Living With Brothers

I never wished for sisters. It’s not something I really thought about. Maybe that’s how we all are. We only know what we know and don’t know anything else. I played with dolls. I wore dresses with ribbons and flowers. I was mostly a normal girl. The main difference that I noticed growing up with brothers was that there was no codling. Moms do that sort of thing, cushion you. Brothers don’t. Brothers roughhouse. They wrestle. We fed the animals. I tried to help them work on cars.

Resilience

My brothers taught me take up for myself. They taught me how to be an individual. I learned to change my bike tire and how to fix a flat. I learned from watching my oldest brother that manners were important, things like saying, thank you and please were expected. I learned from my middle brother that it’s okay sometimes to do things for yourself if you need to, because people won’t always do it the way you want, or won’t always listen to you. I learned to be who you are even in the face of resistance.

I did wish at times I could live closer to my cousins. I missed the times we all got together and played hide and seek in the trees in front of their house. Late at night, when the lightning bugs were out and the grownups drank their coffee, it all seemed magical. We played for hours. During the day we’d play basketball or go fishing in the pond. Here’s an excerpt from a book I’m reading.

Thinking we had to talk to connect, I asked her if she’d rather swim in a pool, a lake, or the ocean. Betsy sat up, dangled her feet off the dock, and said she’d rather swim in the ocean. She grew up going to Florida with her cousins and they’d spend the entire day playing in the waves, poking jellyfish with sticks and eating peanutbutter-and-jelly sandwiches with sand in them. She and her cousins would lie in bed at night and giggle because they could feel their bodies lifting and falling as though they were still in the waves. Those were some of the greatest days of her life. She asked whether I would rather swim in a pool, a lake, or the ocean. I said I’d rather swim in a lake. “Why?” she asked. I said in a lake you didn’t have to deal with the jellyfish and the seaweed and the sharks and whatever else. Betsy thought about that for a moment then reminded me that trying not to get stung by a jellyfish was part of the adventure. Betsy ran her fingers through my hair and kissed me on the forehead. I told her I’d put some jellyfish in the pond if she wanted me to. “It’s worth it to get stung by a jellyfish every once in a while,” Betsy said. “For the occasional sting, you get to go to sleep feeling the waves and you get to giggle with your cousins.” – Scary Close by Donald Miller

Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy

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No Other Name? and There Were a Lot of Names

I’ve called myself agnostic, atheist, and sometimes just not quite sure. But here’s a quote I like that puts it into perspective.

“The Romans called the Christians atheists. Why? Well, the Christians had a god of sorts, but it wasn’t a real god. They didn’t believe in the divinity of apotheosized emperors or Olympian gods. They had a peculiar, different kind of god. So it was very easy to call people who believed in a different kind of god atheists. And that general sense that an atheist is anybody who doesn’t believe exactly as I do prevails in our own time.”  Carl Sagan, “The Varieties of Scientific Experience”

I started writing this piece when the school bombing happened in Pakistan, which wasn’t an entirely religious incident as it turned out. But the holidays happened and I never finished writing the blog and connecting everything. As I went through my writings this week to decide what I wanted to post next, I saw this one and I decided to dot my i’s and cross my t’s as well as I could, and just post the darn thing. And then, more stupidity happens.

Three heavily armed men have attacked a French satirical magazine based in Paris – AlJezeera.com

Cabu died with several other colleagues, alongside the brave policemen who tried to stop the carnage. As the attack took place, the assailants allegedly mentioned their connection to Yemen, and that the “Prophet had been avenged.” – Charlie Hebdo: Are we not allowed to laugh any more?

And now I say that if there is a god,

I hope he/she is at the very least is not a tribal god, either of the sectarian or nationalist version. I hope his name isn’t Odin orThor. Or her name isn’t Freyja, Isis or Hecate. Why? Because these gods are small. They lead small countries and small tribes. If you were not in these tribes you were slaughtered. You were an infidel. Your children were burned, chopped or enslaved. Your wives were raped or tortured. Your crops were destroyed and your houses demolished. You were vermin. Disgusting. Hated. To be stomped, slaughtered, and forgotten. As the old testament states it, the enemy was to be wiped out, to be remembered no more.

If I did find evidence of a tribal god and his existence was proven to me, I could not bow to that god, no matter whether his name be Allah, Jehovah, Jesus, or Ahura-Mazda. My question would be, why can’t you love the kid that lives on the other side of the fence? Is his hair the wrong color?

And what of the Hindus and the people of Nepal? There is even a living goddess. People bring their children to be blessed by this goddess and leave gifts of money or baubles. They have little money, but they give happily. It’s easy for someone who stands on the west side of the world to judge them as deceived as they offer their gifts of money, tokens, or even the blood of goats in honor to their gods. It’s disgusting for a westerner to watch. I don’t like blood. Right? But I just watched the video of the war in Syria and there’s blood bathed bodies lining the streets. Ironically, we would judge saying they are deceived and we are much smarter.

But our god is real, we say

I’ve seen people bring their children forward to be prayed for by pastors. I know that rock star longing to be touched by the visiting preacher. It’s no different. It hasn’t changed from one famous person to the next. It’s been well manipulated in our time and even in times long past.

We need to change some things in this world we live in. Some things need to be off limits. No, I don’t mean the prophet Mohammed. I mean the killing of each other. For what purpose? A drawing? Get real. I used to draw pictures of my teachers. Did they shoot me on the parking lot or the streets of Collinsville? Gun me down?

What can we do?

  • Give to a charity or an organization that helps war-torn nations. United Nations-Refugees
  • Be secular. That doesn’t mean anti-god. It just means, doing something without having to do it in the name of a god. Every time I go to the grocery store or go to work, I don’t pay my bill or pick up my pay check “in the name of my god.” @BeSecular-twitter
  • Speak up when you see injustice.
  • Modify religion. It doesn’t have to be about hate. We all know this. Let’s first check our own hearts for any hatred, then our own religion. Spread love and kindness outwards.

 

Being Chosen, Blessing or a Curse?

Painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme of a veiled Circa...
Painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme of a veiled Circassian (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you like it when you get special attention from your boss? Do you want to be the favored son or daughter? Or is it better to fly under the radar? The sad fact of being special or chosen is that it’s difficult to be known for anything other than your trademark. You’re special. You’re chosen.

I was watching the show Reign, on Netflix this past week and although it’s not true to history, I was enjoying it. It showed King Henry’s two sons, Francis and the bastard, Sebastian. Francis had privilege and status and the future betrothal to Mary,  but the bastard was freedom to take chances and explore. Which made me think of other “chosen” types in history. One big one I think of is the people know to be the most beautiful in history.

The Georgian women, from the North Caucasus mountain region in European Russia, are known for their great beauty. So much so, that families were known for selling their own children for the same price as a horse. They sold as their children as sex slaves, as circus beauties, as sultan harems, or whatever else.

An advertisement from 1782 titled “Bloom of Circassia” makes clear that it was by then well established “that the Circassians are the most beautiful Women in the World”, but goes on to reveal that they “derive not all their Charms from Nature”. They used a concoction supposedly extracted from a vegetable native to Circassia. Knowledge of this “Liquid Bloom” had been brought back by a “well-regarded gentleman” who had traveled and lived in the region. It “instantly gives a Rosy Hue to the Cheeks”, a “lively and animated Bloom of Rural Beauty” that would not disappear in perspiration or handkerchiefs. – Wikipedia Circassian beauties

And then there is this blog, which I’ll only show you the first paragraph, but I’m a geek, so I find these things fascinating. I hope you don’t mind.

A Freakish Whiteness: The Circassian Lady and the Caucasian Fantasy

by Gre­gory Fried
Published March 15, 2013

When I first stum­bled across the photograph repro­duced below, over 15 years ago at an antique show, it struck me as ludi­crous, inex­plic­a­ble, and yet also some­how haunt­ing. Per­haps it was the jux­ta­po­si­tion of the young woman’s abstracted gaze with the absurdly wild mass of hair flam­ing around her head. I found a name, inscribed by pen­cil more than 130 years ago on the back of the pho­to­graph, “Zublia Aggolia,” and a title, “Cir­cass­ian Lady.” Even today, I still know noth­ing about Zublia her­self apart from her name, and even that is not what it seems. Despite that, her por­trait has taken me down a path of dis­cov­ery whose con­nec­tions I would have never guessed.

https://i0.wp.com/mirrorofrace.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/zubliamedium4.jpg
Mirror of race

I don’t want want to be chosen. I don’t want to be special. This is good as it is. Ordinary. Regular. Gotta get up on Monday morning and go to work and all of that kinda of stuff. Right. I’ll let someone else enjoy the limelight. That’s why I will win survive the zombie apocalypse.

And if you are really interested in the subject, I’ve included a YouTube video of a black professor speaking about why white people are called Caucasian.

I’m Not Dead Yet

When I first walked away from Christianity, the one thing that scared me was dying. And the no-life-afterwards stance of Atheism. I felt like a child whose Halloween candy had been stolen. I’ve held on to the opinion that Atheists could be wrong. Denial in the first degree!

People like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens, have stripped away my belief in a separate soul, so what would be left to carry on after my body dies? Energy particles? It’s taken some time and lots of truth seeking. Richard Dawkins attitude has really helped with my perspective. Yeah, I may not have eternity in white robes, but I can live a full life and celebrate every day right now.

“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?” 

Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder

Denying truth doesn’t make it disappear. What happens after I die can’t be prearranged. The events are out of my control. Maybe I’ll be happily surprised with more candy or maybe I won’t. Either way it’s done. Richard Dawkins is right. We are the lucky ones.

The Passion of Hate and Love

There are old relationships that I feel scratching to get out of me, like a chick escaping from an egg. Or maybe I scratch to get out of them and their mental hold. I want to be over them, but they seem to hold on tenaciously, so I’m trying to understand in the best way that I know, by writing. To know someone, know who they love and who they hate. This blog post began as my effort to understand someone.

“I swear to you, then,” said MacIan, after a pause. “I swear to you that nothing shall come between us. I swear to you that nothing shall be in my heart or in my head till our swords clash together. I swear it by the God you have denied, by the Blessed Lady you have blasphemed; I swear it by the seven swords in her heart. I swear it by the Holy Island where my fathers are, by the honour of my mother, by the secret of my people, and by the chalice of the Blood of God.”

The atheist drew up his head. “And I,” he said, “give my word.”

The Ball and the Cross (1909), part II: “The Religion of the Stipendiary Magistrate”, last paragraphs

When I started reading the first paragraph of the G.K. Chesterton’s writing above, “I swear to you, then… swear to you that nothing shall come between us. I swear to you that nothing shall be in my heart or in my head…”  I thought he was talking about love, then he mentioned the sword, “till our swords clash’” and I had to start rereading it in a different context, which made me remember the line,

“There’s a thin line between love and hate. Maybe you’re confusing your emotions.”

Simone Elkeles, Perfect Chemistry

Forgive me for a moment as I share my thought process with a piece of my journal.

Your problem isn’t that you hate so strongly. It’s not that you love so passionately. Your problem is that you feel nothing. And you want to feel it, but it scares you. You’ve turned off your passion because loving something so strongly and wanting it so much makes you a prisoner of that desire and you’ve decided long ago that nothing or no one will hold you hostage.

You once said we hurry ahead of God, like children before their parents. Too excited to stay with the current moment. This was my problem you implied, because I wanted things to happen. I wanted God to move and do his work. I see your waiting and so called patience as not caring, and to me that’s the biggest flaw. To care hurts. We have to be close to someone to care for them. To hate or to love someone means they have power over us. They are the ones who we are open to. We don’t even see anyone but them. These are the only ones we are aligned with, those we love or hate. – JKW

Thorns Before Blooms

I’m not sure if it’s truth or just sometimes true, but I’ve heard the saying, It’s always darkest before the dawn. When I was younger, my favorite time of the day was right before the sunrise. Especially when you can see Venus rising. It always seemed unique like I’m the only one awake. Private showing for me. I love the night sky, and the sunrise is even better.

September marks a very strange time for me.

It’s my birthday month, but beyond that, it was a spiritually dark month for me in 2001. Not because of the Twin Towers destruction on 9/11, although that hit all of us in America pretty hard. But, I had a major depressive episode or nervous breakdown the week of Labor Day in 2001, the week before THE Bad Day of Sept 11. Tuesday, September 4th I sat on my bedroom floor in the middle of a panic attack. My body and mind shut down almost entirely. My husband was out of town, my kids were playing, and our church pastor had left. I finally reached a friend by phone. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what was wrong. My spiritual life didn’t prepare me for this. I felt as if I were Sampson standing between the two pillars, without the strength that I was used to. Before this, I knew what God wanted. I knew the answers. And suddenly I couldn’t even pray.

It took years to climb out.

There’s no easy answer or 10 step program when you meet the devil at the crossroads, and he runs over you with a Mack truck. The formula that ensured success didn’t work. It worked before, but nope, not this time. When your illusions are shattered, there’s nothing you can do but sit. Sit and let it all fall down. Wait for the pillars to fall. Wait for the dust to settle.

A lot of people say it happens for a reason. Well, everything does. Sometimes the reason is as simple as tripping over your own idealism. It’s not a master plan. There’s no design for our lives. We’re born, we live, and we learn. We could pretend. Name a cause just to make everything seem predictable and safe, but I don’t want to do that. I know why it happened. What I thought was a reliable formula for success was only plaster and paint. 

If you imagine the growth of divine consciousness as being like the growth of a rose, then a cutting from the original rose would have to be placed in the earth. It has to be watered by prayer and by devotion and by meditation. It comes up out of the ground, it has to be protected. Then it grows thorns — the thorns of discrimination and wisdom. An Interview With Andrew Harvey – Colleen O’Connor 

If you’ve recently been hit by a Mack truck and your world is falling apart, just let it happen. Get help. Talk to friends. You can make it through. It may not be part of a master plan of divine origins, but it happened. This is life in all of its beauty and horror. Clean up time will come. I know because I made it through and I’m rebuilding. And the sun is rising in the east.

The Promise of a Great Nation

"Jehovah" at Exodus 6:3 (1611 King J...

You would think that if you had a visit from the one and only true god, the one who created the heavens and the earth, and he gave you instructions to build a kingdom, you would think it would be the most amazing kingdom EVER.  This god could tell you where to find gold and diamonds. How to store your food and how to farm your land. Your walls would be built of the best materials. You would know the most effective fighting methods with very little loss of life on your part. I’m referring to Abraham and later Moses and the promise of a great nation made by Jehovah.

There was blood spilling everywhere (not love)

Would he really need to cause a plague to destroy half of the people because one person sinned? One person married a foreigner or kept a piece of gold that they shouldn’t have. Couldn’t he just tell you? Instead of grandeur or wisdom, we see hundreds and thousands of years full of strife, discord, internal fighting and struggles to survive. Famine, war and plague. The methods were no different from the other warring factions surrounding them.

It’s among the same traditions that existed of the day (nothing new)

Some would ask, why are you criticizing god? I’m really not trying to criticize any god. Not Jehovah, Ahura Mazda, Thor, Odin or Ra. What I’m saying is, either this “god” isn’t who he says he is, or more likely, there wasn’t a god that was instructing them to create their society. This could be a story made up by someone, since it’s really not a new way of thinking. Wouldn’t a great god come with a novel idea? Fresh ideas. Ways of acting that were helpful and wise? Maybe even create a society that was different from their neighbors? Like Cyrus the Great did? I take the stand of First John 4:20,

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar.

If the word of god comes down from the god of love, it should show love. Which leaves me with the thought, maybe this promise of a great nation didn’t come from god, but a man and his ego.

If you’re into history of the ancient times, here’s a good podcast, Ancient World podcast.

 

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Secularism and the Founding Fathers

October 14: Washington reviews the army assemb...

Myth: The founding fathers of the Americas were Christian. They are also believed by many to have put the ten commandments in the courthouses and instituted the words “under God” and the pledge of allegiance.

Wikipedia: The Founding Fathers

Historian Richard B. Morris in 1973 identified the following seven figures as the key Founding Fathers: John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay,Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington.[5]

  • John Adams
  • Benjamin Franklin – Deist
  • Alexander Hamilton
  • John Jay
  • Thomas Jefferson – Deist
  • James Madison
  • George Washington – Pantheist

Fact: Even if we insist they were religious, these men were not Fundamentalists. They believed in no religion dominating their daily life. They believed so strongly in separating religion and government that they wrote this need down. This was a priority for them for establishing their government. The church of England left a very bitter taste in their mouths.

The First Amendment begins, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . . ”

Myth: The constitution of the United States of America was based upon the moral principles of the Bible. 

Fact: The pursuit of happiness is no where in the Bible. It’s the opposite. Seeking God and obeying him is in the Bible. There is nothing in the constitution about the Bible, religion, or God’s authority. Why is that?

The 1796 Treaty with Tripoli states that the United States was not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” This was not an idle statement meant to satisfy muslims– they believed it and meant it. This treaty was written under the presidency of George Washington and signed under the presidency of John Adams. – Our Founding Fathers, Freethought

The Bible is based upon the final authority, the chain of command from God down to slaves. It establishes a form of government styled as a dictatorship, kingship, or theistic. The one thing the founding fathers had in common and strongly emphasized was their rebellion to the crown and church of England. Freedom from established religion’s choke hold on people and the government.

http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/

Being Secular is not the opposite of Christianity. Most secular proponents want a separation of church and state. Does that sound familiar?

secularism [ˈsɛkjʊləˌrɪzəm]n

  1. (Philosophy) Philosophy a doctrine that rejects religion, esp in ethics

  2.  the attitude that religion should have no place in civil affairs

  3. the state of being secular

A secularist does not burn crosses, whether upside down or right side up. They don’t hate crosses. They don’t care if you have crosses in your home. Just don’t make their children pledge to your god or your cross. As I’ve heard many of them say, I state now also, “What you do with religion or crosses in your own house is your business. Keep it there.”

 

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The Final Cut of My Dangling Faith

Love is patient, love is kind, This is the Christianity I was taught overtly. The icing and the pretty decoration. The hidden “healthy” side was God is a just God.

First snip – trusting another’s version of the truth

I was walking up the stairs to get to my condo when I overheard my neighbors talking about God. “God only wants you to be healthy. He wants you to be happy and live your life.” I realized how far I’ve come from that statement. I said that many times myself in the last few years and believed it. But contrast that with other people who spout offensive words. God hates >>insert ugly word here<< and will cast them into hell. One person claims God told them to build a building that cost millions of dollars, while another person sells all his stuff, moves to India, and helps dying patients in a leper colony.

Second snip – infallibility of the Bible

For years this dichotomy bothered me. I taught voraciously that it was only about love and our personal relationship with God. Maybe I didn’t cling to the infallibility of the Bible, but I had my Jesus. I had a friend. Until…

Third snip – my friend in Jesus

With all the erosion that happened in my spiritual life, the last connection was my personal relationship with Jesus. This is what holds most people in Christianity. That feeling that no one wants to let go of. “But I know He’s real. He comforts me.” And yes it often feels that someone is holding you, even smiling lovingly on you. Here’s the counter, each person that tells you that they know what God expects, is only mirroring what they believe already. Those that are loving believe in a loving god. Those that are critical believe in God’s judgement. And He’s not here to correct them. The only proof we have is the Bible and our inner conviction.

My faith dangled 

Where’s my proof that I really am not hearing from God or being comforted by him? Derren Brown showed me how it is done. How To Convert an Atheist – short version.  In his simple demonstration with a non believing girl, he showed how quickly it can develop.

  • First, picture a loving father. He picks up his child and holds her tight and kisses her boo boos away.
  • Second, imagine the awe and wonder of life. The grand plan of the universe and it’s beauty.
  • Third, bring the feeling of being loved by that wonderful father together with the awe and wonder.

Poof! She felt it. I felt it. This is how it was for me almost exactly. Preacher after preacher. Song after song. Just as Derren Brown brought those concepts together in the atheist’s mind so did my influences. That was when I realized, there may not really be anyone there. Here’s a link to the full version, Full Version-Fear and Faith part 2.

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Society Changes

Society adapts over the years. Styles change like the seasons. Hemlines, sleeve lengths, fabric weights, these are all expressions we allow ourselves as humans.

Religion constrains. The Bible has strict guidelines, laws not generalizations . The rules don’t adapt. They are like a Polaroid snapshot that over time loses its relevance. 20 years ago that was a crisp photo of you in front of your first car. The memory is forever etched in your mind as well as on the photo. The car however is not as relevant. If you have it still today, it’s taken some work to keep it looking new. And if you compare it to the cars on the highway, no matter how good of shape it’s in, it’s not a current model.

Here are a few misquoted and misunderstood “truths”

  • Jesus taught us to love our neighbors. He was referring to the old testament’s teaching of taking care of your own family and tribe.  Under Jewish customs, you never charged usury or interest to your people, the Jews.
  • Jesus taught others to walk the extra mile as a way to get along in society. His homeland was overrun by multiple armies. To stay alive, it was better to swallow your pride and walk the extra mile. It wasn’t about love for a foreigner. And it wasn’t about loving your neighbor.
  • Religion meets the need of governing people to build society. It’s an infrastructure of the people. That was its original purpose, as well as to explain all the unexplained. Thunder is a god bowling.
  • I once believed that Christianity was God reaching out to man instead of man reaching God. We have the only divine word and the only instance of God reaching out to man.  All religions claim this.  In Judaism,  God spoke to Abram. And Mohammed. And Oral Roberts. And the crazy lady that drowned her children.
  • God doesn’t change. But I can read many times over that God changes his mind. If he keeps changing his mind, then who’s to know what to believe? Paul’s teachings don’t match those of most Christians today, but they are still considered the words of God. So who is wrong? Society, modern Christianity or the older teachings?
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