I’m Dreaming Of Another White-washed Christmas

Christmas has come and gone mostly unchallenged throughout my life. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I learned about the Christian co-option of the pagan holiday (war on Christmas, indeed! Pssh).

I learned dozens of Christmas Carols as a child, singing them in church, and caroling out in the neighborhood (sort of like Halloween – but cookies & cocoa instead of other treats – and we sang for our supper – uh – dessert?) Join the proletariat effort!

I still have my favorites, but doubt the whole ‘Jesus in a manger on a cold winter’s night’ motif – seeing as lambing happens in the spring, but whatev – believe what you want – don’t let facts get in your way.

It was eye-opening, though, when I found out that Jesus is one of many ‘gods’ or ‘sons’ with the same or similar miraculous and humble circumstances. There’s: Horus, Osiris, Attis, Mithra, Heracles, Dionysus, Tammuz, Adonis, and others – born of a virgin, or appearing on December 25th, and it’s just an amazing coincidence that our lord and savior, Jesus the Christ, was also born on that date, of a virgin! There are many places to read about this, but here’s a link:

http://www.weekendcollective.com/all-the-gods-born-to-virgins-on-december-25-before-jesus-christ/

I did not know this. All the teachers and other assorted educated ministers, priests, other religious figureheads, never made this known. It was Jesus, and Jesus only.

That’s why believing in Jesus was so easy.

Jesus is a wonderful exemplar. He’s full of compassion, hope, change, giving to the poor, healing the sick, making the rich look like the assholes they were – and still are. He admonished his followers to ‘turn the other cheek’, rather than seek revenge or retaliation. He would save your soul if you believed in him – interceding for humankind. Why would you turn your back on that?

Unless, it’s more fable than fact. You can marry historical events and the supernatural – spinning it however you wish – but it doesn’t make it true.

If it makes you feel better, then that’s great – but don’t try to make me abide by your fairy tales, and I won’t make you try to abide by mine.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

 

 

 

 

 

Pissed Off, Yet Accepting…

David Bowie died and left more space than any other celebrity I didn’t know except Robin Williams.

I’m both pissed off and accepting.  I have to be, it happened. One, a death from cancer, which more and more people die from in our toxic world, and the other, suicide – when from the outside looking in – seemed incomprehensible.  I understand depression.  I understand substance abuse, and the ridiculousness life plays on all of us, but didn’t Robin Williams have resources I lacked?  Was David Bowie doing all he could to cure his cancer?  The answer, of course, is, probably, and, none of my business, but they both influenced my life radically.

David Bowie was the unpredictable, brilliant musician, whom I only recently learned was never comfortable on stage.  Robin Williams may have never felt comfortable in his own skin, or maybe he was having a crisis, or who knows what his mental state was in order to off himself, but it’s doable is what I learned.

https://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2014/aug/12/robin-williams-suicide-and-depression-are-not-selfish

If things get too real, you can just go.  Just go.  We can off ourselves so easily, yet our survival mechanisms scream that we shouldn’t do it.  So many people overcome that biological directive.  I wonder if there is a god, if it hears the pain.  If it cares, if it really does punish those who take their own lives, because who would kill themselves as a lark? What is there to punish?

It takes a lot to overcome the desire to live.  I know.  I’ve never mustered that kind of resolve, and I wonder if it matters?

I once followed a faith that basically said ‘woe to you’ if you stop following it, or believing it, and that all your good works ‘are for naught’, unless you are a true believer, and do those good works in ‘god’s’ name.

I wonder though.  There are billions of people on earth, and our earth is so incredibly infinitesimal in the universe that it seems ridiculous that some ‘god-man’ has marked us out specially for Its revelation, when you can’t even pick us out from the Milky Way, never mind the entire universe!

Surely there is another race on another planet in another galaxy that has it more together than we do.  And what, exactly, are we marked out for?  What spiritual or godly ambition are we destined for?

We are smaller than atoms, in a universal perspective.  All hail the galaxy rather than our puny little planet lost amongst the puny stars in our puny galactic neighborhood.

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/science/milky-way-collide.html
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/science/milky-way-collide.html

All I believe is that, sanctioned by a ‘god’ or not, I like being kind.  I want to be a safe person, a helper, in an often frightening world.  Your children are safe with me.  You are safe with me.

It’s astounding that I’m better than some ‘god’, but there you go. All hail to me?

Being a light is better, to me, than adding to the darkness.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

 

Cult Zeroes

Cults abound.  I grew up in one, and the apologists continue trying to convince more reasonable people of the cultists’ righteousness, that they have the answer(s), and you should give them all your money and worldly possessions in pursuit of oneness with their cult leader – because you can be damn sure there is a hierarchy, and they get the best of the best.

With.out.fail.

That’s why it’s a cult – or the politically correct assignment of ‘high-demand group’.   I don’t understand the more pleasant moniker, I suppose it seeks to lessen shame.

There are so many incarnations (pun intended?) of cults, it’s hard to know whether you’re dealing with one.

Here are a few handy tips, taken from Janja Lalich & Madeleine Tobias’s work: Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships by Janja Lalich and Madeleine Tobias (Berkeley: Bay Tree Publishing, 2006). It is adapted from a checklist originally developed by Michael Langone.

Characteristics Associated with Cultic Groups – Revised

Janja Lalich, Ph.D. & Michael D. Langone, Ph.D.

Concerted efforts at influence and control lie at the core of cultic groups, programs, and relationships. Many members, former members, and supporters of cults are not fully aware of the extent to which members may have been manipulated, exploited, even abused. The following list of social-structural, social-psychological, and interpersonal behavioral patterns commonly found in cultic environments may be helpful in assessing a particular group or relationship.

Compare these patterns to the situation you were in (or in which you, a family member, or friend is currently involved). This list may help you determine if there is cause for concern. Bear in mind that this list is not meant to be a “cult scale” or a definitive checklist to determine if a specific group is a cult. This is not so much a diagnostic instrument as it is an analytical tool.

‪ The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.

‪ Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.

‪ Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).

‪ The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry – or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).

‪ The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar – or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).

‪ The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.

‪ The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).

‪ The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members’ participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).

‪ The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.

‪ Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.

‪ The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.

‪ The group is preoccupied with making money.

‪ Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.

‪ Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.

‪ The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group. 

Not all of these need to be present for the cult classification, and apologists for cults will read the list, discounting what they read as ‘not entirely applying’, thereby allowing them to justify their beliefs about their group not being a cult.

It took a lot of work to de-program myself, especially when people like my mother still value their experience there.

I ended most of my relationships with ex-culters, and try to only communicate with those de-programmed, or non-apologists.

Several peers with whom I survived the cult continue reinforcing old cultisms such as believing the best, most positive, most understanding people were from their time there, when the reality is that bonds formed in childhood and young adulthood gain stature as time passes because you are known more completely than others recently met, such as co-workers, or casual friends.

The deep friendships I made outside the cult revealed how damaging that place was, because we forged lasting, trusting connections, while acquaintances, and co-workers, currently, and through the years, often increased my sense of isolation rather than connection.  Had I not made those honest and abiding friendships, I too, might believe that the cultists were right, and we were a special group, designated by god.

It’s also the ultimate egomania to believe that you were, or are, ‘chosen’, or accepted into such lofty ranks, above all on earth but those who worship or live as you do.

I’m grateful to have claimed back my autonomy, my power, and my voice.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Battling Ben Stein

While Ben Stein might be an intelligent and well-known man, his thoughts are no more valid than other thinking beings’ ideas.  There is commentary circulating in letter form attributed to Mr. Stein, although it’s been modified several times, and contains a few central ideas he actually said – which of course are now taken out of context and promoted all over Facebook, and through email, as some sort of manifesto from Mr. Stein, and championed by all who agree with him.

I’m posting my thoughts first, which are followed by his commentary:

My rebuttal:

Oh, Ben, and all the others who tagged their ignorance onto his original thoughts.  First, equating Dr. Spock’s offering an alternative to violent discipline to why his son killed himself is a truly vile, libelous, statement, and your ‘letter’ can be disregarded solely on that basis.  Our children have no conscience because we don’t spank them anymore?  I was hit as a child – there was no Dr. Spock philosophy in my household – and I have plenty desire to do violence, especially to those who spout such stupidity.

Ben states: “I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can’t find it in the Constitution and I don’t like it being shoved down my throat.”

Well, that’s a sentiment I can agree with, but here’s the thing Mr. Stein:  People who don’t believe in God, in whatever form you’d express that God, are the ones who have been seriously ‘pushed around’.  People have been force-fed Christianity for thousands of years in a ‘believe or die’ hate-fest.  I honestly don’t care whatever you believe until those beliefs come to bear on non-believers, and how they can live.  You’re sick of people being chided for trying to make others live by a set of commands that don’t pertain to them?  You want a theocracy, and that’s the mandate of religious people, but a theocracy would fundamentally, and I believe, detrimentally, change our Democratic Republic.  We’d be like Saudi Arabia, and all other countries who rule from the pulpit.  And those people are deeply corrupt, Mr. Stein, et al, because they are flawed human beings ruling over others with impunity.  Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

You don’t agree, and that’s fine, but when no one is offering an alternative to your opinion, it appears that most people agree with you, or are so cowed by your statements that they won’t give answer to them.  I’m simply trying to disavow you of that notion.

I don’t think we should ‘worship celebrities’, and who is not allowing you to worship God?!  You have any number of places and times to worship.  You can put down a prayer rug and pray on the sidewalk.  And there will be horrible people trying to stop you, but it won’t be atheists, or agnostics, it will be fundamentalist, hate-filled, people who try to prevent you.  It will be other religious fanatics trying to squash your ability to worship, and not non-believers!  Non-believers only care when you’re trying to ‘shove’ your religion and beliefs ‘down our throat’!  You can, in fact, pray in school – it’s just not a thing like having to recite the Pledge of Allegiance en masse.

Isn’t it nice to be wished a Happy Chanukah if you’re a practicing Jew, even if you’re glad to be wished Merry Christmas?  Just because someone is trying to be inclusive by saying ‘happy holidays’ should not make them a threat to your beliefs and celebrations.  I was a Christian for much of my life, and I’m fine with being wished a ‘Merry Christmas’ too, even though my beliefs no longer include the erroneous Christmas story.  I even wish others a ‘Merry Christmas’ on December 25th because it’s a cultural norm, and a way to honor those who celebrate that day as their decided upon ‘birth of a Savior’.

I like Menorahs, and the tale of Chanukah, and I like the story of Jesus, and the crèche/manger scene.  I like the lights, and decorating trees, and singing Christmas songs, because they’re pretty, regardless of my belief or non-belief.  Those traditions lift my spirits in a dark time of the year.

And then there’s the paragraph about Billy Graham’s daughter who said she thinks God has backed away from us because we asked Him too.  You can believe her, and live superstitiously all you want, but like having a black cat cross your path, and then tragedy happening, doesn’t make the cat responsible for your misfortune.  Hurricane Katrina wasn’t caused by God, and when you suggest that, you’re suggesting that we all be superstitious rather than rational, and that is a far deeper tragedy than not believing in God.

Another error Mr. Stein (or whoever altered his original thoughts) attempts is this:

In light of recent events… terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O’Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn’t want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbour as yourself. And we said OK.

You are connecting heinous acts with the removal of state sanctioned prayer in school.  You can pray in school, you can bring your Bible to school; you cannot proselytize in school, however.  The Bible may say ‘thou shalt not kill’, and the other nine commandments, but you are assuming that humanity would have killed each other off were it not for those words sent down from a mountain top.  But, if you continue to read the Bible, people never stopped doing exactly what was ‘forbidden’ them.  Ever.  We kill, we fornicate, we lust, we have avarice, and pride.  It didn’t work.  The words fell on mostly deaf ears – and those were believers!  Those were people who heard Moses recite the tablet, who later read that book, who still promote the ideas of that book while molesting the children in their congregations.

It is unfettered greed that has led to the condition we find ourselves in.  We’ve never lost biblical and other religious works’ guidance, and still commit horrific crimes even when reading those words and trying to practice those precepts.  You’d claim that we are savages without religious guidance, but there are many examples of Peoples in the world who never heard of your god, or any god, who lived peacefully, who settled their differences, who made sure that their communities had enough.  It is disingenuous to claim that less religion is the reason for world turmoil.

No, Mr. Stein, I’m not laughing, but it is laughable that you continue to inject logical fallacies as fact.  You say: “Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world’s going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send ‘jokes’ through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.”

What newspapers contain are usually knowable facts, Mr. Stein, et al.  God is not a knowable fact.  God is a presumption, and those who believe in God have to go on faith that what is said is true.  I like what’s knowable, and do have belief in unknowable/unverifiable things, but that is my personal prerogative, and I don’t try to make anyone else live by, or subscribe to, my quite possibly fantasy world.  Belief in ‘the Lord’ is a personal decision.  I don’t spread that around the internet or email because that’s proselytizing, and I prefer attraction to promotion.  For the record, I don’t like lewd, crude, vulgar, and obscene jokes or pictures, and my friends know that about me, and respectfully don’t send those kinds of things to me, and if I see it on Facebook, or elsewhere, I hide the page, or otherwise disengage from that kind of ‘humor’, and I’m still grateful that prayer is not mandated in school.  You are free to move to a repressive theocratic nation, Mr. Stein, et al.

I believe there is nobility in spiritual books.  My views diverge from those who follow such works literally.  My impetus is toward bringing more light into this world, not less, and perhaps that stems from my religious upbringing, but I think it’s mostly a result from being harmed throughout my childhood, and young adulthood.  I don’t want others to suffer like I did, so I treat others kindly, but I refuse to be ill-used anymore, or remain silent in the face of ignorance.

The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary.

My confession:

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejewelled trees, Christmas trees. I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel discriminated against. That’s what they are, Christmas trees.

It doesn’t bother me a bit when people say, “Merry Christmas” to me. I don’t think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn’t bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a crib, it’s just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can’t find it in the Constitution and I don’t like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren’t allowed to worship God? I guess that’s a sign that I’m getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it’s not funny, it’s intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham’s daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her: “How could God let something like this happen?” (regarding Hurricane Katrina). Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said: “I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we’ve been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?”

In light of recent events… terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O’Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn’t want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbour as yourself. And we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn’t spank our children when they misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock’s son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he’s talking about. And we said okay.

Now we’re asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don’t know right from wrong, and why it doesn’t bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with ‘WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.’

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world’s going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send ‘jokes’ through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Are you laughing yet?

Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you’re not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit.

If not, then just discard it…. no one will know you did. But if you discard this thought process, don’t sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.

My Best Regards, Honestly and respectfully,

Ben Stein

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.