This should make you think… be sure to read the fine print in the lower right corner (a sentiment with which I agree wholeheartedly!).
This should make you think… be sure to read the fine print in the lower right corner (a sentiment with which I agree wholeheartedly!).
This article has been heavily edited and moved. Please click here to read it.
There are many things that people think to ask before they buy a home, but one of the things they often fail to ask, much to their later regret, is “Is there a homeowner’s association?” And even if someone has been told there is not one and they decide to make an offer, one of the things the offer should be contingent upon is that there is NO homeowners association, because real estate agents have been known to be misinformed about whether a HOA exists.
Now you may be wondering, “What’s so awful about a homeowner’s association?” Well, if you don’t mind bowing down and kissing the posterior of petty tyrants and tin-pot dictators, then nothing, I suppose. Maybe you are the sort of person that craves an abusive relationship, and if so, living in a homeowner’s association may indeed be for you. If you want to make your family miserable and unhappy with your choice of location, then definitely consider living in a HOA (if you’re too poor to buy a home, you can achieve the same effect by moving into a mobile home park run by a petty dictator, and I guarantee you that there are a few out there).
But if you’re a reasonably normal person that does not want to feel as if you are living in a former Soviet state, then read this:
Now, there are other reasons besides those mentioned in the Consumerist article that might be of particular interest to the typical reader of this blog. Such as, they may have prevented one of the local broadband providers from offering service to you (perhaps they got a kickback for cutting a sweetheart deal with one provider that excludes all others), or they may have rules that prevent you from installing a satellite dish anyplace where you can actually see the satellites. And remember, even if they don’t have any rules you find particularly odious now, it’s quite likely they will enact some in the future. Ham radio operators shouldn’t even think of moving into a HOA controlled development.
And don’t tell me there’s no available housing that’s not in a HOA in your area. You might have difficulty finding a recently built home that’s not in one, but if you make it clear to real estate agents that you absolutely, positively, under no circumstances will buy a home that comes with a HOA, not even if it’s a mansion being offered for a dollar, you’d be surprised what they can come up with. You just have to let them know you are dead serious, and that they will be wasting your time AND annoying you if they show you anything with a HOA, and you will likely find that what they told you cannot be had suddenly becomes magically available (and if it doesn’t, find another real estate agent). It may be in your area they make higher commissions on the homes within HOA’s, and those homes are harder to sell (as more people become aware of the pitfalls of living in one), so some real estate agents are not above lying about the existence of non-HOA homes if they think they can push you into one that is in a HOA. You should let that type of agent know that you are deeply offended that they think you are gullible enough to believe that no HOA homes exist.
I’ve never heard of any homebuyer being unhappy that they bought a home that is not in an HOA (though I suppose there are a few frustrated control freaks out there somewhere). But, I’ve read many stories of people who regret having bought a home in a HOA controlled subdivision, and now regret it but because it will be years until their mortgage is paid off, or because they can’t get anything close to what they think their home is worth in today’s market, and therefore feel stuck inside their little hell-hole. Caveat Emptor!
What do all of the following have in common (perhaps not every single person that falls into these categories, but a large number):
Reformed alcoholics and/or former drug users
People on diets
People who are into health foods and/or obsess about keeping themselves healthy
Vegetarians/”Vegans” (I’m not sure what the difference is, except the latter sounds more like it should be a title applied to those from some alien planet)
Animal rights activists
People who are part of a multi-level marketing or Ponzi scheme
People who homeschool their kids (particularly if you are also a parent)
People who clip coupons or practice extreme frugality
The common thread here is that most of those people feel as if they are depriving themselves of something, or living in a way other than the way they would choose to live if they felt there were no consequences to living the way they truly would like to live. Maybe they are depriving themselves of something they crave; or maybe they are doing something that makes demands of their time or money (or both). Or maybe they are doing something that they feel is mind-numbingly boring, but they do it because they feel they should.
But there is another, perhaps even more common thread. A certain percentage of people in each of these groups are not content to suffer in silence or to suffer alone, as it were. They think the world would be a better place if they could convince every other person on the planet to live as they do. So they go around trying to impose whatever their particular “thing” is on the rest of humanity, often starting with their friends and family. Of course, the rest of the world (outside of themselves and those they’ve convinced to join them) see them as anything from obnoxious and imposing to just plain nutcases, and pull further away, thus increasing their isolation. Then they develop an “us against the world” state of mind.
Literally, if you’ve ever attended a few fundamentalists religious services, you know that they consider “the world” and “worldly things” to be one of their biggest enemies. They feel it’s controlled by “the devil” (of course, so is EVERYTHING they don’t happen to like. What always amazed me was that current popular music was considered “the devil’s music” until it was about 20 to 40 years out of date, at which point many church musicians would adopt the style. When you think about the average age of the people who are in charge of some of those churches, that almost makes sense, in a perverse sort of way).
My point, though, is that such people are not content to live and let live. And the list above is not an exhaustive list; there are many other people like this. Many high school kids back in my generation knew the obnoxious guy at the family reunions who would try to convince all the teenagers present to follow the same life path he had, whether that meant going into the military straight out of high school or going straight to work in a factory and staying there for the next forty years. It was unsolicited advice and very much unappreciated, and when the giver of the advice realized it was falling on deaf ears, it would often provoke a string of insults (usually including words like “lazy” or “ungrateful” or “disrespectful” or “immoral”, mixed with a few other gratuitous profanities and/or insults that would increase in ferocity if that person was more than slightly inebriated).
What such people fail to realize is that everyone has their own life path, and it may not be the same as anyone else’s. Some people believe we choose our life path (at least the general outline of it) before we are born, and if something happens to take us off the path, a “higher power” will cause events to occur that bring us back to our chosen path (this is an easier concept to accept if you also believe that we all experience many lifetimes, and could potentially choose a different path in each one, so that over time we acquire a full range of human experiences).
We would all get along so much better if we would realize that if we try to share something about the way we live our lives with someone else, and they seem to reject it, it’s not a rejection of us as a person (unless they specifically indicate that it is). The problem is that the way we live our life is not a part of their life path. When we are on the proper path, things will often just seem to flow smoothly along, but when we get off our path, that’s when we start having problems. If you are living a certain way, and every time you try to convince others to do the same they seem to lash out at you and reject your message, maybe that just means you have chosen a rather unusual life path that will only appeal to relatively few people. Don’t waste time trying to convert others to your way, because if they are not supposed to follow your path and they try to anyway, they will become unhappy and have nothing but problems — and their problems will become your problems. Just live and let live, and be happy that you have found your path and that it works for you.
Having said all that, I do understand that many people (those who have not chosen a solitary lifestyle, and yes such people exist) like to join together with other like-minded people. And I’m not trying to discourage that (unless you are joining together to feed a negative emotion such as hate), but please understand that there is a big difference between finding others who are already predisposed to think as you do, and trying to force others to do so. If you have found the “flow” of your life, you will naturally attract others who are like you. But if you try to “convert” others, you’re probably going to experience nothing but frustration. I know of churches that have a recurring history of building up a congregation, only to see it dwindle back down to a relative handful in a year or two, and then the cycle repeats. Often you find that in such cases they are inducing people to cone to church through fear (the “big lie” of the possibility of going to “hell” being one of the primary motivators) but once the fear wears off, the people leave, because being churchgoers wasn’t really a part of their chosen life path in the first place (or at the very least, they weren’t destined to be churchgoers in a church that preaches nothing but negativity and fear).
“Live and let live” is really a pretty good motto for happiness, if you stop and think about it! Or to put it another way, don’t worry about what others are doing — if you simply must worry about something, worry about whether you are finding your own chosen life path (or spiritual path, if you prefer to think of it that way), and don’t concern yourself whether others are finding theirs!
I’ve come across a couple of stories today that are doubtless going to generate a lot of controversy:
Supposedly this discovery was made on June 29, 2010 and yet we are just learning about it today? That in itself seem a bit odd. Also, both articles lead off with a photo of a carved image that they identify as a “fish” — well, perhaps, but look closely. Does that REALLY look like a fish to you? I’ll grant that it could be (you never know what was in the mind of some ancient artist from a completely different culture) but keep in mind that, as the first linked article mentions,
“… iconographic images on ossuaries are extremely rare, given the prohibition within Judaism of making images of people or animals.”
So if it’s NOT a fish, what could it be? I expect we’ll be seeing this photo on an upcoming segment of “Ancient Aliens“.
Now, despite everything I have written about my distaste for organized religion, and my belief that the god of the old testament was an evil imposter (probably an alien or an other-dimensional being, but one that didn’t show a great deal of love or compassion toward humanity, not even his supposedly “chosen people”), I still have no problem with the idea that Jesus actually existed. I do tend to believe that he actually did exist, but like many early figures, much of the lore that has been written about him was complete fiction, while other parts of his story suffered deliberate editing by the early church to remove the parts that they didn’t want people to know. I think that it’s much more likely that the reason Jesus came was something completely different from what the churches teach. The real purpose has been pretty much lost to us, although you can still catch glimpses of it in the four gospels (the parts that survived editing and revision, not to mention deliberate and unintentional translation errors) and especially in the some of the writings found in the Nag Hammadi library.
Some of the people who believe that we’ve been visited by aliens in the past believe that Jesus may have been an alien-human hybrid. Mary, of course, was his mother, but she was artificially inseminated with the sperm of Jesus’ father. And when he spoke of his “heavenly father” (and keep in mind that when you see the word “heaven” or “heavens” in the bible, that’s often more properly translated as “universe” or “skies”), he was really speaking of his “father in the sky”, or perhaps more precisely, his father in the alien spacecraft, that had access to some advanced technology (including a way to send “voices from the sky” if the occasion called for it). Again, that’s just a theory, and I’m not saying I believe it or disbelieve it (although in my mind, it’s more credible than some of the B.S. that the churches throw out there). While his “heavenly father” could have been the god of the old testament (in which case, he must have mellowed out a lot in his old age — maybe they got him the alien equivalent of psychiatric help for his little issue with destroying humans right and left), I tend to think it was probably some other alien. The Jews just assumed that his “heavenly father” was their god, and he wasn’t about to go out of his way to correct them, lest he be stoned to death before his ministry ever got off the ground.
Note that Jesus could never do any miracles in his home town. Ever wonder why that was? One guess is that he was using advanced technology (again, likely supplied by his “heavenly father” from the spacecraft in earth’s orbit — the same one the wise men had seen at Jesus’ birth, that led them right to the infant Jesus) and that in his younger days he’s already revealed some of his “bag of tricks” to those in his home town. So there were too many people there who knew what to look for. It’s the same reason a magician might not want to perform at a magician’s convention — if everyone there already knows the secrets, they aren’t going to be very impressed. Another theory is that it wasn’t entirely Jesus performing the miracles per se, it was the combined faith of those around him — Jesus was just sort of a catalyst or a focus point for their faith. In his home town, so many people had known him from childhood that they had no faith that he was anything other than an ordinary person. Therefore, there was no faith to amplify — the crowds or individuals around him were giving him nothing (or perhaps even negativity and disbelief). Again, my position is that “I don’t know”, but I do believe that had all of Jesus’ original teachings survived, many if not most of us could do the very same miracles that he did, and more. Whether those teachings were “how to make advanced technology” or “how to amplify your faith” or whatever they may have been, the fact that the early church went out of their way to destroy the parts that would not cause people to become dependent on a “priestly class” was a great tragedy.
This in no way is intended to denigrate Jesus’ ministry, or the fact that he came to teach us things that the church later decided it doesn’t want us to know (such as the reality of reincarnation). In fact, I believe it is the churches that are denigrating him every time they teach lies about him, or his reason for coming here (or give much more respect to the fake apostle Paul and his writings than they do to the teachings of Jesus). But keep in mind that Jesus’ ministry was to the Jewish people of his time, and never to the Gentiles. So the church uses Paul to try to place him as the “bridge” between Jesus and the Gentiles. Which is fine in one respect — I’m not saying that, despite all of Paul’s flaws, he didn’t have a genuine ministry to a specific group of Gentiles back in his day. But Paul’s writings, intended for specific churches in a specific culture at a specific time in history, should never have been considered as universal truths for the entire world at a time centuries in the future, while at the same time the clear teachings of Jesus have been all but ignored by many churches.
Ultimately, the problem with the discovery of this tomb is that it will be kind of like a UFO sighting — while it will be considered an interesting discovery and will provide additional “evidence” for the true believers, it will contribute very little to our actual knowledge. Just as a UFO sighting tells us virtually nothing about what they are, where they come from, or who’s inside them, the finding of Jesus’ tomb will probably not add a whole lot to our knowledge of his life or his teachings. I’d be much more excited if they’d found a first-century library that contained actual writings authored by Jesus himself, or even by one of the original disciples, written by their own hand. Not that I honestly believe we’d ever be allowed to see such a thing if it were found, particularly if it directly contradicted what the churches are teaching!
Just in case it hasn’t become clear to anyone yet, I no longer consider myself a “Christian”, at least not in the way most people use that word today (I still believe that Jesus probably existed, but I think that nearly everything the churches want you to believe about him is a total and blatant lie, and that most preachers know better and are deliberate liars!). There are numerous reasons for that (I have blogged about some of them in previous posts) but one of the biggest is because I started to realize just how hateful and evil so many “Christians” are. For example:
Jessica Ahlquist is a 16-year-old self-described nerd who has garnered nationwide attention after successfully suing to have a giant banner emblazoned with an official school prayer removed from the auditorium of her public high school in Cranston, Rhode Island. The response has demonstrated the limits of Christian love — she has basically become the villain of her entire city, with her state representative, Peter Palumbo, called Jessica an “evil little thing” on the radio, and a sample of the online outpouring of hatred from other Cranston residents can be seen on JesusFetusFajitaFishsticks:
Click on the link to the article to see the image, but be advised that if you are a person with any shred of decency and compassion, you will be shocked at what has been said to this teenage girl.
I think that the reason people talk like this is because they are not following the true Jesus (the one that gave the Sermon on the Mount) and that the “god” they believe in was an evil impostor, not the true creator of all that is. I’m not an atheist (and to be honest, I think some hard-core atheists are just as bad as some fundamentalists Christians) but I just don’t believe that a “god” who can wipe out three thousand of his own “chosen people” is anything other than pure evil (and that begs the question of why anyone who is NOT Jewish would believe that particular “god” wants anything to do with them). Of course the Jews had to manufacture a “devil” who is supposedly even worse, but as far as I am concerned they were probably all aliens (or other-dimensional beings, perhaps) with very human traits, including killing and lying (and actually we got some of THEIR bad traits because they mixed their DNA with ours, both through artificial insemination and through breeding, the latter as mentioned briefly in the book of Genesis).
Even if modern “Christians” weren’t so hateful, I still would not believe the way they do (if you want to know why, read William Bramley’s book “The Gods of Eden” as an introductory volume – you might be able to find excerpts online if you search for it). Or you could look up the “Nag Hammadi Library“, an archaeological discovery in 1945 that most churches won’t even talk about. I think what passes for “Christianity” today (and in fact, is the basis of ALL religions) is a desire by those of the clergy/priestly class to make money and/or control people (usually both). I’m not saying the people warming the seats on Sunday (or Saturday) morning are all evil, just uninformed and in many cases quite a bit naïve, and I’m not even saying all churches are sinister, though many certainly are.
It took me FAR too long to realize much of this (and I wish I could get back the years I lost to that nonsense), but it sure helped when the Internet and search engines came along and I could start looking things up to try to determine what was true and what was B.S. The information is all out there, you just have to be willing to look for it, the same way you might look up information on a multi-level marketing (pyramid) scheme that’s trying to sucker you into something so that someone else can exert power over you and take your money. If someone doesn’t want to look, there’s nothing you can do. And I do understand that if all your friends and social connections are in a religious group, and you know they will shun you if you leave, it would be very hard to leave – but the fact that they would shun you proves they are not as nice as you may think. If someone will only “love” you because you believe exactly as they do and agree with them (or pretend to do so), then it’s not real love. And if you worship a “god” because you fear he will strike you down, or send you to some form of horrific punishment when you die, that’s not love either.
I’m not going to comment much on these, in part because they are both from sites I’m not familiar with and in part because if you read them, you’ll already have plenty to think about without my added commentary. The only connection between these is that I came across both of them within the last 24 hours purely by accident (that is to say, I wasn’t researching either of these topics; they just showed up, probably in a Twitter stream).
1. The “Following are biblical verses compiled by independent comparative religion scholar and Freethought Nation guestwriter Barbara G. Walker, concerning the supposed “morality” of the Bible. The paraphrases and commentary are Barbara’s, while the original verses are linked.” You’ve probably read or heard some of this before, but not all in one place like this. And yes, I’m aware that a few of these may misinterpret the verse shown, but not all of them do, and in some cases they are actually showing the fundamentalist view (which isn’t necessarily correct, but it’s what a lot of the “Christians in Name Only” actually believe).
2. Quote from the introduction to the following article: “Editor’s note: The article below is written by Eric Allen Bell, a filmmaker who was recently banned from blogging at the “Daily Kos” because he wrote three articles that ran afoul of the mindset there, specifically naming “Loonwatch.com” as a “terrorist spin control network.” Frontpage invited him to tell his story, which he does below.“
I found both of these interesting, but that’s all I will say about them (in fact, that’s about all I can say about them that would not be simply my opinion). As you probably know by now, I’m not a big fan of ANY organized religion, since it seems that organized religion has been directly responsible for so many atrocities throughout history. Even as you read this, someone, somewhere in the world is being tortured or killed because someone else feels it’s their religious duty to do so. When will it ever end?
There are really three main reasons (and one minor one) that people become members of fundamentalist religions:
The main reasons people don’t leave such groups:
The main reasons people want to leave after they have been in the group for a while:
My point is this: I have found that most of the people you meet that are part of a religion, and that have been in it for a while are there because of inertia or fear. Some relative newcomers are there because they feel that they are loved and accepted, but the problem with that is that in most cases the “love” and acceptance is extremely conditional. If they are willing to adopt the teachings and opinions of the religious leaders and other members of that faith, then they may continue to experience a degree of love an acceptance, but they will never feel truly free to express any “variant” beliefs, or to say that they think the religion just might be wrong on some points. On the other hand, someone who is more of a “free thinker” will usually find the “love and acceptance” gradually withdrawn, and if they become too “troublesome” they may be asked to leave the group. I’ve seen people asked to leave a church simply because they disagreed on a minor point of doctrine (note that in some groups, there is no such thing as a minor point of doctrine. There are even stories that churches have split over matters as insignificant as what color to paint the bathrooms!).
Unfortunately, people who are living in a constant state of fear will not be willing to accept the truth. In fact, they won’t even want to hear any truth that contradicts what they have been taught. When you try to show them the truth about their religion, they will react pretty much the same way you react when they hand you a tract about their religion (by the way, they use tracts because they are afraid to engage in actual conversation about what they believe — this is why, if they are going to hand you a tract, they usually do so at the last possible second before they end an encounter with you — they have been told by their religious leaders that they must “witness” to others, but realize that there is no way they can defend their beliefs in an honest discussion, so by passing a tract at the last second it lets them feel like they have at least “planted a seed” and done their duty, even if you throw the tract away the moment they leave. In most cases the only way they will ever try to personally “witness” to anyone is if there are two or more of them, and only one of their intended targets present).
One of the reasons I have a link to Those Lazy Old Blokes of 1611 on my blog pages is to show that the fear that is pushed among “Christian” fundamentalists is founded on deliberate lies (in this case, a deliberately confused translation). But the people who most need to hear this information are often those most paralyzed by fear. They’ve been taught that they might go to hell for even entertaining a non-approved belief. They are told not to read non-church-sanctioned books (the ones available at retail price in the church bookstore). In many fundamentalist churches, they teach that going to the movies is “sinful.” In other words, they like to tightly control what their followers read, see, and think, although that’s becoming a lot more difficult in this day of modern communications and the World Wide Web, and search engines that can bring you a multitude of views on just about any topic with just a few keystrokes.
I once (very briefly) went to a church where a preacher brought in an evangelist that basically destroyed the church. One of the things this evangelist taught was that if you spoke out against a preacher or an evangelist in any way, you were “touching god’s anointed” and therefore god might strike you dead (I use the small “g” because as I have pointed out in previous articles, I believe that the “god” of the old testament was an evil impostor, not the true God that most people think of as the creator of the universe, etc. As far as I am concerned, the “god” of the old testament was almost certainly a lesser “god” that might indeed destroy people on a whim, and often did if the old testament is to be believed, but it appears he’s departed the planet, or may not even be among the living by this point in time. I’m not asking that you believe that, but that’s why I don’t use the capitalized “g” when referring to that “god”). Unfortunately, after the evangelist left, the preacher started teaching the same nutso stuff that the evangelist had taught, and therefore more and more people felt compelled (probably for the sake of their own sanity) to leave the church. The preacher then started accusing the other churches of “sheep stealing”, and then started accusing the “sheep” of stealing themselves! This caused even more people to both speak out against the preacher (basically saying he’d flipped his lid) and to leave the church. No deity (or entity pretending to be a deity) struck anyone dead in that case, but among those few who remained in that church the fear was palpable. It’s amazing what people will endure because they are simply too fearful to question even the craziest teachings.
The reason I am bringing this stuff up now is twofold. First, it appears that unless by some miracle Ron Paul becomes the Republican presidential candidate, the next U.S. presidential election will be a contest between a religious fundamentalist (or at least someone who panders to the fundamentalists) and a guy who has so far not kept most of his most important campaign promises, and has been a disappointment to many of those who voted for him. I just want you who have never been part of a religious fundamentalist group to understand a bit of what makes those folks tick, so you can understand that they are often living in their own little world, and that you would not like it much if they had the force of government behind them to impose their beliefs on you or I.
And second, there are those who believe that 2012 is going to be a year that something big happens, that will cause humanity as a whole to become a more enlightened race, but that cannot happen as long as we are living under a fear paradigm. Our religious leaders, our news media, our politicians, etc. at times seem to be pushing an agenda of fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear 24 hours a day. What I found is that the two things that have most REDUCED my level of fear are leaving organized religion, and NOT watching major media newscasts. Both of those entities seem to be trying to make people afraid, and the world looks a whole lot brighter when you don’t listen to them. I’m not saying you should avoid the news altogether, but just be more selective and avoid sources that are constantly harping on the negative. And, this might be a good year to just consider whether you want to continue to be part of your current religion, if you are still clinging to one. Does it really serve you, or are you just serving it with no return, not even happiness? Do you leave a house of worship feeling fearful, unsettled, or unfulfilled? Remember that you can (and many do) pray or meditate without being a part of any organized religion. The dirty little secret of the churches is that you don’t need them — you can achieve spiritual growth, if that is your desire, without involving them at all. Even Jesus did not come to start churches (he preached against organized religion, when he said anything about it at all).
(P.S. I mentioned Ron Paul above only because, as far as I know, he is not a religious fundamentalist nor is he beholden to them).
“If I want to make my employees feel happier/more rewarded/valuable/part of the team, all I need to do is give them a raise.”
Now, especially in these hard economic times, I’m certainly NOT saying that employers should be stingy with raises and rewards. What I am saying, though, is that those are not always sufficient to motivate employees to do better, or to change a surly employee into a happy one.
“I give you a paycheck! Isn’t that enough motivation?”
If any employee were honest, they tell you that no, it isn’t. A paycheck alone just about guarantees they will put in the minimum effort to avoid being fired, sometimes less. Your employees would never tell you that, of course, but if they thought they could be honest and not be fired for insubordination or bad attitude, that’s what many of them would say.
The thing is that even if you start out loving your job, getting a paycheck to do what you love does NOT guarantee you’ll be happier – in fact, just the opposite. I refer you to this article:
The Overjustification Effect (You Are Not So Smart)
The point of the article is that if you can find employment doing what you love, chances are you won’t love it anymore, especially if you see the paycheck as your new primary motivation.
I have found this so true in my own life. When I got my first computer (a Radio Shack TRS-80 Model I), I used to enjoy trying to write programs in BASIC. Then I got a job as a computer operator at a small business. While most of my job was mundane stuff like feeding the correct paper into a printer, starting and stopping jobs, and doing backups, there were times I was called upon to write an occasional program — and yes, it was in BASIC, though a variation of BASIC not all that similar to the one used on the TRS-80. This was actually before the days of most commercial software.
What I discovered was that my employer would ask if I could write a program that would automate some small task he’d been doing by hand, using pencil and calculator. The first few times it was easy. But each time he realized what the computer could do, he’d want to add on more functionality, and about half the time his new request would require almost a complete rewrite of the program. And, he had essentially purchased an “orphan” minicomputer (translation: A computer as large as a home furnace, with far less processing power than any handheld device available today), which meant there was virtually ZERO commercial software available — otherwise he could have bought any off the shelf spreadsheet program (in other words, Visicalc) and accomplished most or all of what he wanted.
Life circumstances intervened and I had to leave that job sooner than either of us would have preferred, but by the time I was through I had really started to hate programming. When I could do it on my own time and no one was pressuring me to get it done in a certain amount of time, it was sort of fun. When I was getting paid to do it and my employer wanted it a week from now, and I would spend hours chasing down one or two bugs and losing sleep trying to figure out why the dumb program was producing the wrong result (sometimes it was my fault, other times it was buggy floating-point math in the underlying system), it was definitely NOT fun — in fact, to say I began to hate it would be an understatement.
The ONE thing that made the job bearable was that my employer frequently expressed how much time and effort my small programs were saving him. I never made big money there (it was a really small firm, and he had paid WAAAAY too much for that minicomputer to start with, so I think he was already in hock to his eyebrows for that thing) but the fact that I knew that my efforts were appreciated was more of a factor than my paycheck in my willingness to spend those extra hours (often working until dawn, then coming back at 5 PM for another all-nighter) chasing down bugs and rewriting the program.
At this time of the year, we are bombarded with variations on Dickens, basically implying that the tightwads of the world will get theirs in the end. And that may be true, but many people often miss the other point of such stories, which is that the Scrooge-like character is often a foul-tempered, mean-spirited beast that couldn’t pay anyone a sincere complement if their life depended on it. And after their “conversion”, their whole nature changes (sort of like what happens to many people who’ve had near-death experiences in the real world). If your takeaway from some stories is that the “Scrooge” turned into a more generous person, you’re only getting about half the point. The old saying “money isn’t everything” is true – it’s definitely one component to happiness for many people, but it’s NOT the only one. You can be very well off and very unhappy, if the people in your life do nothing but tear you down and constantly demand more.
I suppose there will at least a thousand stories told today of incidents that occurred while standing in line waiting for a store to open on Black Friday. I will tell you mine, even though I know that it will probably cause a few of you to think I’m a complete ass. I’ll take that risk because I think most people will see it my way, and anyway, it’s partly a story about how a store manager actually made things worse.
OfficeMax opened this morning at 4 A.M., the earliest they have ever opened on Black Friday. I planned to get to the Muskegon, Michigan store a little before 3 A.M. and I did. I was quite surprised when, upon arriving at the store, there was no one else in line. Normally, when I arrive at that type of store an hour before they open on Black Friday, I can count on there being anywhere from 3 to 25 or so people already in line. This year, I thought, I’m finally the first!
But I did notice one strange thing — there were several cars in the parking lot and at least some of them had people sitting in them. The reason I thought this strange was because the temperature was 45 degrees with almost no wind. Normally, on Black Friday, it’s about 20 degrees colder than that and some years there have been pretty raw winds to boot. I know that anyone south of the Mason-Dixon line that’s reading this will likely think of 45 degrees as frigid, but here in Michigan we expect that temperatures st night in late September or October, not late November. In other words it was almost like a balmy spring day, compared to past Black Fridays. When a couple of the employees came out to hand out tickets (later on), they didn’t even wear coats.
Point is, people didn’t really need to be sitting in their cars to keep warm. There was no way anybody was going to freeze to death this morning.
But I figured that once I got to the door, a few folks would venture out of their cars to stake their claim to a spot near the front of the line. But noooo… I stood there for probably three or four minutes all by myself, until another car pulled in the lot and its occupant got out. Then, suddenly, car doors opened up all over the parking lot and about 15 people suddenly decided now was the time to get in line.
You can probably guess what happened next. I’ll give you a hint: There were three or four portable chairs sitting near the entrance.
Suddenly two older women approached me, with a man trailing behind, shouting they were first in line, and that I had to move to the back of the line (by now about 15 people deep). Well, if you’ve read my blog any length of time, you can probably guess how I responded to that. I had been there first by at least two or three minutes, perhaps a bit longer. Any other place I have ever been, sitting in a car while you place a chair near the entrance doesn’t cut it unless there is a warm body in at least one of the chairs. I can understand holding a place for someone while they take a bathroom break, or even go grab a cup of some hot beverage, but any other place I’ve ever been requires that there be at least one person left behind to inform people that others are coming back to reclaim their spots. If you doubt this, next time you want to go to a theater try setting a portable chair up near the box office a couple of hours before it opens, and then just before it opens try showing up and see if the folks in line will gladly let you cut in front of them because you had a chair holding your place.
And on Black Friday, even another person holding a place in line for someone wouldn’t cut it in many places. One of the other people standing in line (who arrived just moments after these folks decided to make their appearance) informed them that he had just been standing in line at another national chain store that had opened at midnight, and prior to opening they were telling people that if they left the line for any reason they’d have to go to the back of the line when they returned. No place holding allowed at all, in other words.
Anyway, these were two of those women you sometimes encounter who apparently feel they do not have to play by society’s normal rules. They think if they yell and make a scene they can get what they want. Well, my mother was a screamer of the worst kind when I was a child, so I’m pretty immune to that nonsense.
The store manager heard the commotion and came to the door. We all explained what had happened (and there was really no disagreement on the facts, just on who should be first in line), and then he decided to render his decision. The problem was that apparently at least a few of these folks had been sitting in front of the store earlier, when he came into work, and I also got the feeling that they were related either to him or to one of the employees, or perhaps just friends (they referred to him and talked about other employees using their first names, as if they all knew each other). Anyway, the store manager promptly decreed that the other folks were first and he intended to allow them to enter the store first, and that I was not allowed to stand in front of the door (apparently I was leaning on it a little and it set off some kind of alarm) and that if I wanted to argue about it he would call the police! I did not want to argue about it (though I obviously disagreed and said as much); I suspected (correctly as it turns out) that the other people were purchasing different items from what I intended to buy. But apparently OfficeMax has different rules for who is first in line then every other store I’ve ever been at on Black Friday. Thing was, I wasn’t about to move because two or three people were yelling at me. Loud does not make right.
I was fine with backing up a bit so that I didn’t create a barrier in front of the doorway or trip any alarms, but I was not about to move out of my place in line (and especially not to the back of the line as these women had insisted I should do). One of the women did move in front of me (and in front of the door) for a short time but then backed up. I said to her, well, since he said he’s going to let you in the store first, why don’t you sit down in your chair? But she was not about to do that, as if she felt that if she sat down the manager might change his mind or something. Apparently the chair was there more as a placeholder than for her to actually sit in.
I was frankly a little pissed off that both these women and the store manager seemed to have invented their own version of line etiquette, and I made some comment about them being the type of women who think they can get away with anything if they act like… well, it was a word that rhymes with “witches.” I mostly had my back to the door at that point, and in a moment of superb timing, the manager of the store popped his head back out of the door just about the time that last word came out. The women promptly complained that I had called them that word, which I had not — I had said that they were acting like (that word) to get their way, a subtle distinction perhaps, but in my mind it’s the difference between accurately describing the situation and simply engaging in name calling. Anyway, the manager muttered something about how I should not be calling them that and disappeared back into the store.
The manager’s original threat to call the police (talk about over-reaction) was taken by the woman who was doing most of the complaining as vindication of sorts. As it happened, just a few minutes later a police car did come by and the first thing she said was something to the effect of “see, the police are here” (implying they had come for me). Of course the lone officer in the cruiser drove right on by, at which point I said something to the effect that I sort of wished he had stopped because I’d like to hear his opinion on the matter. I was half joking when I said it (let’s just say that at this point I was not above yanking her chain a little) but when the officer turned around at the end of the parking lot and headed back, she just had to flag him down and try to get him involved. So as he sat in the car with the window down, she told her story, I told mine (basically only the part she had omitted, which was that when I arrived there was no one there, and that for at least two or three minutes I stood there alone) and the officer wisely decided not to get involved in that dispute. We then chatted with him about a few other things, such as that someone had been trampled another store, and the fact that he was ready to go get breakfast. He actually seemed like a pretty nice guy who, unlike the store manager, had no intention of making things any worse.
Of course, when the manager saw a police car parked in front of his store and us talking to him, he had to run out and find out what was going on. “Is there a problem?” No, no problem. To me it seemed like he was almost itching to start a problem, although I’m sure he probably viewed us (or maybe just me) the same way.
A friend of the women showed up and asked how long they had been there, whereupon they told this little story about how they had taken turns going to the car to get warmed up. I said, “No, that’s not true. If that were true, we would not have had any argument. If even one person had been here and said that there were others in line who were temporarily away, I’d have been fine with that.” At this point the man of the group piped up and said, “No one was talking to you, and it’s none of your business!” I replied, “Actually, it’s very much my business!” In situations like this, I sort of go by the philosophy of WWJD – “What would Jerry do?” (in the old Seinfeld TV series, that is).
By the time the store opened, I had figured out two things. First of all, those folks who shared the same values about lines (or queues, as they are known to folks in most of the English-speaking world outside the USA) as the OfficeMax store manager were not there to buy the same item I was, which was a good thing, as the store had only received one (the ad said they had a minimum of two, so the next customer to attempt to get one got a substitution, and then that was it!). And also, the man who was with them might have been prepared to get physical if I attempted to enter the store first. What he may not have realized is that if he had actually tried that, there was someone in line behind him that likely would have come to my defense who is bigger than either of us, so he could have really started a problem. I think he only felt emboldened because of the store manager’s decision to allow them to enter first.
Naturally, I decided that even though I had physically maintained my position as first in line for most of the time, when they opened the doors I let them enter in front of me – I really had nothing to lose by doing so. The women were so surprised that they actually said “thank you”, in a tone of voice that was almost genuine.
There are times to stand your ground, and times to “turn the other cheek”, and clearly this was the time for a reasonable person to take the second path. But I will just say two things:
First, those folks really ought to reconsider their views on line (queue) etiquette. At one point I asked, “if I had come here at 11 o’clock last night and set down a lawn chair, and then went home and went to bed and didn’t come back until five minutes before the store opened, would you say I should be first in line?” They all quickly agreed that I should, but it seemed to me that they only said that because they realized that to say anything else would have been tantamount to admitting they were in the wrong. Believe me, if I thought that would actually fly, I’d do it the next time it’s 10 above zero and the winds are howling on Black Friday. But anyway, if they took that approach at any other store, they probably would not find the store manager or employees quite so supportive. OfficeMax (at least the Muskegon store) apparently is in its own version of reality, where normal line etiquette is just a little bit twisted.
And the second thing is, next time I need computer equipment, or a new chair to use when working on my computer, or something to that effect, I will definitely remember how the OfficeMax manager stuck his nose into this situation, and immediately decided that I was in the wrong even though, as I said above, I had stood alone in front of the door for at least 2-3 minutes, and he had not heard how these people had approached me. You know, maybe if they’d been nice about it and said something like “We were in line an hour ago but we just had to take a few minutes and go get warmed up, would you mind if we went first?” I would have found it a lot harder to say “no”, even though I still feel that by all rights, if there isn’t at least one of your party holding your place in line then you are not in line. But when you come storming up like Carrie Nation about to attack a saloon, and demanding that I let you have your way just because you can make a big stink about it, well, that just doesn’t fly with me. I don’t know who ever taught SOME women that yelling at a man or demanding he do something will produce any desirable result, but it just doesn’t work that way with most men, and it’s particularly disastrous in a marriage situation (something I may write about at another time, but probably not anytime soon). Even when Carrie took her axe and busted up the saloons, the men still found ways to drink behind her back.
Anyway, that was my Black Friday tale for today. I realize that a lot of folks had worse things happen, and I genuinely feel sorry for you (and doubly sorry if it was much colder where you are). The plus side was that the lines were not too long at the stores I went to, and I pretty much got everything I wanted to purchase (I had to omit one item, but I had only sort of wanted it to start with, and it wouldn’t fit in my car with the other stuff I had already purchased, and when I saw it in the store it wasn’t the quality I’d hoped). So all in all it was a pretty good Black Friday, and the fact that it was much warmer than usual didn’t hurt a bit. If you went out and braved the traffic and the crowds, I hope you got everything you went for.
I normally don’t care for Xtranormal videos, for the same reason I don’t care for the Flite speech synthesizer in Asterisk — I hate computer synthesized voices, especially when they are done badly (and most are, in my opinion). And, I’m not a huge fan of certain types of computer animation. So most of the Xtranormal videos I have seen are pretty grating to me — the voice tracks are difficult to listen to, and the animation isn’t as fluid as one might prefer. And when I saw the title on this one, “Religious Fanatic Debates Atheist”, I almost didn’t watch because there is nothing in that title that suggests the video might be the least bit fun.
Plus, if there are two groups that I have an equal amount of disdain for, those are it. I’ve run across pushy atheists in my life, and they can be every bit as annoying as religious fanatics. To me, atheism requires as much of a leap of faith as any religion, because you’re basically staking out a position on something when you have very incomplete evidence. It’s very possible that neither group is right, and that’s why I think that the truly wise people of the world take the position of “I don’t know about that stuff, and you’re not going to convince me that you do.” There is just so much that we don’t know and cannot know, and I think it’s foolish to take either the position that “there is a God and I know all about him/her” or “there is no God and I know that for a fact!” You don’t know. You CAN’T know. All you can do is adopt a set of beliefs. And I might actually respect you if you came up with those beliefs on your own, but the vast majority of people who have faith, be it that of an organized religion or a faith that there is nothing beyond ourselves, have actually just adopted someone else’s beliefs. You go sit under the teaching of some group, they tell you what to believe, and at some point you just say “Oh, yes, this is so much easier than actually having to think through this stuff on my own — I’ll just open up my head and you pour in whatever you want me to believe!”
There may even be a certain logical consistency to what you believe, but that doesn’t make it true. There are others who have a set of beliefs that are different from yours, but that are also internally logically consistent. In fact, it would be rather hard to “sell” a faith or religion that didn’t have some logical consistency to it.
But to get back to the video, the reason I found it so funny was because they have the religious fanatic character spot on. I’ve known people exactly like him — in fact, I grew up in a town that had a higher than normal quota of people like him. The only difference is that if you tell them something they don’t want to hear, they probably won’t actually say “I don’t care” as the character in this video does — instead they’ll launch into some long-winded spiel that is designed to deflect your attention away from the issue you just raised (which in fact, they really don’t care about because it contradicts their beliefs). But THAT would have been difficult to show in a short video such as this, so they just have the character say “I don’t care” and move on (whether the creators of this video thought that through the way I just did, I have no idea). The atheist character isn’t bad either, although she’s not as caustic as some of the atheists I have run across. And, it’s not a “debate” so much as the “atheist” character being accosted by the “religious fanatic” in the street, and then turning the tables. This is the sort of thing I might actually enjoy watching in real life! Anyway, I just found it a lot funnier (and more fun) than I thought it would be when I saw the title, especially given the imitations of the Xtranormal platform.
This is just a musing I want to save for future reference.
It seems to me that the states of Michigan and Wisconsin should get together and investigate the feasibility of build a bridge across Lake Michigan, similar to the newly opened Jiaozhou Bay Bridge in China, or the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in Louisiana (the latter span handles more than 43,000 vehicles a day).
In order to keep the span over water as short as possible, while still keeping it relatively near major metropolitan areas, my suggestion would be to build it from a point just south of the Silver Lake State Park near Shelby, Michigan and from there build a connector to US-31 a short distance away. Then it’s roughly a 25 minute drive to the intersection of I-96 and US-31 in Muskegon. From there it’s another 45 minutes or so to Grand Rapids.
On the Wisconsin side, the closest terminus would be at a point a few miles south of Sheboygan, specifically just north of the Kohler-Andrae State Park. From there you’d build a connector to Interstate 43, again just a short distance away. From there it is about 50 miles to Milwaukee, and 60 miles to Green Bay. The people of Wisconsin might then also want to think about improving highway 23 between Sheboygan and Fond Du Lac, and eventually all the way over to I90/I94.
There are really only two questions to be asked. One is, is building such a bridge even possible? Well, if China can build something as huge as the Three Gorges Dam, I have to think that not much is really impossible if we set our minds to it and determine that it will get done. If you can build a 20-mile span, you can build a 60 mile span — it might take three times as long, but the benefits would be enormous.
What benefits? Well here are just a few off the top of my head:
Any drawbacks? Well, maybe a few:
I am fully aware that hardly anyone, and perhaps no one will take this suggestion seriously (at least not in what’s left of my lifetime). And I think that’s a bit of a shame because the benefits would be enormous, plus it would prove that the Chinese are not the only people capable of dreaming big and then making their dreams become reality.
Just something to think about on this Independence Day weekend. And I will be as stunned as anyone could be if this bridge is ever actually built!
Note: If you wanted to think REALLY big, you could make a double-decker arrangement with cars on top and high-speed rail underneath. If there’s enough room, you could run two tracks, one for high speed rail and one for regular freight trains. Or something like that.
You may have read about the controversy that Michigan pastor Rob Bell has generated — if not, this Grand Rapids Press article will bring you up to speed. Basically, it appears that pastor Bell has called into question some of the things the churches have been teaching about Hell for the past several centuries, and the squeal from the traditional preachers and the fundies has been heard around the world.
I’ve never met pastor Bell, have not read his book (nor will I), have never even seen his church as far as I know. As I’ve mentioned on a few other occasions, I’m really burned out on organized religion. But I realize that some people need it and seek it, because (for reasons I cannot begin to fathom) it gives them comfort. I had a lot of feelings about church back when I used to attend, but a sense of “comfort” was not one of them. But I digress…
Of all the strange doctrines that churches preach, I don’t understand how the “fire and brimstone” view of hell survives even to the present age, and why so many pastors defend it with such vehemence. It seems to me that if you want to drive people away from a church, filling them with fear and giving them visions of terror (not to mention causing their children to have nightmares) is a great way to do it. Of course, these preachers think they are preaching “the truth”, but in reality they are like any other person you’ve run into on the Internet that has an opinion that he believes is correct, and feels he must defend it to the death.
Unfortunately, if you know that the word “Hell” actually comes from three DIFFERENT words in the original languages of Biblical times, and that those words meant very different things, and that what’s preached it churches today is basically an amalgamation of the worst features of all three of those things (with a little Dante’s Inferno — which, we must keep in mind, is a work of fiction — thrown in for good measure) then you realize that there is much room for various other interpretations about hell. If you haven’t yet followed my blogroll link to Those Lazy Old Blokes of 1611, that will help you understand (if you want to know) why what most churches preach about hell is a big lie.
Members of the clergy have been able to get away with telling whoppers to their congregations for so long because until the Internet came along, most believers had very little exposure to the beliefs of others. You went to your church and you heard what they believe week after week, and since religion isn’t considered a subject for “polite” conversation, you might never know what others believe or why they believe it. Now, suddenly, along comes the World Wide Web and suddenly people can find other views, and even proof (as much as you can prove anything that happened two centuries ago) that what they’ve been taught unravels very quickly when you pull at a thread here or there.
As a side note, I will just say, don’t ever pray to know the truth if you really want to cling to your existing beliefs — you may be very surprised at what you discover, and it probably won’t make you popular with your church friends.
Anyway, apparently pastor Bell dared to challenge the “traditional” view of Hell, and oh my, what a mighty cloud of crap that unleashed onto the various social networks, especially Twitter. It seems like some that don’t share pastor Bell’s views would like to have him crucified, at least figuratively. And in doing so, they do something they are very good at — selectively ignoring a part of the book they supposedly revere. You know, that part where Jesus said “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Of course when you quote that (it’s from Matthew 7:1, in case you need to know), many of the fundamentalists will point you to other verses that appear to say that judging others is okay, without stopping to think that a) most of those other verses weren’t direct quotes of Jesus, and b) by doing that, they prove that the Bible contradicts itself, and therefore cannot be infallible.
I understand all too well that many of these religious folks (you’ll note I avoid calling them “Christians” — you can take that any way you like) as so sure of themselves and their beliefs that nothing I or anyone else could say will ever change their minds. They think they have the truth, and they are not going to give an inch to anyone else’s point of view. But then they wonder why churches (especially the traditional variety) are becoming increasingly irrelevant to young people.
Well, here’s a clue for such folks. If Jesus had gone around preaching the way you guys preach, he wouldn’t have had to worry about multiplying loaves and fishes to feed thousands. He would have probably had ten or twenty old farts following him around, and the original food supply would have fed them all, assuming they even had enough teeth left to chew the fish. Nobody wants to hear you attacking other preachers. That’s not why people go to church, and it’s not what they want from their leaders. Plus, it makes you look arrogant — as if you believe that you alone hold the truth, and that you’re responsible for what your hearers believe. You’re not. Much as you may like to think of them as “sheep”, those sheep have minds of their own, and the more you rail against something the more they start to wonder what you’re trying to hide from them. I’ve seen it happen. In fact I think one reason televangelists got such huge followings back in the 80′s was because so many preachers spent an inordinate amount of time telling their people not to watch those guys — and of course, everyone wanted to see what their preacher was trying to keep from them. It’s just human nature.
This pastor Bell may well be on to something, or he may not be — I don’t know and I don’t really care. But to see so many others freak out over it is both amusing, and at the same time, tragic.
(Just so you know, I wrote this article a while back, but since we were almost into the holidays at the time I didn’t want to publish it then, because I was afraid that someone who is already depressed during the holidays might take it the wrong way — and for too many people, the holidays are by far the most depressing time of the year. And even now, I will say that if you are feeling very depressed, please don’t read this article at this time. Hopefully at some point life will seem brighter to you, so come back and read it then if you like. Also, I had no idea when I scheduled publication of this article for the middle of January that the tragedy in Arizona would occur, so please don’t read this article as a response to that).
Of all the evil things to come out of fundamentalist Christianity, including the hatred of people who are not pretty much exactly like them (they don’t even like most other Christians), I think one of the most evil things is something they have promoted ever since the start of organized religion. And that is, the fear of death.
Now, I’m not talking here about the normal human tendency for self-preservation. I’m talking here about a specific control mechanism; the idea that they have planted into society that no matter how much someone is suffering, we must preserve their life above all else. To understand this, bear in mind that for a major part of human history, there was no “separation of church and state”, and therefore we had what many fundamentalist Christians (the “Christian Taliban”, as some now refer to them) would like to bring about once again: A government run by the most hardcore religious types. These are people who seek money and power and control, not the betterment of humanity. And here’s the thing to remember: The longer they can keep someone around as a productive member of society, the longer that person can tithe to the church (or, now that church and state have been separated, pay taxes to the government).
Some Democratic legislator, and I’m sorry but at the moment I can’t remember which one it was, recently famously defined the Republican health care plan: 1) Don’t get sick. 2) If you do get sick, die quickly. This legislator was partly right and partly wrong about that. Yes, that’s exactly how many Republicans seem to feel about people if there is no longer any hope that they will be productive members of society, and strangely enough, it’s also how some fundamentalist Christians seem to feel about people in general who aren’t part of their religion (try substituting the word “AIDS” for “sick” if it will help you understand how the fundies feel). But if there is any chance whatsoever that a person will live to pay more taxes or give more tithes to the church, then those institutions suddenly have a much greater interest in keeping that person around.
But the point is, for centuries the churches, in an effort to keep potential tithers from giving up on life and dying off too quickly (particularly during the huge chunk of history when many humans died in the prime of life), have promoted a theology that in a roundabout way taught people that they should fear death above all else — unless, of course, they were going into war on behalf of the church (the idea being that if you died in a righteous war, you got a free pass to heaven). Not only that, they promoted the notion that suffering is a virtue, and that everyone must suffer during their lives.
They have been so successful in promoting this fear of death that it’s gotten to the point that even the fundamentalists themselves seem to fear death. Oh, sure, on Sunday mornings they’ll sing songs about how they are looking forward to that “mansion over the hilltop” (A mansion? Where do they get these ideas, anyway? And just who’s going to clean this mansion, if no one in heaven has to do any work?), but they always want it to be “in the sweet by and by” — hopefully the very distant by and by. Because their biggest secret fear — indeed, the thing that drives them in their madness — is the fear that they will be “left behind”, that they will somehow not be found worthy, that they will miss out on heaven. And it’s a very real and present fear for them, because if you’ve ever heard a real fundamentalist loon preach, nearly everything is a sin, and any sin has the potential to keep you out of heaven (and you know what they think is the only alternative to heaven). It’s not even just the actual sins you commit, even your sinful thoughts can keep you out of heaven, according to these guys. It’s an impossibly high standard that no human could ever hope to meet, though that doesn’t stop them from trying. Strangely, they don’t seem to see hate of those not like themselves as one of the sins that might impede their upward progress.
Guess what the biggest fear of most teenage and young adult fundamentalists is? It’s that Jesus might return, or that they might die while they are thinking about sex, or heaven forbid, engaging in any “unapproved” sexual practice. I shouldn’t need to elaborate on this – if you’ve ever been there, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
So, we have the strange situation where the people who claim to be the most secure in the knowledge of what’s going to happen to them after death are actually the most fearful of death. If you were to ask most of them (and if they were honest with you), their preference would be to die at a ripe old age, long after youthful urges and “impure thoughts” have departed, and possibly while in a state of partial dementia so that their deity couldn’t possibly hold them accountable for any bad thoughts on their deathbeds.
Now, this would not be a problem for the rest of us, except that these people have had enough control of our governments for so long now that our society is now permeated with an institutionalized fear of death. Even when it makes no sense, we prolong life as long as possible. In part, this is because fundamentalist Christianity teaches us that we only have one life to live, and that’s it, so we’d best prolong it as long as possible because in all eternity we’ll never again get this “wonderful opportunity” to incarnate as a human being. People of other faiths don’t necessarily believe that, many early Christians didn’t believe it, and a growing body of scientific evidence suggests it may not be true. But the church/government wanted to keep the tithe/tax-paying church members around as long as possible, so they discouraged any idea that you could escape a not so great life by dying, and possibly being reborn into a better situation (or at very least, one where you were not under the thumb of organized religion). Again, you have to keep in mind that virtually every church policy was designed to bring money and power to the church, and it just wouldn’t do for church members to be leaving this mortal coil prematurely, or to have small families or no children at all (which is why they’re really so opposed to family planning and abortion, not that abortion isn’t a gruesome practice, but sometimes the reason people say they are against something and the real reason they’re against it are two very different things).
When you think of it that way, you even have to wonder if many of the “compassionate acts” of the church had an ulterior motive. If they built hospitals with the idea of saving lives, but only because they hoped that those whose lives they had saved would be forever indebted to the church… well, that sort of puts a different angle on their acts of compassion, now doesn’t it?
Let me tell you a true story that happened to someone I knew. This lady was in her 80′s and had been very healthy, but then she developed a type of breast cancer. The cancer was successfully treated, but the treatment (which included a harsh form of chemotherapy) apparently did something that affected her sense of balance, so she started having frequent falls and broken bones, all of which were very painful, and a couple of which landed her in a drab, dreary nursing home for a time (seriously, I think some prisons are probably more cheerful inside than that nursing home was). As an aside, this lady finally started taking a 1000 IU Vitamin D supplement pill every day, and never had a broken bone after that, even though she still had frequent falls — just something you may want to think about if you have any senior citizens in your family.
She lived for another full decade, but could no longer get up and move around as she had in the past. She couldn’t do any yard or garden work anymore, something she’d always loved. If she went to the store, someone had to push her around in a wheelchair, or in one of those carts with a bench seat attached that’s designed for kids. In the final two or three years of her life, she started losing her eyesight to a much greater degree than she had in the past, so she could no longer enjoy watching her game shows and soap operas on television. In short, her quality of life dramatically declined.
What I’ve omitted from this story is that not too long after she had finished her cancer treatments, her heart started skipping beats, eventually stopping completely for several seconds at a time, and she started blacking out. The doctors wanted to install a pacemaker, and she didn’t want it but was talked into it. The pacemaker fixed the problem of the irregular heartbeat but in retrospect, her family wonders if that was the compassionate thing to do. On the one hand, she got to live long enough to see (as well as she could see anything) a couple of great-grandchildren she wouldn’t have seen otherwise. But on the other hand, she was so unhappy and depressed the last few years of her life that in looking back, it might have been better for her if everyone had just let nature take its course, so to speak. Chances are that she would have died peacefully in a still relatively healthy state, without having to suffer the broken bones, the failing eyesight, the indignity of soiling herself and urinating on herself, and many other afflictions that only beset those whose lives have been prolonged perhaps longer than they should have been.
Having witnessed that, I am convinced that this is NOT how I want my life to end. So if you are a physician and someday I am forced to be under your care and you think I’m the “patient from hell”, it may be because I really, truly, don’t want your help. Just let me go naturally, as the song says¹, so that I may get on to my next incarnation or the next plane of existence, or whatever lies ahead. I’m no longer scared of the phony-baloney, un-biblical “fire and brimstone” hell that the fundamentalist preachers love to rant² about, because I know that even if such a place exists, it’s only for the devil and the sinning angels, not for any human being that has ever lived or will ever live (once again, I refer you to Those Lazy Old Blokes of 1611 if you need help understanding that the “fire and brimstone” preachers are pretty much pulling their teachings about hell out of their collective posteriors).
Along with prolonging life to the point that people suffer, it’s the self-righteous fundamentalists that are often in the forefront of the anti-drug hysteria. Ever wondered why? Well, it’s because certain “illegal” drugs, though definitely not all of them, have valid uses as religious sacraments, expanding the consciousness and in the process, potentially revealing that some of the fundie teachings are unadulterated b.s. The problem with that is that some of the drugs to which they are so opposed could dramatically ease the suffering of those who don’t have much time left (and often at far less expense than the “approved” painkillers that don’t work nearly as well). What is so bad about giving heroin to a terminal cancer patient, to ease their pain and suffering? Seriously, you have to wonder how evil these people are if their goal is to prolong life, only to prolong suffering that they won’t lift a finger to relieve. Oh, they’ll pray for the sufferer? All well and good (and they should do that³) but sometimes a bit more practical form of pain relief is also needed. With some of these guys, you’d like to see which they’d prefer if they were in severe pain — a bunch of people coming around to pray for them for a few minutes, or a good strong painkiller!
I’ve said if before and I will say it again, if there is such a thing as an antichrist⁴, he or she or it will likely come right out of fundamentalist Christianity, and the fundamentalists will love him/her/it, because it will be telling them exactly what they want to hear – much of which is the exact opposite of what Jesus taught. Hate your neighbor because he’s not a fundie like you? Have little to no compassion for the poor and the dying? Preach doctrines that come straight out of a religion obsessed with power and control? Sure sounds like something an antichrist would do, doesn’t it? Maybe organized religion is the antichrist, and if and when Jesus reappears, they won’t recognize him at all, and may even seek to kill him again.
As a parenthetical note, you may be asking, do I actually think there is a chance Jesus could reappear? Well yes, but probably not in the way the church envisions. There are three possibilities I can think of (which is not to say there aren’t others I haven’t considered). He could reincarnate and be reborn into a new body, though I think that’s somewhat unlikely. He could be an interdimensional being, and at some point he will use whatever advanced technology is available on “the other side” — or maybe some form of spiritual method, for want of a better term — to cross the veil between dimensions. Or, he could be an alien from elsewhere in the universe, where the lifespans are much longer than they are here on earth (early Sumerian tablets say that the Annunaki had incredibly long lifespans compared to humans, such that our ancestors thought they were immortal). I tend to go with the second option, if only because it’s my belief that our universe is comprised of multiple dimensions and when we are resting between incarnations, we live in another of those dimensions, so there’s no reason to think that Jesus couldn’t occupy another dimension from us — that thought really shouldn’t even challenge anyone’s theology. But if he does come back, I suspect he’s not going to be any more approving of today’s churches, preachers, and evangelists than he was of the religious institutions and leaders of his day.
I just find it very interesting that of all the peoples on the earth, fundamentalist Christians seem to be more fearful of death than anyone, and their deep-seated fears have to some degree crossed over into society at large. Yet those who have had near-death experiences usually say they have no fear of death at all (by the way, they also report that committing suicide is a very bad thing for your spiritual development and for those around you — I mention that only in case someone reading this is encouraged to think that suicide is a great way to escape your troubles. It isn’t — in your next incarnation you’ll likely get the very same troubles, or worse, and some report that you don’t even get the usual rest period in between incarnations. So, don’t even think about it). And many people of other faiths, and even many non-religious people, seem to have far fewer concerns about death than the fundamentalists do.
I’m not looking to check out early or anything, but in some ways this life has been a disappointment (and I think a lot of older people feel that way, particularly when we realize that our children and grandchildren have less freedom and fewer opportunities than we did⁵). So if I ever do get really sick, I’m probably not going to look too kindly upon any doctor or institution that tries to prolong my life. The only thing I really want them to do is ease my pain insofar as is possible, and let me die naturally!
¹ The particular song I have in mind is “And When I Die” by Blood, Sweat, and Tears, a song I hated when I was a teenager, by a group I didn’t care for at all. Possibly one of the more weird and/or depressing songs to hit the charts (at least for those times), but it comes to mind now because of this verse: “Give me my freedom for as long as I be / All I ask of living is to have no chains on me. / All I ask of living is to have no chains on me, / And all I ask of dying is to go naturally. / Oh I want to go naturally.” To me, this seems like a plea for freedom in life and death, and it seems like there are far too many in our society who are determined to give us freedom in neither.
² Does anyone besides me find the speaking style of some preachers really annoying? You’d think they were living in the days prior to the invention of vacuum tube amplifiers, the way they shout and carry on, but what really gets me is the way they deliberately change the inflections of their words. It’s almost as if they’re trying to hypnotize the audience by their speech patterns. If that’s really the point, then what does that say about the actual message? That you have to hypnotize people and turn off their critical thinking facilities before they’ll accept the crap you’re shoveling?
³ There is pretty good scientific evidence that prayer actually works — but the dirty little secret the fundies don’t want you to know is that no one religion has a monopoly on the power of prayer. So if you are sick and someone of another faith offer to pray for you, I’d suggest you don’t turn them down or assume that their prayers will be ineffective, because you might be denying yourself some real “help from above.”
⁴ When talking about Biblical prophecy, we must keep in mind that few or no prophets throughout history have ever foretold the future with 100% accuracy, mostly because the future is malleable and we do have the power to change it. Plus, there’s the case where Jonah (of “Jonah and the big fish story” fame) predicted the destruction on the ancient city of Nineveh, the people supposedly repented of their evil, and the god of the old testament changed his mind (leaving poor Jonah twisting in the wind — who’d believe him after that?). Maybe the people really did change their ways, or maybe the god of the old testament discovered that his destructo-ray wasn’t working as well as he’d hoped, and he wouldn’t be able to destroy the entire city (which was huge by ancient standards) — but the point is that a Biblical prophet foretold something that didn’t happen. So maybe if an antichrist is supposed to make an appearance, something might occur to prevent that from happening.
⁵ I also tend to blame the fact that our kids have less freedom than we did on the fundamentalist “one life to live” philosophy, and the resulting desire to prolong this life as long as possible. Because that way of thinking has taken such a strong hold in Western society, I think that today there is a very unhealthy overemphasis on safety, to the degree that our kids are only allowed to live life, and not really experience it as our generation did. Back then most parents did not know where their kids were every single minute of the day; all they knew was that we were out playing in the neighborhood somewhere. Now it’s like, ohmigod, if I let my kid out of my sight for two minutes there are ten guys hiding in the bushes waiting to kidnap him or her. I’m just wondering how long it will take before out government decides we should all be locked in rubber rooms from cradle to grave so we can’t hurt ourselves or be harmed by anyone else. At the same time, and on the flip side of that coin, our little darlings know that the government wants above all else to keep them safe, so if they want to get an adult in trouble all they have to do is lie a little and say that an adult did something that harmed them in some way, and suddenly the adult is facing an inquisition (if you know a teacher, ask them if any of the kids have figured out how to manipulate the system and cause trouble for school personnel they don’t happen to like). I figure in about four or five years there’s going to be a huge market for wearable video camera/recorders, sold to adults who work with kids so that they have a video record of every interaction with a kid, to prevent trouble because some bored-to-tears kid lied through his teeth, just to create a little drama in his life.
Think about it: If you don’t fear death, and think that we come back (reincarnate) many times, you’re probably going to be less concerned about being absolutely safe at all times, and you’re probably going to be more willing to enjoy life and take chances. You might still be mindful that if you do something dumb and check out early, it’s going to make your relatives and friends feel pretty sad, but it won’t be the same kind of paralyzing fear that seems to grip many fundamentalists.