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Entry 32 – Obama’s a Muslim! Yawn.

August 26, 2010

Disclaimer: I have only read part of the article published August 23rd in the Christian Science Monitor by Peter Grier, and only a few of the comments posted to the CSM website.

But even so, why do we even give the tiniest amount of oxygen to this most flammable of conversations? 

Why should we care what religion President Obama or anyone else for that matter practices?  

How does one even go about trying to prove someone follows a particular religion anyway?  Church-time?  Minutes spent in prayer in public at an eating table?  [Insert Sacred Text] special study attendance on a weeknight?  And does someone who goes to Church, prays before every meal in public with a bowed head, and is front and center at the [insert sacred text] class, constitute a full fledged practicing [insert religionist]? 

What if that same person is also cheating on his or her spouse, involved in risky business deals that gamble away his or her family’s savings, or committed some other heinous crime? (see numerous members of Congress who profess a belief in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour).

My point here is that we are wasting unbelievably precious time talking about something that can never be proven or disproven. 

President Obama could hold a press conference, address congress, make a special plea to the Nation via the three major networks that he is a practicing Christian, produce church logs that he was sitting in a pew at a Christian Church for X number of Sundays, and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.  People would still believe what they want to believe about him. 

This whole issue of Barack Obama as a Muslim is patently absurd for a Nation as well-educated and technologically advanced as the United States to be having for its national discourse.  We should be ashamed that with a constitution that states in Article VI that there shall be no religious test as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States, that we continue to test people based on their religion or the lack thereof. 

Can we PLEASE close this ugly chapter of our national discourse on this topic, and move on to more pressing matters like what to do about jobs for our many citizens who are out of work, and helping the unfortunate people in Pakistan recover from numerous devastating natural disasters?

PLEASE, let’s be better people, and close this book for good.  This conversation on Barack Obama is hateful, fearful, does nothing but spread discord throughout our great country, and is quite frankly, tiresome. 

Again, PLEASE, let’s stop this right here and right now.  We can all do it…yes we can!

Thanks for stopping by,

TRC

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Entry 31 – In stressful times, go for ‘Overkill’…

August 22, 2010

(A follow up to Entry 29)

If you were alive in 1983, you may remember the release of Men At Work’s album, “Cargo”, and are familiar with their song, “Overkill”. 

I was watching ‘Scrubs’ a few years ago and Colin Hay, former lead singer for Men At Work, did a cameo on the show; singing an acoustic version of this song. If you haven’t heard it, click here.  It’s in a word…beautiful.

I can’t say I was a HUGE fan of Men At Work in the 1980’s, but I did like their songs, and I’m pretty sure there are a few on them on my mix tapes from high school.  This episode of Scrubs though woke me up to the importance this song has in dealing with difficulties in life.  And in the last 6 months, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve had my fair share.  This song, written by Hay, has helped me tremendously.  

I’d like to share the first part of the lyrics of Hay’s song here, and just comment on a few of the stanzas that I found quite helpful…

OVERKILL Lyrics by Colin Hay

I can’t get to sleep
I think about the implications

Of diving in too deep
And possibly the complications

Especially at night
I worry over situations
I know will be alright

Perhaps its just my imagination

Day after day it reappears

Night after night my heartbeat, shows the fear

Ghosts appear and fade away

Alone between the sheets
Only brings exasperation

It’s time to walk the streets
Smell the desperation

At least there’s pretty lights
And though there’s little variation

It nullifies the night

From overkill…

The line where he says “It’s time to walk the streets” and “Smell the desperation” was particularly poignant for me.  I took from these phrases that in the midst of a difficult anxiety prone situation, it’s good to just take a break from it.  Go for a walk outside, see that the rest of the world is experiencing probably the same, if not worse, stressors. 

This may seem overly simplistic, but listening to this song over and over again (yes, I realize the irony that by playing “Overkill” repeatedly, I am literally living up to the song’s title), helped me to push past some difficult stages in my cross country move, and the stresses on my family with my new job. 

Am I completely cured of the ‘Ghosts’ that ‘appear and fade away’?  No.  Probably a bit early for that ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner  pronouncement, but, the ‘ghosts’ do appear less, and they tend to obey me when I tell them to “come back another day”, as Colin Hay emphatically demands in his song. 

To Colin Hay, I really appreciate you writing this song in 1983.  Twenty seven years later, the reverberations are still resonating with a very grateful husband and father in California. 

Also to my dear friend, The Misanthrope, aka Rob Archer, thank you for directing my attention to some of Colin Hay’s newer music.  I’ll be writing about that next.  Your friendship has meant, and still does mean, the world to me. 

Thanks for stopping by,
TRC

Entry 30 – A Faith Based Initiative To Rally the Faith Base

August 3, 2010

Over the weekend, some of California’s politicians pandered, I mean, gathered at a faith forum in San Francisco hosted by the California Foundation (click HERE to listen).

While I don’t want to say that I absolutely won’t vote for a politician that attends such forums (e.g. Jerry Brown, pictured to the right who did attend), I will say that a politician’s attendance at such events greatly diminishes my willingness to vote for them in the future.

In my humble opinion, a politician should do their very best to keep politics and religion separated from their governance.

I realize this isn’t always an easy task.

There are plenty of examples of public servants who make it their business to let everyone else know what brand of Christianity they follow. And it usually pays off for them at the polls.

But I hope for a day where people will not worry so much about what a politician says about their beliefs in a particular God, rather look at what they actually do in terms of their beliefs in how to help humanity.

It would be such a refreshing change to see a politician simply say to people who are asking about his or her faith in a particular God that it’s really none of their business. What is your business is my record of helping people in this community live better lives.

I will keep hoping for such refreshment.

Thanks for stopping by,
TRC

Entry 29 – In stressful times where do you go if you don’t “have God”?

July 21, 2010

The past three months since I’ve written have probably been the most difficult in my 39 years to date.  I’ve recently moved nearly a 1000 miles with my wife, little one, and cat to a totally new city to take a promotion at my work. 

I knew taking the promotion wasn’t going to be easy.  I didn’t have much supervisory experience, and I was going to be in a complicated area for doing fieldwork.  I thought my computer experience would more than make up for my lack of supervisory experience.  Man, was I wrong on that one.  My predecessor in the position set the “bar” pretty high for supervisory, technical, and computer expertise.  She literally is a legend in the agency I work.  Now 3 months into the job, and I’m still feeling woefully inadequate living up to these standards. 

I know, I can hear many of you saying something to the effect of, “This doesn’t look like a ‘Recovering Christian-esque’ post, TRC.  What are you doing?” 

The reason I bring up this lament in my work is to raise the furthur question of when you run into these “larger life issues”, if you will; inadequacy in your job, failing as a husband, failing as a father, failing as a friend, when you have no “Higher Power” to turn to, where do you go for help? 

I ask that question knowing full well that there are plenty of places to go: family, friends, therapists, boxing gyms circa 1980 Rocky Part Deux.  It’s just that in some respects I hate to hear from family and friends the,  “Hey, I told you this kind of thing would happen when you turned your back on God!”   I feel a certain amount of pressure to be this ‘cool as a cucumber’, ‘happy go lucky’, ‘somewhat put together’ athesit/agnostic.

So obviously the subtext of the above is that I have alot of pride when it comes to being able to handle the stresses in my life.  I want to be able to rationally get through the “snags”.  I want to be able to logically solve whatever dilemna I’m facing.  I guess in the end I don’t want to have to burden others with my problems.  I want to solve them on my own.  And actually THAT is probably the main part of my problem, all these “I” statements, trying to do this on my own.  I just REALLY have a hard time opening up to others, except what I can do in this semi-anonymous blog state as TRC.

I think things are starting to smooth out a little.  We’re getting used to our new surroundings, not everything is so hectic to figure out RIGHT AWAY, and my wife and I agree that we made the right decision to move.  Yet, I can’t deny that there is this part of me that longs to be back in the comforts of where I’d come from.   Grass is always greener phenomenon working in full force.

Are there others out there that are struggling with this kind of issue? I know I’ve been about as vague as a human being can in terms of my situation, but I hope you get the gist of what I am going through.  If so, what are some of your strategies?  If you are someone like me who really hates to ask for help, how did you go about getting over that ‘hump’ so to speak?

I know I have a lot to be thankful for.  I have a job.  I have a family.  And I have my health.  I should be eternally grateful for those 3 things.  But I am human too.  I am going through a bit of a ‘dry spell’ and just thought I’d make this post a bit more immediate and a bit more personal than those of late. 

Thanks for stopping by,

TRC

the.recovering.christian@gmail.com

Entry 28 – A letter I wrote to my Dad resurfaces

April 14, 2010

Recently I was going through old emails trying to clean out my inbox when I came upon a letter I’d written to my Dad back in 2006.  It was New Year’s Day, and I was sending my Dad well wishes, and responding to some of his emails to me from 2005 regarding the intelligent design/evolution debate. 

The Kitzmiller v. Dover Trial in PA had just finished, and my Dad and I had been going back and forth on our positions on the issue.

I thought I would share this letter as it speaks more to my state of mind regarding my father while he was still alive. 

My letter follows:

Hey Dad,
 
Happy New Year!  Glad we were able to talk last night.  Hope you and Mom got to do a little celebrating.  We drank some warm sake, watched a little more of the celebrations on TV, and called it a day around 2am.  Sorry I’ve been pretty lax in responding to your emails as of late. I did read them and wanted to offer a few of my own comments, albeit probably not the most analytical. 
 
You asked for any literature or books that express my world and political views.  Well, I can’t offer any better book except the one I am writing everyday, my own experiences 🙂  And I’m sure I’ve said this before to you at various points in our discussions of Intelligent Design (ID) and evolution, but I will just for the record state again: I start from the premise that we just don’t know enough right now to explain how we or the cosmos got here.  I realize that’s probably a very weak intellectual premise for anyone to start with, but given the amount of time we’ve been here, I think we are just too much in a state of infancy as inhabitants of the planet to know enough to answer such huge questions. 

I believe everyday there are advances in science, specifically theoretical physics and evolutionary biology, that inch us closer to learning about our origins, but right now, our scientific knowledge is nascent relative to where we’ve been in the last 6000 or so years of our recorded history.  In another 500 or 600 years, maybe we’ll know a little more and can offer better educated guesses based on the scientific method.  But right now I believe we just don’t know enough. 
 
But, in saying that, we live in a world where saying I don’t know is particularly disconcerting and disorienting to most of the populace.  We have to have answers and we have to have them now.  There is no time to wait for an answer.  So we come up with best educated guesses as to how we got here.  Some are religious stories, others are based on science, others on pure nonsense.  But ultimately, how we got here cannot be tested empirically, yet.  Maybe one day it will, but for now, we can only offer guesses. 
 
There has always been the story of a higher power creating the cosmos and putting us in it regardless of the religion being taught.  And kids today can go to various houses of worship to hear these stories told of how we got here and feel assuaged of any fears as to why they are here and what their purpose is.  I chose about 12 years ago to not go that route any longer.  I chose rather a route of not knowing and exploring other (non-religious) ideas of how the world and we got here.  It’s been a hard road to say the least, I feel at times I am just too far behind and mentally incapable of deciphering the unending explosion of information that hits us on a daily basis.  But to say the most, this time of exploration has been extremely rewarding.  
 
And I don’t mean to slight what you and Mom taught me in my first 23 years on the planet.  I am grateful for that time and you both taught me a great deal about the world that has helped me tremendously.  I probably don’t say enough, but I thank you for the time you gave me.  You provided food on the table, a roof over my head, and a chance to learn, something a lot of kids don’t get.  I would never have been able to venture out of the nest if it weren’t for the opportunities you gave me to learn.  But, in my experiences in and out of the nest, sticking to a sacred text to explain the meaning of life and our purpose here is far too limiting an exercise and I think far too dangerous for our existence here on the planet.  There are too many competing sacred texts for us to coexist.  And until we realize that these sacred texts are only sacred because we, homo sapiens, have made them that way, then we will continue to kill and maime and be indecent to one another here on the planet.  
 
Having said that, I think that our main problem here as humans is more an economic one, than a religious one.  But I see in my experiences that following religious texts for the most part feeds into the economic problem.  It stifles creative thought processes and ideas that can allow people to be free of chaos brought on by poverty.  I am speaking of mainly religious fundamentalists who are already in poverty and can justify it according to their religion.  It makes people fall into line and perform according to the dominant religious or political power.  
 
I sincerely hope we are heading for a time where the fundamentalists of our day will simply have no reason to exist, that they will be relegated to the back of the room so to speak with their weapons and tendencies toward violence curtailed and even eliminated and not allowed at the table where real decisions are made of how to run the world and make peoples’ lives better.  But honestly I don’t think that will be achieved with violence to meet violence.  As we see throughout history, this sort of retaliatory tactic only breeds revenge attacks and continues into infinitum.  The only way to combat this problem is to eliminate poverty and the chaos that surrounds it.  It will be met with love and with striving to bring other countries closer to a standard of living that respects the health of all its citizens.  It is still a day far in the future as religious zealots still have their place and use violence and scare tactics to get their points across.  I dream of a day where great ideas are the single most valued form of currency in all forms of government, and any religion is allowed to be freely practiced by its citizens.  But, and this is a big but, religion as I see it should never have a place at the table for making political decisions.  The separation of church and state should be able to work and work effectively without anyone’s toes crushed in the process.  I guess in a nutshell, Dad, that is my world and political view.  I could go on, but I think you get the gist of it.  Not pretty, not perfect by any stretch, full of holes I’m sure, and probably incredibly different from how you view the world.  But in my 35 years, it’s what makes sense to me, as in your 64 years, what you have shared in your emails makes sense to you. 
 
Guess I just wanted to share my piece and respond to your emails in kind.  I am reminded of a scene in a movie that was made in 2004 called “Garden State”.  It’s a coming of age story of a young man in his twenties who goes back after 8 years of being away from his hometown to attend his Mom’s funeral (she committed suicide).  The father son relationship is strained as he blames his son for her unhappiness that lead to her death.  The son is in a state of numbness coming back.  But over the course of his short time in his hometown, connecting with friends, meeting new ones, he comes to understand that he is not responsible for his mother’s death, and even though him and his father will never see eye to eye on most anything, they can still “be OK”.  There is a poignant scene where the son and father hash it out, and the son just puts his hand on his Dad’s chest, looks at his Dad with love and says Dad, “I think you and I, we’re going to be OK”.  So I guess what I’m saying is Dad, you and I are going to be OK with all these world and political views that clash.  I respect that you believe a higher power brought us here and came down to earth to be God and save us.  I do.  I don’t want to disrespect that belief.  But, in the same breath, I would like to be respected that I hold the position that we don’t know how we got here,  and I choose not to believe it was via a God as the Judeo-Christian and Islamic texts relate.  I also don’t believe that we have to acknowledge this God in order to pass on through the pearly gates.  Nor do I believe I have to acknowledge this God or endure endless torment in hell.  I believe this life we have here on planet Earth is all there is, plain and simple.  We have to make the most of it, plain and simple.    If we don’t then we’ve wasted our most precious of gifts, life.  I can’t offer any great explanations of how we got here nor do I want to.  I see our time here as precious and one that requires us to have focus and cunning to survive.  It requires us to pursue a vocation that makes us happy and the ones around us happy.   If I ever reach a stage of existence where I don’t have to worry about where every calorie comes from (ie. win the lottery), then I hope I would have the wherewithal to use the remainder of my time helping other people achieve a similar state of equilibrium.  
 
Guess I’ll end it there.  Got to get some work done on this article I’m writing.  Keep you posted.  
 
Again, I appreciate all the emails and the thoughts shared.  I really think you should consider submitting some editorials to the local paper there and get more of this dissatisfaction with our current state of affairs off your chest.  I need to follow my own advice and do the same.   🙂
 
Love you and hope 2006 is a great year for you Dad.  You guys are always welcome up here.  

Happy New Year to you and Mom!

Letter ended…

Two years and two months later, so did my Dad’s life.  Dad, I miss you terribly.  There isn’t a day I don’t think about you fondly.  

Thanks for stopping by,

TRC

Entry 27 – Purging Prophecy for Pornography?

March 15, 2010

A story recently from WLTX.com made me think a little more than usual about being considered an atheist. 

A student group on the campus of the University of Texas, San Antonio asked students to turn in their Bibles and get pornography as a replacement.  The campaign was dubbed, “Smut for Smut”. 

I was saddened and frustrated by this story.  Let me explain. 

I’m certainly no fan of the ‘uber-Christian-right’, and their tactics for acheiving Christian theocratic dominance around the world. 

And I think I understand the WHY of tactics such as the ones used by the campus group in San Antonio.  It isn’t lost on me that for too long the Christians of the United States,and the world for that matter, have enjoyed a certain sense of political power (i.e. in the more recent past, think Focus on the Family, Moral Majority, Billy Graham Crusades, the National Prayer Breakfast, The Family aka ‘C Street’, etc.)  The ‘New Atheists’, as they are often referred to in the media, I would imagine feel empowered with their new found status as an ‘up and coming’ group in society.  They have strong logical arguments for their positions on the metaphysical world, or the lack thereof, and want to get these arguments out to those who will listen. 

I would even consider myself one of these ‘New Atheists’.  I feel emboldened by the Dawkinses, the Dennetts, the Harrises, and the Stengers of the world today.  I don’t live my life any longer under the auspices of a higher power watching over my every move and thought, waiting to see if that last move or last thought was ‘Godly’ enough, or worthy of His majesty’s glory and praise.  I scoff at supernatural explanations where naturalistic ones will suffice. 

However, when we, as ‘New Atheists’, or agnostics, or whatever the latest label of the day is for those who don’t believe in the supernatural, purposely go out of our way to offend people of faith, I think we do ourselves and the rest of the community a great disservice.  I think we stoop to their level of discourse; brash, insensitive, and no thought to how someone might interpret such harsh methods.  I think in the long view of history on this planet, offensive tactics toward a particular group of people do more harm than good,  agitating and heating things up, rather than shedding light on the situation. 

I see nothing wrong with stating that you don’t agree with a certain position.  But do you have to go for ‘shock value’ when you state this position? 

Isn’t it more tactful and strategic to simply resist fanning a dogmatic ‘flame’ that in many respects is  just a smoldering ’ember’ from a bygone age?  I’m reminded of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man skits from Saturday Night Live in the 1990’s.  Carvey’d bemoan the ‘kids today’ and repeatedly conjur up the cliche of the ‘world going to hell in a handbasket’.  And he LIKED IT!  😉  That grumpy old man is the grumpy old religious idea that dies hard, but in the end, it dies. 

In a way it’s kind of sad to see these beleagured religious explanations for our origins going the way of the idea waste pile.  These ideas once held such promise, and were widely accepted and respected world viewpoints. 

Now, with the rapid advance of science and technology, these explanations for our origins seem less and less powerful as they once did when we didn’t have molecular genetics departments in most large universities, or the Large Hadron Collider trying to split atoms into tinier and tinier quanta. 

I liken people who always invoke ‘god(s) of the gaps’ defenses when there is no other current naturalistic explanation for something to those who still rely on dial-up internet for accessing the world wide web, or people still using floppy disks when the flash drive or ‘nerd stick’ can transfer and store so much more information quickly and efficiently. 

But, in the end, if these people want to invoke God and other supernatural explanations for phenomena they see around them, then let’s let them be.  Seriously, let’s let them have their faith and eat it too.  But, in this letting, let’s let them have this faith with the understanding that if this faith gets to getting into public policy where legislation is passed to make a particular KIND of faith THE faith of the governed, then the faith letting has gone too far.  

My mother always likes to point out, from Hebrews 11:1 of the King James Bible that ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  I don’t even know what that second part really even means (Bible Scholars out there, please instruct accordingly), but I think if you want to have faith, please, go right ahead.  Just please understand that the rest of the rational world is not going to operate on the same principles as you do with this faith, and this rest of the rational world shouldn’t be made to feel like we should operate on irrational principles of faith. 

I like Mark Twain, and I think a more apt summation of ‘Faith’ comes from his 1894 Following the Equator.  In this work, Twain writes that ‘Faith is believing what you know ain’t so!” 

Until next time, thanks for stopping by,

TRC

the.recovering.christian@gmail.com

Entry 26 – What Would Beck Do (WWBD)? Really?

March 14, 2010

A story that appeared today in my news reader prompted a short comment that I thought I would share.  The story comes from the Examiner and is written by Laurel Davis

Full comment is as follows:

It’s completely legitimate to ask, at what point do you call one person’s interpretation of a ‘sacred text’ (i.e. Christian Bible, Jewish Talmud, Muslim Koran, etc.) wrong. These ‘sacred’ texts were all snapshots of what people, yes people, just like you and me, thought at the time was important to write down.

Nothing more, nothing less.

And people today can, and very much do, interpret these texts in a multitude of ways.

To ask yourself what Jesus would do in this situation I believe is cutting yourself quite short in terms of being able to socially act justfully.

Jesus, if Jesus really is the Jesus that is portrayed in the Gospels and Paul’s letters, really wasn’t all too concerned about trying to make this world that we live in a great place. He was focused on an after-life life, told his disciples to ditch their families and lose all their possessions, and preached that he didn’t come to bring peace to the world, but a sword.

What really matters is what YOU think about what should be done.

Looking to a text that was written centuries ago to find out what you should do with your life now is in my humble opinion a monumental waste of time.

Getting about to helping bring about change in your local community is much more of a valuable activity; helping that tough neighborhood become a place people want to stop AT instead of drive THROUGH, as one example.

It’s really just that simple.

Blowhards like Beck just spew nonsense and non sequiturs to get ratings for their shows.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Thanks for stopping by,

TRC

the.recovering.christian@gmail.com