Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Blinded in the shade

I’m in Minneapolis, a day early (and possibly a dollar short). I’m here for a conference that starts on Wednesday, so I don’t really need to be here until tomorrow. However, a couple weeks ago, before being invited to attend the Grace Hopper Conference, I learned that a former coworker and someone I consider a friend and mentor, has stage-IV pancreatic cancer. I used to teach with Melinda at The Yellow Nunnery. Then I moved back to her home state of California, and she and her husband retired to Honduras (I always mistakenly think she is in Nicaragua). Melinda is one of those people that has been on my list to visit along with friends in Morocco, Spain, and Australia. I made it to two of the four places this year. 

So when I learned that Melinda was undergoing treatment in a hospital in Wisconsin, and that I was going to Minnesota, I scheduled my trip a day early so that I could drive the five hours across the state border. But I didn’t make concrete plans of anything because, by then, she was leaving the hospital for the final time and settling in for hospice care. And I know that a lot can change in two weeks, especially since she’d only been eating ice chips for the previous three weeks. Considering the immense pain she was in, I was secretly hoping that her god would be swift and merciful.

Before I got on the plane this morning, I left her a message that I was on my way to the midwest. As I debarked, I read a message from her husband that said she’d slipped into a coma and things were progressing quickly. I left him voicemail. Awkward voicemail. This is one of those times that I never know the right things to say. I told him that I was going to stay put in Minnesota. I didn’t want to intrude on their grieving process. This is time for family. 

Besides, I have my own grieving process for the world losing another intelligent, strong-willed, powerful woman. It includes sitting in a strange place, drinking a beer, and typing on my laptop. Melinda is adventurous and curious. So in her honor, I’m exploring and I’m enjoying life. I’m eating and savoring the flavors of food and drink since she couldn’t consume anything but water for the last few weeks of her life. I may have just squandered calories on a plate of fried, gouda mac & cheese balls with spicy catsup along with a Summit Extra Pale Ale at Brit’s Pub & Eating Establishment in downtown Minnesota while watching people play lawn bowling on the rooftop bar. But the calories were worth sinking my teeth through the hot (Minnesota-hot, not Thai-hot) tomato sauce into a crispy coating around a ball of gooey goodness.

As I type this, the sun is setting behind one building while it reflects off the windows of another. I find myself in the juxtaposition of being blinded in the shade while contemplating life and death and what we all mean.

It isn’t my fault

For the past six years I’ve been scared. Afraid to speak out. Frightened to admit that I Love My Life.

Six years ago, as I was writing about how amazing my life is, Uncle C shot himself on his front porch. iDad told me the next morning and I flew home that night. It happened on Good Friday. I arrived Easter morning. Uncle C did not rise from the dead like Jesus Christ. I wrote A Luthier’s Poem a week later.

And since that day, I’ve been afraid to admit I’m happy. Afraid that if I say those words, the world will balance itself by taking another life. I know that isn’t how it works, but I’ve felt responsible. Like my happiness meant someone else in the world would have to be miserable to balance the scales.

It wasn’t my fault.

I tell myself that. I imagine myself lying on a green, fuzzy lounge chair and the shrink telling me to repeat the words, “It is not your fault.”

I think to myself, “No, it wasn’t your fault, it was mine. Karma.” Then I say it out loud, “It’s not my fault,” but I don’t mean it. The words are as empty as the twenty-seven calories in each of the pink Peeps I ate today. Since when are Peeps pink? Not that I’m really complaining. I licked the sugar seductively from my fingertips as I walked through the parking lot to catch the shuttle.

I envision you all watching this on your big screen televisions while sipping wine and tweeting. Felicia Day is playing my character, although she’d need to put on some weight for the role. There is ominous music playing in the background. An older gentleman appears as the antagonist.

It wasn’t my fault.

I feel guilt. It has lessened over six years, but it is still there. A little twinge when I smile at the wispy clouds on a beautiful afternoon walk. A facial tick when I laugh at the cat clawing the dog in slow motion. A slight prick as I sit on the couch eating cheese and crackers and sipping a fine wine.

I know I wasn’t my fault, just like a kid knows that it isn’t her fault when her parents divorce. Rationally, she had nothing to do with it, but irrationally it is because she refused to eat her peas one night.

When I was a kid, I would curl up in a ball in the far corner of my bed and cry until my eyes were raw because at age ten, I was not doing enough to save the whales or the starving kids in Africa. Never mind the fact that we were poor and my parents were doing their best to save me. I’ve blamed myself for things that were out of my control for a very long time.

It wasn’t my fault.

I don’t believe in God, I don’t believe in an afterlife, but I do have an irrational belief in karma—that there is balance in the world. That what goes around comes around. I’m always trying to preload karma points for the next time I screw up so that I’m always in the black.

I believe in fate. I keep looking for it in my life. It used to be everywhere when I was younger. Coincidences. Happenstance. Fate appeared in relationships. Fate appeared in job interviews. Fate is comforting. I immediately accept it when I see it. And I’ve missed it over the last few years.

But fate had to always battle my belief in free will. I have it, and I’m not afraid to wield it. My free will is my wild side. The side that defies convention.

I believe that everyone has free will, but they can choose whether or not to use the Free Will card. Maybe there are a finite number of them like the Get Out Of Jail Free card in Monopoly.

Uncle C had free will. My loving my life did not create an imbalance in the world and force him to do what he did.

It wasn’t my fault.

It is okay for me to be happy.

I have an amazing life. Family and friends I love. A roof over my head. Pets who at least pretend to like me. Incredible food to eat and wine to drink. I may not be “lucky in love”, but we all know that is of my own doing. It is hard for someone to break into this.

And my saying this does not mean a family member will die tonight.

It isn’t my fault.

The Christian Left

I’ve been bothered constantly by the irony and contradictions of The Religious Right.  So much so that I’ll admit, I began to think all people who believed in religion (I should specify, all Christians) were represented by the Ridiculous Right. Deep down, I knew this to be untrue, but all the lies and misdirection they are spreading was all I was hearing.

The Ridiculous Right is vehemently vocal.

What drives me craziest about The Ridiculous Right is that they claim to be Christian, yet they are supporting the GOP that wants to

  • Cut funding to entitlement programs, yet Jesus told us to care for the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and educate all (maybe not the last one, but I’d believe it).
  • Continue funding for the military, such as bombs and guns to kill people,  while one of the ten commandments is Thou Shalt Not Kill.
  • Support the death penalty, still we shouldn’t kill and should let God make final judgement.
  • Not regulate gun use, which are supposedly not to kill people, yet the things you shoot at shooting ranges are silhouettes of black people.
  • Ban gay marriage, but Jesus says to love everyone.
  • Oppose immigration, yet I doubt Jesus believed in country borders.
  • Ban abortion, even if it means letting the mother die and rapists sow their seeds.
  • Fund oil companies that are contributing to man-made global warming and laugh at the idea of saving the environment when God left us as shepherds of the earth he created.

I began to think that all Christians thought like this.  Then one day, I came across The Christian Left on Facebook.  I was skeptical at first, but after reading more, I can see that this is exactly the side that I haven’t been hearing.  These people believe all the things that I was taught growing up in the Catholic Church.  They talk about the Jesus I remember. Love and peace and forgiveness and friendship to all and helping those who need it most.

Now I no longer believe in God, Jesus, or the Bible, but there is a whole moral and value system that I do believe.  Regardless of whom you believe your maker is, we all have a set of morals and values by which we live.  Sometimes they are different, hopefully there are lots of similarities.

So I implore you to check out The Christian Left Blog too.  As an atheist, it is nice to know that not all religious people say one thing and support the opposite.

I’m feeling much better now.

Why religion should stay out of my contraception

Recently, the Obama administration has been getting heat for part of the health bill that requires employers to provide contraception at no cost. Religious groups have been fighting back saying that they shouldn’t have to do this because it is against their beliefs. The bill states that they must if they serve women of any faith. I fully support the Obama administration in their efforts to improve womens’ health.

I have been on the pill for eighteen years. But it isn’t why you think.

Yes, originally it was to prevent pregnancy. Yes, I had sex outside of marriage. It happened. I’m not ashamed. But it isn’t the reason I’ve been using the pill this whole time.

One warm, summer morning in Connecticut, I was feeling perfectly fine, except for the dread that I was going to be in a lot of pain in a few hours after surgery. Twelve years later, I still have a five-inch scar, and a lot of money spent on birth control to remind me.

Since age seventeen, every other month for a day, I’d be in excruciating pain. The first time it happened was my chemistry midterm. I wrote my name on my paper, I tried to read the question through the searing sensation in my abdomen, but I couldn’t. I was a shy, quiet kid, not one who would ever disrupt a classroom. That day I stood up without saying a word and walked out the door, letting it slam as I hobbled to the bathroom.

A while later, I managed to get to the nurse’s office. I’m forever grateful for my mother picking me up. She stopped by the chemistry class and picked up my calculator and books. And she took me home to comfort me, while I felt shame for having disrupted the test, and embarrassment that I’d have to retake it at another time. But teenage girls and their cramps will happen. At least that is what I thought it was.

For the next eight years, every other month, I would writhe in pain for a day. My cats would stare at me, wondering who would feed them when I was dead. And I would curl up in a ball hoping to pass out and praying that the cats wouldn’t start feeding on me while I slept.

Two months is a long time. By the time it happened again, I’d forgotten about the last time. It went undiagnosed by my college OBGYN who gave me an exam and filled my first prescription for the pill.

Five years later, I had an exam. The doctor asked if I was pregnant. I told her I was certain that I was not. Then she said, “You did say that you have male partners, right?”

My doctor just questioned if I am a lesbian. Could this get any worse?

Yes it can. She made me take a test I hadn’t studied for. It was negative for pregnancy. So I had an ultrasound a couple days later. The results came in. I had a ten-centimeter cyst encasing an ovary.

The morning of surgery, I signed papers that I was an organ donor and asked that they not take anything I needed or was still using. They made me sign papers that said if they found the cyst to be cancerous, they could take out whatever they wanted. It was a lot to ask of a twenty-five year old.

The doctor removed the cyst and an ovary. There was no cancer. I was thankful for that. And I was grateful that my mother quit her temp job to care for me the first week. Meine Schwester moved in the next. I couldn’t have done it without them.

So what does this have to do with the pill and Obamacare? Well, it turns out that one of the best treatments for preventing ovarian cysts is the pill. So regardless of my need to use the pill for contraception, the real reason I use it, even when I don’t seemingly need it, is because it keeps me from doubling over in pain for a day every other month. Or possibly dying.

I’ve had to pay hundreds of dollars a year for a drug to prevent ovarian cysts that the Catholic Church and other religious organizations don’t want to provide to anyone.

I’m grateful that I’ve had doctors and hospitals willing to prescribe it to me. I know I am in the minority of women using the pill, but I’m grateful to the Obama administration that other women will be able to access the drugs they need and that it won’t cost them what it has cost me.

Bryan Fischer is an ignoramus

I actually didn’t know who Bryan Fischer is, so I had to look him up on Wikipedia:

Bryan Fischer is the Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association (AFA), hosting the talk radio program Focal Point on American Family Radio and posting on the AFA-run blog Rightly Concerned.

Where I heard his name was on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday. And what I heard that appalled me was Bryan Fischer, on his Focal Point show, explaining that,

The purpose of the first amendment is to protect the free exercise of the Christian religion.

I couldn’t finish watching the video. I find Bryan Fischer to be offensive and vile. And I am disgusted, that with the venom he spews, that he claims to be a Christian. I thought Christianity was about love and respect, not hate and fear. If I believed in god, I would pray for his soul.

As YY4Me133 commented on the YouTube page,

The founders created a secular nation, not a theocracy. The U.S. Constitution mentions religion only in the negative.

Article VI: “…but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

Amendment 1*: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion**, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

*Ratified in 1791, 39 years before mormonism was created by Joseph Smith.

**This includes christianity.

The full text of the First Amendment is

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

My interpretation of the first amendment is that it protects the free exercise of all religion, not just Christianity, and that it is far more reaching than just about the free exercise of the Christian religion. The first amendment ensures that the government won’t create a state sanctioned religion and I’m allowed to practice any religion regardless of whether it is recognized by the Christian Right; that I am allowed to speak and write freely about the egregious misinterpretation of the First Amendment by Bryan Fischer; that I can protest as part of Occupy Wall Street or rally with the Tea Party; and that I can complain to the government if I feel wronged.

It would be beneficial for Bryan Fischer to retake eighth grade english and history again since he seems to be incapable of understanding a simple english paragraph and forgets that our country was started by people fleeing religious persecution. He might want to reconsider persecuting other religions himself.

Prepared for The Rapture

I left out wine and bread before going to bed. Hope Jesus likes it for The Rapture. Friends said he’d like it more than milk and cookies, or carrots, or teeth.

Hope he doesn’t mind the bread is partially eaten. I got hungry waiting for The Rapture.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

10 Reasons Why Gay Marriage is Wrong

(reposting Mitchell Sturges)

01) Being gay is not natural. Real Americans always reject unnatural things like eyeglasses, polyester, and air conditioning.

02) Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall.

03) Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage contract.

04) Straight marriage has been around a long time and hasn’t changed at all; women are still property, blacks still can’t marry whites, and divorce is still illegal.

05) Straight marriage will be less meaningful if gay marriage were allowed; the sanctity of Britany Spears’ 55-hour just-for-fun marriage would be destroyed.

06) Straight marriages are valid because they produce children. Gay couples, infertile couples, and old people shouldn’t be allowed to marry because our orphanages aren’t full yet, and the world needs more children.

07) Obviously gay parents will raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children.

08) Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are imposed on the entire country. That’s why we have only one religion in America.

09) Children can never succeed without a male and a female role model at home. That’s why we as a society expressly forbid single parents to raise children.

10) Gay marriage will change the foundation of society; we could never adapt to new social norms. Just like we haven’t adapted to cars, the service-sector economy, or longer life spans.