Saturday, April 18, 2015

Death, Grieving and Belief: Is it easier for them than us?

My eighty-seven year old neighbor from up the street died last week.  He and his wife were among the first people we met when we moved to New Hampshire - a delightful couple. Both were old and frail, but sharp as  razors. 

They did not have a formal funeral, but today there was a memorial service, a celebration of his life,  at the local Christian – Lite church (about the only kind we have around here) for friends and family. Mrs. Hump and I paid our respects, sitting in the back of the church.  
The agenda included prayers, testimony from attendees praising the deceased’s gentle qualities and goodness, readings from the bible, and hymns (who knew that the old Cat Stevens ballad “Morning has Broken” was actually a 19th century hymn?). 

As I sat there and listened to the pastor talk about the old gentleman being beyond pain and sickness, and being in heaven forever in the comfort of Jesus’ presence it became very clear that the concept was to his widow's and the mourners’ sadness like a pain relieving salve on a serious burn. How nice for his wife, herself ailing, to imagine rejoining her husband of some sixty-five years for an eternity of peace and love.

To think that their reunion will be but a couple of years or months, in the future; to believe that the pain of his absence, thus her loneliness, will be but a brief moment of separation; to “know” that an eternity of renewed life awaits surrounded by ones welcoming ancestors and loved ones who have passed before must be enormously comforting.

Oh, to be able to willingly accept without a moment’s doubt the imaginary lands of the dead that await the believer - Valhalla, the Elysian Fields, Vaikuntha, the Fields of Aaru, Paradise, Heaven and their promise of the ever lasting embrace of those we loved and who loved us.

Alas, for the atheist, the freethinker, the self deception of these fairytale lands and renewed eternal life can never be. We are condemned by reason, by intellect, by our respect for reality to face the finality of death, ours and our loved ones’, as a finale to a life well lived; to the return of our wasting corpse to its basic elements - what Carl Sagan called “Star Stuff”; to be no more; to enter that state of non-existence that preceded our own birth; to share the very same condition to which every life form, animal or vegetable, must inevitably succumb.

When I consider these things I must admit that the true believer benefits emotionally from their buy-in when it comes to dealing with the end of life -their own or their loved ones’.  It is perhaps the one aspect of supernaturalism that trumps reason. I’m happy for them in that one regard.  But given all the other baggage that invariably accompanies religiosity, I’ll take the pain of reason and self reliance over the self-imposed deceit, and dulling of the sensibilities and intellect of belief any day... and wish them peace. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Christians Demand the Right to Discriminate. Oh the Irony!

States passing their versions of the so called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” are spreading like wild fire. Kindled by the religiously homophobic, and fanned by the GOP (who else?), Right Wing Christians are trying their damnedest to fight against the rising tide of rights and equality for gays as if their very faith depends on it.  

Pat Robertson (R -Bizarro World) has come out and said he is convinced gays are conspiring to get everyone to like anal sex, while freshman congressman Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) said gays shouldn’t complain because in the middle-east they kill gays.  Meanwhile, Glenn Beck (R- Asylum Escapee) says opposition to Indiana’s RFRA would lead to concentration camps for Christians.  It’s become that insane. All three stories here:

”No, it’s not a bill to permit discrimination. That’s a distortion, besides, we’re changing it!” protest some of the devout Christian Republican governors and lawmaker chameleons under fire from the thinking; while the very authors of the bill contradict them saying “We demand the right to discriminate against those who our scripture tells us are an abomination!!”  Well, someone is lying.

Confusing?  Not really. It’s pretty much an attempt by the Right to justify discrimination and refuse service to anyone they despise and get away with it under the guise of “religious freedom”.   The difference between the two statements above is simply a matter of honesty. The latter being the honest statement, the former being a bold face lie.  But then, lying for the faith has always been a sacrament; while lying to preserve one’s political reputation is a virtual prerequisite to governance. 

What’s ironic about this whole issue, which is lost on less intellectually adept Christian fanatics, is while they are seeking to discriminate against a minority based on their so called religious convictions, these same good Christians are themselves crying about how Christianity is being persecuted and discriminated against by a nation wide conspiracy of the 8-10% atheist minority to strip them of their religion and force them to “hail Satan”…or some such idiocy.  Never mind how insane that is given the 76% Christian majority, the 90% religionist population in the US, and the 100% religionist makeup of the Supreme Court.

Is it possible that they are blind to history?  Blind to the fact that what they are doing is equivalent to standing in the door of an Alabama public school to prevent a minority from gaining equal rights - in violation of the law and the inevitable societal change- which similarly was justified by fanatical God-fearing Christians as religiously supported?  Perhaps so, since Americans are famous for ignoring history, being only marginally educated, and for being blinded by their Christian fanaticism. 

Imagine a gay person, transsexual, black man, Jew, Muslim, Christian, Wiccan or atheist having walked for miles on the edge of a great plain or desert to find gasoline for their car and being told by the station owner that their beliefs or presumed behaviors were offensive to his god and religious beliefs.  Thus, dispensing the gasoline would be compromising his beliefs and insulting to his god - telling them they should try elsewhere - the next station being 35 miles that-a-way.  And all of it protected by state law? Now substitute the devout druggest in a small one horse town who refuses an anti-biotic for a sick kid whose parents are of the offending class.  It boggles the mind.

Look, Christian fanatic homophobes and GOP defenders of the faith - this isn’t rocket science:  

First: Nowhere in the Bible does it say that by engaging in commerce with a gay person you are blaspheming against your man-god, or engaging in an unclean act or approving of it, or defying “God’s will”, or doing “Satan’s bidding”.  Jesus never said anything about gays. All the Bible does say is you should be killing gays.  So if you aren’t going to stone them to death in accordance with scripture, then take their money, move on, and shut the fuck up.

Second: The First Amendment guarantees your right to practice your religion.  However, when your religious practices come into conflict with the ethics, morality, laws, and societal imperatives of the nation - like human sacrifice, animal cruelty, slavery, temple prostitution, or discrimination against your fellow Americans - then said religious practices come in a poor second place.  That’s the price of living in a non-theocratic nation.

Finally: No one is asking you religious nutters to have sex with your gay customers, watch them consummate their marriage, give them a wedding gift, attend the service, or bless their same sex union. All our society expects is that people engaged in public commerce treat all prospective customers / clients the same. Period.  And if you cannot abide by that American value, then you shouldn’t be in business.

No, Christian Right Wing Crazies - America will no longer accept your prejudice and let you hide behind your myths and legends for its justification. The times they are a changing - with or without you.  Get over it, get used to it.