Tag Archives: religion in america

Authority Issues

“If they don’t stand, fire them.”

It might just be a written comment on Facebook or Twitter, but the tone sure comes across as plainly as if it were spoken on t.v.:  authoritarian.

There’s a reason the Supreme Court of the US ruled that an employer cannot fire its employees for choosing to sit during the pledge or the anthem. “Do this or else!” is an authoritarian demand and demanding blind patriotism and faith leaves no room for dissent or freedom of speech.

The ruling is difficult for those who belong to the fairly large component of our nation that also invokes authoritarianism:  religion.  I spent years in ‘the Church’ and over and over the authority of a supreme being is preached and consumed with vigor.  It’s His way or the highway.  There’s no discussion, there’s no negotiation:  Either believe in Jesus or go straight to hell.  There’s no room for individualism – people are highly discouraged to look for outside sources of information – the Bible is the only and final solution.  “God is a jealous God” He doesn’t accept any behavior except being worshiped and adored (a human who acts thus is considered a narcissist, by the way).  It’s Him and Him alone and He has the last word always via the Bible.  The idea is furthered by the scriptural uttering that the husband is the head of the household, his word is final and therefore also…. authoritarian.

There’s a kind of feedback loop that is occurring which exacerbates the authoritarian streak:  Most Christians are prone to watch only a certain news channel and only certain televangelists.  So whatever is said on that singular channel becomes infused with religion and then repeated, ad nauseam, from the armchair preacher selling apocalyptic food stores.  Hence, authoritarian phrases such as “Kneel or else” gets drilled down upon and affirmed on more than just one level.  When the same is preached from the local pastor on Sunday mornings,  authoritarianism  becomes ingrained in many.  Consequently, there’s a decent sized population in our nation that is predisposed to project that authoritarianism onto our national, democratic principles and would happily sacrifice those principles for the mere conformity and idealism that is esteemed in Church.

It’s my observation that this ingrained authoritarian attitude is related to a kind of  Stockholm Syndrome.  I worship an all-or-nothing god who would throw me to the wolves if I once deviate from his command. However, if I comply without complaint, if I submit without a whimper, if I follow like a sheep, then that same God will feed and take care of me and, maybe, he’ll even allow me to prosper like that guy on t.v. with a mega-church.

Within the four walls of a building, adopting authoritarianism isn’t all that damaging to a nation at large.   It is when the notion spills out of the structure and into the streets where democracy, equality, and freedom of speech are paramount that problems arise.  There will be conflict when authoritarianism, especially in the form of “Kneel or else,” rears it’s head in a democracy where citizens are accustom to absolute freedom.  Just look at the conversations going on these past few days.

It’s a helpful point to understand.  Realizing that authoritarianism is a by-product of the largest religion in our nation allows us to understand why so many are willing to ignore liberty and demand allegiance.  I don’t know that the knowledge is helpful in any discourse between individuals, but it does provide some insight into the mechanics of this current moment of social unrest.  Perhaps there is someone out there who can find a way to bridge the gap and inspire a deeper love for democracy over religiously ingrained authoritarian inclinations.

I am open to suggestions.

Much peace to each of you…

Frankie

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“Make it So”

I wrote a while back about the way that science fiction provides examples to us of what a world without religion looks like.   It’s an important point to think on since there’s quite a lot of hullaballoo surrounding the thought that atheists or agnostics can’t be nice or get along and are particularly evil so a future filled with such people is certainly vile, discordant, and unlivable.

Not so.  Many science fiction movies and television shows exemplify that humankind can actually thrive where religion is absent and reason prevails in it’s stead.  Is there evil?  Yep.  We can’t escape it because it is part of ourselves, but we do see in each instance that love or relationships or family overcome and save the day, and tellingly, no supreme being is needed.  (By the way, we really don’t know how else to write the story except that good always defeats evil – such an optimistic species).

With the release of the newest Star Trek movie, a fellow writer picked up on this theme and discusses it in this Atlantic article.   It is hopeful in this time of turbulence – especially as an American watching the current election cycle – to see a standard held for us all to claim:  we can rely on each other, as well as our own reasoning, to create a decent society.

May we ‘make it so.’

Yours,

Frankie

 


It’s Been a Long Week, Time for a Smile

 

The Book of Chef La La Foutaise:  In Which Haggis Sends Him to Despair (Because I checked the sauce and this one hasn’t been done yet, I think.)

“Let me at him!”  The crude request came from Haggis, who could bear the competition no longer.  It was the early days of what anthropologists call “the foodie revolution” and flocks of Haggis’ followers were fleeing his culinary Highlands for the warmer climes of Italy and the new spaghetti dish made famous by Chef La La Foutaise.   Haggis was pissed about it, he’d kept tummies full for centuries and this young pasta upstart threatened his existence.  He thus traveled the saucy road himself to present his case to The Flying Spaghetti Monster.  How awkward did the dull northern god seem against the glistening tentacles of His Noodly Appendage!

“Fine.” Shouted an irritated, booming voice from somewhere between two giant meatballs and a glob of wet noodles, “Have at him, but you are forbidden to end his life.  He’ll do that himself with a slow death of cholesterol plaque, so keep your mitts off.  His kitchen is open game, so is his herb garden.  Do what you must and may the chips fall where they may.  You will find, however, that my dear Chef is loyal under the most trying circumstances, pasta is his life.   I have faith in this human.”

Haggis left the company of His Noodly Appendage with hope.  If he could dethrone the Chef once and for all he just might be able to remain King of Comfort Food.

His first stop was the Chef’s herb garden.  Trample, tromple, tromp.  Each tender leaf of basil and oregano was methodically bruised and destroyed.   There would be no seasoning in the Chef’s sauce. Our hero did despair as hard as any and verily his sobbing was heard up and down his block as he plucked dried herbs from his pantry and sacrilegiously added them to his fresh tomato sauce.  Yet he did prepare the most scrumptious of delights that evening, and to the Holy Trinity of Pasta, Meatballs, and Sauce, our Chef humbly gave thanks, as well as giving himself a pat on the back for having the forethought to save some of last year’s herb crop.

Seeing that his adversary was undaunted, our bloated villain Haggis took things to a whole ‘nother level.  He destroyed the tomato and garlic crops.

Oh the wailing!  Oh the complaints!  Oh the interesting swear words that were invented the moment our Chef did see that some master of maleficence had visited his favorite garden!  “How?” he whined, “How does one make a spaghetti sauce without fresh garlic and tomatoes?  I simply must cancel my dinner party this evening for I cannot make do in these conditions.”

The Chef was a mess.  The dinner party he planned that night was greatly anticipated among his neighbors; they all looked forward to a meal at the Chef’s house. The food, the ambiance, the company, and the pleasing demeanor of the Chef himself had earned a reputation in the village.   To cancel would bring the wrath of his neighbors upon him, and he saw what they did when the cable company blacked out the local football game.  Let’s just say the cable company changed its mind. He would find a way.

Once the initial shock of losing his freshness wore off, the Chef set about to improvise.  “Ragu it is!” he declared, “But it will be MY version of Ragu, I certainly don’t trust the people at Kraft.”   The challenged Chef unsealed the jar and upon a first whiff of cold sauce, he declared again, “How people can use this stuff on a regular basis is beyond me.”  Without so much as a prayer to His Holiness – it wasn’t needed, the Chef knew exactly what to do in this circumstance – our underdog added and stirred and tasted and added and stirred again.  By the time he was done, the jar of Ragu had been transformed into a culinary miracle:  one could discern the delicate balance between oregano and honey, one could taste a hint of white wine, one could almost imagine that fresh garlic had been added when in reality it was dried.   Once combined with the homemade pasta, the Chef’s guests could tell no difference and praised his talents generously.  The more wine the Chef served, the praisier his guests became.  He kept their glasses full, gave thanks to The Flying Spaghetti Monster for the fruit of the vine, and congratulated himself on his che’effing genius.

While the guests woke up to hangovers and our Chef woke up to dirty dishes, the mighty villain Haggis woke up to disgrace; he thought for sure the Chef would give up without fresh tomatoes for his sauce but he found out the dodgy bastard managed to slide right through the difficulty and please his guests anyway.   Haggis thought long and hard.   If he wasn’t successful at sabotaging the sauce, then the noodles were next.  Consequently and methodically, every jar of olive oil in the village was rendered rancid, every bag of flour was riddled with weevils, every hen was sedated so she couldn’t lay eggs.  “Game on Chef!” Haggis did squeal from the top of a sheep shed, “Let’s see you make a pasta dish NOW!”   Haggis was quite pleased with his work and demonstrated it through his taunting techniques, “What’ll you do, huh?  Try some soy flour and almond oil and substitute applesauce for the eggs?  Ha!  I’d like to see that!”

I wish I could say that the Chef was gracious under these trying circumstances but really he lost his manners and all regard for societal protocol.  He wandered from house to house, didn’t even bother to knock before entering, and ravaged each pantry for fresh staples, leaving a wreck behind.  Haggis did his work well though, and the Chef was left with nothing, not-a-thing with which to make his soft, tender noodles.   Despair tore at his soul while his own hands tore at his apron and he ran around the village square with a repetitive wail, “What will I do now!”  His neighbors did close their doors, their windows, and their curtains in order to leave the Chef to his misery.  Behold! It wasn’t a pretty sight.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster looked upon this frail human with pity.  Verily He wanted to rescue this small soul and tell him that it was okay, that the Chef was just caught in the middle of an infinite battle between Himself and that prick Haggis, that his reaction will affect future generations in no way whatsoever.  But it was against all Colandrial consideration to breech the veil between god and man, so His Noodly Appendage did what most gods do in times such as these:   He invested in industrial strength ear plugs to block the Chef’s whining, and left him to his own devices by going on holiday to Vietnam where there was a new restaurant opening that He wanted to try – bring on the pho and bon appetit!

Feeling abandon by his god as he really was, our Chef did abruptly end his pity party and set to work to overcome his obstacles.  If he could manage to transform a jar of Ragu into a tasty dish, then by god he could manage to make some sort of pasta.  He suddenly became a man who considered his options.  As he studied the contents of his pantry, a small light flickered in the hopeless dark of the Chef’s culinary nightmare – he would triumph.   He closed up the house so his nosy neighbors were prevented from spying, and he set about to do what no Italian had done previously – make a pasta dish without pasta.

Haggis watched his victim squirm and he himself became prematurely giddy with delight when he saw the Chef had boarded up his windows.  “Ha!  I’ve done it, I’ve won! The Chef has shut himself up to wither away.  I will remain king of Comfort Food!”  He then went off to Germany for the night because he developed a thing for sausage while staying on the continent.

Haggis returned the next morning to find the Chef in a state of half-drunk, half-hungover happy delirium.  He had triumphed where none could even face such an obstacle and served his village the most sumptuous dish of first gnocchi.   While Haggis had indeed ruined every flour bin in the neighborhood, there were potatoes that could be put to use along with some butter (gasp!), and a solitary egg from a hen that the Chef shook and dangled so that gravity itself forced the production of a singular, white, oblong cache of culinary glue. By mixing them together and using a jar of Ragu white sauce this time (which, of course, he modified with his own touch as aforementioned), Chef La La Foutaise managed to invent a most wonderful addition to the Italian menu.   The international food landscape was permanently altered.

Never in the history of the gods had one imaginary being been so dejected, so utterly defeated.  Haggis bowed his head, hunched his shoulders, and took his paunchy sausage belly back to the highlands where it belonged.   He pouted the entire way.

“Something wrong?” The Flying Spaghetti  Monster inquired of Haggis,

hisholiness

courtesy wiki.ironchariots.org

whom he bumped into upon returning  from the most phenomenal pho he had ever tasted.  He knew the answer of course, the FSM is after all, omniscient about all things Chef-y, but he wanted to watch Haggis squirm in his loss.  Our Breaded Entity is not above gloating.

“I don’t want to talk about it.”  Haggis was a broody bitch.

“I heard through the grapevine that something called ‘gnocchi’ has been invented.  That wouldn’t be our Chef La La would it?”  The FSM failed at hiding his smile.  The Chef had surprised even the Holy Noodly Appendage and the latter was most amused over the entire circumstance, He couldn’t wait to try a fresh batch of gnocchi for Himself.

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Haggis really was a sore loser.

“I can’t blame you there.  But I can say that I did warn you.  My Chef is a solid homie through and through.  Pasta, uh, always finds a way.”  The FSM did disengage Himself from the cruel northern entity and floated merrily on His way towards the boot-like peninsula where He did give His seal of holy approval to the new menu addition with a mighty “Argh!”

Verily, Haggis learned his lesson.  He never ventured from the highlands again and by-the-by he came to find a quiet pleasure in the small following that he retained in spite of noodles and gnocchi.   We should all be aware of the same lesson Haggis took from the incident however: The Flying Spaghetti Monster will always be more interested in new Vietnamese restaurants than He is in His own congregation.

R’amen.

 

 


The Misinterpretation of Hate and Anger: Instead, Passion

I’m always impressed by the enlightening I can get from the comments section of news stories.  I mean, I never knew that as an atheist I am afraid,angry, and offended; observations made regularly and accompanying some story about us contending over a coach praying at a high school football game or the ten commandments being removed from a courtroom or a cross going up somewhere on public land.

The answer is that we atheists aren’t afraid and neither are we offended. But we are passionate.  We are fervent.  We are dedicated to having a nation free from religious manacles of any kind, whether they be christian, muslim, hindu, or pastafarian, and to that end we will tirelessly address any line-crossing behavior.   We stand on the assurance that our constitution mandates a separation of church and state and passionately invoke it for the sake of our democracy.  I would ask my brothers and sisters not to confuse such passion with offense or fear, and consider that the resistance you meet from us is only as strong as your desire to cross the constitutional boundaries.   We would quietly sit in our homes and binge on Parks and Recreation if given the choice.

Angry, yes, we are angry.   I will strongly contend that our anger is justified however, and even by christian standards, righteous anger is permissible.   It’s okay to be angry when you pass a law against one religion yet you push and shove your own religion onto the national stage.  It’s okay to be angry when you promote asinine propaganda that is meant to instill fear. It’s okay to be angry when you slow down our progress as a nation by insisting on antiquated, edited, fallible texts as a foundation from which to work. It’s okay to be angry when preachers ask for a six million dollar jet while the homeless children population is steadily increasing in our own nation.  It’s okay to be angry when pedophiles are allowed back into ‘the fold’ or when abuse is systematically covered up.   You are correct about our anger, but misinterpret the direction and source of it.   We aren’t angry at a god whose probability for existing decreases with each new scientific discovery.  We are angry at your invocation of that omnipotent being in the face of greed, lies, selfishness, and ignorance; and the overall negative affect that has on our society.

We atheists will be passionate about maintaining the clearly drawn lines between personal belief and public interactions.  But do not mistake that for fear or offense.  I’ll agree that we are angry, but do not mistake its origins; righteous anger is permissible when injustice is blatant.

Now you have my comments on the comments section, here’s to enlightenment for us all.   😉

In peace, as always,

Frankie

 


About a Bey, And Other Girls

Religious leader Louis Farrakhem recently admonished Jay Z to “cover up his wife.”   His remarks are eerily similar to political leader Mike Huckabee whom earlier in the year, called out Jay Z over the same thing in his book, “Guns, Grits, and Gravy.”

I am a bit mystified over the issue.  Why Beyonce?

Why call out Beyonce when one of America’s most famous teens is known for posting topless instagram photos, advocating for daily masturbation, and twerking against the crotch of a man much older than her – on national television?  Her mom is apparently with her, by her side, to witness the antics in first-person. Her mom!  Yet. Not one word from gentlemen’s Farrakhem or Huckabee about this girl covering up (maybe pasties count after all?).  Why?

Why call out Beyonce when a momager brokered her daughter’s sex tape, thus catapulting a reality TV family into a paparazzi dream?   We’ve watched the same mom sexualize her two youngest daughters before their time, so that everyone knew the seventeen year old was boinking the twenty-five year old, but hey, its okay, she’ll be eighteen in a month.  (Just don’t hold hands yet, ya know, in public.)   But Mr.’s Farrakhem and Huckabee are noticeably silent on the this example of ‘pimping’.  Why?

Because it’s not about sexuality, that’s why.  It’s about the husband’s job to keep his wife in line.  Maybe Tish Cyrus and Kris Jenner can be overlooked since they’re just moms; and anyway, kids will be kids these days, right?  But for a husband to allow, and even endorse, the public sexuality of his own wife is something completely at odds with the indoctrination that a wife must be quiet, subservient, and dependent upon her man.

Beyonce is a powerful woman.  She earned success before she married her husband.  She’s always been sexy, dirty, and gritty.  She must be made of some kind of steel to muster the courage to dismiss her own father as her manager – tough cookie.  Which is exactly the point. It’s not just that Beyonce needs to cover up, the issue is that she’s independent.   She’s bothersome because she demonstrates that a woman can be sexy and at the same time call her own shots, make her own money, manage her own business, and sculpt her public image.  She doesn’t need a husband, she chooses to have one.   She isn’t dependent upon him for her happiness. From a religious standpoint, this means her husband isn’t the beginning and ending of her purpose in life, and that’s problematic for the Farrakhems and Huckabees of the world.  So the advice of ‘covering up’ is really a euphemism for “you are not in control as a man, your wife is independent of you and that’s wrong, you must assert your authority and force her to bend to your will.  A real man is an authority over his woman.”

There are scores of women whose presence in social media garner attention of the most lascivious kind.  Mr. Farrakhem and Mr. Huckabee choose instead to focus upon a husband who can’t keep his woman under control.   That’s why Beyonce.

Yours, Frankie


Time For an Adjustment: Social Constructs, the Duggars, and a Pew Study

I’ll not forget the struggle I had reading modern philosopher Michel Foucault in graduate school, but I am thankful for the enlightenment it brought to me, especially with regard to an element he termed “social constructs.”

Social constructs are the framework within which a culture decides to build and operate a society.  They emerge from a myriad of sources, (religious texts, scientific discoveries, philosophy – to name a few) and are informally adopted by a society’s members over the course of generations. For example, the US has a unique construct with the marriage of capitalism and christianity which emphasizes an individualistic doctrine.  The Chinese are uniting their elements of communism and an emerging middle-class to produce a more cooperative environment (see John Perkins “Hoodwinked”). Overall, social constructs provide guidelines for citizens of a particular society to follow.

The thing that impresses me most about the idea of social constructs is that they can be changed. They aren’t set in stone. They are subject to new information and therefore malleable, adjustable.

I assert that Americans are learning that some of our current social constructs are in need of adjustment.

While we’re probably all up-to-here with the story of the Duggars, there is one theme that stands out from all the noise surrounding the issue:  willful ignorance and keeping something so wildly instinctual as our sex drive confined to unnaturally narrow definitions necessarily provokes problems. The abuse that’s occurred within the catholic church and the jehovah’s witness sect is a manifestation of the same premise. We can’t ignore our instinctive sexual hunger any more than we can ignore our need to drink water. Yet we’ve agreed to adopt a social construct with a rigid interpretation of sex – based almost entirely on a flawed document  As I read the comments and even a few articles reflecting on the Duggars, one thing seems certain:  the current is changing.  We are seeing the negative effects of this particular social construct and we are ready to realign it to more reasonable, and honest, interpretations.

Giving the current a significant boost in velocity is the discovery that many in the US are turning away from religion and the flawed document it is based upon as noted in the recent Pew Research publishing.   By leaving behind an outdated document, by eliminating it from the foundations of our social constructs, I contend that we should expect adjustments to include instead more science, academics, and probably humanistic tendencies.

Change is painful, it is messy, and it is oftentimes violent.  As we move forward together, we must be conscious of the struggle incurred by adjusting and redefining the social construct of sexuality.  It will help us to be patient with one another.  As we move forward together, we must acknowledge that work is involved, awareness is required, and stubbornness is appropriate so that ignorance no longer has a place within the new frameworks.  It will keep us focused.  As we move forward together, those of us who aren’t a part of the millennial generation need to provide them with exemplary discussions and elevate the standard for hashing out new precepts.   It will give them tools to manage their own adjustments.  As we move forward together it behooves us to keep in mind that social constructs are not permanent, they are pliable and influenced by new concepts.  It will enable us to embrace change.

Here’s to healthy adjustments,

Frankie