Category Archives: Piety
Religion begs to be poked at.
Freedom to Lose Your Religion
What a world we are living in. Everything has been disrupted because of a hidden enemy. The devout might call it the Devil’s work; scientists may call it a submicroscopic infectious agent; everyone else calls it a virus. Regardless, it is putting our collective lives on hold. By necessity, we are reduced to surviving so that we may live again later. As God’s flock, responsible citizens, decent human beings . . . whatever motivates you, we must all do our part in defeating COVID-19.
I planned to start this off with a bit of scripture about sacrifice. So, I did an Internet search, “Bible passages with sacrifice.” As with anything related to religion, the results are dissatisfying.
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13.
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” Luke 9:24
“To do what is right or just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” Proverbs 21:3
I was really hoping to drive the point home about the importance of sacrifice during this time. Doesn’t religion preach just that? Back in the day, the congregation was expected to empty their pockets into the church offertories if they wanted eternal salvation. Their last coins were tithed to the ferryman who would take them to afterlife. Or something. Isn’t that the very definition of sacrifice? Oh wait, no. That’s just stupidity.
Back to the verses. The aforementioned examples and others like them tell completely different stories. The first two, in particular, resonate with current events. Many conservatives are extremely eager to open up the economy. How does one do that in the midst of a pandemic? How about suggesting elderly people leave their homes and sacrifice themselves on the front lines so that the rest of the ‘healthy’ world can get back to normal? If that doesn’t work out, just keep the basket of vulnerables at home while the rest of the world can live their lives again. Never mind that it is not how communicable contagions operate. As John said, “. . . lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” and Luke echoes that sentiment, “. . . whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” Got that, old folks, and immunocompromised, and cancer survivors, and disabled veterans, and those with co-morbidities? You’ll be saved either way! Win-win!
The third example blurs the lines even more of what sacrifice means. To do what is right or just is more acceptable . . . to the Lord. Does that mean it is right and just to congregate, place your spit on the clergyman’s hand while you eat God’s body, and share the same cup of his blood, all while ignoring the social distancing rules and shelter-in-place mandates? Is the chalice AND wine disinfected after each set of lips touches it? The CDC states that COVID-19 can survive and be transmitted for up to three days on metal surfaces. Not to mention, living in an infectious broth of high-viral-loaded sacrament taken directly into one’s unprotected system before even the smallest immunity can be built up from an incremental or peripheral exposure. You know, how the immune system works.
Perhaps God is battling the actual creator of this virus. Who could that be? In this beautiful world our Lord created. Not the sacrilegious Darwin. Not godless China. The Church Lady knows who I mean. Could it be . . . SATAN? While this fight to the death carries on (probably for the next year), does one have to pray in order to avoid becoming infected? If so, God might be a little tied up for a bit while pulling a rope-a-dope on the Devil. What if one becomes infected? Can prayer heal better than a therapeutic vaccine or treatment made and administered by God’s own children, to God’s own children? What happens if one dies? Can one call in a prayer favor, at least to explain why thou hast forsaken me?
This pandemic must be another one of those WWJD tests. What would Jesus do? He did lose his shit on the merchants and moneychangers in the infamous Cleansing of the Temple. He fashioned a whip and went all Indiana Jones on those greedy motherfuckers. How dare they turn a place of worship into a den of iniquitous profit? (That should only be on designated market days to raise money for new stained glass windows, damn it!) There is some “lost” evidence that Jesus got in a few murders in his profligate “Infancy.” Those tales were conveniently omitted in both testaments, but they are important to observe. Because, that little loophole has been coming in handy.
Like flying a plane into a large, occupied building, it is noble to sacrifice others in order to score points with God. The gullible idiot really took a gamble right there. That is a risky bet for some centuries-old text that has been interpreted in various batshit ways. Whatever gets one to achieve the ultimate reward, am I right? I dare anyone covered in Christ’s blood to jump in a pool of sharks in order to save oneself. Go on, I dare you. Where’s your Messiah now, bitches?
Here’s the thing. This is nothing new. Religion is the scourge that keeps on scourging. It oppressively places its thumb on women, sticks it up their vaginas, and fucks them good and hard. Shockingly, it is not until the past decade that we kinda stopped being okay with that. Even then, we can’t get all women on board to fight that madness, much less men. It doesn’t seem like a highly contagious, non-discriminating virus will be a compelling game-changer. Especially considering the chatter from certain religious figures that, yes, they are going to hold public services during sacred holidays.
I write this in the wake of Easter, as there may be more wakes as a result. The reality is that it won’t be just the religious dissenters who sacrifice; they are taking their fellow humans down with them in Biblical fashion. Why? Because, this will give the virus more reasons to stick around and party on our goblet cells. (How many angels can dance on the headstone of a grave?) It also means that not only will there be more people infected, there will be more deaths. That is devastating enough to give a convincing reason to sit this one out and stay home. In addition, our lives will remain on hold much longer than originally forecasted. We don’t even know what is on the other side of this pandemic. It certainly isn’t a fantasyland complete with pearly gates.
Since we’ve politicized and non-secularized an apolitical and secular pathogen, I find myself reaching to the Constitution for guidance.
Laypeople take the First Amendment’s message quite literally by freely interpreting it. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .” I am not a legal scholar, but I believe it is saying that government should keep its nose out of religion. As well, they will not “abridge[ing] the freedom of speech.” Again, we have the freedom to have our voices heard. Religious freedom, yes! Free speech, boo-yah! Does this mean we can practice our religion to our hearts content, and say whatever we want to?
Apparently not, as the Constitution recognizes that rights end at the tips of our noses. Don’t believe me? One of many examples of First Amendment violations is when speech is an immediate threat that breaches peace. If what you say incites violence, then the right is forfeited. Same goes for religion. If a faith ritualizes sacrificing virgins at the altar, or molesting them behind it, don’t we expect the authorities to put the kibosh on that? Rather than practicing religion in a public gathering during a time that the government has temporarily mandated social distancing for the protection of the greater good, maybe the right thing to do is to sacrifice one’s dogma for something that actually serves the whole of humanity.
Again, if you don’t believe me, I invite you to observe two situations that result in widely accepted abridgment of Constitutional rights.
We have this little thing called, “Felony Disenfranchisement”. Quite simply, if one is convicted of a felony that results in incarceration of more than a year and/or a fine of over $1,000, said convicted felon could lose rights to vote in elections, depending on the will of the jurisdiction. There are gray areas regarding the severity of the crime, but I trust we all agree that we don’t want a murderer or violent abuser the opportunity to elect/reelect a candidate or incumbent we find unpalatable. It doesn’t matter that voting rights are covered in at least four Amendments. If you break the societal covenant, you forfeit some rights as a citizen as punishment.
Still not convinced? The 1968 Gun Control Act Title 18 provides for “prohibit[ing] anyone convicted of a felony and anyone subject to a domestic violence protection order from possessing a firearm.” Not only does a murderer, pedophile, and in this case, a domestic abuser, lose a laundry list of Amendment rights while in prison, they lose their Second Amendment rights in perpetuity. This domestic violence is qualified as “a misdemeanor,” by the way. This means that the Felony Disenfranchisement parameters from above don’t even need to be met. The government can take the firearm away while slapping the hand that held it. It seems extreme, but it does mollify those who prefer that the Second Amendment be stricken from the record.
Therein lies the rub. Gun sales, and attempted ones, are through the roof right now. People just don’t feel safe. We fear the invisible enemy that is COVID-19, and all we can do is wash our hands, wear masks, and stay away from each other. We can’t shoot the virus dead, but we have the right to protect ourselves from those who breach the protective barrier and threaten our safety.
Doesn’t that sound like what religious people who just can’t find the will to stay home are doing? They spread the Word along with the virus, and they assume they have the God-given and Constitutional right to do so. Atheists, agnostics, and intelligent religious people be damned.
First Amendment violation, anyone? Abuse your religious freedom, then see if God shows up on your behalf as a character witness in court. Or, maybe those who put others’ lives at risk should—as felons and domestic abusers do—lose the right that they are abusing.
Sturm und Drang: The Breakfast of Trumpions
I tend to keep a low profile when I walk around the city. I am not a recreational urban stroller. I just want to get to my destination as quickly as possible, unimpeded. But damned if those annoying “you got a minute for ABC . . . XYZ?” kids try to get my attention when I least want it. Every. Time. Nothing I do—or don’t do—dissuades them from their cutesy attempts to squeeze out a minute from me I don’t have (I gave them said minute once; it is more like five). I’ve tried a polite dissent, resting bitch face, or veering not so subtly out of their path. Nothing works.
It happened, yet again, today. As I let the grumbling, snotty response to my cold shoulder fade in my wake, I realized what has been eating at me since November 9, 2016: Liberals are really pissing me off.
What makes this realization noteworthy is that up until after Election Day, I identified as a Liberal. I still do in many ways. I have more than a minute for Gay Rights, Planned Parenthood, et cetera. The crises that make organizations like Human Rights Campaign dump these poor saps onto the streets to obnoxiously beg for support are the things that keep me up at night. I not only give a minute, I devote hours of my day thinking and writing about them. Admittedly, I am just a mere armchair activist, but still, these human rights issues are a large concern. I honestly don’t know what we can do about them outside of continuing to fight for them.
In deference to my Liberal brethren who might be reading and working themselves up into a lather, I assure you, I am with you. Overall, we are on the right side of history. It astounds me how polarized people can be on a simple concept like an individual’s basic humanity. Sadly, the world will remain divided and our efforts will be for naught, particularly if we continue on our current trajectory. What I am suggesting is that there are some things that could use some . . . tweaking, perhaps?
That was my attempt at political correctness—a tactic that makes the left particularly annoying (more on that later). I shall be blunt. Many (not all) Liberals need to get over their sanctimonious martyrdom and actually do something that is substantive. So says the aforementioned armchair activist.
I make this declaration with the acknowledgement that I’ve been guilty of sanctimony and victimhood, as well. I drew on my own “grab ‘em by the pussy” experiences like a baby to her bottle. When Donald Trump was elected, I cried inconsolably. I was prone to acting like what the right refers to as a “Libtard” or “Snowflake.” In turn, I swung my broad, ad hominem brush at “Clownservatives” and “Republicunts” who hate the world, thus making our country anything but great. Logical fallacies aside, there are plenty on both sides of the political aisle that have earned those pejoratives. For the purpose of this article, I focus on Liberals.
These past few months, I’ve taken a step back, or more like, been catapulted to the middle. This change was one of necessity. As I was sobbing while leaving the house the morning after the election, my dear husband with his lovingly brutal honesty, banged on the echo chamber until I crawled out to escape the cacophony. With one pin poke (more like an hour-long lecture) he popped the Liberal bubble that cocooned me for the past decade.
To be fair, I had already previously been laying the groundwork for the transformation into an Independent butterfly. I was just in serious denial. I suspected Trump—once a moderate—was pulling a long, elaborate con. I abandoned it without doing my homework. Quite frankly, the pack, us-versus-them mentality made it much easier to just hate the man and see Hillary Clinton as the better candidate, while secretly wishing something would happen to both of them so that Bernie Sanders could saunter in and save the day. I held my nose when I voted for Clinton; I just couldn’t join the fray and be #imwithher. Yet, I thought she was at least the lesser of evils. With that, I’ll start with Lesson 1.
The Drumpfer has some clothes
My darling husband showed me what he’d been researching the past year. Aha! It makes sense now. Trump has been planning this most of his career. Even just ten years ago, he cozied up to the Democrats and made contributions to the DNC, Planned Parenthood, et cetera. He was chummy with the Clintons, in fact. When the Democrats didn’t take him seriously for his Presidential aspirations, he played the Republican and flimflammed the alt-right while galvanizing disenfranchised, rural Americans. He did whatever it took to get elected. He is determined to be the BEST President, so he throws the GOP parties to make them drunk with their majority power. He’ll punish the Democrats for a while until he needs them for his agenda. Then the Republicans may well be nursing their hangovers while he butchers some of their sacred cows. Yay! It is all just bread and circuses, faking us out until we are all forced to eat our spinach because our own divine bovines died off. Classic narcissistic businessman, him.
Try telling that to Liberals. “Oh, tsk tsk, Diane. You give him too much credit. He’s a moron, insane, and didn’t even want the job. He is going to destroy us. You’ll learn.” I’m not ready to abandon the Long Con theory, but I admit it is being thrown into question. Quite frankly, he’s doing some very scary things right out of the gate. We must keep a watchful eye on his administration, and always be vigilant. What I ask is that Liberals do not succumb to what Conservatives so maddeningly did with Obama: don’t hate everything Trump does because of his vexing skin color, no offense to orangutans. There is more to it than that, of course. We can disagree with his agenda, but not throw the baby (hands) out with the bathwater. Look back at old footage of him; he was quite fluent and astute. The way he speaks and carries on these days is a tactic to get attention, and demonstrates his low opinion of our country’s collective intelligence. We all seize voraciously on every little tweet, word, and action, so his disdain is not without merit.
Democrats have been screwed over twice because of the Electoral College. I understand the frustration, but am not inclined to move to abolish something just because I didn’t get what I want. Our Forefathers set us up as a Constitutional Republic, not a pure Democracy. Why? Because it elects representatives to protect our collective Constitutional rights and interests. Electing the candidate with the popular vote sounds simple and fair, but it isn’t. He won, based on the Republic vote. It is a mystery how he was viewed as being in the best interests of the majority of the population, but there you have it. Let’s look at our own party’s hubris for selling their souls in blind desire to elect the first woman President and getting the Clintons back in the White House, and our own over-confidence that there was no way she could lose to Trump. She did, so Liberals, including myself, are to blame for that. We sowed, therefore we must reap.
There are still many arguments supporting that he should not be in the White House, and he’s already wrought considerable havoc. Not to mention he set a dangerous precedent with his con job, one that surpasses the usual empty promises that abound in politics. Is it that easy to get elected? The validity of Hitler comparisons is debatable, but with our gullibility, we could actually elect a malevolent primary psychopath who is astute enough to follow the pathway that Trump paved, and take us down it to a much worse Hell than is histrionically being railed about now.
Regardless, Trump is our President; give it time. The Democrats will get their party. Between the short times either party is pleased, both Republicans and Democrats will share a discontent with their “esteemed” leader who dares to give us our democracy, good and hard. What brings rivals together for a mutual cause? The enemy of my enemy. We actually may cross party lines and work together. Won’t that be swell?
That is the last you’ll hear from me about this particular topic, except if/when I can deliver between mouthfuls of spinach, a richly deserved, “I told you so.” That is, if he doesn’t get impeached or kicked out of office first.
Shot through the bleeding heart
This is a topic that has stuck in my craw for several years. There are many Liberals, such as the wonderful Dan Savage, who believe that the Second Amendment should be abolished. I used to be anti-gun, and still am afraid of them. When mass shootings started getting more bandwidth (they were always there, but are covered more now because of the instant and powerful reach of the Internet), I realized I needed to educate myself on guns and actually decide what my view on them should be. I didn’t land where I expected.
Guns are bad and need to be controlled because they lead to gun violence. This mantra begs the question, as it is fundamentally flawed for several reasons. First off, it is like saying marijuana is a gateway drug. Demonizing guns speaks to a complete lack of understanding why our Forefather’s wrote the Second Amendment. The intent was to give the citizens of our Republic—again, not Democracy, Republic—the right to protect themselves. It isn’t to shoot each other willy-nilly, nor even to make machinegun bacon, but to protect the people from all threats that menace them, especially a tyrannical government.
Second, referring to the problem as “gun violence” muddies the water the same way as calling all pit bulls vicious. Criminals abuse guns to the point that they’ve lost that Constitutional right to keep and bear them, and that is a problem. The thing about rights is that they are there until they are abused, and because of that, do not extend beyond our noses. We have the right to our nose, but not if we chop it off. It will in turn spite our face. Criminals infringe on our rights, but reactionary obtuseness results in everyone losing out. How can we rightfully protect ourselves from harm when everyone is disarmed except for those who are out to hurt us? The answer is, we can’t.
Third, anything we try to attack and control through restriction, like the War on Drugs, is bound to backfire and lead to more violent responses. Think of it as homeopathy: Like heals like. The more law-abiding citizens that are responsibly armed, i.e., with proper training, the bigger deterrent for criminals to, well, fuck with us. Make sense?
Fourth, the foundation of the anti-gun view was built with a double standard. If the Second Amendment is bad, then the other 26 should be thrown into question. Are you ready for that? As a recent example, the GOP voted to remove the requirement of the Social Security Administration to provide to the NICS database the list of people who require a caretaker of their finances, so that those recipients of aid for their fiduciary well being are prohibited from obtaining firearms. The left claims it will arm severely mentally ill people, which will lead to shootouts in “crazy town.” This is reactionary, as it assumes the worst intentions of the “evil party.” While there may be financial incentives from the NRA, the spirit of it is to allow the people, who’ve done nothing to lose their rights, due process like everyone else. The ACLU agrees, and thus is ironically on the same side. Isn’t that covered in the Fifth Amendment, due process and all? If not, then look at the all-encompassing Ninth that covers any rights not otherwise specified.
It is interesting—by interesting, I mean hypocritical—that those who rally against stigmatizing mental health stop short when it comes to owning a firearm. The same goes for military Veterans, who were identically affected by a similarly disarming mandate. The government readily armed them to fight for our country, but that would make it near impossible for them to protect themselves in their own homes, simply because they chose to seek out someone to help them pay their bills accurately. It is a smoking bullet hole stigmata right in the middle of the forehead.
Who claims to have a reasonable approach to “sensible gun laws” but has been rightfully accused of wanting to restrict Second Amendment rights? Hillary Clinton, and it is what makes her appealing to the left. However, she is a hated, targeted woman by many. How do you think the Secret Service protects her, with their fists? Of course not. Does anyone see her complaining about that? Of course not. More hypocrisy.
Unfortunately, these points hit a dense, peace-loving hemp wall. Anti-gun Liberals should direct their fear to where it belongs, which is to the drain they are going down along with their stubborn, circular arguments.
I will end it with this. Trump is pro-Second Amendment, but his abuse of every piece of the First Amendment is in a word, frightening. The defense of the First Amendment is predicated on our rights in the Second Amendment. We can’t defend ourselves with words and signs if we are silenced. Buck up, Liberals, and stop shooting yourself in the foot. If there is ever a time that we need to ensure the government fears its people, it is now.
Protest the protester
Our First Amendment rights allow for protest, and Dems and Libs are exercising that right, most definitely of late. Protests are a way to get our collective voice heard, and our Forefathers were right in including that as a respected way to get the attention of our government.
The obvious challenge is keeping it peaceful. The larger the crowd, the greater chance of it getting out of hand. Did you know the majority of violent protests come from Liberal/left-wing causes? Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, as well as numerous other rallies against unjustified shootings, collapsed in on itself. Threats, fights, shootings, and rape, all happened on the supposedly anti-violent left’s watch. Why is it acceptable for Liberals to rip off their tie-dye peace and love shirts and become Social Justice Warriors, but not Conservatives? Feeling justified doesn’t cut it. It is subjective, especially from the perspective of those who don’t agree with you. Last anyone checked in the Constitution, nothing but peaceful assembly is protected.
That said, props for keeping the Women’s March reasonably civilized. It didn’t cause substantive change—yet—but the overwhelming turnout and solidarity sent a powerful warning shot across the bow: We are here, and we aren’t going away.
That’s the spirit! Keep it up. Commitment and tenacity are needed during these uncertain times. Just don’t overdo it. Think before you pick up that protest sign, lest it amount to nothing but tuned out cries of wolf. In addition, be selective on the where and when. It can backfire and cause a lot of resentment.
Yes, it rather sucks that Trump is our President. Millions of people were heartbroken, as well as outraged. Citizens swarmed city streets post-Election Day, delivering a loud and clear message: Not Our President. That’s great; the Administration-elect and possibly, those who voted for him heard them, also loud and clear. That includes the people who were stuck in their cars while thwarted from their commute home. I wonder how many of them voted for Clinton. Does it matter? They were thrust in the middle of the protest, whether they wanted to be or not.
The plea from the Hamilton cast to Mike Pence is another example. It was a great message, but delivered under poor, unfair circumstances. I hate Pence, too, but he was there on a night off to enjoy theatre. He handled it with aplomb (unlike his boss), but do you really think he changed his view? The people who should heed the cry, didn’t. When I tried to explain that to Liberals, I was attacked for it. Therein lies the rub: If you constantly eat your own, chewing them up and spitting them out because they don’t believe exactly as you do, you’re going to be on your own.
The problem is that, outside of the emotional catharsis, many protests do nothing to benefit the greater good. Those who need to listen to what is said under these circumstances, don’t. That is where the title of this treatise comes in. All this Storm and Stress, all the complaining, does little benefit outside of feed the people who really hate this peace, love, and acceptance thing and want to vilify it. We piss in their cornflakes, and they eat it up.
Behind the veil
The largest, long-term threat is Climate Change. The science is in on that. Why can’t the right see that? It is because they are willfully stupid and ignorant about it, be it for religious or financial reasons. They will be the death of us.
How do you think they feel when it comes to Islamic Terrorism? It must be maddening that Liberals refuse to even call it that, much less fully acknowledge that it is the largest, immediate threat. How can we even have a dialectic on something when we won’t agree what to call it? Blame the left and their insane drive to be politically correct. They will be the death of us. Sound familiar?
But no! Islam is a peaceful religion. How dare you?
That’s the thing. Crack open a Koran, it is none-too peaceful. That is where the Conservatives are correct. Where they are terribly mistaken, and hypocritical even, is claiming that Catholicism and Christianity are above reproach. There is rampant child molestation, not to mention historical corruption in the Papacy. As for Christianity, check out Revelations, and if you have the urge, read the Lost Books of the Bible. Jesus had quite the itchy trigger finger.
Incidentally, if the Jesus that Conservatives know and love were alive today, they’d hate his Liberal, possibly schizophrenic, tree-hugging, toga-wearing, (and probably pot-smoking) hippy ass. I digress.
As an atheist, I believe religion is a scourge on the world, and the salt of the earth are salting the earth as long as they hold onto these specious belief systems. It causes more problems than it platitudinously claims to solve. That said, our Forefathers’ aimed to protect the people from the government establishing or infringing upon religion. Having friends from many faiths, while I don’t agree with them, I will defend their right to do whatever makes them happy. If they don’t interfere with my right to not practice religion, I certainly will not interfere with their right to practice religion.
The extreme view looks to violate Muslims’ rights in order to protect their own interests. I am not talking about those from other countries. If they are not U.S. citizens, they do not have Constitutional rights, much less claim to the First Amendment. Our country is not obligated to let anyone in, even if under duress, we just do because it was established as “The American Way.” In many circumstances, aiding others is the right thing to do; there is great disagreement on how that should be accomplished. The prejudice against Islamic Americans who are on our side and our way of life, regardless if they immigrated legally or were born here, is detrimental. It is up to everyone, not just Liberals, to protect them. They are our allies against terrorism. Memo: Please see earlier section on ways to protect our rights, re: Second Amendment.
The cultures from which most Muslims arise put women beneath them and persecute homosexuals; violence against them is part of Sharia law. Who leaps over eggshells to defend them, despite their culture’s tendency towards shaming women, destroying them with honor killings, and throwing homosexuals off rooftops? The same Liberals who protest for women’s and LGBTQ equal rights. Oh moral and cultural relativism, they are such sticky wickets.
The other side of the Liberty coin is that there are many people who are part of larger groups that want to destroy us. They aren’t just in other countries; they are hiding in plain sight on our homeland. We must look out for ourselves. That does not mean that we should fear offending anyone. Just like domestic terrorists can refer to themselves as Christians doing God’s work, groups like ISIL can claim the same for Allah. It really doesn’t discredit the respective religions; religion does a bang-up job of that just by merely existing.
Again, for the most part, Liberals are on the right side of history. We should love and accept everyone who is just trying to be themselves. Therein lies another rub: Not everyone will return the gesture. It is naïve to think otherwise.
It could be argued that the travel ban protests might have been more than cathartic. The courts overruled the ban. I suspect they were going in that direction anyway; the people just got there first. I’ll give the spirit of those protests kudos, with exceptions.
“We are all Muslims now!” read some protest signs. Really? No, we aren’t. Once again, Liberals overstate by co-opting victimhood along with those who really can lay claim to the abuse. There are many ways to get the point across without striking a Jesus Christ pose (apologies to Soundgarden). No need for melodrama.
Then, there is the photograph of Muslims praying on makeshift mats from signs picketers placed on the floor for them. That is laying it on a wee bit thick, don’t you think? Would Christians protect atheists’ rights by offering their Bibles so that they can intellectually eviscerate them, in support of their lack of faith? I think not. Don’t try so hard to appear to be all-accepting; there is always going to be something that you won’t find acceptable.
We can be together, but still apart. That goes for race, gender, or sexual orientation. Religion. Politics! We all have noses with which to measure the extent of our rights. Don’t block, unfriend, or demand to be unfriended on social media. That is silly at best, and definitely divisive. Don’t claim the moral or ethical high ground. Look for news that upsets confirmation bias. Bust out of that echo chamber. Listen, learn, just as you expect the same in return. As Bruce Lee said in the Tao of Jeet Kune Do, “Take everything in, extract what is useful, discard what is not.” Success in that hinges on discarding the assumption that everything you believe in is useful.
Dr. Bronner’s Manic Soap
This image of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps is probably a familiar one. They are a line of hemp-based, castile soaps that do not have any harsh detergents in it, just organic oils that are saponified into soap and glycerin. Being a natural product, it is available in whole-health and food-type establishments; it can also be found in big-box stores such as Target. The basic soap, being scented with peppermint, is gentle and tingles on the skin as it cleanses the body. It is labeled “Certified Fair Trade,” promoting its holistic purpose. Oh, it is certified, or maybe “certifiable” would be a better word. It occurred to me, as I read what is essentially a manifesto on the bottle, that the aforementioned tingle is the slight burn one feels as a holy liquid touches wicked flesh.
This bottle of madness is a convenient, albeit unorthodox (ironic word choice, I know), delivery of the ultimate message: Absolute cleanliness is Godliness! Teach the Moral ABC that unites all mankind free, instantly 6 billion strong & we’re All-One. “Listen Children Eternal Father Eternally One.” I would say you couldn’t make that shit up, but Dr. Bronner did. He needed an editor, most definitely. He had serious diarrhea of the pen. Besides that, we hit 7 billion this year, and yes, someone is counting. Also, what is up with the oddly placed capitalizations? I understand the God thing, but All-One, Children Eternal, etc.? Is there only one? Did he know something that we don’t? Apparently, and he laid it all out to his minions for some light reading while being anointed by his magically miracle soap.
The Moral ABC is an amalgamation of Rudyard Kipling’s poem If, as well as Dr. Batty’s (I know, ad hominems won’t get me into Heaven) views that supposedly evolved from Buddhist and Jewish as well as Christian teachings. I read Kipling’s poem. Like Manson gleaning murderous intentions from the Beatles’ Helter Skelter, Doc B’s interpretation of a poem about what passes for British virtue is almost as puzzling. I say almost, because it was considered an inspirational poem. And with that, I guess the Moral ABC is meant to inspire us to be good. I am assuming he consulted the Bhagavad Gita in his research; I haven’t read it. If it is anything as vast as the Moral ABCs, I’ll pass. They make Martin Luther’s 95 Theses look like a grocery list in comparison.
I think there are 144 of them, but am not sure. He skipped around a lot. He jumped from the 1st to the 5th to the 7th, eventually to the 13th. On the back of the bottle, he miraculously got to 76, and then fast-forwarded to 144 at the bottom of the label. I won’t bore you with the details, but here are some blurbs:
God’s Spaceship Earth (Umm . . . huh?); All One! All One! Exceptions Eternally? Absolute None! (Again with the caps and weird syntax!); Small minds decay! (I’ll buy that); Each swallow works hard to be perfect pilot-provider-builder-trainer-teacher-lover-mate, no half-true hate! (Eh, I got nothing); Thank God we don’t descend down from perfect Adam & Even to sinful sinner (Well duh, a sinner is sinful. Fucking Christ do I hate redundancy in writing); Free Speech is man’s only weapon against half-truth (Fred Phelps must use this soap); To dream that impossible dream! To reach that unreachable star! (Try making your goals a little less lofty, m’kay?)‘Til All-One, All-One we are! (For those about to rock, we salute you! Testifyyyyyy!)
The bottle keeps rolling off my desk and quite frankly, I’m tired. I have perfect vision, well, maybe not Adam and Eve perfect, but reading that small, white print is straining my eyes. But dagnabbit, do I feel especially saved right now. What’s that parable about a blind man? Anyway.
I trust I am not the first to write about this soap, nor will I be the last. There is even a documentary about the man, which I have not seen. That said, I figured in writing this, I should use my journalistic skills to find out more about the man behind the soap.
Okay, so I am not a journalist. I just googled his name and clicked on links until I found a photograph:
Why doesn’t it surprise me he looked insane? However, I didn’t expect such an uncanny resemblance to this guy:
That’s right—Herr Döktor from The Human Centipede. Take a moment to compare the two. Scroll up, scroll down. Coincidence?
Like your average mere mortal, I just went to Wikipedia for some background information. I can’t confirm if Dr. Bronner, born Emanuel Bronner in Germany in 1908, was really a doctor, but it sounds like he had a pretty tumultuous existence. His parents were killed in the Holocaust and he suffered shock treatments in an Illinois mental hospital after he was arrested for publicly announcing his Moral ABCs. He later escaped from the hospital, settling in California to start his soap-making enterprise. He died in 1997; I assume it was of natural causes. His surviving family has continued his legacy since then. It stated they modify the label as needed, but I find that claim suspect.
Gotta give him credit, the guy was devoted to his crazy cause. Okay, I’m finished picking on that whacky dude. He lived a rough life, so I’ll give him latitude for that. And I have to say: His soap rocks.
This has to be the most multi-functional product I have encountered. It is meant for cleaning the body (and soul), but it works just as well on other things. I clean my cat’s litter box with it—just a few squirts in the water are enough to neutralize the odor. I can also use it in the laundry. Because I was cursed with sensitive skin (why hast thou forsaken me with that affliction?), I can’t use artificial fragrances in my soaps and detergents. While those “free and clear” detergents do clean just as effectively as their fragrant brethren, they don’t handle pungent odors well. All it takes is a few drops of his soap with the detergent, and my laundry smells fresh again!
I also make a sugar scrub with it and sometimes add more coconut oil for extra moisturizing. I don’t mean to imply that St. Bronner needs an abrasive substance to help scour the impiety from flesh, but there is no such thing as over-compensation in the war against evil. Plus, I do feel extra purified afterwards.
I recommend not using the soap on your naughty bits, and definitely do not get it in your eyes. While not as bad as throwing holy water on a vampire, it is quite unpleasant. Apparently, those dirty parts of the anatomy have seen and experienced so many nefarious things, they are beyond redemption.
I stumbled upon an additional use for this soap recently. How to start? Umm . . . I, erm, was given—AGAINST MY WILL!—a couple of glass thingamajiggies used for something unholy. Yes. God makes this iniquitous substance, so it should be okay, right? No, he did it just to test us! They were too pretty to throw away, so I decided—for the greater good—to salvage them. Nothing was working to purge these pipes, er, demonic delivery devices, of the vile contraband. Repeated soakings with dish soap, as well as numerous rubbing alcohol dips, did little to make these objects chaste once again. In a rapturous moment, it occurred to me to soak them in hot water and his hemp (the irony did not escape me) soap. Dr. B exorcised the ashes of that evil plant straight to HELL! Yay-yah! Dr. Bronner saved me from eternal damnation! Again!
I trust this soap has even more uses, but it is a bit pricey at $9.99–$14.99 a bottle. That exorcism used up a few bucks worth alone. Perhaps I am governed by my household budget, but it seems I shouldn’t be so indulgent with my Savior’s resources. I’m sure it says that somewhere in the Bible.
Psychopathy: The game the whole family can play
I didn’t think it was possible, but the Fred Phelp’s clan has sunk to an all new low. It is no surprise that they seize on any opportunity to further their message and vilify the Hell-bound heathens of this world. However, I’ll admit that preying on the tragedy of a young girl’s death, just to prove their point, was not a possibility that came to mind. But yet, that is precisely what they are doing as I write this. Like jackals, they are vomiting on the tragedy of others as they feed on it.
Let’s call a spade a spade with this one: Fred Phelps is a psychopath. He has gotten this far in life because he hides it behind religious sanctimony in the form of Westboro Baptist Church. He has spread his mutated seed to a family bred of pathologies. If his minions were not born that way, they certainly were raised to be like that. Call it what you will: nature versus nurture; psychopathy versus sociopathy—it all results in the same carnage, emotional or physical.
“Thank God for the shooter!” Really? They want to thank a deity for making someone “mentally unhinged” (that is a whole different issue) enough to lay waste to a group of people who were peacefully supporting their beliefs? Again, really? I am compelled to point out that Jared Loughner was also described as a “pot-smoking loner.” Isn’t partaking of the evil weed a sin in the eyes of their god? I am struggling with the paradox there. Oh wait, it’s just hypocrisy. That makes more sense.
Don’t think for a minute that they are completely blinded by their delusions. They are very calculating in their actions. Notice that they only incite violence, not commit it. Because of that, they can build a fort out of the First Amendment as they shoot their vitriol from behind it. That doesn’t make them less nefarious. There are a lot of psychopaths who do not get blood on their hands. Charles Manson is one who comes to mind.
What will it take to stop them? As long as they only speak—sticks and stones and all that—they have a right to air their stench. I argue that it isn’t a fundamental right but a priviledge. As usual, there has to be someone out there to abuse it and spoil it for everyone else. Given enough rope, they will hang themselves. But, at what cost? If we put a gun in their hands to see what they do, while at best a social experiment, risking the consequences is not an option. What must be addressed is, again, what has been hard-wired in this congregation. While they may not be very effective or galvanized individually, as a group, they have tremendous potential. They are a (cross)hair away from being no different than the Nazis.
If you think that is an overly dramatic fear tactic, think about this: About 3% of the population is homosexual. It is a difficult statistic to capture accurately, as society has conditioned themselves to think it is wrong, hence many don’t ask and certainly don’t tell. Based on this number, if the Westboro Baptist Church had their way, they’d surpass the Holocaust by a factor of three. Genocide, anyone?
Zen and the Art of Blind Faith
So, it is official. The small shrine that a Belgian woman built 150 years ago outside of Green Bay, Wisconsin, has risen beyond mere landmark status. Why, do you ask? Well, the Roman Catholic Church said the apparition of the Virgin Mary that inspired the shrine is indeed, authentic. Other authorities on all things Christly are saying it is at least “worthy of belief”. Booyah!
Really? Because, I wasn’t sure if I should buy into this claim, being a batty notion and all. But, if Joey the Rat and his posse say it’s real, then well, it must be! He’s the Captain Picard of the Catholic Church. Make it so. Oh. Okay.
I have many questions. Where to start? Well, first off, why did this woman travel overseas from Belgium to that little patch of land? My guess is she was really tired and prone to irrational thought when she finally arrived. No matter, I guess that is beside the point. However, the more important question is raised: Says who? Were there witnesses (livestock does not count)? If so, does documentation exist? I can’t fathom someone would have the wherewithal to set up a camera obscura to capture the event for posterity. Just for a few giggles, I could go to any church and erupt in paroxysms of rapture and start fashioning a shrine out of twigs, stones, cigarette butts, etc., claiming I saw Mary Magdelene (might as well add some kink to this fantasy). Oh wait, then everyone would think I was crazy. Silly me.
Oh yeah, here’s another one: What was her name? Slightly to my chagrin, as I confess to relishing anything to vilify blind faith, she was actually identified. Her name was Adele Brise. Then, it must be true! What? She lost an eye in a childhood accident, you say? Perfect—a totally reliable witness to a holy sighting. Since there is a heavily visual-based theme going here, I really wanted to embed a photograph of the shrine in question. But, bloody Hell, I couldn’t find one that I was confident was indeed, THE shrine. There are just so many. What does that tell you? I found later photographs of Ms. Brise, who subsequently became Sister Brise. I’ll throw you a bone and include a pic of her:
Eek! She was a homely woman. Are they sure it wasn’t a man in drag? Sorry, must not get catty with the pious. Moving on.
Occam’s Razor is poking me in the back with this one. While imagining some immigrant from the 19th Century dropping acid puts a smile on my face, LSD was invented (created by a Hell-bound heathen, no doubt) about 80 years after the momentous occasion in question. My guess is that she was very hungry and picked a random ‘shroom to gnaw on in her travels, or perhaps ate some hinky rye bread and got ergot poisoning. Then, bammo! Instant hallucination. Or not. Insanity and other mental illnesses were cured with trepanation, blood-letting, and other torments disguised as legitimate medical practices. Perhaps she escaped that messed up fate, with delusions in tow, hopped a boat, and wound up in farm country to make dubious history.
This brings me to the title I chose for this post. I was tempted to pun the Hell out of it with something like “Zen and the Art of Moronic Manifestation” or something to that affect. I just wanted you to know that I considered it, but it seemed too contrived. Oh, kind of like . . . RELIGION (said in the Church Lady voice)! I wasn’t terribly impressed overall with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, as Robert M. Pirsig had a tendency towards tiresome circular discussions about the metaphysics of quality. It is probably why I am prone to keeping philosophical text at arm’s length. But, he is a fellow atheist, so the cockles of my heart warmed to him. There was one paragraph in there that really stood out and resonated as an astute observation with me. Paraphrased, he stated that people generally do not get fanatic about something they know to be true. His example was that we aren’t passionate about the sun rising every day, because we know it will happen regardless of the circumstances. Yet, we don’t know that a god exists, so there is fanaticism attached to that belief. Doubtful claims breed zealots.
There is definite validity to that observation. Some of the most horrific acts of violence can be traced back to religion. What was the origin of the Inquisition, causing the torture and death of hundreds of thousands of people? Religion. What inspired men to fly planes into buildings? Religion. What is the impetus for shunning homosexuals and stripping them of their humanity and reducing them to scapegoats for God’s wrath? Do you sense a theme here? The suspicion of witchcraft; the promise of 72 virgins in heaven; the Bible’s claim that homosexuality is a sin—all are outrageous claims that to be supported and defended require a fanatic devotion to the cause. Thankfully, while the majority of people vary in where they are in the different spectrums of faith, these ideas are viewed by many as specious, at best. However, enough believe them to be true to wreak wicked havoc on the world. While their mental and emotional states are considered stunted on the evolutionary scale, they are monkeys . . . with weapons of mass destruction.
Pirsig also wrote, “When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion, it is called a Religion.” I suppose if that Belgian woman was alone in her beliefs, she would have been institutionalized. Oh wait, she became a nun, so she kind of was. Religion has a way of enslaving those who are prone to its clutches. At best, it closes the mind while keeping the mouth free to spread the word; at worst, it lets the body stay unfettered to punish those who don’t abide.
This shrine isn’t necessarily about the more extreme consequences of religion. However, the delusion is still prevalent. It is with tremendous irony that I quote Father Thomas Rausch, a professor of theology in his response that the church should handle these decisions carefully, as there are many sightings reported (didn’t I just say that?). He said that “most Catholics are skeptical.” Get out. No, seriously, get out. You annoy me too much. This is the same group that believes all forms of birth control are murder, and incidentally, the ones who are claiming magical healing upon visiting this shrine. There are anecdotes of diseases cured, as well as abandoned canes, crutches, etc., from those who were freed from their disabilities, all for whatever time and cost it took to get to the place and sit there until they got what they wanted. I didn’t realize miracles were on blue light special.
Apparently, the life’s work of Sister Brise was enough to lend credibility to her vision. She helped build a church and an adjoining school. She also gathered people at her shrine when a forest fire broke out, and prayed to Our Lady of Good Help (all I did was copy and paste; I’m just as lost as you probably are). The fire stopped before it reached them. It’s a coinci . . . er, it’s a miracle! Her “moral fiber” was proven and her character left no reason for anyone to doubt her. Interesting. Well, I suppose since Mel Gibson is a great actor and director—he gave us Braveheart, dammit!—the Jewish and homosexual communities need to accept that they don’t deserve to live. Take that, Winona Ryder, you oven-dodger, you!
The devil is in the details
Well, well, well. <<insert sarcastic clap here>>
So there we have it. Pope Benedict XVI, nee Joseph Ratzinger, finally opened his crusty maw and let partially digested body parts crumble down his saintly vestments. I mean, he publicly condemned the proliferation of sexual abuse within the Catholic church. You know, that pesky little problem that just won’t go away no matter how hard we pray. See, this inspired me to rhyme. It can’t be all bad, can it?
Oh yes it can!
Let me provide you with an excerpt of the decree from Master P (I’m on a roll here):
“Gurgle spit crap poop feces defecus vomitous aloticus ad hominum . . .”
Oops, sorry. I’m typing in the dark here. Let me try that again:
“So it happened that, in this very year of joy for the sacrament of the priesthood, the sins of priests came to light—particularly the abuse of the little ones, in which the priesthood, whose task is to manifest God’s concern for our good, turns into its very opposite . . .”
Let us analyze this. First of all, what is up with this allusion that this just came to light? I’ve got news for you, Joey, it’s been going and going like a nefarious Energizer bunny. This is so last century. And the one before that, and before that . . . come to think of it, I see a pattern here. As a matter of fact, isn’t pedophilia considered to be okay in “His” book? At one point, it was an encouraged practice. Galileo’s sinister machinations caused the planets to knock into each other and we, as a society, eventually realized that taking advantage of a child’s innocence is just plain wrong. Once a common occurrence is now an unforgivable sin. That is, unless the offender marries into holy celibacy.
Joey the Rat admitted that the priests sin. It is easy to infer that it is in the present tense. If pedophilia was their only sin, we could focus on the topic at hand. But, he specifically put “sin” in the plural. Sins. In particular, the abuse of the little ones (I’ll address that in a moment). The sins of the priests are, not is, the problem. Is that what you meant? What other infidelic skeletons do those perverted bastards have hiding in their pulpits?
As promised, I must point out the peculiar reference to children: the little ones. Funny, I didn’t know there was a euphemism needed to refer to children. This isn’t a bunch of tiny Voldemorts we’re talking about. It comes across as an inept effort to be politically correct. The sexual abuse of midgets has to stop! That is going under the assumption that he was talking about human beings, considering the object “one” can also be a thing. John McCain elicited outrage when he referred to his rival as “that one”. I agree; that was mighty disrespectful. Where is it written that children have to earn our respect in order to be treated with dignity?
Wait, it gets better.
P-Benny declared that “the church must beg the forgiveness of God and from victims of sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests”. Perhaps I am splitting hairs, but why must the priests answer to God first before they fix the disaster they created here on earth? If he exists, and that is a big “if”, what would he be doing that is so damning outside of shaking his head in contempt? It all begs the question considering that this alleged god let this all play out in the first place. But really, come on! What good will a “whoops, my bad” do? You can’t unsodomize an erstwhile virgin, despite what the Born Agains say. A wound might heal, but the stigmata is permanent. This might be a crazy suggestion, but let’s try not doing it in the first place. Go ahead, give it a whirl.
While this is marginally better than Ratboy’s prior non-response, it completely glosses over the crux of this problem. Why are they doing this in the first place? Catholic by definition is a liberal viewpoint, i.e., broad-minded, universal, and all-inclusive. Isn’t that a demonstration of supreme acceptance? Yet, Catholicism is notorious for its intolerance of anything outside of that sect as well as their oppressive rules. The irony here is more painful than crucifixion.
Back to the root issue. The Catholic church hates sex. It is unclean and if God despises anything, it is a dirty mind in body and spirit. Of course, if he witnesses two naughty bits joining in the hands of marriage, it’s all good. Sexuality and the pursuit of satisfying those urges is natural and an essential part of a complete and healthy life. Every day, millions of people balance work and play. And that play can include sexual activity. Apparently, there is even more responsiblity to the job of serving a church than say, governing a nation, and play would be way too distracting. So, abstinence is the only solution. Plus, who can think pure thoughts when picturing the nuns going commando under their habits?
Repression succeeds only in making the person want to taste the forbidden fruit even more, and it would be that much sweeter. In the case of priests committing sexual abuse, this could be a chicken and egg conundrum. Did they turn to children as a deviant safety valve for their otherwise unquenched desires, or did they turn to the church in a misguided effort to exorcise their pedophilic and/or homosexual demon? If the former, I see how they try to get God on a technicality. Children are not fully developed adults, so it isn’t sex to them, per se. I suppose with that mentality, a gimp bag was never a human to begin with. As for the latter, pedophiles indeed do need help, but certainly not from an overblown institution based on specious ideas and beliefs. Pedophilia, while a genetic defect, is not a proclivity that should be explored. Homosexuality while genetic, as well, can be embraced in a healthy way. Pedophilia is a biological problem for scientists to suss out, not the Holy Spirit. No matter the kind of kink, as long as it is among consenting adults, they can have at it. When it involves a child, there is no consent that can take place. Only obedience.
But no worries. Ratty plans on doing everything possible blah blah blah to fully vet them blah blah blah so that the Lord will protect them blah blah “baaaa . . .” said the bleating, sacrifical lamb.
How can words be so empty, but The Word carry the weight of the world?