This is how our president defined our country yesterday. Explicitly denying that it was a “Christian nation” and explicitly stating that this fact is one of our “great strengths”.
It’s nice to be reminded of this—and by someone so high in the administration! It is vogue for politicians to exclaim “God bless America!” Whether or not The Divine smiles upon us is not the issue, the issue is which Divinity is being invoked. Likely not mine, which makes me bristle. Change the invocation just a bit and even the Christian right will object: “Allah bless America” and “Goddess bless America” are nearly epithets.
I look forward to what the religious response to this will be—will our secular roots continue to be denied? Will this be further proof that Obama is the anti-Christ? Or will this be accepted as an endorsement of pluralism? An invitation to dialogue?
Our country is yet young and still going through growing pains. I see our insistence on religion in the public sphere as evidence of this. I think the Secular Coalition’s crowing may work against them, but this may indicate, not a turning away from religion but a turning towards acceptance of non-religion. A big step for us.
The Vermont Senate, finding (correctly) that Civil Unions for gay couples fall short of providing equal rights, voted overwhelmingly to approve Civil Marriage for gay couples. The matter still has to go before the Vermont House (and since I’m late to this, may already have gone), where it is expected to pass. The margin by which it was approved is too great for the governor to veto (if he were to try).
As others have said before me, This Is How We Do It!
Gah! It’s already nearly 1600 and we don’t have a Music Monday! I’m sorry, dear readers, clearly I’m distracted :-p (I usually prepare them weeks in advance). I just discovered this, but it’s in no way new. I keep a list of “Songs To Get” (Apple Mail’s Notes? le awesome), including “Sisters are Doin’ it for Themselves”, which I’d never heard and can’t even remember what or who referenced it, by Aretha Franklin and Annie Lennox.
I am in love. This is one of those songs that I can crank and sing along at the top of my lungs to. I don’t know what my neighbors must think, nor do I care:
I don’t think lyrics are necessary, but here you go.
Also? I wish I could get my hair to look that great (maybe I need to dye it white). And Annie Lennox fucking rocks the leather pants. *drool*
This is from years ago but truly, absolutely worth it:
There’s a debate that addresses this at school today, which I shall attend. It is put on by the local chapter of the Federalist Society (the campus representative states that they are devoted to “honest & careful interpretation of the constitution” and are “never timid about debating”). Sometimes I feel like I’m surrounded by them (witness yesterday’s meeting of the local chapter of the ACLU; all of us were stunned that there even was one).
To prepare for the debate, I perused the Federalists’ website, where I found this, what I believe to be the most cogent argument against gay marriage yet:
[T]here is a stark biological fact to contend with: in homosexual families, by definition, only one parent, at most, will be biologically related to the child. In effect, gay families are either adoptive families or blended families. Adoptive families at least solve a major social problem: parentless children. But blended families bring children into the world who are destined to live without two biologically related parents. What will be the overall effect of that?
A social science literature is now emerging that reveals the relative weakness and instability of heterosexual blended and step-parent families, compared to married couple families with shared biological children. The children in mixed families do no better than those in single parent families! Will homosexual blended families be equally unstable? Living with a biological father seems especially important, and children living with unrelated males do especially badly. Will that pattern extend to gay families? We don’t know. It’s a big social experiment.
And to that, I do not have a (well-formulated) response. I would certainly like to see evidence from these studies, however. Anyone else…?
I’m not sure that the response really addresses the heart of the issue:
The second concern is about blended families. If they’re a problem, however, the answer is not to ban gay marriage. Perhaps one answer is to prohibit or limit assisted reproduction, which is a “big social experiment” conducted overwhelmingly by heterosexuals. Banning gay marriage will not stop this practice, but it will deprive any resulting children of married parents.
This seems to me to say, “yeah, it’s a problem, so what”, rather than providing a solution or rebutting the evidence.
A vid take on MoF’s Sparks:
First up, Stuart Shepard, who I’d not heard of before today but is apparently a member of Focus on the Family’s activism arm, is encouraging everyone to encourage his God to rain on Obama’s acceptance speech. Which seems to me to be incredibly petty: pray for peace? pray for a cure for AIDS? pray for the inconvenience of a guy you’ve never met? Oh, the last one, please.
Next, a funny/geeky break from your morning drear. Carmensita, starring Natalie Portman (who is entertaining, but really you should watch it for the awesome lip-syncing and the incredible translations). Best to watch at full screen to fully appreciate the subtitles. Wonderful in the way that only Internet vids can be: not quite laugh-out-loud funny, but can’t tear your eyes away and must send it to everyone you know funny.
And, back to your regularly scheduled politics (wasn’t that awesome, tho?), This Lawn is Your Lawn, a plea to the next pres to plant a Victory Garden (and to get more citizens to do the same). I just finished planting herbs on my balcony, so this one’s close to my heart.
I’m burning in End of the Semester Paper Hell right now (Dante reserved this section for The Procrastinators), so my posts will be more of the link, quote and question type for the next little while. I’m glad that Miko has written a couple of thoughtful posts in the past few days.
Anyhow, I’ve learned that blogs can add to the information noise or help you to cut through it. I’ve discovered incredible people, blogs, books, ideas, graphic design, podcasts, musicians, etc., from my blog-reading, saving me all that trial-and-error anguish and lost time. Maybe I’m just trying to justify my blog-reading habit (I admit that I have a problem–I cannot quit at any time).
I am creating an open thread for you to submit your best blog finds in 2006. You can post as many things as you like, and the discovery can be anything from Barack Obama to New Order Mormonism to Dooce.com. The only requirement is that you have to include the permalink to the original blog post where you found your treasure.
Okay, it’s your turn!
once again, an early morning bout with caffeine-induced insomnia (a couple of cokes after a week or two without caffeine) brings you another mind on fire post. may present to you: (drum-roll, please)
embarrassing moments, part one:
a few months ago, i used to walk two to three miles in the morning to catch my bus. one day in particular, i was running late (as usual) and pushed myself, walking hard and running for short spurts in an effort to make it to the stop on time. as i approached the intersection, i saw that the bus was at my stop and getting ready to leave. without hesitation, i jumped out into the busy street and dodging traffic, made the sprint across six lanes (with a brief stop on the median to wave at the driver) and made it to my bus in time. as i triumphantly stepped up into the bus, i realized that everyone was staring at the idiot who just threw himself into the morning rush in order to save himself the 30 minute wait until the next bus. a couple of latina matrons whispered to each other, glaring sideways in my direction. no matter, i thought. i am safely now on my bus and can relax.
as i made my way past the stares and sat down in a seat in the middle of the bus, a condom in its deep red wrapper fell out of my dickies bag and onto the floor. we all looked at it for a long moment, as if to confirm that yes, that was a private contraceptive device on a very public bus floor. then i casually scooped it up and placed it back into my bag.
i think i spent the rest of that ride with my nose in a book::
people blog for different reasons. i practice therapeutic blogging.
i created this site, in large part, to deal with the frustration of being a closet atheist posing as a devout mormon. it gave me the space i needed to come to terms with and to articulate my unbelief, and to come into contact with others who struggle similarly.
after the tragic events of september 11th, i turned to blogging to voice my anger and frustration, my fear and helplessness. an army of bloggers and web designers turned to their craft to express their emotions and to do something positive in an atmosphere of blackness and depression. (remember those donation links which appeared on almost every site?)
a couple days ago, when faced with the news of yet another abduction and murder of an innocent child, i once again turned to mindonfire to help me deal with horrific realities this world sometimes (often?) tosses into our path.
blogging is different from other forms of written communication because it can at once be intensely personal and very public at the same time. i am the only editor and censor of this post. as soon as i hit the submit button, my greatest joys and my deepest fears are there for the entire world to see, if it chooses to look. the comments mechanism is risky too–i may be vulnerable to harsh criticism, but instead a steady stream of kindness flows in.
i want to foster conversation and communication. i hope that my blog posts don’t degenerate into isolated monologues. i love to hear your feedback. some of you are dear friends who keep in touch with me through the occasional response, but many of you i know only by the screen names you leave along with your thoughts. i love to learn from you. to this end, i’ve improved the feedback mechanism (it is now more like what i see on blogger-powered sites), and i will continue to tweak it.
it’s late, i’m tired, and i’m rambling. i’m afraid that this is not one of my quality posts. still, it felt good to spend a few minutes with all of you.
i blog to know that i am not alone::
in spite of all of the problems associated with theism, there is a manner of conceiving divinity which can be of great benefit to humanity. when deity is equated with humanity, when striving to better human race is accepted as the same as service to god, the concept of god becomes a powerful force for good. god in this sense becomes a symbol of what people, both individually and collectively, can become. this concept is deeply embedded in at least two of the world’s major religions: in the 25th chapter of the gospel of matthew, jesus says that “inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” gautama buddha taught that buddhahood is in every man and woman and that enlightenment can be achieved by any sentient being without the necessity of turning to outside supernatural aid or any human or non-human intermediary.
the concept of god is deeply embedded in our collective psyche. divine language permeates our language, our legal system, our holidays, our customs, our culture, our interpersonal relations. rather than ousting deity altogether, perhaps god can still serve a useful purpose in our lives. maybe millenia of cultural baggage associated with god can be shed: god as creator, god as father, god as judge and punsher, etc. the concept of god can be sanded down, chipped away, lacquered and polished until only the shiny core representing humanity remained. this god could exist in a secular, human, atheistic world, as a symbol not of the supernatural, but the natural. this god could stand as a symbol of all that is good in humanity. this god would represent humanity. this god would be humanity.
god is not unknowable. to quote heinlein’s martian-born messiah, michael valentine smith: “thou art god.”
i represented the mormon faith yesterday at an interfaith thanksgiving meeting. i gave a little talk, and my seven year-old son read alma 37:37 from the book of mormon:
counsel with the lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto god; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day.
he did a fantastic job. i have more gratitude in my heart for my children than i have for anything else in my life.
i’ve been to a number of inter-religious meetings over the past couple of months, and i’m beginning to receive invitations from people in the orange county and irvine interfaith community to become more involved. i’m wondering if i really want to invest the time in this, however. i hope you’ll excuse me while i think out loud.
i am beginning to wonder how successful some of these dialogues are. many of the people that participate are there because they are already committed to focusing on the commonalities between their belief systems and cultures, and they already have a healthy respect for different approaches to god and the search for truth. the people who speak at these things are preaching to the proverbial choir. could our time be better spent on other things?
i love speaking to people who accept that there are, as gandhi said, ‘religions are different roads converging on the same point’. in contrast, i get angry when i talk to people who feel that their way is the only way to god, and who feel that all other approaches are in error. i wish i didn’t feel this way, and i feel that there is some immaturity in me that needs to be fixed, but that is how i feel. i think that it is arrogance to claim that ‘me and my group are saved, and you and yours are going to hell unless you believe as we do.’ i feel that this divisive exclusivism is an untruth. i propose to you a new litmus test of the humanity and veracity of a belief system: if they claim to be the only path to god and/or truth, then that claim is false. maybe we can call it the postulate of exclusivism.
the primary determinant of one’s belief system for the majority of the world’s population is location: if you are born in india, you will most likely live and die a hindu. most religious people in thailand are decided buddhists, and in saudi arabia are devout muslims. the faithful in each of these religions have convictions as strong as that of the strong baptist from the bible belt here in the united states.
as a secular humanist trying to learn what the ancient faith traditions have to offer, i’ve come to at least one conclusion at this point:
each religion brought incredible positive value to the world at the time of its inception: for example, both jesus and mohammed were strong advocates for the rights of women within the context of history and culture. the ideas that the leaders of these respective faiths were progressive in their time. however, inasmuch as a religion loses that progressivism and solidifies time-bound teachings and tries to apply them to our modern cultural context, they have lost much of their positive value. the islam of a millenium and a half ago gave women greater rights and protected them, and the same principles applied today suppress and enslave many muslim women, especially when compared to the greater freedom and equality they can experience outside of strict islamic countries.
buddha once taught that a man was on a journey and found a great river blocking his path. the man took branches and vines and fashioned a raft and was able to cross the waters. out of gratitude to the raft, the man foolishly decides to continue his overland journey whil carrying the heavy raft.
i feel that many religious doctrines and teachings are like the raft. they help us in one context, but we continue to haul them around after their usefulness has ended. they become burdens. liberating teachings can become enslaving shackles.
we need to have the wisdom to discern which teachings are still applicable to us today, which need to be adapted, and which need to be discarded completely. if necessary, we need to have the courage to discard the raft::
jana is reading a condensed version of les miserables in french. she just read the part where jean valjean is on parole and is denied lodging at various inns and homes and is even chased out of a doghouse by the growling canine resident. valjean then tells himself, “i am not even a dog.”
i had a similar experience to valjean’s.
most of my earliest memories are of greece. my dad was stationed at a navy base about 30 miles outside of athens. we lived off the base in a split level duplex in the middle of an olive orchard. i spent most of my days exploring the orchard. my dad built a chicken coop, and occasionally one of our hens would disappear.
one rainy night, my mom dragged me down the stairs and shoved me outside, locking the door behind me. i pounded on the door with my small fists, wailing, but i was denied entry. i ran back and forth around the house sobbing for a while and then spied the neighbor’s doghouse.
i crawled inside next to the large dog resting inside and found warmth, shelter, acceptance, perhaps even understanding. some time later i remember the burial of the same dog in the far corner of our landlord’s lot. it was a sad day.
i’m not quite sure why i’m sharing this, but i feel compelled to. i’ve always understood that this is a horrible way to treat children (i understand this even more as a father–i would never, never subject my children to a like experience). it’s only the past couple of years, however, that i’ve realized that this was not a good way to treat me. even now, i use the passive tense to describe the experience, cushioning the blame and blurring the responsibility.
i know that it was a hard time for my mom. she was a young mother isolated in a foreign country, and i think my dad was working a lot, because i don’t remember seeing much of him at the time. my infant twin brothers were always sick and demanded her attention.
but i did not deserve to be treated that way.
during the past couple of years, understanding this and other childhood incidents that i experienced at my parents’ hands growing up has helped me to understand myself a lot better. i am more aware of why i struggle with low self-esteem and why i crave attention. i better understand my personal demons and am better prepared to combat them. and i appreciate more the unconditional love that jana gives me.
i hope this post is not too depressing. i thank you all for listening–i find great healing through writing. blogging is my therapy. and i know i’m not alone–we’ve all spent a night or two sleeping with the dogs::