, you have also got to be careful with your secrets. Unless you are in the majority, it can be unwise to reveal your political party or religious beliefs lest you be ostracized, burned at the stake or you particularly enjoy watching bricks flung through your living room window.
That means I generally keep my atheist status on the down low. There are a lot of God-fearing folk around here. Seven years ago I was even asked by a prospective employer about my religious beliefs. I diverted the question and played it off ambiguously and got the job.
That employer didn’t find out the truth until later. Mwuhahaha!
So the other day I was shooting the shit with the boss and I decided the time was right for a reveal. It was sort of a big deal since he’s very religious. But he’s also a very decent and caring guy and, I think, a critical thinker.
I started things off with a query. “If you had to guess, what do you think my religious beliefs are?” Continue reading →
Trey Parker and Matt Stone have a new Broadway musical coming out. It’s called The Book of Mormon.
To put this in context you need to know who these guys are. They are, among other things, the creators of the South Park cartoon on Comedy Central.
Something tells me that true Mormons are not going to be too thrilled with the Parker and Stone take on Mormonism.
I’m an avowed atheist, something I mention here on the blog from time to time when I feel like it is pertinent or I just feel like drawing attention to myself. (There is decidedly an element of narcissism amongst some of us who blog.)
But it was not always so. I have fond memories of growing up in the Episcopal church. There were good people in our local church and I loved them. Our priest was a young man with a wife and kids and I looked up to him. Heck, not once did he even make a move on me, not even when I was an altar boy.
Growing up in a small town, though, I had a lot of friends who were Mormons. Aside from a few odd rules, like no soda and caffeine, they were a lot like me. And we spent a lot of time at the local Mormon temple. It was probably one of the nicest buildings in town but, more importantly, it also had, by far, the nicest indoor basketball court. We shot a lot of hoops there. I don’t know why, but I never stopped to wonder why our church didn’t have cool stuff like basketball courts.
By the time I was in my early teens I was aware of quite a bit about Mormons. I knew the story about Joseph Smith and the golden plates, I knew that Jesus had visited America, and that it was common for Mormons to go on missions. Hanging out at the temple so much, we got to know a lot of the missionaries who came to our town.
My exposure to Mormonism and knowing that hands down all of the Mormons I had ever met were the nicest people I’d ever known, it seemed only natural to convert, so I began the lessons myself. All went well, including my meeting to confess certain “serious past transgressions.” I was earnest in wanting to join, so I was fully honest. They had to have a meeting about those transgressions, but apparently I passed the test. I was given the green light!
Since I was younger than 18, all I need to complete the process was my mom’s signature on some forms. That’s where a little monkey wrench was thrown into the works. She refused to sign. I cried and I was angry but there was nothing I could do. Then my mom arranged to have her boss pick me up one day and go for a ride in his bitchin’ hot rod. He even let me drive and that was one sweet car! What a clever plan tempting a young man with a hot rod.
Eventually we pulled over on the side of the road and had a discussion about his religious beliefs. It turned out that he was a born again Christian. The more we talked, the more I agreed with him, and then, through my tears while bawling like a baby, I also was born again.
Don’t worry. It didn’t stick. A year later the same thing would happen to me at my Korean girlfriend’s church. The preacher seemed to single me out and I ended up at the front of the church, kneeling while he talked only to me. Before I knew it I was bawling like a baby again. Apparently back then I really wanted some damn answers. But at least I was sincere.
None of it mattered, though. As I grew older, I was less and less interested in God until I realized one day I had become an atheist. And that’s how it has been ever since. But I still have my Book of Mormon on my shelf next to my parallel Bible, though.
And, that’s also my personal experience with Mormonism and how I came very, very close to being one myself. I now know that, nice people or not, my mom did me a favor that day.
For one thing, during the lessons and baptismal interview, the missionaries and church personnel I spoke with played things pretty close to the vest. They certainly weren’t dishing out any of the more controversial beliefs of the Mormon church. Things like the planet Kolob and stuff. I never heard anything about Kolob when receiving my lessons.
So yeah, the Mormons aren’t too happy about the new musical. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints issued this response:
The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.
Of course, the musical isn’t Parker and Stone’s first volley at Mormonism. Via the show South Park the pair has skewed all sorts of religious beliefs, including the Mormons. In an episode called “All About the Mormons” they humorously poke holes in the Joseph Smith and gold plate mythology. (If interested, you can watch the full episode on SouthParkStudios.com.)
They’ve also gone after Tom Cruise and Scientology and the “dark lord Xenu” in the episode “Trapped in the Closet.”
The episodes “Go, God. Go! Part II” and “Go God Go XII” tell the story of an atheism war. The episode “The Fantastic Easter Special” goes after the President of the Catholic League.
And yes, they take on Islam, too, in the episodes “Cartoon Wars, Part 1 & Part 2″ which takes on the issue of any depiction of the prophet Muhammad as a cartoon on a television show.
Other South Park episodes on religion include:
- The Passion of the Jew
- Red Hot Catholic Love
- Super Best Friends
- Do the Handicapped Go to Hell? / Probably
- Are You There God, It’s Me Jesus
The point here is that Mormons shouldn’t feel especially picked on. The South Park creators clearly enjoy going after all sorts of sacred cows.
I know one thing. The Mormons played a huge role in California in regards to the passage of Proposition 8. Religions increasingly see themselves playing a greater role in public discussion, policies and law making. Personally I’m against that.
Let us consider the words of one of the leaders of the LDS church. Elder Quentin L. Cook is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. According to Wikipedia, Elder Cook is the “thirteenth most senior apostle in the ranks of the Church.”
In a posting entitled “Let there be light!” on LDS.org in Nov. 2010, Elder Cook wrote:
As Church leaders, we have met with leaders of other faiths and have found that there is a common moral foundation that transcends theological differences and unites us in our aspirations for a better society.
In our increasingly unrighteous world, it is essential that values based on religious belief be part of the public discourse. Moral positions informed by a religious conscience must be accorded equal access to the public square. Under the constitutions of most countries, a religious conscience may not be given preference, but neither should it be disregarded.
I don’t know about you, but to me this sounds a lot like religious leaders saying they want a seat at the table of lawmaking and public policy. And this from a church that recently used its tax-exempt status to greatly influence the outcome of an American political election. Isn’t that one of the things our founding fathers feared the most?
When our nation’s religious leaders step up and overtly state that it is their intention to influence the political landscape, methinks we just might have a rather serious problem on our hands.
You may not have heard about it in the major news outlets, but earlier this week there was another skirmish in the battle to “defend” marriage.
On December 6, 2010, an “open letter” was signed by 26 religious “leaders.” But let us not divert from the discussion to consider the pompous sanctimony of “open letters.” Perhaps another day.
The letter was entitled “The Protection of Marriage: A Shared Commitment” and is significant because of the broad spectrum of religious beliefs held by the signers. A press release from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops sang the praises of the diversity of the signers that represented “Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish, Lutheran, Mormon, Orthodox, Pentecostal and Sikh communities in the United States.”
As I read the letter, I couldn’t help but wonder: Who out there watches over us atheists? Where is the leader of my flock?
Here’s the text of the letter:
Marriage is the permanent and faithful union of one man and one woman. As such, marriage is the natural basis of the family. Marriage is an institution fundamental to the well-being of all of society, not just religious communities.
As religious leaders across different faith communities, we join together and affirm our shared commitment to promote and protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman. We honor the unique love between husbands and wives; the indispensible place of fathers and mothers; and the corresponding rights and dignity of all children.
Marriage thus defined is a great good in itself, and it also serves the good of others and society in innumerable ways. The preservation of the unique meaning of marriage is not a special or limited interest but serves the good of all. Therefore, we invite and encourage all people, both within and beyond our faith communities, to stand with us in promoting and protecting marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
The press release talks about the “unique meaning” of marriage and the letter speaks of the “unique love” between husbands and wives. Logically speaking, what does “uniqueness” prove? Absolutely nothing.
The letter says that marriage is something “permanent.” Ever heard of a little something called the divorce rate? Have we ever seen such a concerted effort to “defend” marriage against that?
The letter says that marriage is the “natural” basis of a family. How is that statement, beyond religious beliefs, proven in any way?
Let’s say you have a family consisting of one man, one woman, and two children. Now, let’s say one of the parents dies. So sorry, family. According to our nation’s religious leaders your family is no longer “natural.”
Personally I think the letter is an insult to anyone who ever grew up in a family without one or both of the “natural” biological parents, or one where the “permanent” marriage was ripped apart by divorce, and let us not forget everyone who was ever adopted. If we accept the argument that the act of procreation is what makes marriage “natural” then by logical extension anyone not raised by their biological parents is in an unnatural family.
Not too long ago there was a person on craigslist in the “politics” section. He was making reasoned arguments that homosexuals were “shit eaters” and “pedophiles” during the act of defending marriage. He even posted appalling pictures of scatological sexual activity (between two men) as his “proof.” How he came into possession of the image one can only wonder.
I don’t normally engage on craigslist, but I decided to take a shot. I knew it would be waste of time, though, especially for one anyone who expressed such illogical thoughts. Call it an “open letter” of my own, if you will. Here’s what I wrote:
There is a person trolling here using homosexual bashing as bait. If you can’t recognize the pure unabashed trolling for what it is then perhaps you have a problem as well. Trolls are best ignored.
Sexual orientation is NOT the act of having sex or engaging in a particular type of sexual activity. The picture of scatological sex that was posted recently falls into the category of deviant behavior, i.e., it violates our society’s cultural norms. It would be equally deviant if it was two men, two women, or a mixed-gender couple. Therefore you can’t simply show the same picture where one of the participants is female and declare, “See! Heterosexuality is sick!” It doesn’t work that way.
You can have a sexual relationship between two gay men that doesn’t involve anal sex. That doesn’t mean the men are straight.
You can have a sexual relationship between a mixed-gender couple that does involve anal sex. That doesn’t mean the people involved are homosexual.
Orientation is what you are. It is a preference. It is how you feel and what you are attracted to. It is not what you do. Or don’t do.
Naturally my post was flagged down and removed from craigslist in record time. Luckily, as the author, I was able to preserve a copy.
I had a friend named Klaus. One time he expressed this thought: “I don’t believe you can find love in another man’s hairy asshole.” Yes, Klaus was an eloquent fellow. And that opinion fit his worldview and beliefs. But I think it’s safe to say that the opinion is not universally shared. And that’s what makes freedom so special. We each get to make up our own minds.
To me, the big travesty here is a simple one. It is the fact that so many spend so much time and effort try to legally control and quarantine the actions of other people. Adults engaged in mutually consensual behavior should leave each other the fuck alone.
If you leave faith and religion out of the equation, what proof remains that supports the “defense” of marriage?