Posted on May 19th, 2021
I've had many mormon friends over the years that have come to mean a lot to me. And, without exception, they have accepted it when I tell them that I try to live my life according to Buddhist principles and that's enough for me. They've never attempted to "convert" me. They've never condemned me or my beliefs. They've never lied or harmed members of my family. They've never been anything except nice to me. And so I've done my very best to be kind to them in turn.
When I'm traveling and run into Mormon missionaries, I stop and say hello, ask how they're doing, and ask them where they are from to make conversation. Especially when I am in a foreign country, because I know they're probably homesick and lonely. Being nice costs me nothing.
This is not to say that I don't have issues with the Mormon Church. Far from it. I was absolutely infuriated when they, as a tax-exempt entity, decided to support the virulently anti-gay Prop. 8 Campaign. But I feel this way about all the churches that decided to become anti-gay propaganda machines. If you want to be a PAC, then that makes you taxable, and you should lose your exemption. Period.
But anyway... ultimately if you want to be Mormon (or whatever) and aren't using it as a weapon to against people (see Prop. 8 above) then you do you and I'll do me.
And if you want to stop being a Mormon, that's okay with me too.
Which brings us to Mormon Stories.
Mormon Stories Podcast is a series of conversations with John Dehlin which center around Mormonism. It started as a forum where Mormons could discuss all aspects of the religion from varying perspectives. And it's fascinating. I was reminded of this recently when a friend brought up Tyler Glenn (lead singer from Neon Trees). Back when I first got into the band (late... just four years ago or so), I found a 3-part interview he did about his growing up in Mormonism... and what eventually caused him to leave the church. If you don't know of him, he's the guy behind the fantastic theme song for Love, Victor...
I ended up listening to Tyler's episode all over again. I think what makes it so compelling is just how smart, kind, and humble he is when talking about Mormonism. His perspective is part uplifting... part heartbreaking... but all interesting. Even if you're not a fan of Neon Trees I still highly recommend listening to his appearance on Mormon Stories. Yes, it's six hours long, but once you start listening the time flies by. I (re)listened to it while I was working...
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. There's an interview with Jeremy Runnells about his infamous letter questioning Mormonism that's fascinating in a more analytical way. There's an interview with Wayne Sermon from the band Imagine Dragons that's every bit as interesting as Tyler Glenn's story. There's an interview with Noah Rasheta, who teaches Secular Buddhism from the perspective an ex-Mormon. The list goes on and on.
If you're looking for a new podcast series about a subject you may not even be familiar with, give it a listen.
Posted on February 12th, 2015
My work commute is around five minutes. Five minutes I must drive in a car because I have loads of materials that have to accompany me back and forth.
You'd think that such a short amount of time would eliminate any possibility of drama or excitement.
You would be wrong.
Both coming and going, it's a drive I have begun to loathe with every fiber of my being. For whatever amount of time on the road now-a-days, there are simply too many idiots and assholes out there to escape it... driving is torture.
Will somebody please give me a billion dollars so I can afford to hire a car and driver?
Because the ten minutes I spend on the road is now responsible for over 50% of my rage each day.
Rage that would be much better spent hating the Yankees.
Posted on February 11th, 2015
Yesterday three people were murdered in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
It's horrific to think that killings are so commonplace in this country that many people's reaction would be something along the lines of "So? People get murdered every day!"... and that's pretty much what the reaction has been. I don't watch a lot of news, but what little I've seen hasn't mentioned it. I don't have tons of time for social media, but my Twitter and Facebook feed has been mute. The mainstream print media? Nope.
And I guess that's understandable. If a murder happens in your local community, it'll most certainly make your local paper. But, with around 15,000 murders in the USA each year, it probably won't go national or enter the public consciousness unless there are extraordinary circumstances surrounding it.
Extraordinary circumstances like... ohhhhhh... let's say... it was a murder committed by somebody claiming to be a follower of Islam, for example.
If a family were to be murdered by a Muslim killer, that makes national news. You wouldn't be able to turn around without that story being broadcast out of every available outlet. Hell, FOX "News" would be hyping the heck out of a story like that every hour on the hour. On the half hour. Gotta keep the Muslim hate machine going, after all... gotta keep the fear running hot... and Muslims murdering innocent people (especially innocent white people) on US soil would be mana from heaven for FOX's non-stop "America-is-a-Christian-Nation-and-Everybody-Else-Should-Get-the-Hell-Out-of-Our-Country" agenda.
You can't promote your fictional "War on Christmas" propaganda outside of Christmas season, after all. You have to have something for the other six months of the year.
Okay then. Let's run a different sequence of events. Let's say it was an atheist who murdered an innocent family. What happens then? Well, that scenario isn't going to get FOX and Friends as much traction as a Muslim murderer... but, still... any time the murderer is a non-Christian, it's fuel for the agenda right? Any time you can spin non-Christians as immoral animals destroying this country is time well spent when you're FOX "News," right?
You'd think so, wouldn't you?
And you're probably right.
Except when the people who were murdered by the atheist are Muslim.
As is the case with the tragic events in Chapel Hill yesterday.
If you're FOX "News," providing sympathetic context for innocent Muslims being murdered is counter to the agenda that governs your very existence. And so... no twice-hourly news coverage of the murders then. A quick mention in the headlines to maintain the appearance of being "Fair and Balanced," perhaps, but that's as far as it goes.
But that's just FOX "News."
You expect something like that from FOX "News."
But what about the rest of the mainstream media? Where in the hell are they on this story?
I don't know.
Or perhaps the general feeling is that there are 15,000 murders in the USA each year, and three people getting murdered over a parking space just doesn't merit a national news story.
And yes, if you hadn't heard, the reason being given for a psychopath murdering three people next-door to him was a fight over a parking space. He was a violent man. He was filled with hatred for everybody and anybody. He had clashed with people over parking in the past. This was just a sad, but most likely inevitable, culmination of events which have been building for quite some time. Nothing to see here. Move along.
Or so we're supposed to believe, I'd imagine.
The very idea that the lack of coverage might be because the three dead people in Chapel Hill are Muslim and therefor don't matter because we've been conditioned to believe that all Muslims are terrorists and the only good Muslim is a dead Muslim... well, that would be a horrific reflection of American society... home of "freedom of religion."
Yes. Yes it would.
And yet... given the extraordinary circumstances surrounding these murders... circumstance which, if reversed, would cause a media firestorm that would blanket the nation with news cycle after news cycle of coverage... what other conclusion can be drawn?
Because, honestly, does anybody think this all seriously comes down to a parking space? Anybody?
Or does it come down to an angry person inundated by anti-Muslim sentiment day in and day out finally getting just the excuse he wanted to kill people. People who don't matter. People so vilified that they deserve to die. People whose murder might even end up making him a national hero. Somebody Judge Jeanine would be proud of...
To all my Muslim friends who want nothing more than to live their lives in peaceful coexistence with their fellow Americans and share in the freedoms this country was built upon... I am sorry.
I am sorry that a tiny fraction of the world's two billion Muslims who dedicate their lives to terror are made to define you.
I am sorry that every possible negative connection to your religion... no matter how tenuous... make the news where positive reflections of your faith rarely do.
I am sorry that you have been made into an object of fear and loathing by a systematic campaign of hate meant to dehumanize you, your families, and your friends.
I am sorry that our society fosters an environment where your community is marginalized and your contributions are dismissed.
I am sorry that you have to find a way of explaining to your children how their very existence is a catalyst for exclusion and hostility... not by your country's enemies or by religious radicals in a land half-a-world away... but by a frighteningly large segment of their fellow citizens right here at home.
But most of all... most of all... I'm sorry that nobody is asking the hard questions that need to be asked about what lead to the horrifying events in Chapel Hill yesterday.
Because three human beings gone too soon from this earth deserve more than to be reduced to a parking space.
Posted on April 15th, 2010
Today was a much better day than yesterday, mostly because I didn't wake up screaming. And you know what they say... "any day you don't wake up screaming in agony is a good one!" Though, to be honest, I'd rather not be screaming in agony any time of day, so there's that. But anyway...
As anybody who has read this blog for a while already knows, I have a on-again-off-again fascination with the Catholic Church. I was raised Catholic, baptized, attended Sunday School, accepted First Communion, and formed a bond with the faith that would far outlast the day I eventually left the church.
This fascination manifests itself in my blog from time to time. Like when I toyed with the idea of becoming a priest...
And, of course, the many times I've mentioned wanting to become Pope...
Not to mention the time my entire year was made when I got a glimpse of Pope John Paul II while visiting Rome...
Oh how I loved Pope John
Partly because I still had friends and family who were members, but mostly because of the tremendous respect, admiration, and affection I had towards Pope John
But it's not always been good times. The above quote comes from an entry where I express my complete disgust with Pope
Which is why we have total fucking dumbasses who are "Vatican Officials" making statements defending pedophile priests by saying that it's the homosexuals who are the true pedophiles. And don't get me started on the idiocy of the Pope's own personal preacher comparing attacks on the Catholic Church during pedophile investigations to The Holocaust (even if it had come from an unnamed "Jewish friend"). It's all such disgusting and vile behavior that one has to wonder if my jokes about "initiating a hostile takeover of the papacy" shouldn't become a reality. Because, in all seriousness, it's not like anybody could possibly do a worse job that what's in there now.
I was very lucky that the two priests during my "tenure" with The Church were kind, honorable, decent men of conviction and service to their beliefs. They were inspirational leaders who were a part of the community, and a testament to the Christian faith. Which is why it's painful to read and hear all the horrendous things being written and said about the Catholic Church... even though they are things that must be addressed... one way or the other.
Meaning that if this Pope isn't going to step up and declare that pedophilia by any Catholic priest is to be denounced and punished to the full extent of the law... somebody has to step in and do it. Otherwise, there's just no way that the Catholic Church can be allowed to continue to operate above the law as they have been. If a self-policing entity doesn't address injustices against their people, they don't deserve to have such power. More to the point, they should't have it now.
One can only hope that the Catholic Church will eventually regain leadership which earns my regard instead of my contempt. Until that day, I am trying hard not to lose sight of Pope John
Posted on March 30th, 2010
"My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth."
— 1 John 3:18, King James Bible
I do not often speak of my religious and philosophical beliefs because they are deeply personal to me, and not open for debate on this blog (as most everything I write here ends up being). Suffice to say that I try to lead my life according to Buddhist precepts of doing no harm but don't actually consider myself a Buddhist because I do not follow these precepts as completely as a "true" Buddhist would. That being said, I have studied several different religions in an effort to understand my fellow humans better. Needless to say this includes the many flavors of Christianity.
In my pursuit of comprehending Christians, I have studied The Bible (both Old and New Testament) from several different approaches... including the placement of the Holy Texts in their historical context. From this respect, I am probably better-informed as to their faith than most self-professed Christians are. Especially those who would take some random piece of Scripture... put it in a 20th century context based on modern-day vernacular, customs, and thinking... and then use said Scripture to attack or persecute people. That always drives me nuts because of the sublime ignorance it takes to use the Word of their God as a weapon when, more often than not, the people doing so have no clue as to what that passage actually means. Instead they are using their personal interpretation of a translation of an accounting of texts taken out of context to promote a personal agenda, often in ways that would have originally been impossible... either due to the mores of the time period, or the constructs of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, or Koine Greek language in which The Bible was written.
I can best explain this by using an example: "Awful" originally meant "full of awe" and was used to describe something spectacular instead of something horrible. And that's a relatively RECENT AND UNTRANSLATED example, which was still showing up in English texts under the original meaning just two hundred years ago. Can you imagine how the meaning of words could have changed with translation to another language over the span of two thousand years or more?
In defense of Christians, however, I believe that many of them understand that The Bible is not something that can be taken literally all the time. The ideals within The Bible are immutable to their faith, but certain allowances have to be made for the era in which the Holy Texts were written, and the creative allegory which the authors used to illustrate concepts of Christianity to the people living during those times. Certainly directives such as "Thou Shalt Not Kill" are as true in meaning now as they were back then... but you simply cannot say the same for everything that's in The Bible, or else modern-day Christians would have some very messed-up ways of practicing their faith.
Not to say that there aren't some Christians out there who are doing their best to prove me wrong.
And though the remainder of this entry will be in response to actions of the Westboro Baptist Church, I want to be very clear that I do not consider them unique in their ability to use The Word of their God to do things I consider to be reprehensible. Obviously, the world is replete with examples of peoples of all faiths doing exactly that. It just so happens that this time it's the Westboro Baptist Church who are the ones that caught my attention.
But before I start my little tirade, I should also mention that I fully support members of the Westboro Baptist Church exercising their right to free speech in a manner that complies with the freedoms allowed by that right. I may not agree with the things they say, but I'm sure there are people out there who would say the same thing about me, so more power to them. From their perspective, they are actually trying to help people by raising awareness of their particular interpretation of The Bible, and since they are not using guns or explosives to do it, well... this is The United States of America. If you can't take people expressing themselves and their beliefs, then you really need to find a different country.
There has to be limits.
There has to be limits because a healthy democratic society not only allows for personal freedoms, but also allows for protection from harm and cruelty that might arise from such freedoms. As an example, your personal freedom of speech does not allow you to scream "HEY! THERE'S A FIRE!" in the middle of a crowded building. Doing so could result in people getting hurt, not to mention being a really mean thing to do. Likewise, you can't sacrifice a virgin to Zuul in the middle of Central Park and cry "freedom of religion" because you've just grossly violated the rights and freedoms of the virgin you just killed... even if they were a willing participant (especially if they were a willing participant). Some would say that freedom with limits is not really freedom at all, but "freedom" is a pretty open-ended word and could easily be perverted to allow persecution of people whose own freedom would be violated in the process of enacting it. Thus, limits.
So, while I support the Westboro Baptist Church for their hate-speech fueled picketing of whatever their latest target might be (as well as those awesome people who picket in response) I also support the idea that their actions should be limited.
Because it's one thing to say "homosexuality is wrong" in the most disgusting way possible... but it's another thing entirely to cause serious emotional cruelty with intent to harm, such as when they picket a funeral. And though I consider the death of a soldier no more tragic than the death of any person, I have to say that picketing the funeral of a fallen soldier who died in service of this country is particularly heinous considering it was soldiers who died for their right to have free speech in the first place...
The Bible is relatively quiet about funerals and how Christians should treat the dead. Probably because the core concept of Christianity is the idea of eternal life. To Christians death is just a beginning, so whatever ceremony people want to have for those departed (not to mention the method they use for disposing of the remains) is up to them and whatever traditions they hold.
And so even though the Westboro Baptist Church can toss out whatever context-deprived and misrepresented snippets of The Bible they wish to support their actions, their ruthless persecution of people who are grieving over the death of friends or family is a truly indefensible position to take. Because while The Bible is not so explicit with how one should treat the dead, it is overflowing with passages as to how you should treat the living. Thus, to say that the Westboro Baptist Church violates the very ideals of The Bible they profess to live by, truly is an understatement of biblical proportions.
Which is why I am understandably outraged when I read that Al Snyder, the father of a Marine whose funeral was picketed by the Westboro Baptist Church, has been ordered to pay them $16,000 as compensation for their court costs. The father had (rightfully) won an earlier judgement on the grounds that privacy and religious rights were violated by the church's protest but, since the church won on appeal to the Fourth Circuit, a grieving father gets screwed... again... this time financially.
And now I sit here dumbfounded, trying to figure out exactly how our Founding Fathers could have possibly anticipated such a grotesque application of The Bill of Rights as they were writing them.
Probably because there is no way they could have anticipated something as wholly fucked up as this when The First Amendment was drafted.
I find it sickening on every possible level that we have a legal system which not only actively supports people's "right" to inflict such reprehensible cruelty, but also dictates that victims of such cruelty are responsible for paying for their own deplorable treatment at the hands of the law. THIS is justice? How? There is no justice for the father who was ruthlessly abused in a time of sorrow. There sure as hell is no justice for a dead Marine who is unable to speak out against the abuse of friends and loved-ones at HIS funeral. By the courts saying that there are no limits to the freedoms of the Westboro Baptist Church to persecute people, how can the rest of us be free?
Exploiting the tragedy of somebody's death for glorification of their church and self-promotion of their hate makes members of the Westboro Baptist Church about the least "Christian" people on earth. It also makes them fucking assholes. I honestly believe that a time is coming when citizens of the United States of America are going to put aside their petty political bitching and focus on the big-picture items upon which all of us should be able to agree. Very high on that list is not allowing fucking assholes to picket a funeral and deprive a grieving father HIS freedom to mourn in peace.
Mutual respect for your fellow humans is the only way this whole "freedom" thing is ever going to work out. Those who have no respect, don't deserve the freedom.
If you want to show your support for Al Snyder, you can join the Facebook group he made to support his son and legal battles.
You can also help by donating money to Mr. Snyder to pay the court-mandated fees associated with Westboro Baptist Church's appeal. Any monies collected in excess of the costs will be donated to scholarship funds for returning veterans.