I love Christmas.

December 20, 2013

Christmas is finally almost here. And we can finally start decorating the house, bake some cookies, visit with family and friends and spread good cheer to all.

My appreciation for Christmas has been a roller coaster ride.

Growing up, Christmas meant presents, stocking, toys, and a big Turkey dinner. It meant bikes, batteries, putting toys together and blinky lights.

We usually found our presents before hand, so the surprise was usually a lesson in Academy-Award-winning acting.

Hell, my brother is the absolute WORST secret keeper. So when he learned Santa wasn’t real at age 7 (I was 5), guess what the first words out of his mouth were Christmas morning as my foot hit the last step and I hadn’t even seen the Christmas tree or presents yet?

“Santa’s not real.”

Seriously?

I was so emotionally distraught. I was 10 parts excited and 100 parts destroyed by the idea my parents, friends and family lied to me for five years of my life.

I remember lying in bed — before learning that dreadful news — on Christmas eve staring at the ceiling waiting for hoofs to prance across our roof. I stared out the window at the moon hoping for Santa to silhouette against the moon.

Perhaps this early awakening to the truth of parents teaching kids about fictional characters planted the seed that helped me drop religion.

Christmas for us was about the presents. And as much as we wanted to think it was about Jesus, our saviors’ birth, it was about the loot and the bragging rights when we got back to school from the Winter break.

I went through a “I hate Christmas” phase in my 20s and early 30s. I’m still not a huge fan. I find it to be an egregiously non-religious religious holiday. You know, it’s the way of the church. There’s unconditional love with conditions. There is all-knowing savior who still needs us to let him know what’s up with prayers, requests and adulation.

Time at home with family meant large levels of stress. It’s still stressful, but I work through that stress with an unhealthily healthy amount of alcohol and repetitions of affirmations.

But I like Christmas again. I like it because it means the days are going to start getting longer. I like it, because it’s time to get some needed respite from an otherwise busy schedule.

I wish there wasn’t a “War on Christmas.” I wish people took accountability for their own attitudes for the holiday. And if someone says “Happy Holidays,” wish them a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

This morning, I read a piece from Dan Savage about his response to Sarah Palin’s book, Good Tidings and Great JoyProtecting the Heart of Christmas. 

And while I loved the writing and how he logically throws down on stupid-ass Sarah Palin, it perpetuates an ugliness. I mean, regardless of how convoluted Sarah Palin’s views are on the mythological “war on Christmas,” we can’t go around expecting it to get better if we keep bashing the hell out of her.

Can we?

I liked this part in particular:

1. Who holds Christmas in contempt? Who? Where are these people? I’m a secular humanist—there’s an award from the Freedom from Religion Foundation on my mantel just inches from my Christmas tree—and here I am, at home on a Saturday morning, baking Christmas cookies for my family. Not holiday cookies. Christmas cookies. I’ll be taking some across the street to share with my Jewish neighbors later today. They love Christmas. And no one is trying to “save” Christmas from its heritage. We have a crèche for the baby Jesus and strings of lights for the Roman god Saturn. We honor Christmas’s religious heritage—the Christian and non-Christian bits.

But maybe Palin is asking for the ridicule and directed attacks. If we’re to believe that she begins the book talking about how she bought a gun for Todd in the wake of the anti-gun crazy that happened, well, let me let Savage write it:

Page 5: Here I learn something I didn’t know and, if I were Sarah Palin, something I wouldn’t want anyone to know. But Sarah hustles this fact to the front of the book because she sure as hell wants us to know it: Sarah surprised Todd with a “nice, needed, powerful gun” for Christmas in 2012. It was a “small act of civil disobedience,” Palin writes, prompted by “the anti-gun chatter coming from Washington.”

What was inspiring that anti-gun chatter in Washington in December of 2012? Oh, right: Twenty children and six teachers were shot dead in their classrooms by a deranged asshole with a “powerful gun.” And before the grieving mothers and fathers of Newtown, Connecticut, could put their dead children in the ground, Sarah Palin ran out gun shopping. Buying Todd a gun in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary was “fun,” Palin writes—and, again, an act of “civil disobedience.” Because gun nuts are a persecuted minority.

Crazier thing: my family LOVES Palin.

Sarah Palin, that deranged, megalomaniac with absolutely no fucking clue as to what this country is all about, diversity, freedom of speech, freedom of life, love and happiness.

Freedom that we all get to enjoy, including her, Dan Savage, you and me.

We all get to love or hate Christmas. We don’t all have to have the same views of every fucking idea that you hold sacred.

If you’re racist, I can have the view that you suck. If you think women’s rights to vote are what’s wrong in America, I get to have the view that you’re an asshole. If you love guns and shout it from the rooftops, I get to respond. And vice versa.

Freedom of speech includes my freedom to respond.

Freedom to celebrate Christmas is another person’s freedom to not celebrate.

Me? I love Christmas. I’m all for keeping the “Christ” in Christmas. And I hope you do, too. He’s not my savior. He’s not my idea of a cool guy. But if he’s yours, get on it. Love it. Own it. And when you get criticized, bask in the glory that you win in heaven.

Tahdah!


It’s 2013, right?

October 28, 2013

Demons and devils. You know you love them.

Or you hate to love them.

Or something.

I understand people believe in a god. I get it. The universe is big, bold and beautiful. It’s mysterious and grand.

Let’s say some big, mysterious being created all of it, because it makes me feel better on the inside place.

See, god!

But devils and demons?

Some of my more religious friends on facebook are standing up for their belief in demons by posting blogs like this to explain why they aren’t partaking in the evil Halloween holiday.

The blogger, one woman named Michele Blake, who blogs at a site called “Prophezine“, explains:

The more I learned, the more I became convinced that this “holiday” (a word that means “holy day,” by the way) was not honoring to God in any way. I began to see that my refusal to give up Halloween was evidence of a divided heart — but Jesus wants my whole heart.

Ever since deciding to “just say no” to Halloween, I can honestly tell you that the blessings and joy of obedience are far greater than any fun I ever had “celebrating.”

And since many people, even Christians, think my decision is odd or even legalistic, I finally decided to put together a list of the top ten reasons I kissed Halloween goodbye.

Mind you, Blake has devoted the last 15 years of her life to homeschooling her kids and “researching the false claims of psychology and psychiatry since she became a Christian 15 years ago.”

You know psychology that makes claims like demons and devils, invisible mischievous beings that are trying to tempt you and cause a raucous in your lives, aren’t real never have been and never will be.

But Halloween, according to Blake is an excuse to flaunt sexuality and to “dine with demons,” things that five year olds LOVE to do.

Oh wait, it’s adults who shove horseshit down their innocent children’s throats in an effort to make them feel better about a lifelong struggle with believing in an imaginary friend named Yeshua.

Here’s the deal. If you think Halloween is evil, there are plenty of alternatives to a healthy, wholesome celebration of dressing up and hooking your kids up with candy and treats. Halloween can be a great holiday reserved for helping your kids identify another way they might be creative. So stop stealing their youth from them and get on board.

And if you think there are demons, by all means show me one. In the meantime, your silly beliefs are ridiculous and you’re setting your kids up to rebel against you later in life.

Seriously.


dear 14 year old self

October 7, 2013

Dear 14-year-old self,

Hey you. It’s me. You’re 38 year old self.

Don’t worry. You turned out fine. You are one of the most educated of the Witteveen grandchildren, oddly enough. You made it through high school and four years of college.

Surprisingly, you found your way out of your shyness in a couple years. I hope that you do it sooner.

No more asking your mother to order for you.

Sorry, you still have a temper. And to this day, there are triggers that you continue to set it off.

But you found an amazing wife, and you are living your dream as a photographer and film maker. It might not be exactly what you envisioned, but doing what you love as a career is nothing short of a dream.

This is going to seem foreign, but your views on religion will change drastically. The fanatic you are as a proselytizing believer, an award-winning Christian will eventually remove themselves thanks to plain old listening to your internal voice.

You will tell people it’s through tons of research. And while research may have given your doubts legs, listening to the doubts you’ve carried since you were young enough to memorize verses in Sunday School will take better hold.

Bear hug these doubts and don’t let familial or societal pressures — which are intense — to force you to lie to yourself or others that you are somehow dabbling in religion or trying to find the crossover between religion and non. It’s a losing battle.

And don’t hate your upbringing no matter what. Your parents did the best they could, and even better. They gave you disciplines and taught you critical thinking skills that led to your departure from religion. You fully realize that you can’t both think critically and hold onto faith-based ideas for too long.

The discipline that you gain will feed your ability to take risks, go on your own, open your own business.

One thing you should do is find more smart people to share your views with. Find a therapist if possible and start working with them to understand yourself better, faster.

Do couples counseling with serious girlfriends.

Don’t attempt to keep long-distance relationships. With some amounts of freedom, explore your sexuality and don’t be so wound up and scared about it. As it were, you waited too long for sex and too long to find better ways to overcome all that shit they taught you in 7th and 8th grade about STDs and hellfire scooping you up if you had sex before marriage.

And finally, travel your ass off. And when you do, soak it up. Throw some caution to the wind and enjoy it. When you study in France for a semester, get your underpants out of your ass. Have wine with dinner. Meet the others out for drinks. And don’t wait for your house mother to kick you out of the house for being a bump on a log.

And finally, practice patience. But be stern. Be strong. It takes a Type A personality to be bullish in business. But take more risks and do more research and take more classes.

Perpetually learn. And don’t let ideas of Jesus and family prevent you from exploring the art you want to explore.

The rest is up to you. I can’t hold your hand through all this. So get out there and grow up, while staying youthful and energetic. You’re strong now, but the body needs maintenance, so keep working out, too.

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got.

Hugs and kisses,

Your 38 year old self.

 

 

 


You put the real in memorial

September 22, 2013

Yesterday, Tina and I drove to Grand Rapids, Michigan to celebrate my grandmother’s life. We called her Opoe. We only stayed for the service and the lunch immediately after then jumped in the car and drove three hours back.

We’re absolutely slammed right now work-wise, and getting back wasn’t exactly my top priority, but I’m not the only decision maker in our family.

It was a nice service. It was held in a little chapel with maybe 50 or 60 people in attendance. There were stained glass windows on both sides of the space, but the side where the sun was shining, there poured in the most gorgeous yellow light.

There were prayers and hymns.

My uncle, my dad’s oldest brother, sang a song in Dutch. He sang rather well. Then we joined him singing the same song in either English or Dutch in the most confusing mess of hymnal debauchery I’ve ever experienced.

My dad stood up after that and spoke a memorial tribute to Opoe, most of which wasn’t necessarily about my Opoe’s personality, loves, wishes or desires, but more about her major life events, getting married, how many children, when the family moved to the states, that kind of thing.

There was a sermon spoken from what was ostensibly one of Opoe’s favorites, Psalm 23. And just like almost every funeral or memorial I’ve ever been to, it became a vehicle for proselytization and not anything to do with the person’s life we were there to honor.

It was fitting that the metaphor of scared sheep that do everything their shepherd asks them to do was discussed for 30 minutes. Sheep don’t drink from choppy waters, so the shepherd leads them to still waters. He gives them calm meadows. Safe grass to lay their heads atop and to eat. He anoints their heads with stinky oils to keep the flies from laying eggs in their ears.

And despite how many years, I still have the whole thing memorized.

But isn’t that the picture of faith? I see no problem with those people who subscribe to that ideology. Seriously. If your goal is to unquestioningly declare allegiance to a shepherd, by all means, do it. It’s just not for me.

Apparently you’re either a sheep or a goat in the scenario, and Tina and I both wanted to stand up and proclaim, “We’re goats. [pointing down at selves] Goats, here!”

And at my funeral, there better be some cracked beers, some tippled tumblers and some celebratory readings of poetry I love. There better be some admiration of some of my best work. There better be stories about me. There better be memories mixed with tears and laughter. Talk about me behind my back. I’ll be dead. Gone. This is everyone’s chance to go nuts.

There better be no threat of hell and damnation. But the happiness of saying goodbye to a guy who gave as much as he could in the short time he was given.

Overall, yesterday was a good opportunity to see family gathered in one place, and do my part in celebrating Opoe’s life. I had to have my own little sermon and recognition of memories.

And it was good to at least get some hugs in with the family that I rarely see. I have some strained relationships with a few people and it was interesting to see some people shy away from me.


Rachel Held Evans sings the good, goddamn gluttonous hits

August 8, 2013

There’s a believing blogger named Rachel Held Evans, and man, do I like her.

Imagine that.

You know what she did? She went and wrote a really great piece about biblical literalism. And if you have a few minutes, here’s the link.

Here’s a snippet:

[E]verything changes when it’s your brother or sister who gets divorced, when it’s your son or daughter who is gay, when it’s your best friend who struggles with addiction, when it’s your husband or wife asking some good questions about Christianity you never thought about before.

 


Life Savers bring back memories

April 5, 2013

Stan over at TYWKIWDBI posted this photo and caption: “Life Saver factory, 1956

life saver factoryMany of you know I grew up in a religious home.

And over the life of this blog, I’ve wrestled the loss of faith and battled and barraged faith with gusto. Lately, I’ve backed off a bit on berating faith.

Okay, I haven’t backed off completely.

The way I saw it, if I was taught to love Jesus, loved Jesus and fell out of love after 25 or so years, the least I could have was four or five years to publicly whine about it.

My years in faith weren’t all that bad. There are good memories as well. Memories with Life Savers.

You see, every Sunday, we drove to church. On the way out the door, my mom would grab rolls of Life Savers from a drawer in the island of our kitchen. You probably had a similar drawer. It was the drawer between the miscellaneous screws, screw drivers, a hammer and some wires. And on the other side, there was a drawer of snack bags and aluminum foil.

But that one drawer kept little snacks, hard candies and a the like.

My mom kept rolls of Life Savers to give us at church.

Church services were approximately an hour. The first half hour were always sit-down-stand-up prayers/songs/calls to worship. A scripture was read. You sing standing. You sat down for one. The collection plate was passed.

For the first 30 minutes, my parents expected me to pay attention.

But for some reason, my parents didn’t expect me to pay attention during the sermon. During that time, I could draw or read the kid’s paper that we got in Sunday School. And it was during the sermon we got our roll — an entire roll — of Life Savers.

The moment was clockwork. The congregation quieted for the sermon. Everyone would rock on their butts to find that right spot that felt a little comfortable in uncomfortable pews. The wood creaked a little up front, then in the back, then up front to the left.

My mom would reach for her purse, dig inside, and remove a roll and place it in my hand. I looked at the roll. Turned it over in my hands. I slid the paper casing up and down. Then I removed it, and stuck it over my middle finger. I tested its strength by bending my finger.

Then, the paper would give and rip at my knuckle.

The roll was now a silver tube with a little red pull string at one end. It was a little stick of dynamite. A bomb … ready to go off.

I would pull that little red string and the silver foil paper would tear in a circle. Under the foil, there is another layer of white wax paper. Red and orange were always first, and I usually saved my red until after I finished the first orange and green. But it wasn’t good to eat two reds one after the other.

It took just about 20 or 25 minutes to go through an entire roll.

I presume that the Life Savers were a ploy to keep us quiet. And over time, their purpose might have been forgotten, because they became tradition.

Each flavor became something of a tease. I didn’t really like green, but it was a necessary evil to get back to red. Yellows were savory, but oranges could go to hell.

The whites were, well, okay.

And no matter how many times I ate a roll, it always surprised me to see a green at the end.

The week’s at church when mom forgot the roll of Life Savers were always unwelcome. Yeah, my dad had a Dutch mint, but it wasn’t a roll of Dutch mints.

I haven’t had a Life Saver in, what, fifteen years.

I think I’ll have a roll for lunch.

 

 

 


Like stoking the fire in my brain

December 17, 2012

Some asshole posted this on Facebook:

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It reads:

Timothy McVeigh didn’t use a gun.

• Killed 168 innocent people.

• Killed 19 children under age 6

• Injured over 680 Innocent People

• You can still buy fertilizer

• You can still buy racing fuel.

• You can still rent box trucks.

Murderers will murder with or without a gun. Guns are not the problem.

I’m sharing this, because if you think these things, that’s up to you. And if gun loving assholery is your game, let me help you burn your photos of Jesus, your bibles, and your entire idea of love and belief.

If you think guns are not the problem, tell that to the people who love these people:

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My heart hurts about Friday.

My brain hurts.

And this conversation is too bogged down with pain for any of you to invoke the idea that guns aren’t the problem.

Maybe they aren’t the problem.

But they are in the formula.

And there appears to be a slew of beautiful people who could be spared pain, torture and agony if a dumbfuck didn’t get his hands on guns and ammunition on Friday morning.

Please let us all mourn without questioning whether guns are the problem.

Please.

Pretty fucking please.

 

 


Everybody has a reaction to yesterday’s shooting

December 15, 2012

Your ears and eyes are likely jammed with images and words about the shooting yesterday in Sandy Hook Connecticut.

You may have heard that the killer’s name was Adam Lanza. He was 20. And not only did he kill his mother (possibly), I read his girlfriend and another friend are missing.

Likely, your Facebook feeds are stuffed with responses.

Of course there are those who blame the video games. The POV shooters. I have a hard time on that one. I wonder about those games desensitizing some people who might be prone to mental illness.

People are blaming that there aren’t enough emphasis on mental illness in this country.

People are citing the meme about far less shooting deaths in other countries with far less belief in God.

Many people are focusing on religious responses on Facebook. You know, I’ll pray for the victims. I’ll pray for the suspect.

Others: gun control. I have one friend who deleted someone for going too far to evangelical land and blaming liberal atheists.

That guy said, “I don’t know what I believe about god, but if that god allowed such things to happen, I’m not sure I could believe in that god.”

I don’t think the guy saw the irony.

I have another friend saying that Obama should have made a stronger stand during his press conference on what he’s going to do to make sure this never happens again.

On my blog, this post is getting mad hits. At the link, I posted a screen cap of a Facebook conversation with a girl who posted that stupid meme,

“Dear God, why do you allow so much violence in our schools? Signed a concerned student.

[BREAK]

“Dear concerned student, I’m not allowed in schools. God.”

Another friend on Facebook ranted about Mike Huckabee and how he is complaining without God in schools, violence is going to happen.

God has no control over an elementary school because, while there might be people who claim Christianity there, one established religion isn’t allowed. So he is killing or allowing the murder of innocent children?

My point is that my non-religious friends are up in arms. My religious friends are up in arms.

Hell, I just did a count for how many pages on Facebook have been started that read, “Adam Lanza [the killer] burn in hell”. There are about 24.

There’s Facebook page, Adam Lanza Connecticut shooter rot in hell.

I realize these are coping mechanisms. But I can’t help but criticize this as tomfoolery and an embarrassment to other believers. But other believers don’t speak up against it, that I hear.

I don’t have kids. Things like what happened yesterday make me wonder if not having kids is generally okay.

If I had to deal with the heartache. The turmoil of even telling a child today about what happened.

That a mass shooting could happen in his or her school. That he or she could be in a situation to fend for his or her life.

Bad things happen to good people.

Evil things happen to children.

My heart breaks thinking about it in a hypothetical situation.

Or you could lie to your children and yourself and not tell them anything. Keep on living in your utopian garden.

There are several frustrating things about this whole catastrophe. And there is little that betrays my understanding of the world more than when someone writes or says, “Thank God my family, my children, my friends are safe.”

As if one person has the magic connection to Jesus to keep this far from them.

As if God went out of his way to keep you from this same pain.

As if some people actually deserved this pain.

There’s one thing you won’t hear, among the people cheering on Adam Lanza’s burning in hell, and that’s: well, at least these children are alive again in heaven.

At least we can bask in the glory that these children are with their maker. That they’ve been healed. They are not in pain, but in glory.

This is one of the reasons I don’t believe.

Because no matter the incident. No matter the death count.

People will yell with certainty that Adam Lanza is burning in hell.

But no one, not until the funerals, will anyone stand in front of the country and say, “These children are better now. Better off. They are wearing silken white robes.”

Because as much as this country wants everyone to believe. And as much as they claim 85% believe.

The atheistic tendencies of people speak louder than they think.

I don’t have the answers. I don’t blame godlessness. I don’t blame god. I can’t blame satan either. I can’t find any proof that those guys exist.

The way I understand religion, I thought Jesus would be the first to offer Adam Lanza salvation.

I thought Jesus would intervene before hand instead of letting his “creation” be trampled by “evil.”

There are answers, though. And those answers could point us to solutions.

And if there is any glory and honor, we’ll fight to make sure this never happens again.

 

****UPDATE*** I was wrong. People are saying that the kids are celebrating in heaven. See here *******


Mitt Romney shows how nuts he is and then how human he is in one fell clip

November 2, 2012

So there’s the clip above, and you should watch it.

It shows you how nutballs the Mormon faith is. And it’s amazing to me that I come from a home where Mormonism was the bottom of the barrel in terms of religions.

And between Mormonism and Democrats, Mormonism is more warmly received.

So when I go home during this holiday season, my parents would rather share their time with a Mormon than a liberal — a person who wants people to be treated fairly, equally and like Jesus would treat them.

Republicans are voting for a person who thinks Jesus descended on Missouri — the NEW!!! Jerusalem — than a person who advocates science and human welfare.

That’s how it is. I just need to accept it.

Billy Fucking Graham would rather remove Mormonism defined as a cult on his web site than have the liberal — who sides with Christianity — get back into office for another four years.

This world is messed up.

There is division in this country, and I can’t help but point in one direction as to who is culpable for pushing the divide.

Answer me this, believers, when Romney advocates siding with Jerusalem, does he mean the Missouri one or the one in the middle east?

Just so we are all clear, don’t ask Romney about his religion. Don’t ask him about his taxes. Don’t ask him about his plan to reduce taxes. And definitely don’t ask him about FEMA.

What do we talk about when we sit down for dinner?


Sandy brings us three steps closer to the apocalypse!

October 30, 2012

The above photo was taken at Avenue C on the lower East side in Manhattan. Wow, right?

See the original on Instagram here.

If you’re like me, you’ve been watching the Internets with great curiosity as Sandy unfolded its powerful arms and unleashed the giant storm onto the northeast.

As she used her fire-hose powered water cannons protruding from her mile-wide nipples and sprayed water and winds over the northeast.

I’m no bible scholar, but I get the feeling — from an ignorant reading of biblical text — that the apocalyptic end of the world is coming soon.

Every second. Every minute. Every hour. Every week. 

Every month.

Every year.

Every two years.

Every decade.

Every … shit … what comes between decade and millennia?

Centurion ski boats?

All I know is, the more time that passes between Jesus’s promise and a cataclysmic storm like Sandy … excuse me … a providentially-predicted storm like Sandy … we get closer to the almighty return.

We don’t know the hour. We don’t know the place.

But we do know that “this generation” — this one right now! — will not pass before Jesus returns.

Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it[d] is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Keep in mind, it might be the next generation, just in case this one passes and the next one starts.

But be ready!

It’s coming. And perfectly natural disasters are ushering us closer and closer to the pending apocalypse.

By the way, I am not relieved that Cindy Jacob’s prayers were unanswered.

That means only one thing.

We are alone.

While Jesus is trying to beat Ba’al’s Angry Birds score.

.

.

.

.

Image via JMG


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