Monthly Archives: October 2013

Where was god?

Thanks to Theresa for giving me the heads up on a story that ran yesterday. You remember the girl in the closet story I posted a few days ago? Well, there was a follow-up asking religious leaders, “Where was god?”

Here are a couple of their woefully inadequate responses:

To ask “where are you?” is to re-claim God’s promise to be with us; it is to re-call God to being the Life-Giving Redeemer we believe God actually is….when we also cry out the questions “How could you let this happen, God?” and “Where were you?” we are remembering that the God who has promised always to be with us is NOT OK with kids being raped, starved, kept from play, and living in their own filth.

Right, that makes total sense. (Not.) Do these people listen to what they are saying? God’s not here because he’s not ok with our behavior. (Please ignore the double negative.) Seems to me that this is just another lame excuse. And it’s somewhat annoying that people defend their god with these sorts of asinine claims.

Here’s another:

Similarly, the only answer that gives a logical framework to the suffering of children and the existence of an all loving God, is that everyone bears the burdens of past karmas of previous lives. Otherwise a solid case for neglect and cruelty could be made against the Supreme Lord.

Yes, karma. You see, abused kids are paying for sins in previous lives. You don’t know what the sins were, but you just know that you’re getting a beating for something you did before you lived–this time. Another idiotic excuse. I think I prefer his case for, “neglect and cruelty…against the Supreme Lord.”

If you believe in god, it seems to me, the most logical response would be: god had a heart attack and was incapacitated. Maybe Nietzsche was right. God couldn’t take it anymore. We killed him.

But you must surely realize that the holy books we have—the Bible, the Tanakh, the Qur’an—which are the basis for our nation’s religious beliefs, suggest that god never was. How many instances do we read of god’s love in the Bible? There are many.

For god so loved his children that he made them seriously flawed, dumber than not only rocks, but also talking snakes. For god so loved the world that he created monstrous men and women that could do inhumane things to innocent creatures.

God is and always has been a trickster and magician. From the beginning, he created fruit that was so tempting, tasty and terrible, that we would all–forever and ever–become children that god would loathe, that he would find continually disappointing. We suck.

Even as allegories, do these stories make sense?

I hope that someone reading this has a better answer to, “Where was god?” Please don’t say, “It’s not for us to know.” If you know he blesses you and answers your prayers and watches you, then you surely know why he checks out during the times he’s needed the most. Please don’t say, “He gives us free will.” Millions of people every day give examples of how god has stepped into their lives and saved them or a love one. He answers prayers. Clearly, a lot of people believe that god is hanging around here.

Seems that the only way to redeem ourselves as humans is to cut ourselves free from our imagined creator. We don’t need him. We can redefine who we are as a society and as people. We can move forward. We can be better. We don’t have to suck. Perhaps if we didn’t live under the belief that we have an evil nature, that we are prone to sin (yet unconditional love from god), we might hold ourselves to higher standards.

Whatever we were, we have evolved, and we are capable of yet so much more.

Happy Halloween. May the monsters you meet tonight all be pretend.

Making things right

You guys have probably heard about the story of Rev. Norman Hayes who was badly beaten by James Maxie, a self-proclaimed militant atheist (thanks LT for sending the original link).  And you’ve probably already heard of the Internet’s most friendly atheist, Hemant Mehta. But you may not know that Hemant offered to raise money to cover the medical bills for the pastor.

You might be thinking that the pastor may have said something to provoke Maxie, yet no words could ever justify violence. Mr. Hayes’ nose was broken in two places, and he had lacerations and bruising on his face. This is a painful and no doubt costly injury.

You might be thinking that Maxie has a criminal past, and he shouldn’t be a representative for atheism. This is certainly true. Maxie’s criminal history has nothing to do with his beliefs about god–at one point he was even a believer.

Unfortunately, until the day the godless are no longer looked upon with suspicion or fear, until we’re no longer a nation of “us” against “them,” we have to make right what others do in the name of atheism (or humanism or agnosticism).

If  a “militant Christian” had beaten and bloodied an atheist in the name of god, we would have expected some sort of censure from the Christian community, regardless of whether the perpetrator was a criminal or not. I would hope that Christians would do the same for an atheist victim.

So from one human to another my sincere apologies to Rev. Hayes for what he has suffered, and my thanks to Hemant for being a good spokesperson and for suggesting that we help offset the cost of the reverend’s medical bills.

Hayes’ son set up this page to donate if you want to help.

Child abuse

If you have not read this story yet about the girl in the closet, I warn you that it is a haunting story you may never rid from your memory. The Dallas Morning News has been running this all week, with the first story taking up most of Sunday’s front page.  If you don’t want to read it, I’ll just give you a brief summary.

Barbara and Kenny Atkinson are serving a life sentence in Texas (eligible for parole in 2031) for child abuse. Barbara Atkinson is the mother of six kids. She does not know who fathered three of her children. Her second child, Lauren Kavanaugh, was kept in a closet, beaten and sexually abused until she was found in 2001 at age 8, weighing little more than 25 pounds (the weight of a toddler). To read the horrors of what she suffered makes you wonder about humanity.  This girl lived in her own defecation; she had cigarette burns on her head and back. At age 8, she was not potty-trained; she did not even know to sit in a chair or use a pencil. It’s heartbreaking. As parents, we know that we would forgo our own meals to feed our children. To see our babies hurt, makes us hurt. How can a mother, another human even, do this to a trusting child?

It is stories like this that make me cringe when I hear people say that god has blessed them, that he has intervened in their lives and kept them safe.

It was the step-father, who had also been abusing the child, who turned the mother in. When I first read the story on Sunday, I thought that this was evidence the man was human–he had a conscience; he sought help. But later in the week, we find that, no, indeed, the step-father was not doing the right thing. He was angry at his wife for running off with another man and leaving him with six kids.

If we are only as strong as our weakest link, what does this mother and step-father’s horrible abuse reveal about us? About our society?

This girl and her siblings are forever damaged. We can hardly expect them to be functioning members of their communities without some kind of help and support from the rest of us.  You might wonder why Lauren had to suffer for so long. Yes CPS was notified, but the Atkinsons were able to elude CPS visits by moving, even though Barbara Atkinson was still receiving regular welfare checks. Apparently, the state did know how to find her. Neighbors, relatives, friends? Someone, you would think, had to know.

Every year, 6 million children are reported as abused, with 4-7 child fatalities a day due to abuse or neglect. The U.S. has one of the worst records of abuse among industrialized nations. Why do we require hair stylists and plumbers and drivers to obtain licenses, but not parents? Why is it harder to adopt a dog than have a child? Shouldn’t having children be a privilege rather than a right? Everyone has the right to life; but it seems to me that everyone should not have the right to make new life.

Does reading about these cases day in and day out help us, as a people, to know that this evil exists? Do news reports make us more aware so that we can report abuse or do they immunize us to the horrors of what people are capable of?

The scary thing is, this couple, the Atkinsons, will get parole one day. Do they deserve to be free when they have permanently damaged six children? Perhaps the most important question we need to answer is not how do we punish these people, but how do we, as a society, avoid creating these types of parents to begin with?

Let’s not pick on Oprah

Jesus Keyrist, really? Do we really want an apology from Oprah? I’ve seen several articles now screaming, “Atheists want an apology from Oprah!”

Please. No. That is not necessary. We’re starting to look like a bunch of whiney babies. Watch the video. Decide for yourself. It’s harmless. Oprah is courteous and curious. She’s giving her opinion–as she always does; she clearly means no harm.  I get what both of them are saying.

If you watch the entire interview, you’ll see that Diane Nyad doesn’t even believe like many of us nonbelievers. She believes the soul lives on after death, that we can feel “collective souls.” That sounds pretty new-agey to me. It echoes the Jewish and Christian and Hindu and Buddhist idea of an essence that exists separately from the body.  There are a lot of us who would disagree, who would say there is no such thing as a “soul.”

And yet, it’s such a little thing.

So as for the “atheists in awe” comment, it’s no big deal to me.  And I hope there are a lot more out there who think so, too, after watching the interview. Besides, we have bigger proverbial fish to fry.

Fairytale Princes

First, thanks again to Amy and Derrick for guest posting earlier this week and to Amy for hosting my essay. I view this blog as a shared space, so please contact me if you’d like to guest post.

Don’t know if anyone has heard of the documentary “Virgin Tales” (thanks LT for the link!). I cringed when I read the promo, not because it’s yet another Christian group thumping for chastity. I think we should teach our boys and girls to be extremely selective with whom they share their bodies. The reason I winced was this statement:

The two eldest daughters Lauren and Khrystian already found, married, and kissed their fairytale princes. Next in line is 20-​​year-​​old Jordyn who is desperate for a husband at her side and – like her own father, brothers or brothers-​​in-​​law: family-​​friendly, God-​​fearing, and good looking (“he has to be easy on the eyes”).

Did you get a little nauseated, too, at the words “fairytale princes” and “desperate for a husband”? And what exactly does the character trait “family friendly” mean? Does it mean the prospective prince is rated G? Or perhaps his bachelor pad is filled with toys and kid-sized furniture? Didn’t you wonder why the adjectives “smart, funny and compassionate” weren’t on the list of requirements?

Seems that some of us are teaching our kids all wrong. Fairytale princes and knights in shining armor aren’t real, of course. They’re characters from stories. We understand how silly these descriptive terms are when we substitute Batman or Superman or Jesus Christ for Prince Charming. Yes, they’re all cut from the same cloth: heroes and saviors. They save us from ourselves.

So some of us (and we know who they are) are raising our girls to look for an idealized version of a man who is willing to role-play until he gets tired of being a puppet, gets tired of pretending. It’s not real, and it’s not healthy.

This is a timely subject since we’re two weeks away from Halloween, where we will see many little girls dressed as princesses and fairies, and no doubt, a Miley or two. And the boys? Do they dress up as princes and sex objects? No, they are busy thinking about what they want to be in the future: firemen, police officers, doctors, pirates, axe murderers. (Ok and maybe even a Justin Bieber or two.) The princesses focus on their image; they will look pretty and wait. Wait to be saved from waiting while the boys focus on becoming, on making a contribution to the world.

Back to poor Jordyn, who is desperate for a husband at 20 years old, at a time when she should be finishing her education or vocational training. At 20, she shouldn’t be in an anxious search for someone to rescue or complete her, someone she will only think she knows, who fits her idealized version of spouse material. She should be searching for herself, working on her future, learning that no one is going to make her feel good until she feels good about herself and that no one will make her happy unless she is already happy.

This isn’t child’s play, though. I hear this lament often: he’s out there, my knight in shining armor, my prince charming. I wish I could say that I hear it from naïve young women, but 40-something women say this, too. (Usually accompanied by “and a good Christian man.) I have a feeling they’re going to be looking a long, long time.

An attorney friend of mine once asked me if I knew what the biggest cause of divorce was. I imagined money issues, infidelity, abuse. No, the single biggest cause of divorce he told me was people’s expectations. They get married expecting one thing (hello, fairy tale), and they get another (a mundane marriage).

Relationships, even the best of them, are work. We marry real people. Flawed people who, even with their flaws, are still beautiful and worthy of love. There is compromise, give and take, sacrifice. Always. No one is exempt, not even princes and princesses. But understanding these realities leads to the recognition and appreciation of the extraordinary joys of sharing life with another person.

Now. That’s enough about that. Should we tackle the goofy idea of “soul mate” next?

Get to know your atheists

Here are some interesting numbers from an article titled, Conjuring up Our Own Gods:

8 in 10 Americans believe in angels
1 in 5 of Americans have experienced ghosts
1 in 7 have seen a psychic
3 in 4 Americans believe in something paranormal
4 in 10 believe houses could be haunted

Holy sh*t. That’s a lot of folks who believe in the supernatural.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s look at the reason why a few scholars believe that we are hard-wired for believing in things we can’t see:

“….the fear that one would be eaten by a lion, or killed by a man who wanted your stuff, shaped the way our minds evolved. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors were more likely to survive if they interpreted ambiguous noise as the sound of a predator. Most of the time it was the wind, of course, but if there really was danger, the people who worried about it were more likely to live. That inclination to search for an agent has evolved into an intuition that an invisible agent, or god, may be there.”

Wait, what? Did I miss something here or does this researcher jump from point A to point D. If I’m a cavewoman who is afraid of being attacked by my neighbor in the next cave, then I’m worried about the physical threat I know. It is a huge stretch to say that this fear of danger (a helpful thing) developed into “an intuition that an invisible agent, or god, may be there” (not a helpful thing). Yes, I’ll buy that only the paranoid survive, but there’s a reason why our presidents are surrounded by armed guards and not ghost-busters.

Like children, the human race has had its developmental milestones. At some point, man looked to the sky to figure out where all the wet stuff came from. We see our children do this when they become aware of the world around them. Perhaps, early man thought, there’s a person up there since people can make water when they cry.  Maybe we can ask that person to please stop dumping all this cold, wet stuff on us.  I use this example because some humans still say this. I have heard a religious mother tell this to her child when it was raining: god is crying because he is sad; he doesn’t like what people are doing.

It would also make sense that humans don’t all develop at the same rates, even though, as a species, we know where rain now comes from. So some of us have outgrown god.  Some of us still need–or just want–god. And some of us continue to use god as a tool to harvest followers. I’d say a certain senator from Texas (ahem, Ted Cruz) is a living, breathing god-king. Maybe he prayed with Rick Perry for rain. Mr. Cruz (looks suspiciously like the devil)

Back to the article, these researchers also found out that, if some folks (like this guy named Jack) work really hard, they can “create thought-forms, or imagined creatures, called tulpas.” You might wonder if this is how Lars and the Real Girl was conceived.

Luhrmann says, “The mere fact that people like Jack find it intuitively possible to have invisible companions who talk back to them supports the claim that the idea of an invisible agent is basic to our psyche.”

Ummm. Not so sure about that.  Isn’t this what many of us did as children? We created imaginary friends or playmates? Yet when we mature to adulthood, we know that our imaginary friends do not exist; they cannot talk to us. We outgrow them. So perhaps these believers haven’t finished developing or perhaps they are mentally ill or perhaps they become writers who realize that they can vividly imagine characters for their stories.

But the following quote from Luhrmann is the reason I sat down to write this. Many people don’t understand what it means to be an atheist: “….just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there are atheists who have prayed for parking spots.”

I find this terribly insulting to those who don’t believe. If you reject the god myth, and you understand that praying for trivial things like wins for football games illustrates just how self-centered humans can be, why would you pray for a parking spot? Who does that, for godssake?

To top off her assumptions, Luhrmann writes, “Secular liberals sometimes take evolutionary psychology to mean that believing in God is the lazy option. But many churchgoers will tell you that keeping God real is what’s hard.”

That’s funny, right? I doubt that many churchgoers think they need to work to keep their god real. And I’ve never heard a secularist say that believing in god is lazy. IMO, it takes more work to believe, both physically and emotionally.  You’ve got to groom kids early to believe; you’ve got to constantly refer to your preferred religious text for answers. You’ve got to go to church and Sunday school and watch Fox News every day to continue the reinforcement. There’s a hell of a lot of energy that goes into living fearful lives, trying to please an invisible god and judgmental preachers. But there’s got to be a payoff for the energy expended, and religion does seem to bring comfort to many.

If we were to look at religion from the child development angle, we’d see that religion is delaying development by reinforcing the idea that the world doesn’t exist without us, that we will live forever and ever.  Yes, we disappear after our bodies are gone. The world doesn’t.

While believing in god does take work, living without god, takes courage.

I’m sorry for picking on Luhrmann today–usually I enjoy her writing. I think that she took the lazy way out here: perhaps she should have interviewed some real-live atheists before she wrote this piece.

An Atheist Case for Hope

I have another guest post today. This one is from Derrick, a life-long atheist and a regular participant here on this blog.  His topic is of particular interest for me. I recently had a discussion with a Christian on another blog who believes that we (atheists/agnostics/humanists) will one day wake up and realize that our lives are meaningless and without hope—and this will prompt us to run back to God. Derrick addresses this misconception that we have no hope. Thanks, Derrick, for sharing your thoughts here!

Remember: if you’d like to share your questions, insights or experiences, drop me a line to the email in the sidebar.

An Atheist Case for Hope

First and foremost, a sincere thank you to Debbie for suggesting I contribute a guest post and then graciously accepting it. This is truly a community of many voices. To begin…

James Freeman Clarke once noted  “The atheists have no hope.” [1] [2]

This phrase has been trumpeted repeatedly by theists for over a century. Freeman’s idea was that without god there could be no redemption and no ever-lasting life. This, to him who was a very devote man, caused life to lose all hope. The phrase is routinely trotted out and lobbed at atheists although the connection to the author of it is regularly lost or misunderstood.[3] [4] Moreover, the entire concept is patently absurd.

Hope, to begin with, is not the sole property of theists. There is nothing inherently special about hope, except that it is often the foundation of why most people continue to move forward through life. It is not the province of any deity in any manner, yet theists like to state without hesitation that atheists are devoid of hope. They argue the rejection of god and religion strips atheists of this vital human force. Even more important is that at the heart of the theist argument lies a truly bleak philosophy.

Consider that a good many of the world’s religions contain some sort of apocalypse in their theology. Think about this: most religion are actively awaiting the end of the world. Christians are especially prone to this because of the Book of Revelations. These types of theology look forward to a torrent of destruction and suffering. Their only hope, and the irony of that phrase is well understood, is if they are just righteous enough to escape eternal damnation and torment. This is not hope: this is fear.

In short, theists contend it takes god – or rather the act of redemption and salvation through a deity – to offer any kind of hope for humans. Without it, they hold, mankind is left wandering aimlessly in the void without any real sense of meaning or an objective for living. In their framework of thinking, evil would continue to exist and gnaw away at the human spirit. Furthermore, this would mean humans are enslaved to the single goal of being spared damnation by their god. One has to argue and wonder how anyone could consider this type of philosophy emotionally or mentally healthy. Once again, this is not hope by any stretch of the imagination. It is the exact opposite in most respects.

How then can atheists have hope? Consider that Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines hope as “…to want something to happen or be true and think that it could happen or be true….”[5] What is interesting about this definition is it tends to be a central element of atheist thinking. Atheists realize we have only one shot at this life. We get one chance. As a result, most atheists tend to think very actively about her or his existence, the relationship this singular existence has to other people, and the impact it will have in the long run. Most atheists want to do something adding to the collective good. A great many atheists think about the future quite a lot and regularly in constructive ways.

The promise of hope requires action. Thus, a proactive life begins with hope. It is mired in hope. It oozes hope. Atheists tend to concern themselves with ideas of how to make the here and now better, and how to make certain it does not detract from the collective good of future generations. There is a belief, a hope if you will, that if we act properly today with forethought, then tomorrow will be better and brighter. Atheists cannot wait for divine intervention to make things right. There is no hiding behind some mystery plan waiting to unfold: life demands action in the present moment. It requires concerned, good people to make it happen.

Atheism tends to free people from the shackles of fear placed on them by religion. Once free of fear, something moves into takes its place. More often than not, it is hope that wins and not despair or a sense of futility. Existence takes on a dynamic realism with a need to live and experience life. The mind awakens and begins to see that life can and should be different… better. Realization of the difference demands a mindset that seeks solutions. Living for the here and now does not equate to hedonism: it routinely equates to a call to action. Life without action is stagnant. Atheists are far from stagnant.

The most interesting and spectacular part of atheist hope is that it includes everyone. Theists are not left out in the cold. This is not a coddling or mothering demeanor, but one of real inclusion. We tend not to discriminate. We want everyone to be happy, almost regardless of their beliefs. Atheists, in the end, have hope enough for everyone.

– Derrick

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)


 

Faith and Heritage: A Jewish Perspective

Today I’m thrilled to share this space with fellow blogger, writer and nonbeliever, Amy M. Miller. She shares her perspective on living without faith while trying to hold on to her heritage. Her bio follows. Thank you, Amy, for taking the time to guest post here!

First, let me thank Debbie for inviting me to share some thoughts on her insightful blog.  Debbie and I became members of the mutual fan club this summer and she will also write a guest post on my site.

I never thought I’d become a parent.  I didn’t feel comfortable around children, I wasn’t a naturally playful person.  In my younger days I considered myself more of a serious intellectual.  That’s right, I was a snob.  But one of the reasons I feared parenthood was my lack of faith.  I felt it was one thing not to believe in a higher power, but I had no idea how I would explain that to a child or children.  To make matters more difficult, I am Jewish.  For many Jews, this isn’t a problem.  They identify as cultural Jews, rather than religious Jews.  Anne Lamott refers to people like me as “bagely Jews.”  We enjoy a schmear and a kibitz with our culturally Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and Jewish friends, but you won’t find us at synagogue.  Well, maybe for the high holy holidays.

It’s a contradiction that many Jews live with, but I don’t know many Jews who worry over it like I do.

Soon after I met my husband in 1998 my attitude towards parenting began to mellow.  Insert biological clock cliché here.  I was teaching literacy skills to elementary-age children and they became cuter to me every day.  When we moved to D.C. in 2011, my husband and I would moon over babies on the Metro.  “We could make one of those,” we thought.  And we did.  Two, in fact.  Our kids are now 6 and 9.

But having a family and not knowing what to tell them about my belief system, or lack thereof, is a nagging harpy that harangues me on a regular basis.

Why, you may ask.

Because I want it all, just like Veruca Salt.  I want my kids to understand and appreciate that they are Jewish, but also view the world through critical lenses.  To say, hey, this is a beautiful tradition, a wonderful heritage, it makes me verklemf, but this whole creation of the world in seven days thing?  Horse hockey!

Here’s where I confess to you that I don’t take my kids to synagogue.  We live in the South and there just aren’t any progressive congregations within driving distance.  If we still lived in D.C. or moved to Portland, OR or Chicago, we’d have a seat at the table of Humanistic Judaism.  Not so much in Kentucky.  I struggle with this because I want my kids to participate in the traditions along with peers who are like them, I want them to cherish the Jewish value of justice and the Jewish practice of charity.  And I just can’t teach them these things very easily on my own.  I don’t have confidence that I can do it well, my husband is a Christian-born agnostic, and I really crave community.

I know I’m not the only cultural Jew/Muslim/Hindu/Christian/insert your identity here.  I take comfort finding like-minded parents who also struggle with how to explain a complicated heritage and non-belief system to children who every day become more assimilated, more homogenous.  Community is important to me, but unless we move away from our hometown, we are left with scattered friends in separate homes teaching their kids different things.

I guess what I’m saying is: how can I raise my kids to accept we are contradictions of faith and heritage, we’re not alone, and it’s okay?

Amy M. Miller is a freelance writer, graduate student, and adjunct professor, amywho lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her husband, two kids, two dogs, and pet rat, Eleanor.  Her writing has appeared in local and national magazines, newspapers, online journals, and blogs, including Insider Louisville, The Paper, Under The Gum Tree, Skirt! Magazine, Underwired Magazine, and Offbeat Families.  You can read more of her ramblings on her blog ADDled at addledliving.com.

Jesus was Propaganda?

First, a big thanks to Mel for sending me this interesting story.

According to American Biblical scholar, Joseph Atwill, he’s convinced that “the New Testament was written by first-century Roman aristocrats and that they fabricated the entire story of Jesus Christ.” He will present his findings in a symposium on October 19th (a mere 10 days!) in London in case you want to hop a plane and catch his talk.

Atwill believes that Christianity was part of a propaganda campaign developed by the Roman government to pacify “the Jewish sects in Palestine at the time, who were waiting for a prophesied warrior Messiah, [and who] were a constant source of violent insurrection during the first century.” The goal was to encourage subjects of the Roman Empire to behave, to turn the other check and just pay their taxes to Rome, damn it.

If it is indeed true that Jesus Christ was a fictional character, I’m wondering if religions will now have to pay royalties, or at the very least, naming rights, to the descendants of those aristocrats.

I must admit the story of Jesus as a political ploy is an intriguing idea, although it seems a bit far-fetched, even to someone who doesn’t believe that he was divine. Of course, I haven’t listened to Atwill’s talk, and I have not read his book, but I just think it would require one helluva coordinated effort for the Aristocrats to make up the story of Jesus & co and sell it to the people. Besides, it makes sense that the New Testament would be based on actual historical events and actual people who viewed the world through a mystical, superstitious lens.

On the other hand, Atwill’s theory also makes sense. Leaders were closely allied with their gods, and in ancient times, kings were god-kings. If people wanted protection from a clan, then they had to be a believer. While modern man has the ability–and the luxury–to read and reason and choose a religion if he desires, ancient people did not.

Perhaps a handful of enterprising aristocrats did decide to write the best-selling story ever as a way to manipulate their subjects. It’s certainly interesting that Jesus came along not only as a reinforcement but also as a one-up to Judaism. Yeah, your Messiah arrived. Now be quiet and follow us in lockstep. And Jesus didn’t refute the Old Testament; he just came to give new instructions on how to live together, how to place nice and how to worship his father, the god-king.

Who knows? What all this does show us is how much we are at the mercy of history and of those who record it. We understand very little in the big picture. And what we think we know–as well as the languages we use to record and understand–are organic, changing. History is mostly hearsay, and certainly, religious texts are proof of this.

What seems to be happening, however, is that we are moving toward a more democratized view of god. To each his own. You don’t need no stinkin’ book or preacher to know Him.  God is whoever you want or need him to be.

For those of us who don’t believe, this story makes no difference one way or the other. Jesus has always been part of religion’s propaganda machine.

 

Suggestions for dealing with existential dread

I’m hoping that you have suggestions for one of our parents whose 10 year-old-daughter is struggling with something that you may have struggled with, too: existential dread or anxiety.

For a child, this can be very scary.  This anxiety that arises from the realization that we’re mortal, that we’re going to die, is worse at night. For the concerned mom who would like advice, her child feels as if her thoughts are “attacking her.” She fears bedtime and is “equating falling asleep with death.” She has asked her daughter if it would help to believe in heaven, but her daughter knows what we adults know: you can’t force yourself to believe in something you don’t believe in.

Sleep is, in a sense, a little death, and every night we step up and dive in.  When adults struggle with this, we have a drink, read, take a pill, reach out to someone who understands. As we age, we learn to control or push back against our thoughts. But for a child, these thoughts are new and terrifying. It can also be very lonely as sometimes those around us–friends, counselors–have not experienced this.

Do you guys have any suggestions for this mom? How can she help ease her child’s fears at bedtime?