“The rise of Arab atheism”


I’m not sure I agree with the title of this piece (atheism pertains to no singular religion), but I can surely find interesting bits from which to drive validation. Emphasis is mine below. Link in title below as well.

A snip:

The issue most often cited by Arabs as their first step on the road to disbelief was the apparent unfairness of divine justice. The picture they had acquired was of an irascible and sometimes irrational deity who behaves in much the same way as an Arab dictator or an old-fashioned family patriarch – an anthropomorphic figure who makes arbitrary decisions and seems eager to punish people at the slightest opportunity. Dire warnings, constantly repeated in the Qur’an, of what would happen to non-believers had clearly made a strong impression on them in childhood.

“The idea of eternal hell was very disturbing to me,” said Mohammed Ramadan, an Egyptian. “I was nine when I asked my parents why would God punish us for ever when we live for an average of only 70 years.”

A Saudi who is known on Twitter as “Arab Atheist” was troubled by the question of why seemingly decent non-Muslims should be punished by God. Arriving in the US to study at a Jesuit college, he began to realise “how similar all religions are” in their basic teachings. “In Islam,” he said, “we are taught that all non-Muslims are going to hell. I had Jewish neighbours who were the kindest and sweetest couple and it made me wonder, why should they go to hell? And suddenly Islam started to crumble in my eyes.

The rise of Arab atheism Across the Middle East, governments are cracking down on non-belief. But Arab atheists are becoming more visible –   by Brian Whitaker   –MONDAY,  29TH JUNE 2015

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”


Just like every other thoughtful, sentient being living on planet Trump today, I’m dumbstruck by the level of holy-shit-balls-it’s-fucking-nuts these days. I’m fully aware I’m not the only person who is incapable of comparing the events in America to writings by George Orwell.

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” goes through my head about once a day.

I scratched my head a bit as to why 1984 sales surged early in Trumptopia’s new regime when I feel like Animal Farm is more àpropos to the conversation.

At the time of this writing, Trump’s only been in the office 59 days8 hours16 minutes33 seconds. Barring screaming from a minority of shouting voices on the left and the right, I get the continued feeling that the self-aware among us are more oppositional to the course we’re on. There are die-hard fans of Trump’s campaign promises and republican so-called ideals that will stand on the poop deck holding on for dear life with this administration as the ship with a gaping hole in its hull descends under icy-cold water … and its captain and his family rides off in safety on a lifeboat. 

So many feel helpless. I too feel that sentiment.

Even more feel hapless. I ride in that boat, too.  Continue reading

Genghis Khan’s take on religion


Over at TYWKIWDBI, Minnesotastan posted that he’s reading a book titled Gengis Khan and the Making of the Modern World and quoted the following from the book (emphasis is Stan’s):

“Eyewitnesses report that upon reaching the center of Bukhara, Genghis Khan rode up to the large mosque and asked if, since it was the largest building in the city, it was the home of the sultan. When informed that it was the house of God, not the sultan, he said nothing. For the Mongols, the one God was the Eternal Blue Sky that stretched from horizon to horizon in all directions.  God presided over the whole earth; he could not be cooped up in a house of stone like a prisoner or a caged animal, nor as the city people claimed, could his words be captured and confined inside the covers of a book. In his own experience, Genghis Khan had often felt the presence and heard the voice of God speaking directly to him in the vast open air of the mountains in his homeland, and by following those words, he had become the conqueror of great cities and huge nations.”

I don’t agree with Genghis Khan’s perspective completely, as I’m unsure of an actual supreme being. Hearing the voice of a god or gods is unprovable and likely some kind of hyperbole. But I certainly admire his perspective.

My most authentic “spiritual” experiences are during my morning meditations, during long runs outside in which the brain can do nothing but unfocus and focus at the same time (also happens during long swims) and while at large outdoor music festivals in which the entirety of thousands upon thousands of fans are deep in the fabric of shared experiences that are idiosyncratic at the same time.

That contrasts to those of the church, which I found, even as a child and teenager, to be contrived and not authentic.

I don’t believe in a god or gods (for many many reasons, but) because the existence of god is completely unknowable. One can assume a god exists, but all the evidence to it via biblical or even all around earthly experience, does not lead one to a place of “Yep, there’s an all-powerful, all-knowing dude in charge of it all.” The information the collective “we” of humanity have written in books and have stuffed into the confines of a church experience is too confining for a concept as large as something called “god”.

This is something a religious person will also agree with and explain they too look to nature for their answer, while maintaining that this mystery known as god must be worshiped or believed in. They’re also ignoring the parts of nature that do not indicate a god or gods. The message that belief in said being (or beings) would provide anyone with a reward in afterlife is surely not spending enough time experiencing life to its fullest. And is therefore limited by beliefs.

Once the unknowable is “knowable,” one tends to give up on searching out other unknowns and becomes static in so-called knowledge.

It’s sad. It causes a lack of sympathy and empathy for anyone except those with shared values.

 

 

Come in. Sit on the couch. Tell me what you think. You’ve got an hour.


Yesterday my brother called.

We shared a text conversation earlier in the day. He sent me a quote from Sufjan Stevens.

It started like this:

America,

There really is no such thing as an illegal immigrant, for we are all immigrants and refugees in a wildly changing world that is dominated by superfluous boundaries built by blood and war. We all come from somewhere else. The truest of “Americans” have either been destroyed by the white immigrant, incarcerated, isolated, held captive, or stolen and enslaved. 

Read the rest here.

I thanked him for sharing. It was a cool quote. And it even referred to Jesus (turning the other cheek, loving enemies, etc.) and also to prayer. The quote itself embodies my own politics. Even though I don’t believe in a deified Jesus. I value my root understanding of him and who he was as a radical mind.

Continue reading

See Johnny Depp run. Run, Johnny. Run!


 

I saw a meme on Facebook with Pirates of the Caribbean in which Johnny Depp’s character was being chased by an angry mob of 100 or 200 crazies, and the words on the screen read, “When you express your opinion on the internet.”

The guy who posted it is an evangelical and his Facebook posts rarely get more than a handful of likes. So it’s a head scratcher as to why he thinks his expressed opinions are so hated. I’m guessing he has a delusional victim mentality or a misplaced superiority complex. No one on social media that I can tell is oppositional to him. So maybe the lack of response causes feelings of attack.

No one ever comments on his stupid posts.

This guy was actually the principal of my Evangelical high school. He’s a guy who fed my brain so full of bullshit that I will always carry a certain level of anger that this guy was allowed at a chalkboard in front of young minds. It wasn’t that I didn’t learn anything under his tyrannical style of teaching. It’s just that the information was so far false and one-sided that once I learned about other views, and all the gray area between, I was able to determine he had little penis syndrome and wanted all young minds to never pursue a well-rounded education.

The Pirates of the Caribbean meme certainly got me thinking, though. Especially about how unwelcome his views seem to be. It’s astonishing that people bitch and moan that their views aren’t welcome in a world that has left folks like him behind. But it also is a reminder that views like his still exist. It’s astonishing.

And despite how marginalized his views are, he’ll keep posting like it’s helping his lost cause instead of learning from his failures and assimilating new ways of approach. His views are so archaic it’s like walking down the street and seeing a dinosaur, a real one. Walking, growling and munching on leaves from a tall tree.

But there’s another aspect of that Pirates of the Caribbean meme that bothers me. It’s that in the event you do express that unwelcome, archaic opinion, people like my old principal are still shocked that their “opinions” aren’t welcome.

My most popular post of all time wasn’t about religion or politics. It was about that sacred institution of quality craft called Ikea (“It’s official: Ikea is hell on earth”).

In fact, the post still gets comments despite the fact that it’s eons old and that this blog is a metaphorical ghost town. Most new comments I designate spam. I tried turning off comments years ago, but somehow they still seem to show up. I’ve even deleted comments to encourage people not to respond to other people’s hateful, mob mentality rage toward me for calling Ikea the shittiest furniture store in the universe.

There was a Pirates of the Caribbean mob mentality running after not only me, but my wife, for criticizing something so many people seem to love. I read one comment degrading Tina to her, and I found her getting really emotional and maybe even shedding a tear. It was cruel.

However I do see the hypocrisy in censoring comments on that old Ikea post. So I stare at my reflection and say, “Shame on me, too, for not understanding that expressed opinions generate responses, often nasty attacks.”

Thing was, I expressed my opinion about something a lot of people seem to like and want to defend, and the tension spilled into comments that made me want to run for cover at times.

If you fuck with other people’s “sacred” prepare yourself for pejorative responses. Here I thought we lived in a world where EVERYONE agrees that Ikea = shit. But in my bubble, I wonder how any decent human being could buy a Nickleback album let alone support a guy like Donald Trump.

On the flip, there are supporters of Trump, and Nickleback, who wonder why a person would NOT support them. There are people who think it’s funny to attack the person and not the thing.

While my point at the time of writing about Ikea was to be funny and to rail against a monster of a store that essentially steals your money in exchange for “furniture” that will be in your alley dumpster and landfills in less than 2 or 3 years.

The alternative is digging deeper into your pockets and buying something that will last 10 to 20 years … or longer … by simply investing in better quality.

But that’s not my point. My point is the whole biblical notion of you reap what you sow. If I write about Ikea being chalk full of crappy products, I should anticipate backlash.

If I post stuff that criticizes one kind of people in general, I should expect backlash.

I wonder sometimes how more people don’t understand that. If I criticize a non-person like Ikea, that’s not attacking a person. But people often misconstrue an allegiance as a personal attack.

But there are people who criticize, say, Liberals or Conservatives with false information or sweeping generalizations. Then they wonder why people respond to their views and chase them down with Internet Mob mentality negativity.

I’m done with that kind of toxic bullshit in my world, and instead of allowing it or saying, “Oh that’s okay that you’re offending me or attacking me personally,” I’m protecting myself by staying far, far away from those kinds of people.

Stick my ass with a fork. I’m fucking done.

The Ghost of Christmas Future: “HOW TO TALK TO A TRUMP EVANGELICAL AT CHRISTMAS”


A guy I grew up with, Stephen Mucher, wrote a piece published at Religious Dispatches titled, “HOW TO TALK TO A TRUMP EVANGELICAL AT CHRISTMAS.”

He posted the article on Facebook, and I saved it to read later.

A bit of background, Stephen’s older than me by a few years, but we went to the same evangelical high school in High Point, N.C. His family was somewhat known as being a bit more liberal. And I’ve valued his posts on Facebook discussing politics and world affairs.

He has a Ph.D. his work has appeared in the LA Times, Washington Post, among other publications.

I’ll let you read the essay yourself. But his primary point is to encourage discussion between disagreeing parties regarding President-elect Donald Trump and some advice on how to do so.

I’m petrified to discuss this topic at my home over the Christmas holiday. But I am desperate for certain answers to questions I have about how any Jesus-loving believer could vote for someone like Trump. I can only identify one way that Trump resembles anything Christian, and that’s if you don’t agree with either of them, either will make your life hell. Jesus in the afterlife. Trump, via Twitter and taking your ass to court and suing the hell out of you.

This fear not discuss Trump with my family comes from a history of discussions gone awry. The result of the conversations going south are usually my fault. I am not as good of a talker as I am a writer (and even that is up for grabs). Number two: I’m a hot head and when I’m flustered, I communicate even worse than I do when I’m of sober mind and spirit.

Take this example: my Mom and Dad were visiting Tina and me this past summer. I was cooking them breakfast the day they were to leave. All things were going fine. There were no issues during their few days staying in our little two-bedroom condo in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood.

At one point, we all started talking about the economy and my back was to everyone as I cooked. We discussed how it seemed more money was in our pockets thanks to low gas prices and other elements of economic betterment especially since it was so bad in 2007 to 2009. We seemed to agree that the weight of the depression was alleviated and getting better all the time.

Within a few minutes of talking about something else, my Dad made a comment about how bad the economy is under Obama and started going on and on about the dismal state of the Obama’s flaccid attempts to make it better. I slammed down the pan I was cooking in. “This is patently untrue! That’s not what the record shows” I erupted. Not only had we just talked about it, everyone from my conservative, republican friends and colleagues in the banking and insurance industries continue to reflect a perspective of growth.

My Mom defended my Dad by saying, “I guess it depends on where you get your information from.”

But … but … but … we ALL just talked about the bettered economy!!!

I think the last point that was made was that there are Americans who are still suffering from a depressed economy.

Yes, there are economic ruins in this country in pockets that are still feeling the burden of the depression, but isn’t that the problem with trickle-down economics … if you’re in lower socio economic regions, trickles take a helluva lot more time. That’s Reagan Economics in a nutshell. We can all agree to that. It was the dig against Obama that drove me nuts especially when everyone was just singing Kum-bay-fucking-ya about the improved economy.

Not to mention, my family directly benefits from socialized, government infrastructures that protect and provide for them on different levels. There are no better poster-children for government-loving, democratic-loving secularists like people in my immediate family. But a vote for Hillary was disgusting as hell compared to a Christ-hating, orange buffoon because “He tells it like it is,” and “The supreme court will get stacked against ‘Republican values’ if we don’t vote for him!”

Republican values. What the hell does that mean anymore with a leader like Trump?

It’s the hypocritical disproportion of approach that is an unfair conversation approach. One cannot talk about improved economy and follow it with a disparaging illogical comment about it within minutes.

This hypocrisy is what we anticipate as an unfair approach to dinner-time political banter among disagreeing parties.

This is a guy who has yet to give props to the almighty for anything. Even atheists have claimed him for his lack of belief-affirming behaviors.

This is a guy who is as America-first as any tax-evading gangster can be.

This is a self-defined womanizer. Pussy grabbing aside. His three-wife, I wouldn’t have hit on that ugly woman who claims I assaulted her bullshit.

A man who criticizes our veterans and POWs.

A man who makes fun of handicapped citizens.

A man who calls for violence against his opposition.

A man who is the poster child for xenophobia.

Trump  would certainly deport a brown man born of a middle eastern woman who isn’t married to the father of her child. He would balk at giving them a lease in one of his opulent buildings. Giving up his wealth for the sake of tradition as president … NOT going to happen. Camels walk through needles more easily. We know he wouldn’t hang with Zacchaeus; the man doesn’t pay taxes. Jesus didn’t command to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, unless there’s a loophole or two.

Trump has run out of cheeks to turn. His track record of caring for his enemies, in the below zeroes.

Although, welcoming home a prodigal son, like Rick Perry or Ben Carson … I guess you can’t get more Jesus-y than that.

All hail Trump.

I would love to hear a rational approach to supporting Trump. Rational in terms of a coherent message that supports the convictions of Christ-loving, life-loving, decent human beings and how they rationalize and align their love of Jesus and his message with a guy like Trump.

But this request for coherence is coming from a guy like me who thinks that the bar for the Good News Gospel is set way too low. That even if proven to be real, I’d still not support belief and allegiance to Jesus or God. But that’s my fault. Or Satan’s. Or whatever the hell.

Oh bother.

The Ghost of Christmas past always shows Ebenezer where he came from and the Ghost of the Future shows him how dismal it’s going to be … I’m afraid I don’t know the script well enough to change life’s trajectory and Make the Christmas Dinner Table Discussion Great again.

But there’s always hope that Jesus will hear anyone’s prayers. So let him hear mine.

Amen.

The power of equality, sex magik, twenty five year olds and you


Twenty five years ago, the Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP) released Blood Sugar Sex Magik, which included the popular, radio-played tracks “Under the Bridge” and “Give It Away.”

I recently added a couple of songs from the album to my workout playlist, and glory day memories are flooding back into my mind each time one of those songs comes on.

At the time the album came out, I was a sophomore in high school. The same year my brother Jon asked me learn the bass guitar and start playing in his band Creamy Velour.

As I learned, I naturally drifted toward inspiration from those who are doing it better. And bassist Flea quickly became one of heroes when I was learning bass.

I listened to Blood Sugar Sex Magik on repeat for days if not months. I loved every song on the album, and would finger the bass rhythms on my knees, or steering wheel, or wherever. I wanted to learn to slap and pop. I practiced for hours on ideas that I thought were very similar to Flea’s abilities.

Back then, however, I was also astoundingly in love with Jesus and my faith, and many of the lyrics challenged my faith, especially those sexual in nature.

The mention or topic of Sex — especially from a secular source — could single handedly twist my psyche into a guilty sweaty mess. Where I come from Jesus was literally everywhere. Teachers, parents, leaders told me he was “omnipresent” (everywhere at the same time) which supposedly should cause calm and security. It meant you’re always protected.

Omnipresence also became a large reason I dumped the faith.

If God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit is everywhere, that means when a child is dying of leukemia on a hospital gurney, those three fuckers are standing there watching him or her suffer.

People trapped in a burning building. Those three are there. Laughing? Crying? Maybe. But they’re definitely impotent.
A man running down hundreds of people with a truck in Nice, France, those three were there. Watching. Arms crossed. Impotent.
A black man became our president … hey wait, those three were there. Fist bump. Wiggle fingers.

Omnipresence to an adolescent meant Jesus did everything I did.

Brushed Teeth.
Played Soccer.
Did homework.
Masturbated.
My Buddy Jesus.

He also listened to the same music I did.

One song, “Sir Psycho Sexy,” I could repeat the lyrics to … up to a point … and then I’d stop. I figuratively shoved my index fingers into each ear and hummed, “Lalalalalalala!!!”

Here are some lyrics from the second verse:

Deep inside the garden of Eden
Standing there with my hard on bleedin’
There’s a devil in my dick and some demons in my semen
Good God no that would be treason
Believe me Eve she gave good reason
Body looking too good not to be squeezin’
Creamy beaver hotter than a fever
I’m a givin’ ’cause she’s the receiver
I won’t and I don’t hang up until I please her
Makin’ her feel like an over achiever
I take it away for a minute just to tease her
Then I give it back a little bit deeper

Can you imagine me, singing “Standing there with my hard on bleedin'” arm in arm with Jesus as we swayed back and forth?

To a 16 year old Christian, that shit was a train wreck. In one moment, you’re singing along. In another, you’re hoping no one else knows how well you sing a long. Even with headphones on — and no one but Jesus could hear the lyrics — the power of guilt overwhelmed me. But Flea’s bass lines were too important not to listen to. And there was my struggle. The utilitarian thought that there was a greater good involved.

I’ve long since given up on Jesus. It’s a concept that doesn’t work for me. I’m not really sure how it works for anyone, but I get it at the same time. As an insider, I thought it was the best, and told many about it, and brought several to similar beliefs.

The transition away was largely thanks to conceding that my life was much more secular than religious. The concepts and ideas that drove most of my decisions weren’t Biblical logic or informed by Biblical ideas. Biblical ideas aren’t very clear and they certainly aren’t advisable for modern living. For example, marriage is a confusing mess in the bible. And if it weren’t for observing my grandparents grow old together, watching my gramps take care of my gram in sickness and declining health, I would have never understood the importance of marriage. I would have likely lived single my entire life.

Or race. Race in the bible is a tough one. At one end, you have one culture enslaving another. And when the Jews were enslaved, that sucked. But when the Jews enslaved others, okay! You have God’s approval of enemies made of Jews versus everyone. Or everyone versus the Jews. Slavery was okay. Bashing babies against rocks, thumbs up! And then you have Jesus, entering the world from heaven through a magikal birth canal. He commanded to embrace other races, other cultures, other ideas, the downtrodden, the assholes, the sick, the poor, everyone.

It’s those little commandments of enemy love, equality and forgiveness that also informed my decision to evaluate and evacuate the faith.

I knew the bible better than most people, I scoured it for answers to my often debilitating questions, and was surprised by others insistence that the God and the Bible were clear, not confusing, and never inconsistent.

The power of equality.

The opening track on Blood Sex is called “The Power of Equality.”

In my teenage years, I would have told you that’s what Jesus taught and thought. But if you observe the current zeitgeist among religious folks, equality isn’t for everyone. It’s only for like-minded folks with a penchant for saying, “We get on our knees for Jesus.”  You’re free — but only free to think exactly like us about the economy, race superiority, abortion, gay marriage, and whether or not to say “Merry Christmas” or not.

The lyrics from the song go:

American equality has always been sour
An attitude I would like to devour
My name is peace, this is my hour
Can I get just a little bit of power

The power of equality
Is not yet what it ought to be
It fills me up like a hollow tree
The power of equality

What was great about growing up in the Bible belt, in an above upper middle class neighborhood and attending an evangelical private school, it was a constant white out. White was everywhere. There were two black people in my my class during certain periods of my school career. But for the most part, our ability to stay away from any people of color was easy.

One time at the mall, there was a wall devoted to posters depicting history lessons created by local school children. My Dad and I were staring at the wall when he said, “Notice there are no black kid’s names on any of the work.”

I stopped and looked at him, and stared back at the posters. There were three — what I would consider obvious — black names. I pointed it out. There was silence.

I’ve never forgotten that moment. And it returns for many reasons. The names of the children weren’t even on my radar. I was probably critical of the art or materials used. Or looking for any inaccuracies. But that was the height of some of my experiences that read even remotely like racism.

I mean, I saw little bits of racism here and there. My first job was at a little sandwich and ice cream shop. My boss Hubert scheduled me four times a week; Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Tuesdays and Thursdays, I was the only white guy working with another black busboy, two black waitresses, a black dishwasher and a black cook. With my Puerto Rican blood, the sun darkened me every summer to a deep brown and more than once I was asked of I was black. I have big hair and I’m cool, so I figured that played a role.

But I’d see racism at work between our boss and my coworkers. My Tuesday and Thursday coworkers weren’t treated as well as the Monday, Wednesday and Friday staff.

You also saw a bit of racism in the way customers were perceived. If a black family sat inside at a table, waitresses wouldn’t take good care of them, because they either don’t tip or don’t tip more than change. It was a stereotype, but even my black waitress friends knew it and loathed it.

Percentage wise, you saw more black customers come to the counter for takeout.

But the level of racism I experienced and observed wasn’t anything to shake a stick at. I was nonplused by it. A word here. A phrase there. I heard of racist acts and may have heard some racist locker room talk, but I was taught to raise the bar of public discourse, so I either spoke out against it or quietly moved on if it wasn’t worth my time.

I also blame my bubble, though, for not being able to perceive racism. When O.J. Simpson was on trial, my little pathetic excuse for a brain and for education was completely naive to the entirety of the race issues in the United States.

I largely thank my experience abroad in France for opening my eyes a little bit to being able to decipher racism and how it exists. I mentioned above that I tan well. In France, I looked a little bit Mediterranean and a lot Arabic. The woman who housed me called me, “un Arab” or “l’Arab.” To my face. It was the first time I witnesses nationalism on a French vs. Islam scale.

Though, it wasn’t until I moved out of the south that I saw racism and violence in this country. In my 20s, I was in a bar in Chicago one night and some construction guys started a fight with some of my black friends from work. The racist slurs these white guys were throwing broke my mind. City life was supposed to be anything but racist. 

But these white guys were punching for dear life at my friends because they thought race was a reasonable factor to start beating on strangers in public.

The long and longer of it

I could go into far greater detail about other forms of inequality. As a recovering evangelical, I had to move far to overcome thoughts against homosexuality and all kinds of diversity. I didn’t realize how much of a racist I probably was and still am thanks to an upbringing of white, male privilege. And when all you get to do is be all white and privileged, most people never realize what white privilege actually means. I can only thank summers of tans and the occasional odd look or unkind word for even a smidgen of understanding.

I’ll wrap this post up with a cut and paste of more lyrics from the “Power of Equality” song. Or listen to it above or here. This song was 25 years ago. Current public relations show that we are no further forward, if not years backwards. And it hurts my head.

Right or wrong, my song is strong
You don’t like it, get along
Say what I want, do what I can
Death to the message of the Ku Klux Klan
I don’t buy supremacy
Media chief, you menance me
The people you say cause all the crime
Wake up motherfucker and smell the slime
Blackest anger, whitest fear
Can you hear me, am I clear
My name is peace, this is my hour
Can I get just a little bit of power