Recent thoughts on Religion

This past year—2020—my views on religion have changed. I suppose in some respects they’ve long been this way, but with the Trump Presidency and COVID I’ve come to feel more bold in those beliefs. I’ve seen how the world has been effected by superstition and can no longer remain quiet and polite. As I recently told someone, “I don’t know why we’re told to automatically respect all religions. Shouldn’t they have to earn it just like anyone or anything else?”

And like that I woke up.

At last count there are 7.8 billion human beings on the planet. That’s the largest population of any mammal in the history of our small, blue planet. For most of that history we’ve governed ourselves by beliefs that were handed down to us, beliefs that were often not based in reality. We’ve believed in gods plural and singular. We’ve believed that mystical powers control the night and the day, the passing of the seasons, the health of our crops. These beliefs have, to some extent, provided adequate to ensure the human race survived to the next day, but not necessarily better or healthier as a whole. Now, as a globally interconnected species, the application of ancient belief and tradition in key decisions of governance only serves to harm us.

Take for example the obvious: America’s handling of COVID.

Handling a pandemic is straight forward. Prepare. Test, test, test. Contact trace. Wear masks. Social distance. Close down non-essential business. Modify existing business and organizations to ensure the virus doesn’t spread. Devote money towards research and a vaccine. It’s not easy, as we’ve seen, but the steps are made obvious by science.

America has not consistently used science, however, to guide its hand. Both states and the federal government have changed their strategies at the beck and call of political and religious belief (are they not, in many respects, one and the same?). It is not uncommon to hear an individual flaunt restrictions either based on their belief in some undefined “freedom” claimed to be in the ancient text we call the U.S. Constitution or that if it’s time God will decide. These singularly selfish, non-scientific, and frankly superstitious beliefs have resulted in the deaths of millions of people now. It is unconscionable.

So the question is, why should I respect any religious tradition if many of those who are members make decisions based on superstition when those decisions have negative and even deadly impacts on non-believers? Why should I respect a politician or voter who supports legislation that is sexist, agist, racist, or otherwise pushes their own sense of “right” and “wrong” and others? Why should I have anything but disgust for people who quite literally believe in gods and demons, fictions such as “original sin”, or that such anachronisms should be forced on intelligent, critical, free minded people?

To be clear, I have no problem that people are religious anymore than I care what folks eat for dinner. Just don’t eat babies. And don’t force me to eat babies if that’s your thing. To me that’s freedom. It’s starts with believing what you want to believe and doing what you want to do as long as it doesn’t put other people in cages. And that’s, in my humble opinion, the only true sin: to rob someone of the ability to believe and live as they choose. As the core tenant of Wicca teaches, “Do as you will as long as you do no harm.” You’d think if America really were based on the idea of freedom for all we’d follow that path.

I hope I’m able to.

Chapter 2

Writing is still difficult. Actually, it’s always been difficult. But there was a day and a time where I filled my spare time with writing hoping, in large part, to become a professional writer some day. I thought what I had to say had meaning. More important, I thought what I wanted on paper worth reading.

In less than 24 hours I’ll be 47 years old. It’ll be almost a decade since I blogged on an almost daily basis. Back when I thought I had something worthwhile to share. I don’t know what happened between then and now. Maybe it was the Lyme, robbing me of years of my health, my life, and tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. Maybe it was all of the social drama I experienced or put myself in or created. Maybe I just realized what a small cog I am in the big picture and that fundamentally, the universe could do just fine without me. And maybe it was simply that I realized for all the things I’d learned in this so called life I really couldn’t make the kind of impact on the world I want to.

I’m back to editing old stories, short stories I’d written in my youth for people I’d loved, admired, and/or was infatuated with. These were stories with meaning. But as with most past endeavors I look back and see how clunky my steps were. Can I improve? What effort would be necessary? Is it worth it?

Will anyone ever care to read what I have to say?

It’s my hope that once I’m happy with these relatively minor edits I can publish these old stories in an e-book, possibly even self publish soft bound copies. “There,” I’ll say to myself, “I’ve done it.”

Reasons 11 through 38

I know, I know, I said I was going to write every day. In my defense, I stopped smoking two weeks ago and have been somewhat scatter-emotioned ever since. And I just don’t feel compelled to write like I once did. There are many, many reasons behind that. One day I hope to “feel compelled” again so I can write about how I haven’t cared about writing or sharing or opening up anymore. For now I will say this: I’ve become so tired of the level of bullshit that’s come to permeate the internet—especially the political “discussion”—that I’ve all but stopped using Facebook and have absolutely stopped giving a shit about whether anyone will listen to any evidence I have regarding the doomed Trump administration. America has really become a country where we’re going to fist fight on the playground regarding the merits of Ford vs. Chevy and we’re willing to put people’s futures on the line for such brainwashed idiocy.

Anyway, I’m not going to waste my time digging into these other reasons I was going to write about, the titles speak for themselves:

Reason #11: Trump Cares About Winning (more than he cares about you)
Reason #12: Trump Doesn’t Want Everyone to Vote
Reason #13: Trump Ignores Experts
Reason #14: Trump is a Male Chauvinist
Reason #15: Trump is Obviously Predictable
Reason #16: Trump Lacks Humility
Reason #17: Trump Manipulates the Government to Fill His Coffers
Reason #18: Trump Spreads Doubt About Trustworthiness of Elections
Reason #19: Trump Trashes the Medal of Freedom
Reason #20: Trump’s a Disgrace to the Office
Reason #21: Trump’s Blatant Disrespect for Veterans
Reason #22: Trump’s Continued Obfuscation Regarding His Tax Returns
Reason #23: Trump’s Disgraceful Lack of Knowledge of American History
Reason #24: Trump’s Disgust for the U.S. Constitution
Reason #25: Trump’s Disrespect for His Own Base
Reason #26: Trump’s Hypocrisy Regarding Protests
Reason #27: Trump’s Near Silence on the Historical Western Fires
Reason #28: Trump’s Nepotism
Reason #29: Trump’s Requirement of Complete Loyalty
Reason #30: Trump’s New SS (the DHS)
Reason #31: Trump’s White House Pays Women Less than the National Average
Reason #32: Trump’s Wild Claims about COVID Treatments has Killed People
Reason #33: Trump’s Willingness to Supporter’s Lives at Risk
Reason #34: Trumps Views of America’s Enemies vs. His Enemies
Reason #35: He’s the World’s Most Accomplished Failure
Reason #36: Trump is a Bigot
Reason #37: Trump Runs Things Like a Reality Show
Reason #38: Trumps Sides with Kim Jong-Un

Reason #9: Every Fucking Day

Every fucking day Trump does one of the following:

– He lies
– He contradicts himself
– He contradicts a Subject Matter Expert
– He makes a sexist, homophobic, or racist remark
– He slanders another person
– He shows contempt for the U.S Constitution

All you have to do is turn on the news. Any station will do, even Fox.

Do you really want to vote for a politician that puts all the rude jokes about them to shame?

Reason #6: Trumps Disrespect for a Free Press

If you take the time to study your history, you’ll learn that pre-Nazi Germany was one of the most democratic countries in the world at the time with the most broad protections for free press and speech. In Berlin alone there were dozens of newspapers supporting, sharing, and discussing many, many points of view. And their government reflected this broad range of views and agendas.

When the Nazi Party took power all that changes. Other points of views were buried either via rhetoric, changes in the legal system, or violence. At worst students like Sophie Scholl were put to death by printing pamphlets uncovering Nazi atrocities. Goebell’s, the Propaganda mister, was quintessential in ensuring everyone in the country was presented with one story, the superiority of Germany and its citizens over all other countries, cultures, and races. Anything that didn’t agree with that philosophy is what we’d call in our modern parlance, “Fake News.”

So study your history. Trump has slowly whittled away trust of our press to the point that nearly half of our country will believe nothing if it comes from a “moderate” right wing “news” outlet like Fox or more extreme “news” outlets like Breitbart and The Federalist. And this is dangerous. A sufficient number of Americans who get their news from these sources refuse to listen to anything else, including non-partisan fact checking outlets.

What can you do to fight this? Subscribe to sources that don’t conform to your political ideology. Me? I really want people listening to National Public Radio. After a few weeks listening to actual news, news that is designed to educate not pull on your emotion strings.

So that’s my challenge to you. Turn off everything else. Take one week, just one week, of your life and get your news from NPR.org.

Cheers.

Reason #7: Trump Thrives on Creating Chaos

Since before Trump even became President he’s thrived off chaos and this strategy is true to this day.

Take the protests in Portland, for instance. Instead of getting the facts or supporting local leaders as well as those speaking out, he regularly makes statements to encourage fighting on both sides. He’s called people on the right engaging in violence good people and called for those on the left to be labeled terrorist organizations. He’s targeted cities with regular protests.

Take the Coronavirus. He regularly disputes the experts in the White House. He spreads Qanon theories about the virus. He calls it by the racist “Chinese Virus” term and imposes his will on the CDC, which has gone from a respected institution to one that nobody can trust on either side anymore.

Chaos is how someone like him thrives. It pits us against each other, uses our brain chemistry against us, and ensures that the facts get relegated to the background while we bicker about fictions like the liberal child sex trade. People who twenty years ago I might have called “good” Christians now pray for the deaths of opposition members or ignore Covid restrictions putting everyone’s life at risk.

Trump sits back and laughs at us. And he’s said as much in public and in private.

Reason #5: Trump Politicizes a Pandemic, Costing Lives, Money

I remember at the beginning of the year reading posts about the spread of COVID-19. The entire time I was waiting for the White House to say something about it.

Silence.

At the time the virus was spreading across the world and people in the know were starting to wake up about cruise ships. But the White House said nothing about the one means of travel that was bringing the virus to our shores in less than a day: air travel. Even after the White House acknowledged this as a problem the solution was to limit then stop travel from countries Trump didn’t like: China and Iran. His decisions did not reflect any acknowledgement of the data, but was obviously political.

And so it’s been since day one. His entire response to the pandemic has been that of a reality TV host going after ratings, not after a world leader trying to ensure the safety of the citizenry of his country.

I don’t have all day to detail all the behaviors that support this argument. If you’ve been paying attention to the news since January you have the data, you just have to choose to pay attention to it. Whether it’s Trump suggesting “treatments” that either don’t work or have lead to unnecessary deaths of people that took him at his word, he’s not demonstrated leadership, intelligence, or compassion for Americans. Nearly every day he says something so far beyond stupid I never thought someone so mentally frail could be in the most powerful position in the world. He “downplayed” the pandemic because he didn’t want to frighten people? Yeah, that really doesn’t make any sense given his constant use of abusive language to set people against each other, even promoting violence. Now he’s claiming a vaccine will be ready a few days before Election Day despite every drug manufacturer saying this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Over 200,000 American’s have died as a result of the virus (that’s a third of deaths on the entire planet). Trump continues to blame China and sidestep any responsibility. He has never promoted the most simple strategies for saving lives: wearing a mask and social distancing. This is evident at his rallies where he packs in as many people as possible, few of whom wear masks. Worse, he’s been heard telling his staffers that this was okay because he wasn’t close to them and wouldn’t catch anything. He also stated that he liked it because he preferred not having to shake hands with those losers.

You heard that right, Trump has been overheard saying he couldn’t care less about the lives of his supporters. His behavior during this pandemic has been un-Christian, unsympathetic, self-centered, scientifically ignorant, and quite frankly, traitorous.

Reason #10: Trump is a Faux Christian

I grew up in a highly engaged Lutheran family. We went to church every Sunday, even when we were traveling in the summers. I was baptized, confirmed, went to Sunday school and Vacation Bible School. As a teenager I went to the Lutheran youth group and branched out to the Baptist one as well. And then suddenly one day I decided to explore other religious and philosophical thoughts. I became a Christian Zen Buddhist, then a Zen Buddhist, then a Buddhist, then found myself exploring all sorts of wild ideas, wound up leaning towards agnosticism (as atheism lacks full logic, in my humble opinion), and would now consider myself a staunch Diest.

I am not a Christian. I make no bones about it. At the same time, I understand the teachings of Jesus Christ and try to follow them in my life. And though I do not regularly attend church I do so for weddings and funerals (having a particular attraction towards the Catholic tradition and their customs) and attend Christmas Eve Mass every year.

In the past couple of years I have only seen Trump attend church a couple of times. The two I remember were when he want to Senator McCain’s funeral (where he seemed uncomfortable and frankly looked like an ADHD kid trying to escape, especially during things like sermons and liturgies) and when he stood in front of a church with an upside down Bible to do a photo op.

When asked what his favorite book was he joked it was the Bible, after The Art of the Deal. When asked what his favorite verse was he fumbled and said basically all of them.

Some have argued with me somehow that belief that we are all born in sin makes him a Christian because he a) sins and b) claims to believe in the Christian God. This makes no sense. If you believe in Christianity and original sin then a) aren’t I a sinner? And b) does it matter whether or not I say I’m a Christian? God will stand in judgement over my sins, right? Should I get special consideration from you if you say I’m a Christian? And if not, what did Jesus say about treatment of gentiles (what we’d, in the non-Jewish tradition, probably consider non-Christians)?

I could go on and on, but the basic argument that Trump saying he’s a Christian makes everything he does unimportant because he was born into original sin like the rest of us, well, it’s lazy and it’s bullshit. Using that same logic we could have easily have done the same thing with Hitler in Nazi Germany, someone who also claimed to believe in God and His love for the homeland and its chosen status in the world.

I digress. My point is this: Trump is in no, way, shape, or form, a Christian. He is a demagogue. He is a narcissist. He is a racist and a chauvinist. He is self-serving. His behavior demonstrates a complete disinterest in the lessons of Jesus Christ except in how mentioning him will score him points here on earth. And that’s all he cares about, winning. And what better way to win with his base than to use the name of the Lord in vain.

Stopping Smoking

For this of you that can’t, you’re likely to never have smoked. If you have, you should be able to relate that like me, you’re really good at stopping smoking given all the practice you’d had over months, years, or decades. We’ve all become experts; the only problem: We’re just as good at starting again.

I starting smoking at 18 as a way to get back my parents. They were both teachers at my high school and as a straight A student I thought it was the best (most passive-aggressive) way to get back at them. Needless to say, I had it as much as possible from them. I didn’t smoke at home and generally only smoked in the car with all the windows open. Hell, for at lest six months to a year I didn’t really “smoke” at all as I just liked to light up, suck a mouthful of smoke in, watch it dance the air as I exhaled. And I absolutely loved flame.

This year I’ve had limited success quitting. Already having multiple pre-existing conditions, the COVID pandemic made it a very clear choice: either I quit smoking or potentially die. Even then, it’s been stop and go. Every other weekend or so I’ll go cold turkey or put on patches but never seem to be able to make it to the other side. I like smoking–no, I love it! I love sitting on the deck several times a day reading the latest news and articles on my Facebook feed. I love that it wake’s me up in the morning. I love I can focus on it when I’m frustrated, tired, scared, angry, or feeling defeated. I love that it makes me feel tough. And I especially love, after a long day or all my emotions are frayed, sitting on the deck with a dram or two of Scotch drinking, commenting on FaceBook articles, and forgetting all the physical pain I’d been in all day.

Damn, smoking is damn good.

It’s not easy to quit. I’ve smoked on and off for decades. Even changed from cigarettes to a pipe back to cigarettes and then finally on Swisher Sweet Cigarillos. But whatever the input device, the reality is quitting is never quite the same any time. Generally though, the several days I tend to feel increasingly confused. For example, if I were sitting in a chair ever minute or two I’d wonder why I was sitting there watching tv instead of doing something more important. If I get up to do something important in hopes of keeping my mind off of it (as if one can as it’s completely screwing with ones thoughts) I find my mind will go into all sorts of wonky territory. Why did I go into another room? Why am I cooking? Why do I go to the work in the morning? Why am I here? As it gets worse uncontrollable anxiety kicks in, something no drug or meditation can put a dent in. And regular actives, like reading news, becomes pointless. The mind wanders uncontrollably. Then when I go to sleep at night, at least that first couple of nights, I’m likely to wake up with night terrors, my mortality somehow being thrown like a giant Redwood tree into my face. Somewhere around day two the mind is a chaotic confusion. Time slows down. One minute can become five, five ten, and so on—the whole idea of saying to oneself, “This will all be over in n days,” becomes meaningless when time stretches ones patience to its limits.

So here we go again. I’ve only had a couple today, one this morning, two this afternoon. Since this is a three day weekend I’m going a combination of patch and cold turkey tomorrow, in hopes that I can lower my dependency enough to be full cold turkey come Monday (Labor Day). I know I won’t be running on all thrusters come my first day back on Tuesday. And despite how difficult it is to write while “Jonesing” I will continue my daily reasons for not voting for that jackass in the Oval Office.

Gotta keep moving forward.

Reason #3: Trump’s Favorite President (Besides Himself) Is Andrew Jackson

If you had to pick a favorite past U.S. President who would you choose? You could choose the original great George Washington. Or maybe Lincoln speaks your language. Maybe you grew up in the wonder years of JFK and Camelot. I like FDR, myself. All of these are legitimate choices. But we should be clear in whatever argument we make for choosing one over another: they were all flawed human beings. That being said, I’ve got a real problem with anyone that would choose Andrew Jackson (especially someone demonstrating a general ignorance of American history). There are flawed human sinners and there are inhuman bigoted criminals who had no concern lying and stealing in order to benefit while thousands and thousands of people suffered and died.

If it weren’t for good old American stick our heads in the sandiness we’d be teaching our kids what Jackson really was. Yeah, he had slaves and that is fucked up, but Washington and Jefferson had slaves too and despite my complete support for Black Lives Matter, I can reflect on them as Presidents I would choose as two of the better ones. Doesn’t that put him on the same footing?

Not in this slightest.

My real problem is that Andrew Jackson launched the greatest genocide in U.S. history. We don’t talk about it because we love to learn about how the cowboys won The West. And sure, we may have been taught a little bit about the Trail of Tears at some point in our schooling but mostly its glossed over—in the past, right?

All things considered it really wasn’t that long ago. The descendants are still impacted by Jackson’s decisions to this day.

But I don’t think people understand truly how terrible it was, not just in terms of modern human ethics (war crimes, crimes against humanity, fill in the term here, we sorta hang people for that shit these days), but in the bigger picture kind of way. Sure, it was the Spanish that really got the initial ball rolling, but in terms of the United States Jackson was the one to send the message that natives should feel grateful for what they got even if that was a thousand miles of dead bodies.

Who would revere someone like that?

Answer: Adolf Hitler.

Look it up.

And that’s what’s truly terrifying. You start with a handful of Conquistators to destroy an entire civilization. Then the British Colonies come in and pretty much think well, we’ve established a pattern, so I guess it’s okay. The U.S. pops into existence and Andrew Jackson is like, we’re not doing this fast enough. Hitler is exhillarted by how effective the American settlers were in subjugating the inferior inhabitants we found in these lands. And a large enough group of Americans currently holds many of the same attitudes that have come down through the ages. That only stops when we choose for it stop by recognizing history, seeing all it’s warts and pimples, having open dialogs about it, then deciding not to venerate the very worst in human behavior, whether that be past or present.

Why does Trump like Jackson? Maybe it’s because Jackson just did whatever the hell he wanted, regardless of Congress or the Supreme Court. Maybe it’s because a substantial portion of Trump’s most fervent base venerates Jackson. Honestly, though, I don’t care. What I do care about is that who we put up on pedestals says a lot about our character and in it was not surprising when I only recently learned of Trump’s love for this past President that America would best be served having some real history lessons about.

Reason #4: Trump’s Attacks on Educational Institutions

One of the theme’s of my “Vote Trump Out” posts is the similarities between his administration and the evolution of the Nazi party. Something his administration has done from day one—something the Nazi’s did—is to demonize educational institutions a facilities spreading liberal socialist propaganda. One only has to read comments from supporters to see this has become a national problem. Any expert, anyone with an education, anyone who has spent their lives dedicated to becoming an SME (Subject Matter Expert) has become a target for him and his supporters. This is troubling for more reasons that its similarity to what the Nazi’s pulled, but also because it means we’re relying on a government to make life and death decisions based on feelings and political philosophy, not facts, data, or science. Worse, it prevents dialog. Why talk with an expert on climate or medicine when you can have your own self gratifying opinion?

Over the last months Trump’s rhetoric has started to mirror the Nazi strategy: threaten to defund any educational institution that teaches history that does not align with white supremist ideology. America is perfect. Slavery wasn’t so bad. Racism doesn’t exist anymore. The Nazi party did exactly the same thing. So who’s to say this White House won’t continue in the same direction eventually making it a crime to teach actual history in our public schools and universities? You might say it could never happen here, but the Germans thought the same thing and sat idly by while hatred crept in until it became punishable by death to speak out.

For those that want to take the time to educate themselves as what to this might end up looking if Trump gets a second term, watch this film based on a true story and a real person who stood up when Hitler attacked German education institutions before and during World War II:

Reason #2: Trump Encourages People to Commit Felonies

In an article from The Hill I read the following:

“President Trump on Wednesday suggested supporters in North Carolina should illegally attempt to vote both by mail and in person, saying doing so would test the integrity of the system.”

To summarize, Trump want’s North Carolinians to commit felonies in order to subvert our democracy.

See the full article here.

Reason #1. Trump’s Failure to Prevent Foreign Interference in U.S. Elections

Starting today I plan to write one entry a day discussing a new reason not to vote for Donald J. Trump for President on November 3rd, 2020. I realize I probably won’t change any minds as it seems a majority of his supporters will not accept any point of view other than he’s essential to our country, however I do feel it’s important to try.

So for today I’m going to list reason #1:

Trump’s Failure to Prevent Foreign Interference in U.S. Elections

I know, I know, Trumpers think the whole Russia thing is a hoax perpetuated by Liberals, but the fact is every intelligence agency in the country (as well as the intelligence agencies of our allies) agree that Russia has been actively working to manipulate our elections. Trump’s response has basically to do nothing except reinforce the shouts of “hoax” instead of performing his elected duty as President. His actions are a blatant violation of his oath to protect the U.S. Constitution and as a result are treasonous. Conclusion: Voting for a traitor is anathema to what it means to be an American.

So it begins

Imagine a different world. A world where we are all free and by “free” I don’t mean to use the old trope as in “America” the free but I mean free to be who you want, learn what you want, grow into who you want, with the obvious caveat that you harm none.
I guess that will have to be the first sentence of my new blog. After nearly a decade not writing I’m back to it. Sixteen years went sideways by an unexpected disease that went undiagnosed for many years.
What to expect from this new blog? I’m not exactly sure. I intend to improve my writing skills. To express myself. And as previously to challenge myself to be more open and honest.
What’s new?
A desire to describe a more perfect world, the one I think most of us really want to live in.
Goodnight and good luck,
…asm…