Tag Archives: religion

Its Not a Right if the Doors are Barred

Locked Gates

I got a bit of a reality check this week.  I needed to make an appointment with an OB/Gyn for a procedure my regular physician couldn’t do.  I was annoyed with an unprofessional behavior by the receptionist at this doctor’s office and wanted to look into other doctors that might be an option.  So, I looked through the directory on my insurance company’s page.  What I discovered in this search was quite a bit beyond disturbing.  Shy of driving all the way into either Seattle or Kirkland (both over 60 miles from where I live), the office my doctor referred me to is one of only two OB/Gyn clinic/hospital that is not owned by the Catholic church.   Even Swedish has recently been bought into by the church, though they are stating that the church is allowing them to remain secular in their treatment (though I am sure that will change rapidly).  They are also attempting to buy into UW medicine.

Now granted, I am past my childbearing period of life, so I don’t personally have need of birth control or abortion services.  But, I am a woman and that makes this a vital issue to me.  I do not believe that my medical care should be governed by a religious doctrine I don’t believe in and has absolutely no merit in science or human rights for that matter.  And I also understand that there are far more issues than just birth control and abortion and many fertility treatments, though those two would be enough for me to want to take up the sword and do battle over.

We are in a time when many efforts are underway across the country to curtail and block women’s access to reproductive health options.  One of the more common attempts being waged right now is the demand that an abortion clinic have admitting rights to a hospital within a specified radius.  Even if such a demand had a merit based in medical science or evidence of a need, which there isn’t, such an admitting right would be denied by any religious owned hospital.  I am lucky that there is ONE, count them ONE hospital in a 50 mile radius that is not owned by the Catholic Church.  Most of these hospitals have been purchased by this church in the last handful of years.  Funny how that works out, doesn’t it?

The Catholic church has made a particular focus on buying up hospitals and clinics in areas that have a tolerant and diverse population that is not about to pass legislation limiting a woman’s access to reproductive services nor a gay’s right to marriage and the rights that go with that.  The solution?  Buy the clinics where you can impose the Bishop’s Directives on the staff and the treatment.  Its a fun little read.  Guaranteed to even set the hair on many Christians, nay, even the Catholics on end when they realize how little control they have over their bodies when in the hands of these people (estimated 99% of married Catholic women have used birth control).  You can read it here.
Ethical-Religious-Directives-Catholic-Health-Care-Services-fifth-edition-2009

lcopl_005a (300).tif Children's dining room at Sean Ross Abbey
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Children’s dining room at Sean Ross Abbey

And somehow, in allowing these buy ups to happen, we have once again fallen into the pit of forgetting history.  There was a time when medicine (such as it was then) was under the jurisdiction and iron thumb of the church.  The orphanages as well.  So long as you were born of “legitimate” parents.

British workhouses“And in general, the only provision for illegitimate babies was the parish poorhouses or, from 1722, the workhouses where they frequently died of neglect. Mortality rates were extremely high: over 74% of children born in London died before they were five. In workhouses the death rate increased to over 90%.”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/victorians/foundling_01.shtml

Oh, but that was ancient history, you say. (actually not all that ancient, but the really ancient history is far more violent).  But the church has changed and is now a source of goodness and charity and compassion you say?  Remember Mother Teresa, you say?  Alas, she has been shown to be as much of a sham as the rest of the church’s doings.  Seems she collected millions motherteresaand millions in charitable donations to allow the patients in her charge to die in suffering and squalor.  But, she lived as they did, you say.  No, she did not.  When she needed medical care, she got the best there
was.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/04/mother-teresa-myth_n_2805697.html

Then we have the church’s white slavery of young girls.  The Magdalene Laundries.  Again, not so ancient history.  Maybe this is what they have in mind when they are taking over the women’s clinics, hospitals and other medical establishments.  They are getting tired of doing their own dirty laundry.Catholic Magdalene

“The Good Shepherd Sisters, a Roman Catholic religious institute for women, is one of the orders being charged with the enslavement and abuse of thousands of women in what are called “Magdalene Laundries.”  Last one closing in 1996”
http://www.irishcentral.com/news/american-survivor-of-magdalene-laundries-in-the-united-states-speaks-out-190655121-237564601.html

Now, I don’t care what a person believes.  But, I do care when they bully their way into my access to proper medical care and impose their archaic and ignorant beliefs on what treatments I may or may not be allowed to receive.  I take huge issue with their buying up hospitals for what I believe to be the sole purpose of barring me and other women and men for that matter from accessing the care we have a right to.  Care our insurance gives us the coverage for.
you-can-worship-rock-for-all-i-care-just-dont-throw-it-at-me-atheism-religion-agnosticism-600x449
No, I am not of child bearing years and that part does not affect me personally.  But, it does affect my daughter, my friends and their children.  Not only does their doctrine prohibit abortion and contraception, it also prohibits IVF and any fertility treatment that doesn’t include sexual intercourse.  Which really baffles me coming from a church whose priests and nuns take a vow of celibacy.  Not that the priests actually hold to that, unless you disallow it as sex if it involves raping young children.

But, I also live in a state that should I become terminally ill, I have the legal right to have a doctor issue me a lethal dose of medication if I want to end my suffering.  Their “doctrine” will not allow that doctor to grant me my legal rights that were voted in.  Plus, they have the right to decide if the plug is pulled.  Their doctrine does not allow for research with stem cells, fetal tissues.  Their doctrine does not allow for science.  Their doctrine does not allow for progress.  Their doctrine will take us back to leeches and bloodletting (and yes, I know there are some instances where those are used in modern medicine now).

All this coming from a church who claims a “moral high ground” and says their concern is to save lives.  A church who when they held the hospitals and orphanages in their control, threw out orphans into the street if their parents weren’t married.  Imprisoned young women in sweatshop slavery if they got pregnant.  Ran hospitals for the dying where they didn’t even offer them pain relieving medicine or any comforts.  Why?????  Because they believe suffering brings one closer to “God”.  Ya know?  I really don’t want to be close to something that wants me to suffer like that first and I really don’t understand why anyone would.

I am the mother of a  gay son.   A son who is one of the most amazing blessings I have had in my life.  A son who deserves to be treated with the same respect, the same dignity, the same relevance as anyone else.   There is no doubt in my mind that it is only a matter of time until they refuse him and his friends to be at their partner’s dying bedside because it is against their beliefs.  Sooner if one of the Rabid Republicans takes office this election.  Add to that their refusing to offer medical aid to the LGBT community.  If they will turn away children born out of wedlock, they will turn away gays.  They have already begun to petition for this “right”.

Women fought for the right to vote, the right to have control over our bodies, the right to make choices.  Gays have also fought for such rights.  People of color, of different religions, no religion have fought for the right to live free and independent lives.  To have reasonable choices available.It-Votes

When a hospital enters the private sector, accepts patients of different faiths, accepts their insurance payments, the government grants and monies allotted by the government, they are obligated to set aside their religious beliefs.  They must serve the people according to their patient’s beliefs.  Or they must withdraw from the hospitals that serve us.

We have the right to be treated within the law, within our wishes and understanding of our bodies.  We have the right to be treated with science, not superstition.  We have fought for those rights and earned them.  Alas, the rights aren’t worth the paper they are written on when there are those that can bar the doors.

Sephi PiderWitch
02/18/2016
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How can these religious/secular hospital mergers affect patients?

When secular (non-religious) community hospitals merge with religiously-sponsored hospitals and agree to adopt religious restrictions, patients can suddenly discover they have lost access to vital reproductive health care services and may encounter interference with the ability to make decisions about end-of-life care.
http://www.mergerwatch.org/about-hospital-mergers/

Under the directives, the reality for women who find themselves at a Catholic hospital means they have:

  • No access to abortion—even in cases of rape or incest (Directive 45)
  • No access to in-vitro fertilization (Directives 37, 38, 39)
  • No access to contraception (Directive 52)
  • No treatment for ectopic pregnancy (Directive 48)
  • None of the benefits of embryonic stem-cell research (Directive 51)
  • No respect for their advance medical directives (Directive 24)

The sole exception to the ban on contraception falls under Directive 36, which only allows the provision of emergency contraception (EC) in cases of sexual assault when it can be proven that pregnancy has not occurred. This creates an unnecessary restriction, as EC does not interfere with the implantation of a fertilized egg. Evidence also suggests that many Catholic hospitals rarely provide EC even under the circumstances approved by the directives. A 2006 study found that 35 percent of Catholic hospitals did not provide EC under any circumstances, while 47 percent refused to provide referrals to hospitals that did. Of those that provided referrals, only 47 percent of these led to a hospital that actually provided EC.
http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/12/04/how-the-bishops-directives-derail-medical-decisions-at-catholic-hospitals/

 

 

 

Danger Zone of Blind Devotion

web-trump-gun-get“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue [New York] and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,” he said. “It’s, like, incredible.” Donald Trump – January, 2016

This is NOT an anti-Trump post, though there is no doubt how I feel about the man.  He is an obnoxious racist, sexist, arrogant megalomaniac who lacks any diplomatic savvy, respect or decorum.  And it is NOT an anti-gun spiel.  I’m not anti gun. I just believe in rational restrictions on them.

This is about something different.  Something that it took his latest tyrade comment to bring to light.  Allow his comment to sink in for just a bit.  Really sink in.  He could stand on 5th Avenue and shoot someone and not lose voters.  There is no disclaimer about self defense, no reason given.  Just that he could shoot any unnamed person on a city street and not lose voters.  Is it beginning to sink in yet?  Take Trump’s face out of the picture and replace it with any other politician, then put the words back in.   “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue [New York] and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters, It’s, like, incredible.”

The thing that frightens me is that I believe he is far too accurate in his statement for my comfort.  Not because of “him”, but because this country that has prided itself on independence, freedom, originality, would BLINDLY follow ANY leader, potential leader.  Tossing aside their beliefs, their morals, their common sense.  That so many could applaud and cheer a man after making such a statement.

Now, please don’t tell me it was in jest.  Maybe it was.  But, there was truth in his words.  And it is the truth that should make us step back and take a good long look at what we have become as a people.  That we have gone from a people that honors and touts virtuous behavior, being a champion for good and equality in the world, being the innovative front runners, being educational and science pioneers.  We didn’t achieve these things in our past by blindly following the Reality Show flavor of the month.  We did so by NOT following a self proclaimed messiah.

Oh, we have had small factions surface with blind devotees.  Scientologists, Jonestown, etc.  And they should serve as a reminder to us of what comes of following such people.  First, the death of the spirit, then the death of freedom, then just death.

Orazco-MassesNow, as much as many would like to hang this around Trump’s neck, the reality is that he has simply brought to light a phenomenon that has been taking place in our society for quite some time.  And he is not alone in claiming the reprehensible of the presidential nominees.  We have one that has actually bragged that he tried to attack his own mother with a hammer, that he knifed a fellow student in school.  A few that would set Christianity as the national religion.  In this land of Jews and Christians and Muslims and Buddhists and Pagans and Atheists and everything else.  In this melting pot, they would make a single dish.

When you add to that the extremes at both ends of the spectrum, the militant combativeness of one side, the don’t say anything that might be uncomfortable to anyone’s ears on the other, it is not surprising that we are seeing the rise of extreme characters in the forums.  I have even heard that there are university campuses where free speech zones are in small isolated areas, professors are being forced to not teach areas of a subject because a student has a problem with the subject.  Colleges and universities should be a place for debating difficult subjects and not liking a historical event doesn’t negate that it happened.  And then we have the other end which takes up armed occupations of federal lands and believes the meaning of religious freedom is the ability to impose your religious beliefs on everyone else.

It kind of feels like most of the country has regressed to childhood tantrums between the bullies and the cry babies.  Common sense has just been tossed out the window.  The lines have been drawn deeply between us and not a one will allow for any blurring of those lines so that we might open a thoughtful discussion, even a loud and shouting one that can lead to some constructive movement.  We needn’t give up who we are, what we believe in, to live together.  It isn’t necessary for our neighbors to share in our beliefs.  In truth, if we but open our minds and hearts a little, we might see the color they bring to our world.  Their form of worship, or lack of, only poses a threat to yours if you create one.  And as you would fight should they try and deprive you of your right to live according to your mores and interests, so should you refrain from imposing yours upon them.

obedience-300x238Saviors are a false delusion.  In most instances, they become a very dangerous delusion that lead us into destruction.  History is riddled with volumes of examples of such people.  And, as I stated earlier, as much as I would like to hang the villain tag around Trump’s neck, the truth is that it could be anyone that has elicited such a following.  Even if they begin with good intents.  The kind of devotion they create births a messiah delusion that will soon infect them as much as it infects its followers.  And absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Every time.

And we don’t need a messiah.  We don’t need someone that we will follow blindly, no matter what they do or have done.  Our “leaders” should be our voices condensed.  They should speak the voice of the people, all the people.  We need to stop listening to their message of fear and hate and remember that we are a people diverse, yet united.  We need to remember that our motto is E Pluribus Unum, Out of the Many, One.  We are an independent and freedom loving people.  We are not followers.  No leader of ours should EVER be followed blindly.  No leader of ours should ever be above question.  Our citizens should never follow blindly.

There is a reason the eagle is our national symbol.  He follows no one blindly.

Eagle-December 30, 2015 Lo-46

 

 

 

 

 

 

SephiPiderWitch
02/01/2016

 

2016 – Connection

Happy New Year 2016 replace 2015 concept on the sea beach

I haven’t quite started this new year off well.  Weeks late on a first post and a couple weeks behind on my weekly photo shots.  Ah well, better late than never.

In closing the book on the old year, it feels good to move forward and hope for the best.  For many, for the world, 2015 had been a very rough year.  People being shot for drawing pictures some found offensive, people being shot for no good reason.  Rivers of hate speech flowing from every corner of the earth, from the pulpits, the media, the high level politicians.  Cries of persecution from the persecutors,   The only right that seems to be protected is the right to hate, to denigrate to second class citizen any who don’t share the beliefs of the bullies.

One would think that by this time we had figured out how to learn from history, but it appears to not be the case.  We  point fingers at one group, yet fail to see those same behaviors in ourselves.  Too blinded by the hate frenzy to see the very human face of the person we will throw under the bus.   Adding fuel to the already blazing inferno, we are in an electronic propaganda war where we are fed snippets that are either partial truths or outright lies.

And this, I believe, is the biggest part of the problem.  We no longer connect.  We no longer touch.   We are too busy looking at our computers, our TV screens, our tablets to see the humans before us, around us, that are us.  We do almost everything from an electronic device.  We get our news from Facebook and Twitter and even the news outlets have gone to a captioned image format.  And, as is the case and purpose of headlines, we are fed bites to incite, inflame, stir.

That has always been the case with the news and many other introductory arenas.  What is different now is that it seems that is all that is consumed before moving on.  There used to be discussions, in the coffee houses, at dinner, at breakfast, at parties and gatherings.   The story was read beyond the headline, the person was questioned beyond the introduction.  Conversation was a vital ingredient.  Understanding the issue was a vital ingredient.  The headline was simply to get your attention.  You were supposed to read further, to seek understanding, knowledge, insight.

I miss long conversations with friends around a table.  I miss long conversations on the phone with a dear friend.  As dated as it makes me, I miss a written correspondence from a friend.  And I miss the e-mail lists where there were discussions on issues, happenings,

People say it is just a sign of the changes of the times.  However, not all changes are good.  And though technology is, for the most part, a good thing, even a good thing misused can become a bad thing.  We read our smart phones and get our news from twitter, have our emotions jarred by memes on Facebook and get our smiles from kitten videos.  If we can’t say it in less than 140 characters, we know no one will trouble themselves to read it.  I actually listened to a man at my writing group the other night say that he kept the chapters in his book to only a few pages because publishers say that is the extent of a reader’s attention span.  Really???  I sincerely hope that is not true.

There have been a number of recent articles on what we have lost with the loss of letter writing.

I found this in the Guardian (http://www.theguardian.com/culture/charlottehigginsblog/2012/oct/23/lost-art-letter-writing)

But still… O’Connell quotes this lovely passage from a piece by Catherine Field in the New York Times.

“A good handwritten letter is a creative act, and not just because it is a visual and tactile pleasure. It is a deliberate act of exposure, a form of vulnerability, because handwriting opens a window on the soul in a way that cyber communication can never do. You savor their arrival and later take care to place them in a box for safe keeping.These things, letters we can hold and read over and over again, conversations that inspire, delight, fuel us.”

Words are the keys to our hearts.  They are the cement that bonds people together as they speak and learn and share and understand.  They are a stew pot whose ingredients alone are a bland or harsh side dish, but when combined, form a sustaining meal that will nourish the soul.

You look at the political arena, the News Media, the Pulpit  and from their words believe that we are all galaxies apart.  Aliens living in a segregated landscape that is separated by a vast divide, impossible to cross.  And because we don’t look up from that picture, we buy into it.  We turn from people whose beliefs differ from ours, whose political stand differ from ours.  The reality is that in most cases, if we can step away from those issues that divide and simply extend our hand in friendship, sit down and have a cup of coffee, share stories, and find common ground, we may find in most cases, we aren’t so different.  We may find that we have missed that simple connection of laughing with a new friend.  And blur that edge that a few have set between us to divide us.  It is far more difficult (though not impossible) to hate someone you know than it is to hate a stranger.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.  But, I can hope for a New Year’s solution.  That we add a bit of the old back into the new.  That along with our smart phones and Facebooks and electronic gizmos, that we have a long phone call, take a walk in the woods, catch up with old friends, meet some new ones, some of whom don’t share our beliefs.  Find a divide and cross it.  Our real country motto is, Out of many, one.  We destroy hate when we blur the lines.  We blur the lines when we reach out to each other and touch.  When we touch, the divide goes away and those that would teach hate lose their power.

Holding Hands

Sephi PiderWitch
01/18/2016

 

Mortality by Christopher Hitchens

Mortality by Christopher HitchensI knew this book was going to be a difficult read when I picked it up.  The surprising thing was that I picked it up at the small local library.  Makes me wonder if they knew who Hitch was before adding it to their shelves.  Maybe they did and that would seriously elevate them in my opinion.

The title, “Mortality”, pretty much tells you what the book is about.  And given that it is written by Hitchens will tell anyone who knows anything about him that he handled this as he handled everything else he wrote or spoke about.  With brutal honesty.

Through the short book, Hitchens takes us on the journey that was to be the rest of his life, the tests, the radiation, the sickness, the effects and tolls it takes on his body.  Christopher Hitchens was diagnose with Esophageal cancer in 2010.  To one of the most erudite speakers of modern times, I can’t imagine a worse place he could have been inflicted.

The book is hearbreaking in its honesty, as Hitchen’s not only recounts ancedotes from office visits, the treatements, the doctors, caregivers.  He also shares the vileness that people can reach even when a person is down by sharing some of the hate mail he received, the betrayals of people baiting his misfortune to fuel their agenda,  i.e. ending an interview with comments about just rewards from God,

Though I am not  surprised, I am grateful to Hitchens for writing such a painfully honest book about dying, about the fraility of the human body and the very human scream that “I wasn’t finished yet!”
We lost a wordsmith of the highest degree when we lost Hitchens and a debater that knew few, if any rivals.  And we lost a man who cared very deeply about his fellow human beings, his world and leaving it a better place than when he entered.

We haven’t heard the last from him though.  He left many writings that haven’t been published.  And his wife’s afterward tells you that she will begin to work on giving us all he wanted to share with the world.

Mortality is a brilliant book that will inflame you, touch you, bring a tear to your eye and a fire in your heart.  Whether you believe, or don’t believe, as Christoper did, and even more if you do not, it will give you a glimpse into the true humanity of the man many know simply as “Hitch.”

SephiPiderWitch
01/07/2016

 

Plain Red Wrappings

This year's holiday season red cups at Starbucks have stirred up critics who accuse the company of waging a war on Christmas.Sometimes ridiculous just hits levels that cause you to give yourself whiplash from how sharply you jerk your head to the side in disbelief.  The latest such case is the one about the new Starbucks Holiday cup.  And it is being condemned by the religious community at large all the way up to presidential candidates as the latest assault on the “War on Christmas”.  And what is so very shocking about this inflammatory cup, one may ask.  Its simply red with the Starbucks logo on it in green.  Well, what else is there that is causing such a controversy?  Nothing.  Yes, but what is the source of the reason for the controversy?  NOTHING.   Literally, NOTHING.

It seems if you choose to opt out of choosing sides, of trying to decide what images will or won’t inflame someone, or some group out there, and go with a plain, undecorated (aside from the company logo) red cup, you have declared War on Christmas and a War on Christianity.

Originally, I was just going to laugh this whole thing off.  However after giving it some thought, I realized that this has presented probably the most glaring example of how ridiculous this whole accusation has become.  And reading some of the comments people left on the news item clearly shows that I was not the only one that found it placed very firmly beyond the extreme line.

The truth is that it seems almost like the opposite of the Draw Mohammed thing.  Draw any depiction of him in any form and you can be put to death.  Well, if you fail to offer the appropriate supplications to the glitter god of Christianity, you will be picketed, persecuted, publicly shamed.  (Though they all still seem to be using the internet, google and all those other very convenient tools created by the apostates and heretics)

Granted, we have not yet progressed to the point of putting people to death for their beliefs, though the talk of such things gets louder and from a greater number of pulpits.  I suppose time will tell on this.

Now, I can’t profess to know what the execs at Starbucks were thinking when they came out with the plain red cup.  If I was to follow my logic, it would be that they chose this as a way of avoiding the firestorm that any symbol/s they might choose to grace their cups with.    And I have to imagine that they were probably found sitting around that same conference table after the shitstorm began scratching their heads and saying, “How they hell did they get to War on Christmas from a plain red cup?”

Note to Christians.  Failure to bow before your “god” is NOT a war on your holiday or your religion.  It is simply a person choosing not to subscribe to your belief.  Acknowledgement that there are many that do not share your belief and honoring them with a blank slate to create their own is NOT a war on “your” tradition.  They gave you a blank cup.  You can draw anything on it that you want.  Or nothing.  Your religious beliefs are not being restricted and persecuted because you cannot force the entire country to bend to them.

This whole thing would be funnier than hell if it wasn’t so common and being pushed at such high levels.  We even have presidential candidates that have said if they are elected, Everyone will say “Merry Christmas”.  I wish people would really sit down and let that sink in for a bit.  EVERYONE will say “Merry Christmas”.  How different is this than the countries that control and prosecute non-Muslims?  Maybe we aren’t throwing them in jail or executing them.  Or at least not yet.  It is only a difference by degree, and that degree is becoming closer and closer all the time.  That is a truly scary notion.

This season doesn’t just belong to one religion, one belief.  It belongs to almost all beliefs.  The blank slate of the red cup at Starbucks gives everyone the canvas to celebrate what it means to them.  I don’t know if that is what their intent is.  Or if it was a stepping back.  Or if it was just plain cheaper.  But, I do not believe it was a war on the season.  Its just a red and green cup for the season that will hold a hot beverage to warm you on a cold day.  Granted, its an overpriced hot beverage.  But, its simply a hot cup.   That’s red with a green logo.  There are far greater things in this world that need our energies.  A red cup does not.

And to end, just a little sampling of some of the celebrations for the closing of the year.

[easyrotator]erc_46_1447689635[/easyrotator]

 

 

Godless Grace – David Orenstein Phd., Linda Ford Blaikie L.C.S.W.

Godless GraceI received this book as a giveaway from Library Thing.  I had heard about it previously from atheist podcasts I listen to and it sounded very interesting.  So, I was very pleased when I got the notice that I had won a copy of it for review.

Alas, the joy didn’t last long.  I had such hopes for this book.  I had believe it was being written to give a kinder face to non-believers, a book that people could pick up and find a kind face put on a group that has been marginalized and demonized.  A group that I can count myself among.

Its not that the book isn’t well researched and well written.  It is.  But, it is written like a research paper.  Its clinical and sanitary and the perfect cure for insomnia.  The sections on individual people that were interviewed for the project read like the short biography on the back of a novel or a seminar pamphlet introducing the speakers.  Coupled with that, it is weighed down heavily with statistics and data and wells of clinical observations, complete with charts and tables.

It is not that the information between the covers of this book is not valuable.  I am sure that it is.  However, as something to be offered up to the public to give a human face, a common face to this community of people, it falls flat on its face.  There are no personal interviews, no amusing anecdotes, no humor, no personality that shines from these pages.   The truth is that the lack of these human elements only reinforce the stereotype that non-believers are lacking in empathy, good will . . . humanity.

It may be that they should have turned their data over to a writer and not a scientist.  Someone who could take it out of the lab and into the world where life is lived out loud and not in a test tube or on a spreadsheet.

SephiPiderWitch
08/10/2015

 

Sin

Sin

Sin – According to the dictionary a sin is:

1.  transgression of divine law:  the sin of Adam.
2.  any act regarded as such a transgression, especially a willful or deliberate violation of some religious or moral principle.
3.  any reprehensible or regrettable action, behavior, lapse, etc.; great fault or offense

We are living in a time where Nones (people who claim either no religion, or don’t identify with any religion) are at an all time high, counting between 22% and 31% of the population.  Yet, in the face of this, it seems every politician, and an unbelievable number of the news outlets are pounding us with their religiosity and infusing every story, every commentary, every interview with litanies of sermonesse speeches akin to what you would expect from an evangelical fire and brimstone pulpit.  And SIN seems to be one of their favorite admonishments to season their argument with.

Even given that you are applying only the biblical definition of sin which comprises the Judeo/Christian community, again of which between 22 and 31% of the population no longer embraces or is not a member of, you are talking about 613 laws.  And for those saying that the Old Testament doesn’t apply because of Jesus, I tell them they need to read their book again.  For it says that Jesus said that you must keep the laws of the Father.  He didn’t wipe out those laws. Though, we should make a strong note of something else he said.  Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.That gives us 613 of those blasted things that we must avoid doing.  Most of which have no bearing on modern society and I doubt even the Pope can avoid breaking many of them.  However, even if they could be given a bearing in modern society, just the enormity of it can make any person’s brain ache.  613 laws???  Okay, I’m sure every state’s penal codes have more than that.  But, how many of us bother to learn, more yet try and abide by all of them?  And some of those are just as silly as the ones in the bible.  And to any Christian that happens upon this, if you take offense at such a statement, you obviously haven’t read some of those laws.  “Not to make human forms even for decorative purposes.”  There goes the family portraits!  “Men cannot shave their face with a razor.”  Guess its time to start sharpening those stone blades!  “Not to eat from that which is left over.”  Well, there went MY lunch plans.  There’s a lot more of them if you  care to look them up.  And again, they are not just for Jews.  Jesus said you have to keep the laws of his father.  So, that means Christians need to keep these laws too.  Might do for them to remember that when they point accusatory fingers at gays and women.

However, I must say that if we go with the first definition, at Eve’s bequest, Adam ate of the tree of knowledge, and so was born “original sin”.  By biblical accounts and the interpretations of a large percentage of Christian ministers, because of this act relayed in the “beginning”, we all hold the past due loan of “original sin”.  For this, we come into life with the deck already stacked against us.  A “bastard child” cannot get into heaven, nor can his descendants for 10 generations.  There are others as well, but the point is, you could live a sin free and pure life (though I am at a loss to figure out how) but may still find yourself barred entrance into this “heaven” based on something your great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather did.  Heaven has to be one damned empty hall, if you ask me.

However, let us return to  that first sin.  The sin of of eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge.  I try to wrap my head around this concept.  The sin that has been passed down to us from the “first parents” is the sin of choosing knowledge.  Never mind the fact that the deck was stacked against us in this as well.  You have Satan in that garden of Eden, dangling this delicacy of knowledge in front of Eve.  If it was so forbidden, why was it in the garden in the first place?  It was the original set up.  How could we possibly refuse?

For knowledge, we are damned, as are our children, and their children, and their children, forever.  So, if that is the primary definition of sin, I wish to be at the front of the line.  Though it actually does explain much in the current trend of the more fundamental states in their opposition to critical thinking, science denial and insane levels of denialism and mis-information.  I guess they are figuring if they go back to original sin and deny the value of knowledge, they can worm their way into heaven.  And I must say that I take a great deal of satisfaction in the realization that it was woman who first chose knowledge and then wished her man to become knowledgeable as well.  Course, this could also explain why so many men like dumb women.  They are trying to turn back the clocks of time.  Proof again that a woman with knowledge is a truly dangerous thing!

I would think the last place I would want to spend eternity is with stupid people!  Actually, when you add this in with the other things that are said about heaven, no earthly body (= no sex), eternity worshiping God (worship someone?  Me???  Yeah, that one ain’t gonna happen)  singing hymns forever (gads, nooooo!!) and no knowledge.  Yeah, I want a ticket to the other place where I can sit around and shoot the shit with Mark Twain, Bono, Tesla, Sagan, and all the rest of the godless ones.  Now, that’s a party, even if it is hot.  Or cold.  Whichever.

Which actually brings me to my point in writing this.  The reality is that when we look at the actions that have been deemed “sins”, it gets rather entertaining.  It almost seems as if pretty much everything that is pleasurable is a sin.  Hell, I can’t even have lustful thoughts about the men wandering around in kilts at the Highland Games.  And if pretty much all acts of pleasure are sins (we did mention knowledge is a sin, didn’t we?) what is the purpose of life?  To spend it with dangly bits of chocolate and feathers and jars of massage cream wavering in front of us and never reaching out to pluck one?  That’s pretty damned inhuman if you ask me!

Thankfully, we can walk away from the Judaeo/Christian God and take a look at other religions (should you have the need or desire for a personal god and religion).  Yeah, you have Islam, but that is also an Abrahamic religion with near identical stuff that the bible has.  Oh, except for the 72 virgins part.  I don’t recall reading that one in the bible.  Though god did offer all the virgins of a taken city to the victors.  Damned nice of him, don’t you think?  And yet another way for him to teach those uppity females who wanted wisdom.

There are other, somewhat more rational belief structures out there.  Buddhism, which has no reference for sin.  It does, however, have Karma.  You do bad, it will bite you in the ass.  Same for good.  Its not really magic.  Its simply common sense.  When you are nice to people, it tends to make both of you feel good and fulfilled.  Happiness and kindness are contagious.  As are unhappiness and cruelty.  All you need do to prove or disprove this one is to walk into a room full of people and begin greeting everyone with a warm smile and kind word.  One person in a room with the right attitude can change the entire atmosphere.  The same applies if they are angry.  So, karma is the world we create.

If we abuse our land, our planet, it begins to turn on us, failing to produce food in the same way  If we dump poisons in our water, we also poison our bodies.  If we show a complete disregard for our fellow human being, we will be left without real friends.  If we lovingly tend our little piece of earth, things will grow.  And yes, its also a scientific principle.  For ever action, there is an equal reaction.  What you put out comes back.

This is a much more logical and acceptable rationale to me.  I don’t need a god or a book to tell me these things.  I don’t need a promise of a reward in an afterlife (especially with a bunch of out of tune hoohaws that think ignorance is a godly trait).  I don’t need a bible to teach me to be a good person.  I just need to realize that I feel good when I do good, I feel blessed when I help, change, and live life.

Do I believe in “sin”?  Absolutely!  But, not in the definition handed down by the churches or the media.  My son loving another man is not a sin.  I reject ANY god that says that love is a sin.  If its between two consenting adults, it is just love.  My friends that love in ways that I don’t understand, those aren’t sins either.  I don’t need to understand them for them to be all right and good.  If it makes their hearts glow, their insides warm and their spirits soar, it isn’t a sin.  Choosing when I am ready to bring a life into the world is not a sin.  It is choosing not to bring a child that is not wanted, can’t be cared for.  It is waiting until the time when I am ready to make that commitment.  Having control over my body, the decisions of my body is not a sin.  It is my right.  Choosing who I have a relationship is not a sin.  Whether it be one or one hundred or more.  (though it does become a sin in my eyes if you knowingly pass on an STD in this manner)

So, what is a sin?  To me, a sin is the willful destruction of your planet for profit.  Its harming a child.  Its harming your partner.  Its imposing your belief on others.  Its in not rejoicing in this short journey we call life.  Its in not trying to make it a better place than you found it.
Even if it is a tiny, minuscule improvement.  Its a sin not to breath the life in and let it fill you up and then exhale it in a song of joy.

I don’t know if there is a god.  If there is, I am sure they don’t give much thought to me.  But, IF there is one, the only one that I can put my belief into is one that wants me to relish the life they gave me.  One that wants me to live every second as if its all there is.  One that sent me here to love.  Not by a narrow definition, but fully, completely and with every cell of my being.  Not one thing, but everything.  I reject a god that would condemn love.  I reject a god that condemns knowledge and wisdom.  I show the hand to a god that lays 613 laws for me to follow.  “That” is a sin.  A sin against life.  A sin against love.  A sin in the truest sense.

SephiPiderWitch
July 3, 2015

 

 

Ruby by Cynthia Bond

Ruby by Cynthia BondWow does not even begin to cover this book!  Cynthia Bond is a Storyteller of the highest degree.  She softly invites you to take a seat next to her so she can tell you something and gives you a taste of her tale.  You sit down and she slowly wraps a blanket of words about your shoulders, the sounds entering your flesh and mixing with your blood to travel to your heart.   Her lips busy speaking the words to guide more threads into the pattern.  She is not just telling you the story, she is making the story a part of your very soul.  The primal word thoughts of Ruby draw forth forgotten memories that live in all of us.  Magical words, desperate words, joyful words and painful words.

Ruby is the story of a young woman, a victim of abuse her entire life, given over to a brothel where the black girls are sold and rented for the men to do any dark intents to.  She learns to survive by internally fracturing, leaving her body to be used in whatever way their sick desires lead while she lets her mind wander.  When the men take her in the streets or gutters or behind the store counters, she retreats, merging with her environment, the nearby trees, rocks, streams.  She speaks with the ghosts of the children lost to abuse, drawing them to her and inside her to protect them.

Ephram sees her in a way no one else ever has.  He is untroubled by her past, understands the things she does are the only way she has ever known how to survive.  Ephram’s father was the Reverend, a harsh cruel and abusive man that had dark secrets.  Found hanging from a tree when Ephram was still young, Ephram was raised by his sister Celia.  He is docile and obedient to Celia until he meets Ruby again.

Ruby is told in scattered time frames.  The memories of the past merging into the events of the present.  Ephram and Ruby are introduced as children when they visit a Voodooein who sends them both off with poppets.  They don’t meet again till years later when Ephram sees Ruby laying in a puddle of mud in the gutter in town as the townspeople make fun of her.  He becomes enraptured with her and follows her quietly home where he begins to care for her as no one ever has, beginning with cleaning the filth and squalor of her home as well as her body, restoring her to the beauty that she is.

Ruby is a hard book to categorize.  Its a love story, sort of. Its a ghost story, but not like most ghost stories.  Its about the supernatural, magic, religions, superstitions, family, prejudice, abuse.  Its about just about everything that is ugly in humanity and everything that is beautiful in it.  Its about how nothing and no one are how they really appear to be, how things are more complex than they seem at the surface and how the complex can be viewed in simpler terms as well.  Its the paradox that life is, was and probably always will be told in imagery that emblazons your mind, words that ring through your ears and invades every sense with its magnificence and subtleties.

I keep very few novels on my shelves after reading them nowadays.   Only those whose words I know I want to revisit again and again.  There are not many that I feel that way about.   Cynthia Bond has become one of those few authors whose pages will find a permanent place on a shelf.  Her book, I doled out in small doses, savoring the words, for she is a master with them.  This is a book where you wish there were extra credit stars or some way to mark it as a truly exceptional work.  Alas, you are left with only giving it the highest marks that are in a standard rating.

The book jacket says Ms. Bond teaches writing to street people.  That is enough to make you want to pack up and move out into her streets to beg to sit for her classes.

SephiPiderWitch
June 15, 2015

 

The Common Thread

SpiderwebWatching the news feed nowadays, it seems like the stream of legislated hate, sermonized intolerance, surveillance and just downright abuse from those in power never ends.  And it becomes overwhelmingly accepted due to a highly organized onslaught of carefully wrought ad campaigns to make the infringements seem “reasonable”.  Or by identifying one group or another as a fringe group to be feared or less deserving.  Individually, its scary.  Put together, its downright terrifying.

Each group, each faction that is under attack (almost entirely from the radical right and money barons) has a legitimate claim to the bias and bigotry thrown at them.  I sympathize with pretty much all of them.  It seems that if you are not a white christian of devout/hypocritical  (if ignorant knowledge of the bible) beliefs who votes a straight Republican ticket, then you are placed into any of a number of buckets for derision.  And the problem is, not only are they united in their war tactics, not only do they have the finances to keep feeding into their hate campaigns and propaganda wars, but they also have brilliantly divided the rest of us.

Yes, there is an assault on gay rights, but it is more than that.  Yes, there is a war on women, but it is more than that.  Yes, there is an attack on the elderly, the poor, the infirm, the weakest among us, the military (once they have served their use to those in power), but it is more than that.  Yes, there is a war on science, on critical thinking, on free thought, on education, but it is more than that.  And yes, there is a war on any religious or non-religious belief that counters theirs, but it is more than that.

The problem is that in each of these things, we have allowed lines to be drawn so that we are only fighting a piece of the battle.  We see them as unique and stand alone issues that are unrelated to the others.  We align ourselves in one or two camps and give no energy to the rest.  And that divides us and weakens us.  And though all of those battles are real, they are only one scene out of the whole picture.

The whole thing hit me when a friend made a comment on a post the other day.  I had made similar comments before, but it took it coming from someone else for the light bulb to fully go off.  Every one of these things is a Human Rights Violation.  Every. Single. One.

And it seems to me that when you put it in this light, you begin to see just how monumentally massive this situation is.  Its almost too much to process when you finally look at it.  Its so much easier to just deal with the individual bubbles.  But, all that will do is maybe, if we are lucking, permit a temporary freedom for one of the bubbles.  And build a further wall of separation as the side that has scored the win shields themselves from the rest believing to do otherwise may endanger the liberty they just acquired.  But, that is a false hope at the very least, as the LGBT community is learning, as the minorities have learned, as women have learned, as so many have learned.

Taking a woman’s right to make decisions about her body and her health away from the sanctity of her and her doctor is a Human Rights Violation.  Enforcing junk science in place of real science to further a political agenda is a Human Rights Violation.  You have the right to make whatever decision you wish based on your personal belief on your body, your health, your choices.  You do NOT have the right to impose those beliefs on others.  You do NOT have the right to rewrite laws to target an industry unfairly and in direct conflict of years of evidence that proves it is unwarranted as have been imposed on countless women’s clinics in this country.  That’s a Human Rights Violation.

You cannot open a public establishment where access is made via public streets paid for by taxpayers, receive tax credits and enjoy the benefits of a public business owner and refuse to serve someone based on their color, their religion, their gender preference.  Hospitals that are owned by religious establishments do not have the right to impose their church’s rules on the treatment and disclosure of information to patients.  The moment they take insurance payments from the general community, accept patients from the secular community and enjoy the tax benefits granted from the government, they have given up that right.  If they choose to serve the general population, it is their duty to set aside their personal and religious beliefs as far as it regards the people they serve.  The same goes for a pharmacist, a nurse, a psychologist.  Anything less is a Human Rights Violation.

Prayer has no place being part of the public school curriculum.   Nor does religious mythology such as creationism.   Religious indoctrination groups have no place on a public school campus.  This is not discrimination against Christians.  It is protection for people of all faith, and of no faith.  It is also protection for Christians of varying denominations.  The Ten Commandments are discriminatory of non-Christians and have no place on a court house or public building.  They are pushing an ideology that is unconstitutional and a Human Rights Violation.

You cannot serve in a public office where you seek to impose your religious beliefs on your constituency.  That is called a Theocracy.  Something the founding fathers were adamantly opposed to.  Our constitution was not founded on religious principles and Moses was not one of the founding fathers.  Any person who takes an oath of public office is bound to serve ALL the people and to insure that all people are treated fairly.  For they are Servants of the people, not the rulers of them.  We gave those up when we fought the American Revolution.  They may hold those beliefs and apply them to their own life and their own personal choices.  They may not force them onto someone that may not share their belief structure or make them a part of the governing laws.

Additionally, the police are servants of the people.  Not a domestic military force.  And as such, they should not be an intimidating presence in our communities, often times inciting the violence they should be preventing.  They need to be a part of the community, not an overseeing force.  Violence needs to be far more of a last resort than it has been.  Anything less is a Human Rights Violation.

Imposing unnecessary laws and obstacles to disenfranchise votes and make it harder or costly for citizens to cast their vote is a Human Rights Violation.  We have the right, as citizens, to participate in our electoral process.  In truth, we have a duty.  And we should not be dissuading citizens from voting.  We should not be looking for excuses to disallow their vote, impose unnecessary and discriminatory regulations to minimize the counts.  We need to make it easier, to educate the citizenry of their civil duty, understanding their rights and the constitution.  As it is written, not as some attempt to redefine it.  We need to strive not to have lower voter turnout, but to do whatever is needed to have as high of a voter turnout as is possible.  Only then will we have a true government of the people, by the people and for the people.  Anything less is a Human Rights Violation.

Selling off or leasing off the sacred and tribal lands of our Indigenous People is without a doubt a Human Rights Violation.  Denial of the scientific held belief of Climate Change is your right.  But, continuing practices that are known to be substantial contributors to it, thereby affecting the majority of the population who do not share in your belief is a Human Rights Violation.  As is Fracking, which is poisoning ground water, most probably causing earthquakes and creating a toxic environment for all life is a Human Rights Violation.  So is the attempt to place ownership on the clean waters of the world and the spraying of chemicals with sufficient probable causation of things like the decline in bee populations and new cancers.

I am not, nor will I ever be a “Politically Correct” person.  I believe in freedom of speech.  I believe in it wholly including the belief that I must also defend speech that I find offensive.  I believe that people have the right to hate, though I don’t understand why anyone would make such a choice.  I believe they have the right to practice any religion they wish.  To live their lives by their own principles and morals, regardless of whether I or anyone else shares them.  The line gets drawn, however, when they encroach on the rights of others, when they try and pass laws limiting the freedoms of those who don’t share their beliefs.  When it goes beyond freedom of speech, freedom of religion outside of their personal life, then it has crossed the line from “your” freedom into someone else’s.  It is not a discrimination against your religion when you are prohibited from discrimination.  If you don’t wish to be in their presence, you can simply cloister yourself in your home.  But, outside the doors of your home, your church, they have just as much right to be, to function, to thrive as you do.

I am sorry, but if you don’t want to administer birth control, don’t become a pharmacist.  If you want your child to pray in class, put them in a religious school (which needs to also give up its tax exempt status as well as that status is a form of government sponsorship).  If you don’t want to kill a stranger, don’t enlist in the military or the police.  Its just common sense.  When you enter these areas, you must accept that these things go hand in hand with the job.  That you are accepting them as part of the job description.  You have the “right” to choose another path.  If you cannot live up to the requirements of your job without imposing your personal beliefs onto others, you should choose another path.  Because your freedom cannot be bought at the expense of another’s.

Yes, each of these and more are, on their own, their own separate issue, but they are each of them also part of a greater whole.  For every one of them is a Human Rights Violation.  They must each be joined by this common thread in order for them to achieve the united front that is needed to make real change.  None of the individual groups hold enough power, enough votes to make more than a temporary change, in constant danger the moment they glance the wrong way.  Too many factions dismiss “women’s rights”, “gay rights”, “minority rights”, “religious rights (other than Christian)”, etc.  But, if all of these people keep pounding on the table and stating over and over its a Violation of their Human Rights, it makes it slowly harder for them to chip away.  It removes the wall between the gays and the women and the minorities and the atheists and the nones and all the rest.  Its a Violation of Human Rights.  Period.  And the Violations need to stop.  Now.  Erase the lines and grab the common thread.  Because we all want the same thing.  Basic. Human. Rights.

 

God Is Not Great – Christopher Hitchens

God Is Not Great - Christopher HitchensWell, I am sure that Mr. Hitchens is equally as controversial as Dawkins, so we shall see how quickly this review is swooped upon.  (I did one on The God Delusion and had a near immediate rambling assault on Amazon.)

My biggest issue with the book is Hitchens’ reading it.  I have heard him in debates and found him drolly entertaining. However, in the reading of the book, his voice fluctuates both in volume as well as in clarity.  I was often forced to try and fill in the blanks of sentences lowered to a jumbled mumble.  I am not sure who was at the control board during the recording, but they should have been whacking him with a pointer each time he started to slump over and talk into his shoulder.

That said, as always, I find Hitchens to be intelligent and insightful.  He does cover much of the same ground that Dawkins did in The God Delusion (or vice versa, not sure whose came out first)  I am also not sure the reasoning of his commentaries about disagreeing with Dawkins on the subject.

Mumblings aside, I found this book to be excellent in its airing of the histories and realities of some of the largest religions in the world.  I learned quite a bit as well.  I learned that Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon church was jailed as a con artist and suspected of necrophilia.  I was also surprised that Hitchens didn’t take issue with the Church’s habit of going through death records and baptizing segments of the deceased population regardless of their religious beliefs in life.  He actually found that to be a brilliant answer to the dilemma of correcting past prejudices of not allowing blacks or others into the folds of a church (such as had been the views of the Church of LDS in the earlier days)

I was also surprised to learn that most of these religions “holy books” were delivered to illiterates and transcribed by others.  This also included Joseph Smith, Mohammed, etc.  I knew that was the case with the Koran.  I did’t know so with the others.  So, I find it hard to believe that the legitimacy of these “holy texts” are so unquestioned given the highly questionability of their origins.

He speaks at time with dry humor an insight.  I smiled at his recounting of how he was more than willing to attend the Bar Mitzvah of a friend’s son or a Muslim religious ceremony or any of any number of religious ceremonies for friends.  However, the same respect and accommodation was never returned to him.  These same friends always found it necessary to try and help to save his soul.

I think one of the most shattering chapter in the book was the one on is religion child abuse.  Hitchens probably showed more emotion in this section than any other as he explained why indeed, religious indoctrination was child abuse.  Especially when it came to the rituals of the genital mutilation of children.  (And this was the first time I had learned that original Jewish circumcision involved the Rabbi biting the foreskin and sucking it off the child’s penis then spitting it out)  Holy crap!  He also gave very detailed descriptions of female genital mutilation (most of which I was already familiar with).  This chapter alone is enough to deprive on of more than a few good nights sleep.

I do give Hitchen’s credit in that he didn’t just go after Christianity and its religions.  He proved himself quite knowledgeable on a good many religions and drug all of their dirty laundry out into the glaring light of day to be seen for what it was without the candy coating, including the Catholic Church’s support of Hitler and the Nazis, the ethnic cleansing in Rhuanda, etc.

Additionally, he backs up all of the genocides, slavery, rape, torture and other horrors with citations from all of the holy books on when god himself commanded or approved of such things, without pausing even for a breath to add in the same comment they hypocrisy of how god can set down laws in one passage only to command his people break them in the next.  I have to admit, I have also had a problem with those selfsame hypocrisies.  At least most of the pagan gods painted themselves in their true colors.

Hitchens does all of this from the voice of an accomplished journalist, stating the facts as the record shows them, haunting in their stark horror.  Above all, he shows that not only do we not need religion to be moral creatures.  In truth, we somehow, many of us, manage to be so in spite of it.

In closing, I do have to make a comment about the music I can only assume Hitchens chose for the book.  Although very pretty, it just seemed very out in left field to the content of the book.  Which made me smile and giggle a few times as it gave pause between the chapters.  But, if you are willing to take a stark, unvarnished look at religion, its history and its priesthood, you couldn’t find a better read.  Okay, Dawkins is up there as well.

SephiPiderWitch
March 2015