Why I Write What I Write When I Write That Which I Write

In February, 2011, I had recently joined a “survivors group” of young people (I like to pretend I can call myself young) who were figuring out how to break free of a cult-like organization called IBLP/ATI (Institute in Basic Life Principles/Advance Training Institute). At a young age, I had become involved in this institution, my Mama even trying to get us into the homeschooling program, My dad stopped her by threatening a lawsuit, which was awesome. Her abusive ways would have made the isolated life of homeschooling unbearable for us. When the board heard about my dad’s threats, they “prayed about it” and God told them not to allow my Mama to homeschool us. Funny how that happens.

The survivors group was exactly what I needed at the time. I was beginning my walk out of Christianity and religion as a whole. This group was all over the spectrum. Some were still struggling with what they felt was the bastardized definition of ‘grace’. Some still believed in the inerrant and infallible word of God. Some, the ones that I gravitated toward, considered themselves “apostates,” against the grain, if you will. Some of them were even rabid atheists.

So I began to blog. I walked out of religion as I wrote. My blog became very popular in that circle. I found my voice in the anti-fundamentalist crowd. I befriended (I pretend) bloggers like Libby Anne from Love, Joy, Feminism, Lewis Wells from Commandments of Men, Steve Wells, the author of The Skeptics Annotated Bible, etc. My blog was getting 1000 hits a day, sometimes 5000, when I did a series.

People began to come out of the woodwork and asked me to publish their stories of religious or sexual abuse. I did that. Some religious people fell or went into hiding. Others ignored me and moved on with their lives, hurting more victims. Some of those that had their stories published turned their futures into something beautiful. Others are still struggling, but are still beautiful. Still others are drifting around.

Then I watched as bloggers in my sphere became popular. They not only had found their voice, but others found them intriguing. Worthwhile to start a movement that branched out from anti-fundamentalism, moving into more mainstream causes. Fighting homeschooling abuse. Fighting for the rights of women and minorities. They made money at what they did.

But I got bored. I had written for my journey out of religion and now I was done with the subject. I watched as the survivors group added more people who breathlessly thanked the group for helping them get out. Years after I had worked myself out of the need for explanations of why women didn’t need to wear dresses, and grace vs. works, and other weirdisms that the normal world doesn’t give two shits about, I was spent. I didn’t care about it all anymore.

But it was all I knew. And it was what most people had come to my blog for. Anti-religion. And it got my page hits. And I was addicted to page hits.

So I pushed myself to keep writing. Then I found that I could create havoc on my blog if I pushed a juicy morsel in politics. The pitchfork subject of the day would bring in the screamers. I could harness the angst of my choir by just saying a bad word about Trump. About Tony Perkins. Ted Cruz. Name the right-leaning politician – I could find and write about good dirt. I enjoyed spouting off faux rage. I tried to be articulate, but nobody cared about wisdom. That’s not what drives page clicks.

It wasn’t long before I discovered a common thread that wove its way through my blogging. Something that I enjoyed doing. Something that brought freaking tears to my cheeks, every single time I touched someone with my words and stories.

I loved writing about my kids. My own life. Normal stuff. Day to day goings on. Slightly embellished for a good laugh, but mostly, not embellished at all.

Last night, my two oldest daughters asked me for the links to my two blogs. A few minutes later, I heard them giggling. Then laughing loudly. Then spontaneous reading aloud to their siblings or me, the subjects of my ancient posts. They read stories from 2011. 2016. Stories of school. Parks. Simple things. We laughed together about the realizations that I wrote about each kid that still held true today. Fred and his girlfriends. Laura and her need to have everything be fair and in control. Felicity and her warmth. Analisse and her freakishness. Jack and his perfect love. Renaya and her…well…she’s just everything you want in a kid.

In short, my heart was full. My kids were appreciating what I wrote.

“Renaya, did you read that thing I wrote about God, the other day?”

“Nope! That’s boring.”

My audience is small. And they are who I want to write for. I love them with everything I am.

All My Parenting, I Learned From God’s Character

The other day, we had no food or water in the house. My kids came to me and begged me to go get some. I became so angry that they had the audacity to question my love and authority that I instead went to the pet store and bought them out of snakes. I brought the snakes home and set them upon the kids. As they began to get bit and started to die, they wept and screamed and apologized.

So I ran to the hardware store and bought a bunch of brass door handles, a firing kiln, a blacksmith table, and a set of large hammering hammers for hammering things to hammer. I brought them home and gave them to the kids who were left alive.

“Make yourself a statue of a snake so when you’re bit by one, look at it and you’ll live.”

They were so grateful. The ones that were still alive and could swing a hammering hammer for hammering things to hammer, anyway. It was and always is obvious how much I love them.

Numbers, Chapter 21

I Won’t Vote for Fred Thompson, Because He’s Been Married Three Times

So this gentleman voted for George W. Bush.

Many years ago, I was a super-Christian, attending a Christian Fundamentalist church in Tea, South Dakota. It was one of those quiverfull churches. Families with a dozen children. A nursery so large, it was bigger than the auditorium. Every time the door to the nursery opened, a wave of poopy diaper laden air would sweep over the congregation, and we would collectively breathe deeply, smelling the scent of being holy before the jealous face of our angry god. He had blessed us with children, one wife, and lots of dresses.

The Republican primaries were in full swing. Fred Thompson was ahead in the polls. Every time he opened his mouth, I kept thinking about Baby’s Day Out, when he said “boo boo” with a straight face, as the chief of police. I really liked the guy. He was well-spoken and lifted my spirits with his baritone pipes. As moderates go, he was a tad to the right of center. I agreed with his stance on abortion, which was all I cared about at the time.

Then, stupidly, I opened my mouth, while talking to a gentleman who had come to South Dakota from South Carolina. He was a super-Christian, as well. Much more super than my super-ness. He looked at me as I spoke glowingly about Fred and then turned up his nose.

“I will never vote for a man who has been married three time.”

My, how far we’ve come. We have those same conservative super-Christians, arguing all kinds of spaghettified arguments, telling their followers and fellow parishioners, that being married three times, fucking a prostitute, not knowing your Bible, claiming that he has nothing that needs to be forgiven, as well as a complete lack of humility, is meaningless, rather, being against “God’s anointed” is the true sin in this exercise.

“Why do we not believe in God, Daddy?”

This, coming from my 9-year-old, wasn’t necessarily a strange question. I am very front and center about my lack of belief and why. But, the moment was a bit odd. I had dropped by the house to do some deep cleaning, giving my soon to be ex-wife and the kids a much needed break from the tedium, when my young lad piped up with this question.

“I don’t believe in God. You can choose your own way,” I said.

“No. I don’t want to. I don’t believe in him.”

So I said, “Which god do you not believe in? There are millions, nay, billions of choices. Some are nice gods, some are less nice. Some are powerful, and yet others are impotent. Some pretend they’re powerful, while being completely worthless at getting anything done or protecting those they are supposed to protect. But, really, if someone in America talks about a god, it’s probably the Biblegod. That god is one of the self-proclaimed powerful ones, yet is incapable of helping out a little girl when she’s getting raped in a back alley.”

So yeah…I said that. I’m not going to pretend that the god, based on the Holy Bible, has any sort of semblance to this loving piece of garbage that churches want you to believe in. That love is the kind of love I’ve been familiar with and running from, my entire life. Love that is utterly and unconditionally conditional. Love that has expectations, or you will be mashed into a million pieces, or burnt in fire forever, for missing one small little step in the process of perfect acquiescence and worship.

Fuck that god.

As my kids grow older, they have family members that will try to capture their minds and hearts and woo them over to belief in that awful prick of an asshole god of the Bible. Well…it’s war for me. Sure, those family members and friends are terrified my children will burn in hell forever, but that’s really the point. I don’t want them to have that worldview. It simply sets them up to accept narcissistic abuse from real people, rather than the imaginary divine being they are supposed to worship with abandon.

As Everyone Knows, Roy Moore Lost

Everyone, that is, except Roy Moore.

A few months ago, I posted some predictions on social media, prophesying that Moore was going to win, and win by a landslide. My assumptions were that the deep south of our lovely country was more into the cult of Republicanism than they were into the idea that they so forcefully demanded of their enemies – the Democrats – that everything government must be Constitutional. But, the minute Roy Moore came along, not to mention the Orange Jesus in the White House, power and theocracy trumped any illusion that they lived what they preached.

This was before the Washington Post came out with the well-researched accusations by the women from ~40 years ago.

I’ve never been more happy to be wrong. Also, by Biblical prophet standards, I can now no longer be considered a prophet. You get one wrong, that’s your shot. Sure, it doesn’t work for current era “prophets of the Lord,” but then again, that’s Republicanism.

Michelle Bachmann and Biblical Sexual Assaults

sirani_elisabetta_-_timoclea_uccide_il_capitano_di_alessandro_magno_-_1659“Is sexual assault against women a big issue? Yooooou bet it is!”

Said Michelle Bachmann on the “Stand in the Gap” radio program. She then followed it up with:

“I believe that Hillary Clinton will set a standard in this country that will lead to even more sexual assaults against women, because she will be setting anti-biblical agenda.”

Really, Michelle Bachmann? I’m not so sure. Let’s look at the Biblical standards for sexual assault.

First, Judges 21:10 – 24

10 So the assembly sent twelve thousand fighting men with instructions to go to Jabesh Gilead and put to the sword those living there, including the women and children. 11 “This is what you are to do,” they said. “Kill every male and every woman who is not a virgin.” 12 They found among the people living in Jabesh Gilead four hundred young women who had never slept with a man, and they took them to the camp at Shiloh in Canaan.

13 Then the whole assembly sent an offer of peace to the Benjamites at the rock of Rimmon. 14 So the Benjamites returned at that time and were given the women of Jabesh Gilead who had been spared. But there were not enough for all of them.

15 The people grieved for Benjamin, because the Lord had made a gap in the tribes of Israel. 16 And the elders of the assembly said, “With the women of Benjamin destroyed, how shall we provide wives for the men who are left? 17 The Benjamite survivors must have heirs,” they said, “so that a tribe of Israel will not be wiped out. 18 We can’t give them our daughters as wives, since we Israelites have taken this oath: ‘Cursed be anyone who gives a wife to a Benjamite.’ 19 But look, there is the annual festival of the Lord in Shiloh, which lies north of Bethel, east of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.”

20 So they instructed the Benjamites, saying, “Go and hide in the vineyards 21 and watch. When the young women of Shiloh come out to join in the dancing, rush from the vineyards and each of you seize one of them to be your wife. Then return to the land of Benjamin. 22 When their fathers or brothers complain to us, we will say to them, ‘Do us the favor of helping them, because we did not get wives for them during the war. You will not be guilty of breaking your oath because you did not giveyour daughters to them.’”

23 So that is what the Benjamites did. While the young women were dancing, each man caught one and carried her off to be his wife. Then they returned to their inheritance and rebuilt the towns and settled in them.

Sounds a lot like sexual assault to me. But wait…let’s continue! Numbers 31:7 – 18:

They fought against Midian, as the Lord commanded Moses, and killed every man. Among their victims were Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur and Reba—the five kings of Midian. They also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword. The Israelites captured the Midianite women and children and took all the Midianite herds, flocks and goods as plunder. 10 They burnedall the towns where the Midianites had settled, as well as all their camps. 11 They took all the plunder and spoils, including the people and animals, 12 and brought the captives, spoils and plunder to Moses and Eleazar the priest and the Israelite assembly at their camp on the plains of Moab, by the Jordan across from Jericho.

13 Moses, Eleazar the priest and all the leaders of the community went to meet them outside the camp. 14 Moses was angry with the officers of the army—the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds—who returned from the battle.

15 “Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. 16 “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people. 17 Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, 18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

Hmmm…seems a bit like ownership of a woman to me. If she’s a virgin, you get to keep her! If not…kill ’em all! Yeah. Forget sexual assault. This Biblical stuff needs its own terminology.

Let’s keep going, shall we? Deuteronomy 20:10 – 14:

10 When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. 11 If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you. 12 If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. 13 When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. 14 As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies.

What? God-sanctioned ownership of the women of the town? Of course, this doesn’t say anything about checking their vaginas for an intact hymen, but we can be fairly certain this whole virgin business was quite important to the barbarians.

This Biblical stuff is fun! Let’s actually look at the law of God. Deuteronomy 22:28 – 29:

28 If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.

Oh God no!!!! No God! That can’t be what you meant! Surely Michelle Bachmann, you’re anointed one, knows the Biblical laws better than those libruls! Hell…Hillary Clinton supports an anti-biblical agenda! I’m feeling a little cognitive dissonance here…

Deuteronomy 22:23, 24:

23 If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, 24 you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death—the young woman because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. You must purge the evil from among you.

Um…I’ll just let that one speak for itself.

Deuteronomy 21:10 – 14:

10 When you go to war against your enemies and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, 11 if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife. 12 Bring her into your home and have her shave her head, trim her nails 13 and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured. After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife. 14 If you are not pleased with her, let her go wherever she wishes. You must not sell her or treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her.

Now THAT one is just weird. But hey! It’s Biblical!

Meh. I’m bored. Let’s look at Minnesota’s rape and sexual assault laws, otherwise known as Minnesota’s anti-biblical agenda. The link is here

Rape and sexual assault are illegal in Minnesota, as in all other states. However, Minnesota doesn’t call these crimes by the usual terms. The legal name for the crime of rape and sexual assault is “criminal sexual conduct.” Minnesota has five degrees or levels of criminal sexual conduct that vary based on the unlawful sexual activity and the age of the victim.

You can read all the gory details of why we can’t do what the Bible teaches anymore, at that website.

But really, it seems to me that Michelle Bachmann has it back-asswards. Donald Trump is biblically within his rights to do anything he wants to a woman, as long as he has 30-shekels of silver jingling and jangling in his pocketses for her pa. And only sometimes might he be kilt at the gate – but not to worry, so does the female, being she didn’t yell loud enough to stop the rape.

I think I’ll stick with Hillary’s anti-biblical agenda.

I’m More Moral than the Religious Right

how-to-deal-with-the-bboc-big-bully-on-campus-bjodqt-clipartThis is going to be a gloating victory lap. I get to puff out my chest in pride, raise my fist to the wind (maybe flip it the bird), and let out a loud “Fuck yeah! I’m better than them!”

What? You say pride goeth before a fall, Religious Right?

Donald Trump.

You say it’s wrong to swear?

Donald Trump.

What’s that you say? I’m not allowed to have sex before marriage?

Donald Trump?

I can’t get divorced and remarried?

Donald Trump.

I have the perfect…er…trump card to EVERYTHING they throw at me now! Donald Trump is their guy. And he is the embodiment of everything they have ever been against, holding their stone-age book of rules (extrapolated eisegetically for the common era) over the heads of those they deem unworthy of their hateful god.

But that’s not really my point. No. I’m actually better than them. Not only do they now have no leg to stand on, with respect to their faux holiness, but they also are defending the very acts that they accuse we atheists of partaking in, simply because we can. After all, the Religious Right holds that morality is dictated by God and without God there can be no morality. Remove God and you have anarchy. Every man for himself. Every woman for herself.

Except that’s not really how morality works. Those with their heads out of their dusty Bible cover scented asses understand this acutely. Simply put, if it takes a God to prove to me that I cannot grab a woman by the pussy, I’m no better than a worm.

And that’s my point. I understand that a woman’s snatch, hootch, box, vagina…whatever she wants to call it, is hers. She’s the owner, just as I am the owner of my penis, and nobody has the right to grab it without my permission (unless, of course, I’m about to fall over the edge of a bridge, my pants come off, and some good Samaritan is flailing to grab onto something – anything – to stop my inevitable tumble. Then, of course, he or she (or it, if it’s a dog’s jowls) can grab it). I don’t need a god to tell me this.

More to the point, I won’t defend those who say they can do it. And that’s why I’m better.

Hello Again. People Have Been Asking Me to Write

So I’m writing.

I realize I’ve been away for a while. I’m still alive. I have a lot to say, but much more to ruminate on. A few months ago, I was full of words and things happened. The words evaporated while my thoughts needed to mature. After all, I’m only 36-years-old. That’s too young to be right about everything and too old to be wrong about most things.

I’m still married, still dating other women, still a daddy, and still a fucking atheist. In fact, after watching the Religious Right defending the non-consensual grabbing of the pussy, I’m even more of an atheist. I’m so amused at the curtain finally coming down and revealing the wizard.

Trump is a good Toto.

Anyway, I’ll write more…

Love you all,

Joe Sands

The Benham Brothers Make Me Laugh

billysunday30The spaghettified loop dee loos that the Christian Right have to go through to palatabalize their support for Donald Trump sometimes leaves me in fits of giggles. It’s quite a faux pas for them to be honest, along with most voters today, and admit that they are loyal to the party that panders to at least one of their sacred cows. In many words, spoken by religious leaders, it is noted that not voting Republican is a sin.

Enter the Benham brothers, twin sons of Flip Benham, a virulently anti-gay and anti-Muslim…hell…anti-anything-but-born-again-Christian, procurators of a television show that was cancelled before it even aired, whence their anti-gay views were discovered.

When asked what we thought about Trump’s silence we simply responded, “We cannot expect political leaders to faithfully engage the spiritual battle over the shedding of innocent blood when many of our spiritual leaders refuse to address the issue from the pulpit anyway. Donald Trump’s silence simply mirrors the silence of the church as a whole for the past 40-plus years.”

In other words, Christians are hypocritical because they haven’t been anything but silent over the issue of abortion, so therefore Donald Trump’s silence is off limits.

Seriously?

For a couple of blokes who have been plugged in to the Martyred Right speaking circuit, with thousands, nay millions of fans, worldwide, how can these two possibly think that Christians are not speaking up (specifically from the pulpit) about abortion? Quite frankly, young pups, that issue used to be the only issue Republicans voted on for nearly 30 years, ever since Ronald Reagan made it a central theme of his presidency. Being anti-LGBT is all the rage now, with abortion sliding over to the passenger seat, yet still front and center for pandering pols.

Also, Donald Trump actually did make a (sort of) statement about the decision, saying that, if he had been President, things would have taken a much different path. The only problem is, the court decision was a 5 – 3 ruling, rendering any appointed justice Trump could have slid in there, irrelevant.

But why let facts get in the way of voting your conscience…or your party…or whatever reason you vote these days?

Some Days, I Despise My Daughter

Laura is the most intelligent child we have. She’s 12-years-old, which hides the fact that her inquisitive and far-reaching mind is decades more mature. Life is like a game of chess to her and she’s always seven moves ahead of me. I try to keep up, confident that I am smarter, but quickly realize that intelligence is much different than being smart.

Laura loves to tell tall tales. She’s so good at them. Quick on her feet. If you’re sitting down with her, reviewing her grades from 6th grade, and find a missing assignment that was due several weeks prior, she will have a perfect story, rolling off her tongue immediately. It’s believable too, except it isn’t. Just like an email phishing scam, there’s always one little typo that raises an eyebrow and makes you wave your mouse over the email link, revealing a shoddy website address.

Such is it with her stories.

*The phone rings.*

“Hello,” I answer.

“Hi Daddy! Guess what I just found! You’ll never believe it!”

“What!?”

“A 10 dollar bill on the sidewalk. I was out rollerblading and found it. So I went to Kwik Trip and bought a bunch of candy for you. I’ll give it to you when you get home.”

Something was weird about that story, but I couldn’t figure it out. She sounded excited, but there was an oddity to the way she was relating it. She was home sick with strep throat and just happened to be rollerblading instead of resting. Finding a penny is common, a paper bill, less so. In fact, many a person will go through their entire lives without ever doing so, excepting those times where you put on your old winter coat and find a Benjamin in the pocket, along with a few unused condoms.

Sure enough, the next day, Renaya, our 14-year-old, announced she was missing $15 from her purse.

But Laura also uses her intelligence for good. She is wonderful at teaching concepts to the younger ones, highly inquisitive about even the most simple of subjects, and never stops asking questions to answers she already knows. She simply doesn’t forget what she learns, highlighting her disinterest in certain subjects (science) when she receives poor grades. She is also extremely talented in gymnastics. She started as a beginner a month ago and has already graduated two levels to intermediate. Her coaches are shocked that she has had no formal training. Laura is just that good at what she puts her mind to.

Laura is also my daughter. I love my kids, regardless of their faults, even if I want to jump off a bridge five days a week. Unlike a bad cup of coffee, causing me to never buy that brand again, Laura can hoodwink me every single day of her life, and I will see through it as a sign she would make a great politician and an even better capitalist (though she is very empathetic). Thus, I don’t reject her and put her up for adoption.

Which brings me to Prince:

Yesterday, Prince died. The announcement swept through my social media and at work. The reaction to this man’s death was the closest thing to ubiquitous love that I have ever experienced. Even when David Bowie died, I didn’t feel this. The sentiments transcended generations. Young and old alike, wept openly, dug their old albums from dusty drawers, finding buried CD players, just so they could hear Purple Rain again in its original burning. Minnesota stopped in its tracks, quickly scheduled dance parties, and turned everything purple. Corporate meetings devolved into longing conversations of times past, remembering the days one attended a concert of this short man in heels and makeup.

And yet, I told everyone, honestly, that I didn’t know the man. I didn’t know his music and I didn’t have any appreciation to what he meant to the art form. I was fairly public about my ignorance, which meant that I began to receive links, audio clips, and videos of Prince’s music in my inbox, through text, any number of messaging apps, and even comments on this blog.

While that was all well and good, I don’t appreciate singers by just listening to their music. I study them and enjoy their music as an extension of who they are. As such, if someone’s music is an alter-ego to who they really are, I don’t get as much appreciation from it, no matter how talented.

Prince is full of contradictions. He sang about sex, very graphically, and later in life, became quite religious. The spirituality showed in his music. He discouraged people from using vulgarities, and had morality arguments that lined up quite nicely to the Religious Right. Yet, at his concerts, he would sing all of his songs, including what would be considered anathema to a Jehovah’s Witness, to which faith practice he was a dedicated member. He believed in chemtrails, spouted conspiracy theories about American antipathy toward religion in the public square, claiming other countries celebrated religion openly. Yet he was a loud mouthpiece for fairness in the music industry. He was a vocal opponent to America’s version of unbridled capitalism, even going as far as claiming that the common folk are still “on a plantation.” And he talked a lot about Jesus, yet had a disregard for the feelings and needs of others.

In short, Prince was a gentleman that I would give a wide berth.

Yet I look at the messages of his music, interpreted in a myriad of ways by his millions of fans. I look at how he touched their lives in very palpable ways, especially the lives of my ex-fundamentalist friends who used his words of encouragement to “just be themselves and screw everyone’s opinions” to help get out of the bondage of hen-pecking religious types who wanted to keep them in the fold. I see people using his earlier admonitions to “fuck” as a way to remember to enjoy intimacy with their partners when life goes to shit. I also see how his music, just for the sake of good music, is capable of “getting people through a day.”

And so, just like my daughter, I will not reject the man.