Easter is Coming!!!

“But Joe…you’re an atheist!”

Yes. Yes I am. But, keep in mind, in the Bible, when the bunny hopped from his lair and began pooping out colored eggs, the children of the land of milk and honey woke from their slumbers. They climbed from their hewn rock beds, covered in dust, and walked to the kitchen table. There before them lay baskets of jelly beans, mixed up in the most shiny of plastic confetti. Digging a little deeper, the little children uncovered the stickiness of a Peep, melted onto the bottom of the basket from the desert heat.

No matter. They popped Peeps in their little mouths, Easter grass and all, and swallowed. Easter was here.

Yes, I know the Christian tradition of Easter. I’ve written extensively in my old and dusty corner of the interwebs on why I think the barbaric and bloody mess of Christianity’s human sacrifice necessity is well…barbaric and a bloody mess. So I don’t give a rats two shits on the true meaning of the holiday.

For most of us, anyway (me not included), it’s a time to dress up in ugly clothes and go to church the first of two times we’ll attend this year, providing fodder for the fire and brimstone Baptist preachers, yelling insults at their congregation, deploring the idea that “going to church twice a year will get you into heaven.” I mean, seriously…Jesus fucking Christ, that Billy Sunday shit is so old school. Do you really think, with the proliferation of information and general religious knowledge all over the internet, people don’t know the Baptist con job of the salvation riddle?

You know the one. An all powerful and all knowing god, cannot simply NOT ALLOW sin to manifest itself in the world, and is forced to carry out a human/god sacrifice. And even then, you don’t get to go to heaven. Whatever…I can hear the spaghettified hoops the religious are jumping through in their minds, rolling their eyes at me, wondering why I don’t just accept that I need to drink blood and eat flesh, then look judgingly upon a National Geographic picture of naked cannibals in the Amazon jungle.

I mean, don’t they know the sanctity of life? You know, like God feels about it. So much so that he forced Pharaoh’s heart to harden and not let the Israelites leave Egypt, carrying out the killin’ of the first born of every family, so that “they may see my signs and wonders and know who I am.”

Yeah God, we see who you are. Nothing I would want to be or have anything to do with. You have more in common with Ted Bundy than a rabbit has with an egg.

Happy Easter!

Oh…and I’m going to be doing my annual golden egg hunt with my religious in-laws. I love doing that every year.

Stop Blaming God for Your Successes

I wrote a post, reacting to Brussels, and a reader and frequent commenter, Lorn, wrote a great comment:

My beef with religion, pretty much all religion, less some (Zen Buddhism) but more others (Islam), is that religion provides a ready-made system for people to feel justified in doing all those evil things they wanted to do while avoiding doing those things they didn’t want to do while framing everything in terms of an imaginary afterlife so that we can avoid looking at the humanity and suffering of others.

I’ve friends who go to a Christian church that has a catch phase of ‘All glory to God’. If they do something good it is ‘All glory to God’. Every time I hear it it grinds my gears. It is system of helplessness and unawareness. The lady does a good thing. She should feel good. She should recognize her worthy application of will and intelligence to solving a problem because owning her power she could feel good about it and it would be more likely she would do more good. Owning the deed also mean owning the process. I means being conscious of how she did it and knowing that she could tweak the process to get better results more quickly and efficiently. She could grow and improve as a human being and become ever more effective at working toward making it a better world.

Instead it is ‘All glory to God’. This breaks the feedback loop. It means that she cannot own the deed or process. God getting credit means she gets none. Not owning the process means she is unlikely to critique her own performance and systematically improve, as either a human being, or as an agent for good.

The flip side is even darker. Telling herself ‘All glory to God’ is one side ‘It is God’s will’ is the other. A bud load of orphans going off a cliff is a tragedy, unless it is ineffable will of an angry God. Putting responsibility on God is a fine way of draining away the responsibility from any individual, or society. If it was the failure of an individual or society we might be motivated to do something about it. Get the drivers better training, or stop hiring drunks. Or put up better guardrails around sharp turn near cliffs. But if it is ‘The will of God’ … well … there is nothing that can be done. In fact, doing something to prevent another accident might be construed as thwarting the will of God.

Religion systematically obstructs human growth, acceptance of responsibility, and our ability to see our fellow humans as living, learning, suffering beings; as opposed to souls used as pawns on a cosmic chess board. Religion promotes backwardness and hinders progress toward a better, more humane, world.

Yes. Everything.

I have a friend who went through a hell of a life, then married and moved to Austria. There, she continued the hell, only with different actors. She would constantly tell me about her growth and notwithstanding success in life, then say,

If it wasn’t for Jesus, I wouldn’t be here!

After I knock myself out, rolling my eyes, I pretty much say exactly what Lorn said.

Stop blaming God for your successes in life.

Letters From Mama: Christmas Debt

 

<– Letters From Mama: God Will Not Bless Your Marriage

February 2011 was the last time I had any electronic, face to face, or otherwise personal contact with Mama. She caused too much stress in my life, as well as my family’s. I wasn’t quite an atheist at that point, but had moved to a better reading of the Bible, should it have been true – the Bible god was a paradox, both evil and good, at the same time. It was this new idea that brought me to atheism.

Mama had better ideas. She was going to get me back under the label of “Christian.” But, in order to do so, she needed to get across to me how I was still her child-son and needed her counsel and wisdom in my life. It got old. Now, I just get letters from her and pass them along to my readers, for mirth and entertainment, as well as a proper warning about what bat-shit crazy looks like.

She reads my blog, so when you comment, you’re also talking to her.

The following package was delivered around Christmas, 2011. On the “envelope” which was nothing more than recycled packaging tape, was inscribed:

VERY, VERY BEST THING NOT TO OPEN UNTIL CHRISTMAS MORNING :).

To Me:

Joseph,

The nature of the gifts to your children are such that if they receive them soon, they will love them, and the memory, all their lives. But, if too much time goes by before they receive them, the gifts will seem too childish and have lost their magical gleam. So, come soon…..soon…..

Love, Mama

Again, as you will see over and over again in these letters and others I transcribe in this series, she enjoys the power of control. Holding gifts hostage until she gets what SHE wants. But wait…it gets worse.

To my bride, Kristine:

Love you, daughter, Mama Mary.

She had been trying to get my wife to call her that for years. It never happened.  Maybe that’s why she sent my bride a one-liner and then never mentioned her again in any of the other kid’s notes.

To Renaya (the oldest, then 9, now 13),  (in which she folds a $1 bill):

Dear Renaya,

For you I have a cat (a kitten :)). Not a real one, but a statue that sits on your dresser and you can rub its smooth coolness just before you hop into your bed each night.

And Renaya, can you tell your little brother Jack that for him I have a white and cotton-candy-pink trike airplane with pedals, that he can ride down the sidewalk on? And for your baby sister Analisse, a red, white, and blue trike airplane, a smaller one that she can sit on and push herself along with her feet. But the two trike airplanes are buried under the wall crumbles at the back of the basement, so when yourr family comes we’ll need to dig them out and clean them up in the bathtub, or if it is Spring, outside with a hose.

Here is a dollar for you, Renaya, as earnest on the promise. But the promise will end sometime. You can ask your Daddy when that will be. I wrote it in his letter. 🙂

Love, Grandmama, XO!

WOW! She tells my 9 year old that she can have a statue to rub every night and then begs her to come over and dig out some old toys in a crumbling basement, clean them up and give them to her sister and brother. Worse yet, she gives the girl a dollar but puts a guilt trip on her, stating that the dollar is only a bribe if she gets her dear old daddy to bring her over.

To Laura, (8 years old then, 12 now) (in which she folds a $1 bill):

Dear Laura Rose,

For you I have a cat (a kitten :)). Not a real one, but a statue that sits on your dresser and you can rub its smooth coolness just before you hop into your bed each night. There is a black one, and a cream-and-brown one, and you and Renaya can decide which one each of you would like as your own.

When your family comes, we can wrap the kittens well, so they will not break on the way home.

Here is a dollar for you, Laura Rose, as earnest on the promise. But, the promise will end sometime. You can ask your Daddy when that will be. I wrote it in his letter. 🙂

Love, Grandmama XO!

P.S. Here is a kiss and a hug for Jack XO! and for Analisse XO! Will you give them to them for me? Thank you.

To Frederic, (6 years old then, 11 now) (in which she folds a $1 bill):

Dear Frederic,

For you I have a puppy, not a real one :), but a statue that sits on your dresser so you can rub the cool smoothness of its head before you jump into bed each night.

When your family comes to my house, we can wrap the puppy up real good so it will not break on the way home.

Here is a dollar for you, Frederic, as earnest on the promise. You can ask your Daddy what “earnest” means. 🙂

Love, Grandmama XO!

Fred and Laura spent the money.

To Felicity, (4 years old then, 8 now) (in which she folds a $1 bill and tapes a quarter):

Dear Felicity,

For you I have a horse (a pony :)). Not a real one, but a wooden one like your cousin’s that sits on your dresser, and before you hop into bed each night you can rock it while it sits on your dresser, and listen to it go “clickety clack, clickety clack”, as if it was trotting down the street!

[Perfectly fine note for a 4 year old. But it isn’t the gift she is focusing on, as you’ll see when I finish this note, rather, it is the power she wants when she sees us walk to her door. It’s sick to use kids as pawns.

Now, back to the letter to Felicity…]
When your family comes to my house we can put it in a box for you to carry safely home to put on your dresser.

Here is a dollar for you, Felicity, as earnest. You can ask your Daddy what “earnest” means. 🙂

And Felicity, can you give this quarter to Jack so he can put it in his piggy bank? Thank you.

Love, Grandmama XO!

My Felicity, The Humanist President

Felicity (8) brought home a writing piece she did in 3rd grade titled, “If I Were President”.

If I were President, I would focus on state laws. Because if I didn’t, there would be litter all over the state. And there is going to be a lot of poor people. And no inventions. And no good food. And no money. And a lot of hunger.

And there’s not going to be health care. And no school for nobody. And there are not going to be learning. And no education. And no homes.

And people will be really poor. But if there was state laws, everybody would learn. And have homes. And have good food.

And nobody would be poor. And the world would stay in peace.

Behold, your next President. Powerful too. World peace and awesome state laws. A tad utopian and a small lack of civics education, but her heart is exactly where I knew it was.

My Struggle with the Brussels Terrorist Attack

While you read my writings, keep in mind one thing – I’m only 35 years old, 36 in a month. Nearly middle-aged, but not nearly mature enough, in my opinion, to be disseminating thoughts and convictions that are set in stone or immovable. I started late to the game, being an uber-religious, dogmatic fundamentalist until the age of about 25. Then, it took me another 5 years to really walk myself out of the fixation on reconciling all of my beliefs via Biblical apologetics, jumping through spaghettified hoops, just to get to where I knew was right and correct, and yet was barred from being so, due to the unreasonable religious logic – arguably an oxymoron.

My chief concern here is the loss of life. The loss of innocent life. I pin the conduit for the Brussels senseless murders on the interpretation of Islam that these terrorists are espousing, whether devout or opportunistic. But we cannot forget that this happens nearly every day in other countries, not primarily peopled with humans of European descent.

As Americans, we watch as Paris falls prey to ISIS attacks, then we ignore the attacks in Turkey a few days ago. We watch as Brussels is buried in fear, with scores dead and many more injured, yet we explain away the systematic killing of black and brown people on our own streets, by those who are supposed to serve and protect. We blame religion, poverty, lack of work ethic, apathy, and then return to our privileged lives.

We watch as our fathers, mothers, children, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, friends, enemies all, go into the hospital, waging a war against cancer or worse, fighting to keep their heads above water with respect to mental health. We watch them go bankrupt, one catastrophic medical condition wiping out the seeds of wealth, hurting future generations. We call those who balk at that prospect “freeloaders,” “lazy,” and “Socialists.” We ignore the human condition. The needs of our fellow humanity.

I hate religion with a seething white hot rage, not because I think I’m right, but because it is the easiest conduit for abusing our fellow humans beings, even to the point of death. I hear and understand the arguments of religion not being the reason for human suffering, but rather human culture, which has retrofitted religion to bring about the suffering of others, while the privileged go about their own business, shrugging their shoulders, even praising the status quo.

Even so, if we completely eradicated religion from the bowels of humanity, I am convinced my ire would be forced to seek out a new culprit. We as humans, would replace religion’s capacity to bring about suffering with some other cultural phenomenon.

So I sit here, watching people scream about Islam and Muslims all around me. Then others defending Islam and Muslims. I agree with those who blame Islam and Muslims, insomuch as it is easy to interpret what you want out of it, much like Christianity, to convince yourself that your infliction of death or hatred is righteous and warranted. But I also disagree with them vehemently, choosing to side with those who defend Islam and Muslims, knowing full well that humans can cull the bad from the good, and choose to live in peace. And millions upon millions of Muslims, even devout followers of one of the great (in numbers and cultural history) faiths of this world, Islam, do just that.

And so I weep for those who have lost family and friends in Brussels and for those who actually lost their lives or limbs. But I cannot focus on Brussels as being a titular moment in the narrative of humanity’s blight – our penchant for hatred of one another.

Just Another Run-of-the-Mill Morning

A boat with wheels rolled up to my group, blocking our path. We raised our guns, which looked more like bad-ass potato launchers, than anything that could shoot to kill. There were six people in this boat, the dust from their screeching halt wafting over all of us.

It was the end of the world. Some plague had killed off the entire human species, except, in the last few days, after being chased from our compound by other humans, we were meeting more groups of humans all over the place. The world was getting smaller and smaller, sometimes dangerous, most of the time, weird as hell.

“Let’s take a vote. Should we kill them or not,” the beady-eyed gentleman, who appeared to be the mouthpiece of the group said, around a toothpick he was moving side to side with his tongue.

A little boy, not more than five-years-old, spoke up, looking straight at me, “I like him. I don’t want them killed.”

“Neither do I. We can’t be killing people. We need to work together,” an old man, missing half his teeth, grumbled, in a cowed sort of way.

One by one, the remaining members of the wheeled boat group voted down a sacrifice of my people, then hopped out of the boat and began hanging out with us.

My alarm went off. I woke up.

It was 5AM. Monday. I didn’t want to get up. So, I scrolled through news, drifted off, looked at my Incongruous Circumspection (this blog) Site Stats, drifted off, checked the time, drifted off, wished a few people good morning, then finally my bedroom door opened.

“Daddy, can you drive us to school?”

It was Renaya (13). She does this every single morning. Asks me if I can drive them to school, at 7:00 AM, knowing that I can’t say no, being that school starts at 7:25 AM, the two older girls eat breakfast there, and it’s a 1.3 mile walk.

“Do I have a choice?”

“Um….no.”

The ritual completed, she closed the door, I rolled out, threw on some clothes, and drove them to school.

Arriving back home, I made a pot of coffee, took care of some work-related needs, then proceeded to wake the other kids. Fred (11) went straight to his iPad where he would sit until five-minutes before we had to leave. The other three little ones woke up, looked at me, then rolled over and went back to sleep.

I took care of a few more things.

Needing to leave with the kids at 8:30 AM, I looked at the clock. 8:14 AM.

Crap! I jumped up from my office desk, flying throughout the house, “KIDS! YOU HAVE 16 MINUTES! GET UP!!!”

Immediate panic ensued. This was manifested by everyone beginning to cry at the same time, and coming into my bedroom, crawling into Mommy’s arms, to be cuddled. I shrugged, and lied to myself that I could sit down for a few minutes. I sat down, then popped right back up.

Felicity (8), a perfect student, in every gifted and talented, advanced placement class the school could throw at her, was beginning to panic. She had a homework problem that she hadn’t finished the night before. It was the following math problem:

Use simple math operations to get the solution, 24, using each of the following four numbers, only once: 2, 11, 20, and 24.

I tried for a few seconds, then updated my Facebook status, asking all my friends to help. In the meantime, Felicity had taken the lack of urgency by all the other kids upon herself, escalating her anxiety. She being the sweetest kid alive, I heard her begin to weep, thinking the world was about to end. My anxiety escalated, working my adrenaline into a frenzy. I swore at the dog for getting in my way, she looked at me like I was an asshole – and stayed put. Running around her, I audibly grabbed one kid at a time, getting them ready. Felicity’s anxiety escalated further. Mine went up faster, wanting to make her happy. Fred (11) sat down on the master bathtub, not fully dressed, not packed for school, shoes scattered somewhere in the house, and cried. Felicity became even more anxious.

Then a dear friend of mine posted the answer to Felicity’s math problem on Facebook. I wrote it on Felicity’s homework paper, her anxiety evaporated, mine followed suit, I got the last items ready for the kids, and Mommy took them off to school.

And then I drank some coffee.