Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Biggest, Fattest Corporate Lie: One Nation Under God

I’ve just come across an excerpt from a new book  “One Nation Under God:  How Corporate America Invented Christian America” written by Kevin Kruse.  I’ll be tripping to my local library this week to check it out.   It’s message couldn’t be more timely for our Nation.

The excerpt focuses specifically on “How one reverend’s big business-backed crusade altered the political landscape.”  It’s an important read because it details the origins of the incongruent marriage between christianity and the corporatocracy.  Here are some quotes from the article:

“Fifield and like-minded ministers saw Christianity and capitalism as inextricably intertwined, and argued that spreading the gospel of one required spreading the gospel of the other.”

“Notably, Fifield dismissed the many passages in the New Testament about wealth and poverty, and instead assured the elite that their worldly success was a sign of God’s blessings.”

“The first step would be making ministers realize that they, too, had something to fear from the growth of government. “The religious leaders must be helped to discover that their callings are threatened,” Haake argued, by realizing that the “collectivism” of the New Deal, “with the glorification of the state, is really a denial of God.” ”

“The magazine (Faith and Freedom) repeatedly denounced the Social Gospel and, just as important, clergymen who invoked it to advocate for the establishment and expansion of welfare state programs.”

With quotes like these, I can now understand memes like these:

republican jesus

According to Mr. Kruse, one individual and a whole lot of corporate money hijacked our democracy under the guise of maintaining our individual independence from government intervention.   What really happened is that we gave up our independence in the name of religion to the coporatocracy and they relentlessly colonized the American public to the point of third world status.

As I read the excerpt, I couldn’t help but notice the effects of Mr. Fifield’s movement in America’s Unseen Revolution where the financial elite control policy making and legislation (a shift from democracy to oligarchy).   Within the framework of Mr. Fifield’s  ‘One Nation Under God’  message, modern corporate leaders are allowed to claim a disproportionate sense of doing God’s work with “a messianic belief in privatization and profits” (John Perkins, Hoodwinked).  One could correctly conclude from the message that God has ordained the third world status of America by empowering corporate leaders.

Corporate leaders are doing a superior job of making loads of money on the foundations of Mr. Fifield’s movement, and they are doing it to the exclusion of the rest of the American population.

We have a few weapons in our arsenal as citizens of the Republic:   We can educate and inform ourselves – no matter how uncomfortable the material.  We can vote for leaders who aren’t afraid to impose boundaries on Wall Street.  We can choose to keep religion within the four walls and privacy of our homes and out of government decision making.

I am not the only one who understands that our nation is at a crucial point in its history – with the next election we will decide whether to continue as a democracy or give over completely to oligarchy.  It is information such as Mr. Kruse’ book that will sway the balance.

Here’s to a healthy nation,

Frankie

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Maslow’s Triangle and Religion: How The Psychology of Belonging Keeps Us Trapped in Church

It is  my personal opinion, based on quite informal observations, that perhaps the biggest reason so many fear leaving religion is because they fear losing their sense of belonging.

Abraham Maslow observed that all humans have a specific set of needs and they must be met in a specific order for us to reach our full potential, or self-actualization as he termed it.

maslowpic

At the bottom of the Hierarchy of Needs are the absolute minimum necessities for us to survive:  food, shelter, and safety.  Ask any homeless person (I’ve been there myself), its difficult to focus on creating the next big thing or writing the next big novel when you are worried about where you’re going to sleep that night or if you’ll have food tomorrow.   We are stuck at the bottom of the Maslow’s gig until we consistently have full bellies and safe shelter.   Once these are obtained, we can then focus on the next level of needs which is having a sense of belonging and being loved.   We must achieve at least some self-esteem and knowing that we are part of a group, then we can move on to the next and final level of Maslow’s Hierarchy, which is reaching our full potential, being successful, and helping others meet their goals.

I often wonder if many people stay in the church simply because it is their only source of belonging and sense of community.

It is a powerful feeling to know you are wanted and even needed by others.  I think this is especially true in the church setting where typically small congregations provide acute environments that affirm feelings of importance.  If a person began to question the indoctrinated principles their particular denomination espouses, if there are no alternatives to take the place of this sense of belonging, it is highly likely they will stay within the confines of religion – trapped – because the psychological need to belong and feel loved is real and strong.   It is not necessarily a conscious choice I suspect.

confession bear

From another angle, there is the ‘big fish in a small pond’ dynamic that I believe keeps some trapped within the walls of religion.   Its a mighty big world out there, and if I venture into it, I am just another part of the school.  Inside a church or mosque or temple though, I have some import.   I might be a children’s church director, or imam, or rabbi to a small community – I am a big fish in a small pond.   Any human would have a rough time giving that up.

I write about these psychological dynamics because it seems to me that as atheists, we should be sensitive to this issue. I think that sometimes when we hear so much cyclical arguing about ‘the bible says therefore it is’ that its only an argument fought from the corner of fear.   I think what many are really saying is “I know my place in here, I know I belong, I know I am needed, I know I am important and I am too afraid to give it up.”

Statistics show that more and more people are questioning their faiths, some of them may turn to us who have already trod the path for answers.  We should be aware of the power of the need to belong.  We need to offer support where there might not be any.  We need to form bonds within our communities so that we exemplify the idea that belonging is also achieved outside the four walls of a building.

It’s not easy to leave the confines of religion for many many reasons.  I suspect the psychological need to belong presents one of the greatest challenges to leaving the four walls of the church.   I am confident that we atheists can rise to the occasion and be sensitive to the issue, provide support, and form bonds to help our brothers and sisters.

Peace kids –

Frankie


Here’s the Real Challenge, Gweneth, but Thanks for the Effort! #FoodBankNYCChallenge

One of the big headlines this past week in celebrity news was Gweneth Paltrow’s pledge to survive on $29 of food in a week.  Here is the instagram snap she shared of all the food that amount of money can buy.

gwennie

Ms. Paltrow is taking part in a sort of ice bucket challenge gig to bring awareness to the issue of SNAP assistance (food stamps), or more to the point, how small an effect SNAP assistance really has on helping a person to survive, .  I mean just look at the picture.

LOOK                   AT                          IT.

Contained within that one picture is not just a week’s worth of food.  It’s an entire lifestyle.

You see, there’s a psychological framework that we all work within and an astute man by the name of Abraham Maslow put it in a tangible illustration called Maslow’s Triangle, or Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

maslowpic

At the base of the Triangle, as the very very very very foundation of our needs, we must be safe and fed and have a roof over our heads.    Maslow observed that until our physical needs are met, we are trapped at the first level of Need. We cannot meet our social needs of feeling loved and having a sense of belonging until we reach a point where we consistently have full tummies, safe sleeping quarters, and clothes on our backs.

Here’s what we miss:   Statistically, if a person is utilizing SNAP to meet their basic needs, chances are their entire life is stuck at the first level of Maslow’s Triangle.

It’s not just the food you see, its the lifestyle that goes with the food.  It’s knowing I have food at the beginning of the month, but I’ll be eating ramen noodles the last week of the month – for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  It’s wondering if I can find a job this month, or if I’ll be able to keep the one I have, or maybe trying to deal with my work hours being cut.  It’s wondering if my babies will be safe in the neighborhood playground because I can only afford certain housing.  It’s working with a damnable toothache because I cannot afford dental insurance let alone the trip to the dentist.   It’s sharing a bed in the winter because I can’t afford the heating  bill.  It’s going without nail polish, using the same mascara for a year, and wearing torn underwear – the kids need clothes you see. It’s excruciating pain when my child comes home crying because he was teased for having holes in his shoes.  It’s fighting with my husband over steak or beans for dinner again.  It’s laying in bed, in the early morning hours, worrying, anxious, trying to figure out how I can come up with ten measly bucks so my daughter can go on the school field trip.

It’s the day in and day out grind, just barely surviving, just making ends meet (or learning to live with yourself if you can’t – a silent surrender to your circumstances, a compromise you never thought you’d make), its scratching out even a meager existence any way possible  –  THAT’S what this picture really represents:

gwennie

Education is the key to understanding.  I am grateful that some attention is given to the issue, but we must realize that it’s not just the food, or lack of it, that our brothers and sisters deal with.   They deal with the mere act of surviving on a daily basis, without physical safety, without choices, and without understanding. They cannot contribute to society in a meaningful way since all their attention is focused on meeting their basic needs one day at a time, they have no energy left over for anything else   I would challenge Gweneth, and any others, to look beyond the picture in order to comprehend the lifestyle.   THEN we might be able to effect some real change.

Here’s to making a difference.  Here’s to awareness.  Here’s to less of us struggling to merely survive.

Frankie


America’s Homeless: Taking the Fall for Alan Greenspan, Hank Paulson, and Co.

This past week a well meaning, albeit misinformed youth, posted a link to his facebook page about putting welfare recipients to  work instead of just giving them welfare money.  “Make them earn it” the message says, “They shouldn’t be allowed to be lazy.” it continues.

I quietly fumed inside.

This past year in my hometown there’s been a loud outcry for something to be done with the homeless population, all of them focus on making homelessness a criminal activity and a scourge on our local society.

I am deeply concerned and saddened.

Over and over the message I hear and see is that being homeless or receiving welfare benefits are a huge crime.  They are the ones ruining our nice clean cities.  They are the ones abusing the system and taking advantage of our hard earned money.

They are the ones taking the fall for the ills in our society simply because they are right in front of us.

corporate-welfare5

The real perpetrators, the real criminals, and the true manipulators of the system, people like Alan Greenspan and Hank Paulson are the responsible parties. they escape our focus however because they live quietly tucked away, out of sight of the public and certainly not on our everyday radar.

They are the ones however who deliberately allowed the past two economic crisis to occur and led us into the Great Recession.  It doesn’t take much reading for any citizen to discover that they are the ones who went out of their way to mutilate the economic system entirely in their own favor.   They consciously broke laws.  They ignored loud warning signs from economists that the system was going to crash.  They are the ones who deceptively invented ways to shift massive amounts of money from the pockets of the middle class to their own offshore bank accounts.

This disconnect.

This idea that welfare recipients are ‘milking’ the taxpayer while Wall Street members still receive obscene bonuses.

This stain.

This concept of blaming the homeless for the degradation of society when it was Wall Street who shuttered our homes and our stores.

This shame.

This……is one of the greatest social injustices we’ve ever created as Americans.

It is a situation easily remedied though, if we’re willing to take the time.  It means being aware and educated.  It means addressing problems such as unemployment and de-regulations instead of treating the symptoms such as homelessness.  It means electing leaders who are not afraid to let the right people take the fall.

We are a better nation than this, I am sure of it.  Let’s act like it kids.

Frankie

P.S.  Keep an eye out for a new website I am launching next week intended to help us be aware and educated as I admonished “Twentyfirstcenturyrevolution”.   It’s new information and provides some real focus to our current socioeconomic problems.  Here’s to finding solutions.


Cheating Teachers: Ain’t No Surprise To Me

In a big mess of a deal, several Atlanta teachers and school administrators were sentenced (too harshly in my opinion) to jail time because they cheated on the State Standardized Tests.

We shouldn’t be surprised.  At. All.

Several years ago I went back to college after having all my babies with the lifelong goal of teaching in my sight.  There is always something about academia that excites me and I couldn’t wait to get into a classroom and passionately share my enthusiasm for….History!  I was so looking forward to igniting at least a handful of bright minds about the subject, I was so looking forward to making History at least ‘not boring’ for the rest of them.

Then something happened that caused me to seriously reconsider my career choice:  No Child Left Behind.  My observations of classroom transformations, witnessing my own children navigate through them, and long talks with teachers who were stuck implementing the legislation convinced me that I would never make it as a successful teacher within the new parameters set down.

You see, successful teaching is largely a creative venture.  There is really no right way to go about it except to hold high expectations and be observant of one’s students at all times.  That way we are aware when an “A-ha” moment is about to occur and can help the pupil to it.  Lev Vygotsky, a renown child development psychologist, keenly observed the teacher’s role as providing a bridge for the learner to be able to ‘connect the dots’ as it were. Writing sage Kahlil Gibran echoed the sentiment in his work “The Prophet” when he says “No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowledge.”    It’s work to make those connections happen.  It’s bleeding, investing, time-consuming creative work to set down the kinds of paths needed so that our students can learn. Those paths were blocked, blown up, and utterly demolished with the advent of NCLB.

Tests are everything now, thanks to No Child Left Behind. They determine whether or not a school gets funded.  They determine whether or not a teacher is successful. They make lots of money for the test makers who have a close ally in DC. They remove any sort of creativity from the teaching experience and put our educators in positions to cheat in a system based on monetary values.  They have robbed our children of the value of learning to think.   They have eroded our schools so that they are nothing more than faceless information factories.

nclb

This group of Atlanta educators have a fair slice of my personal empathy. I’ve not been surprised at all that cheating of this kind has occurred.   Not one of us should be.  The confining, restrictive, and narrow paths of standardized testing necessarily invites criminal activity.

Teaching is a creative process and should have wide spaces to work with.  Anything less is detrimental to learning. Hopefully – Maybe – Fingers Crossed – one day this stain on our national education system will be removed, hopefully, maybe, fingers crossed, without too much residual damage.

Here’s to all those teachers out there who managed to stay in the classrooms after NCLB was implemented.  You are braver than I am and you have my utmost respect.  And to the group in Atlanta, I understand.

Frankie