Tag Archives: conspiracy theories

Religion and Fake News: A Package Deal

We’ve entered a strange era for a nation where facts are of little meaning and truth is distorted without consequence.

If you’ve tried to have a conversation with someone who still supports a Trump presidency, there’s a high probability that many of you experience the inability to find some tiny common island of truth on which you can agree. It seems that the only thing agreeable is that we can all identify as Americans, and even that concession is tenuous.

For a long while I’ve been baffled by the ability for many, including leaders of ‘the church’, to ignore reality and cling to strange, somewhat mythological concepts such as “God can use even a corrupt man”.

Then it came to me: Part of the agreement in being a Christian is that there’s only one source of information from which to base a world view.  Only the Bible can provide real answers.  Only the Bible can be the source for history.  Only the Bible offers a moral code for society.

There is consequently an entire population of American citizens who are programmed to refuse any new information simply because it doesn’t come from the Bible.  Anything outside the holy writ is considered blasphemous and is not to be weighed.   There is no room for curiosity, no appeal to questioning, no allowance for new evidence.  It’s a closed and very regulated environment, as most religions are and must be.  Outside sources are quick to prove them wrong, or at least mistaken, and would shatter the thin foundation upon which the belief is built.

Since curiosity was killed on the altars of religion, it makes complete sense to me as to why so many are willing to buy into FOX, Breitbart, Hannity, Limbaugh, and Jones narratives –  there’s no reason to question their assertions, nor is there a desire to discover if they are presenting the truth. These are minds that have become accustom to just receiving information without weighing its worth, and if a talking snake can steer mankind down a road of licentiousness,  then yes, Donald Trump, corrupt as he is, can be affirmed by god to the highest office of the land in order to fulfill some vague biblical purpose.

I am trying to find ways to bridge the gap and encourage conversation, but without a desire to heed facts or consider a differing perspective, it’s nearly impossible to have a healthy, productive discourse.

While it helps to understand why there’s such a resistance to truth among a certain number of our fellow citizens, I’m not sure where this leaves us overall.   I wouldn’t worry about it except the US has lost a great deal of respect in the world’s view, and the legislation coming out of the current Congress would send us into third world status, and we want to pass to our children a viable, healthy democracy for their future.

I am open to suggestions.  And always hoping that, somehow, reason would save us from becoming another crumbling empire.

May truth will out…

Frankie

 

 

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Declaration:   Atheist – No Small Announcement to Make in the U.S.

I was having a conversation with someone the other day; we were discussing the topics that I write about on this blog.  Obviously there is quite a bit of content about atheism (positively speaking) and religion (negatively speaking), I mentioned this to him “I write a lot about atheism, since I am an atheist.”   He responded to this comment by saying that, basically he was too, but he “just didn’t feel comfortable putting it out there,” for fear of backlash from family, friends, and this being America and all…..we then talked a little bit about how the term and those who identify with it are wholly misunderstood, somehow deemed evil, angry, hateful and without morals.  I would challenge us to readjust our thinking about the kind of people atheists really are.

One of the most common questions I get, especially from those who know my ‘christian up bringing’ background is:  “Why do you hate god?”  I respond with the truth:  there is no hate involved, only a logical conclusion reached by a few years of doing my own research and an understanding that science really does unlock the mysteries we are obsessively keen to understand.   “Besides,” I reply, “It’s difficult to hate something that doesn’t exist.  The same way I have no emotion towards Zeus or Mithras”

I suppose, by extrapolation, a perceived hate in god also translates to a perceived hateful disposition because one of the other more common misunderstandings is that atheists are unhappy and not at peace.   In fact, in my experience, the bulk of us seem to be utterly content in the life they lead and this is made especially more meaningful since we are well aware that this is our only shot at life and that in itself is cause for celebration.  (Not to negate the small percentage of the human population who are somehow miserable no matter where their deist preferences lie).  Truthfully?  It is my strong contention that peace comes with understanding, it does not surpass it. On the other side of the coin, I believe that religion itself can rob a person of their peace.  I remember the numerous conspiracy theories that blew through church during the Clinton administration.   I recall distinctly the fear instilled by the church about this or that issue and although I had ‘god to cling to’ I will confess to harboring a certain paranoia when I look back.  In another part of the world, a religion prevents successful healthcare because it ‘comes from the west’ and is secretly poisoned.

Sometimes, atheist hate is perceived by many where really a passion for the truth is the compelling force behind our actions. For instance, we will petition for the ten commandments to be taken down in courtrooms, or sit out the pledge of allegiance in schools, or refuse to include the words ‘so help me god’  in our  reenlistment oath – not because we are evil, not because we are hateful, and not because we are angry.   We do these things to raise awareness to the obvious breech of our nation’s constitution:  that no preference is given to any religion.  It’s simply a matter of exercising our pragmatic right to call out a social injustice and violation of the law.

For those who are raised in closed, religious environment, legends abound of the misdeeds and immoral acts atheists are ‘known’ for.   I had a friend and her lovely little family over for thanksgiving dinner last year.   They are former members of that-one-religion-that-doesn’t-celebrate-holidays-or-birthdays and this was their first thanksgiving or any holiday dinner they’d ever attended.  After the feast, an afternoon of football, visiting, and pumpkin pie, she looked at me and queried, “This is it, fabulous food and football?  No baby sacrifices?  No bloodletting?  No dancing naked around a bonfire?”  We laughed at her joke and I responded that “nowadays, we tend to keep that stuff to just once a year, at winter solstice.” (festivus is celebrated much like thanksgiving, the exceptions being prime rib for dinner instead of turkey and A Christmas Story marathon – completely lacking in blood sacrifices….)

Lacking religion, or a belief in a deity, is usually and also equated with a lack of morality, and I would contend that this is perhaps the biggest misconception of all.   The reality is that the burden of morality is probably greater for an atheist.   We have nothing to blame our goodness or weaknesses on except ourselves.   We accept a deep level of accountability for our actions and typically are motivated to do good just because it’s the right thing to do, rather than expecting some promise of eternal reward in return – neither are our good deeds motivated by fear of being punished if we don’t do them.  We have a sense of camaraderie, in that all humans are connected and are brothers and sisters who share a moment in time together.  We don’t cheat on our spouses because we are bound by some command or fallible piece of literature, but because we take our vow to be faithful seriously and we wish not to cause pain to our mates.  For a real study in the ‘moral’ and ‘religion’ connection, check out those countries where religion is quite the minority, their crime rates are actually lower.

Then there’s the point to be made that religion itself is not so ‘moral’ after all.  Within the realm of christianity, the catholics are dealing with one kind of horror, while protestant churches allow known offenders back into the pulpit.  And, sadly, more and more often there appear headlines of pastors or youth pastors abusing their positions of authority.  Islam’s recent violent surge has all but shattered its claim of being a peaceful religion.

The bottom line, straight out truth is:     Morality is not confined to religion.

“What about love?” they’ll often ask, “How can you really know love if you don’t know god?”

Two responses:  One – god isn’t necessarily all loving himself.  One only needs to look around at the injustices that occur on a daily basis in our world, and yet ‘he’ doesn’t intervene.  I mean, does it make sense that an omnipotent god would curse part of this rock and its inhabitants whilst conveniently blessing another to the point of overindulgence?  Two – religion doesn’t have the monopoly on love.   The dedication and passion I have toward my husband are wholly voluntary, I don’t need to have some outside love to validate or motivate me to love him.  I love him because of the connection we share and the chemistry we create together.   Furthermore, he has confidence in that love because he knows it is purely motivated, not borne from some obligation to a historical manuscript.

A capacity for love, a passion for justice, a logical conclusion, and morality are not limited to the four walls of any church, mosque, or synagogue.  These characteristics are borne of conscious decision, an open mind, and a desire for truth.   These are the earmarks of atheists.  Eventually we’ll have developed a healthier perception about atheism.  Then we can be free to announce our un- belief with confidence and without prejudice.  In the meantime, we’ll go on living our lives and making a difference in the lives of others.

Rock on kids….

Frankie


“The Village” and “The Church”: An Analogy Worth Consideration

M. Night Shyamalan made a movie a while ago entitled “The Village.”  I love that movie and I love it for a very personal reason.  It reaffirms why I left “The Church” in the first place (I’ll take the real world over a made up one any day of the week) and it also conveys the truth of the idea that evil exists within each of us, not as some outward demon.

The story line to the movie goes like this a bereavement support group, whose relatives are victims of violent crimes, decide to escape modern society into a walled sanctuary.  They live a Luddite lifestyle cut off from the world. Modern conveniences such as electricity and motors are shunned, they make their own furniture, live off the land, and are completely oblivious to anything outside the four walls they so carefully built.  Theirs is a peaceful lifestyle, where men and women know their place, children are loved and coddled, and everyone knows everyone else (the narrative is nicely wound around a love story, and a very sweet one, I think).

Since the proprietors of  The Village were challenged to invent a way to keep their offspring from wandering too far and perhaps discovering that they were cut off from an entire civilization, they invented a story consisting of monsters who lurked in the forest beyond  (The Village was an isolated settlement set upon a huge, and privately funded, land reserve) . The monsters were known simply as ‘the others’ and children were indoctrinated at an early age concerning the dangers of crossing the designated borders.  Apparently an agreement exists between The Village and ‘the others’:  if the Villagers don’t cross into their territory, ‘the others’ won’t cross into The Village.  A popular game for adolescent boys is to stand on a rock just at the border and tempt ‘the others’ to come get them, of course no one showed up, but the occasional howl of a coyote or wind was enough to give life to the story, reinforcing the narrative and instilling fear.

The elders were quite detailed in the shenanigans they were willing to engage in to keep their children in fear of the forest and ‘the others’. They didn’t stop at merely demarcating a physical boundary between good and evil.  The color red for instance, was labeled ‘the bad color’ for that was the color of ‘the others’.  In one scene a pair of tween girls came across a flower in their yard with ‘the bad color’ and with haste they both dig a hole and cover it up. Offerings are made to the forest to appease ‘the others’. Occasionally we are given the glimpse of a wooden box, tucked away in a corner, looming with mystery.  The box contains memorabilia of the outside world: newspaper clippings of murders and robberies of family members, pictures of their lost loved ones. It serves to remind the elders of their decision to leave the evil world behind.

And yet, evil springs up from within ‘The Village’ despite the elders’ attention to detail. In the opening scene of the movie we watch as a grief stricken father weeps at his son’s graveside.  The implication is that the son might have lived were there simple medicines available to give to him, but in their complete dedication to remain isolated, they sacrifice life.   At the feast following the service, it is noted that, despite even heartbreaking moments, they must remain committed to their cause.

A moment of compromise finally occurs however when a young man is stabbed by a jealous autistic Village member.  This strapping male is recently betrothed to the blind daughter of the very man whose idea it was to found The Village.  She begs her father permission to transgress their rules and travel to the lands beyond in order to get medicine to save her beloved’s life.  Her father bends to her pleas and allows her the freedom to go. Before she leaves however, he tells her of the ‘invented’ monsters, shows her the elaborate costumes complete with a row of sharp fang thingys and coarse fur.  It was apparently worn as a sort of ‘coat’ by village elders at times when a visible reinforcement of ‘the others’ was needed (I am reminded of Dawkin’s observation in ‘The God Delusion’, recently read, that  “…the horribleness of hell…is inflated to compensate for its implausibility.”) These home- made monsters were a bit intimidating, and made all the more so since we are put in Ivy’s place of having to discover them through touch only since she is blind.

Armed with the knowledge that nothing really exists to harm her, Ivy is allowed to breach the sacred boundaries and embark on a quest to find medicine to heal her only reason for living.  There’s a slight caveat given in order to keep ‘the others’ well alive in the mind of the rest of The Village. Ivy is sent with two companions, all three robed in a special color as a signal to ‘the others’ that they mean no harm and pass in peace.  The trio is even given a bag of ‘magic rocks’ for protection as well…which Ivy promptly dumps out once her companions abandon her for home out of sheer terror.

Our blind heroine finds the road, is met by a compassionate stranger (she notices “a kindness” in his voice that she “did not expect”) and obtains the lifesaving medicine for her soul mate, returns safely, and they live happily ever after.

Except, that is,  for the parents of the jealous autistic perpetrator who must live with their son’s deviant actions and subsequent death.  The autistic youth who stabbed Ivy’s beloved in a fit of envy was found to have escaped his isolation room.  They found him later, dead,  in a pit he’d fallen into whilst following Ivy into the forest,  wearing  one of the costumes of ‘the others’.  Alas, the final lesson of the story is that evil exists within, no matter the lengths we might go to keep it out.

As I watched my sons grow up alongside a myriad of children at church, and watched those children who were home schooled compared to those who were not, I noticed a bit of a difference.   It was my opinion that my boys will be going out into the world to make their way and it was my responsibility to make sure they were prepared to survive and contribute positively to society.  If I kept them home, shielded from the realities of the world in which they were born, then not only would be unable to thrive, they would live in it timidly – afraid of others and their motivations…I could already see the beginnings of some of these traits with the children who were more isolated from society.

They are grown now, for the most part – and  I took them out of The Church when I left because I myself had enough fear mongering and conspiracy theories. The eldest has been on his own these past three years now and just landed a great career job, if he decides to make it that.  The other two show great potential as well, comfortable in any sort of crowd, able to converse with just about anyone, and each possess a quick witted humor that makes me proud.   I have every confidence that my children will do well on their own, out in the scary big world because, well, we’ve taught them how to survive in it and they aren’t afraid to listen to new ideas or question old ones.  I feel I’ve done my job as a parent.

As parents we are burdened with the responsibility to raise our children to be independent of us, to live separately from us and thrive in the real world.   We do them a great disservice when we isolate them from the realities of life and coax them into a fearful world full of made up demons and monsters.

We do ourselves a disservice as well.   No matter how big those four walls of any church are, evil exists within it as well as without.  One doesn’t need to peruse internet headlines for very long to see that greed, adultery, gossiping, homosexuality, and child abuse is as alive in the church as it is out of the church.  This truth must be recognized if we are to move forward and progress.

We humans have a history of inventing gods and their demon counterparts as a way to explain our lives and purpose on earth.  It also allows us to blame some demon for a downfall rather than take responsibility for our mistakes ourselves. Evil exists within, and no  matter how elaborate the story we make up, no matter how high the walls we build, no matter how far away we can leave the outside world behind, we will always be confronted with it.   As for me and my house, we will choose the reality of life over man made stories, there is much more peace and freedom to be found living thus.

Peace comes with understanding….it does not pass it.

 

Frankie

 


You Love Me Like XO: the story of the power of a song ….

They fought when he visited her on his lunch break….he was in a completely different place than she, feeling physically fatigued and being mentally frustrated with banks and credit card companies chipping away at their meager earnings….she made the mental note that it was her responsibility to make sure they had weekly conversations about finances to avoid these kinds moments “get with the program gurl” she said as she scolded herself…she let him rant, giving him copious amounts of grace because she knew he had been sick, they both had, it’d been a week since sex because of it, and well, he needed to get it out…he finished up, they chit chatted about their mornings, the mood lightened and when he got ready to leave she asked him for the debit card…”why?” he said…”because I want to buy my sister in law a card for making it through her first christmas without her husband that died a few weeks ago…” …”It’ll only be about three or four bucks” she mentioned, she was still on the clock so her professional, down to business demeanor severely contrasted with his recent rant over money and he couldn’t believe she wanted to go off and spend some….suddenly there was a fight, they departed on angry terms and there followed a flurry of furious texts back and forth “I felt like you didn’t hear me” “we only had a minute and I had to ask for the card, I didn’t mean to be insensitive”…..they spent the afternoon in misery, wondering how they’d be in the evening, hoping they could just both brush it off as an off moment and not turn it into a full on fight….they felt each other out in later texts over the afternoon…”got a ride home with so and so, won’t be waiting for you to pick me up”, “ok :p”, “need anything from the store?”, “yeah, thanks! “……”whew, they might’ve escaped a bad time of it,” she thought….at home she took advantage of her time by taking down christmas and cleaning house, she listened to the newest release of so and so, thanking the technology gods for digital music….the song was played repetitively on her iphone whilst learning the lyrics on her laptop, the beat was catchy, the lyrics simple, the depth endless ….she knew music, having sung in her a cappella choir in high school and spending years on the worship team at a small church, she knew how to pick out instruments, listen for the key changes, all that stuff….the song wasn’t particularly complex, she detected a slight bent from one of her favorite bands, so and so, which pleased her…she noticed that it was one of those songs that could go on forever in a set listing, a tune that lent itself the ability to go off in random impromptu musical anthems, taking crowds on a surf ride of music…she went on many such surf rides as a singer on the worship team, she knew their power and their ability to bring a person to a moment of mental and emotional openness…such was the case now as the new song sunk in and she connected words to music to beat….she thought of her husband, how she’d do nothing to hurt him, he was her equal and fighting killed them both….she thought about her determinedness to make this relationship work no-matter-what-goddammit…she loved that man with every cell of her body, they fit together perfectly in every way, and though things weren’t right now, she’d work it out with him precisely because she loved him….she knew  the difference, she knew a life lived with a man who didn’t fit even though he was the father of her children, she knew the pain of trying to love someone, the disappointment of realizing such a thing can never be forced…she chose the torture of a divorce over the dreary future of an unhappy marriage, a boatload of guilt and a few years later she met him and instantly there was chemistry ….the happiness she found in him made every day of hell worthwhile and even when they were fighting, his face was all that she could see, there was, simply, no one else….she thought of the treasure she had, that such a love really comes but once in a while and not everyone gets it….she thought about the temporariness of life, a lesson she learned all too well recently with the passing of her brother…we never know when our time will run out, and those words struck home to her as she mopped away to the beat of the drums, living in the moment….in a bit of a mental lull, a wave of music came in and sent her memory reeling  further back and her mind into deeper thoughts….like the comparison to relationships earlier, she compared her life now as an atheist to her life then as a christian….here, she had no regrets, only thankfulness to be out of the confines of the four walls rank with conspiracy theories and fear….she thought of her time on the worship team, hours and hours, she recalled the moments of surf rides, the small amount of dancing she could do….now she was free and danced without restraint, allowing herself full expression of her body as it interpreted the music …an earlier thought came to mind and she marveled again at how similar the sounds of music were inside and outside the church, that we all catch the same creative waves, they just get funneled differently …. as she compared inside versus outside, she saw once more that outside was real, raw, and now….a new thought came to mind as she considered all those moments spent chasing a ‘perfect’ supernatural love, coming away unfulfilled, and being told “that was the nature of the thing, we are supposed to be kept hungering”….now, she realized, after discovering deep, true, perfect love in the flesh and she concluded “of course an invisible lover will remain elusive”,  she thought of her lover, that he was her heart’s desire, that they seemed to be made exclusively for each other, that he met her needs in every way, and yet……her heart ached for him to get home so they could embrace one another and forgive each other a thousand times over with a wordless, passionate cuddle…..”yeah,” she thought, “an elusive lover that keeps a girl chasing is ridiculous, in reality a girl can be completely satisfied and wake up the next morning wanting even more, in heat and craving it as if it’d been years,”….”you love me like XO…..” he does, and she does, and it is real and ever so temporary…. she was reminded that her decision to leave religion behind for this moment, for the acknowledgement of reality and true freedom, was the right one…..the house was nearly back to normal and clean, the song fairly memorized, another confirmation of her decision to be free of religion’s chains were all achieved by the time he got home….they spent a quick moment of checking each other’s eyes to determine if everything was okay and the long anticipated hug made everything right again….words and music bounced around in her head as they went about their evening until they finally rendezvoused in the bedroom….tender, apologetic kisses turned to lustful craving quickly and in the end, a new day came round and their love was even deeper, their passion even hotter…..she would hear the song again in years to come and just like any good tune it’ll take her back to that brief moment and remind her of the thoughts she had, the emotion she felt, and the freedom in which she basked…this is the story of the power of a song and the healing virtue of music…..

Peace Kids!  and happy new year…may 2014 be good to you….

Frankie Wallace

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