Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 18, 2005

After a Sherry

by diogenes (lifted from a recent comment)

I will provide you with a very rare glimpse into my personal life and experience. I usually reserve such digressions for more intimate audiences, but but this is a very good bar and the topic demands it. So I will abandon the academic I am now and part time humorist to tell you of Diogenes the preacher of many years ago. After a sherry, of course.

In the early 1970's, ...

... at the odd cross roads of the free love and Jesus movements, that I came of age with an undying curiosity about spiritual things. A nun at my church tried to convince my I was a psychic, my older sister had me send a month at a commune of American Sufi Movement, and I began reading the Bible. The Bible (and a pile of, at that time, very convincing tracts) won my young soul and I became a solo Christian (there are solo Wiccans, so why not?), unsure of any church or movement and very much interested in developing my faith. I bounced from prayer group to church as a 19 or 20 year old. taking it all in and I was as ignorant as the day was long. For example, convinced that I needed to be baptized, I stopped at a Baptist Church in New Hampshire I had never been to before because "that's what you guys do, it says so on the door!" Believe it or not the elderly pastor baptized me that night. I was as innocent as any Christian Candide in a very confusing world and there were plenty of Panglossses to help me along, especially the Pentecostals!

I was as sincere as naitivity can make me with the intellectual power of a high school education and a year of college (where I watched at least two professors sleep with the one girl I had a consistent crush on). But a Christian I was now. I read the Bible through numerous times (It takes around 15 hours to read the New Testament). The Old Testament/Hebrew Bible I took on one book at a time. I was a pest at all family gatherings. And I explored almost every kind of church from fundamentalist to Greek Orthodox, trying to understand how this faith worked.

So at the ripe old age of 21, I settled on a non-denominational church that had a pastor as young as I was and stayed there for almost 8 years. Now why share this with you? Well for one thing I got to meet many of these religious right bigshots back when they were little shots and more importantly, I witnessed the afterbirth of the Religious Right early in the Reagan Years.

Back then we met at Yale University in one of the lecture halls. And this church grew. Rare in the inner city. Rarer still was the amazing mix. Rich folks from Woodbridge and Hamden, Blacks from Congress Ave and Dixwell Ave who were burned out of the Cadillac cult and needed something different, Hispanics, old Catholic ladies from a Charismatic Catholic church, recovering drug addicts, Muslims from various countries curious about Chritianity, gays and lesbians, the mentally ill seeking exorcisms (my claim to fame: I led George Bush's cousin in a exorcism where we all coughed out our demons in paper bags back in 1979!)and a host of folks in various stages of drug and alcohol recovery or relapses. It was slice of the whole world and about 350 people meet twice a week to figure out what it meant to be a Christian (Oh yes, and a number of Yale Divinity School students and undergraduates). I often wonder if Bush was around Yale at that time.

The thing that characterized this church and fascinated me was the complete lack of condemnation towards those who were different. Lesbians embraced men during the greeting part of the service. Blacks hugged Hispanics. We all knew that no one was perfect, that all lives were characterized by struggle and that the goal of a Christian was to help others along the Way. We were politically inactive, having concluded that voting and prayer were two personal matters best left to individuals and that politics, being the pandering profession that it was, was too "carnal" or "of the flesh" (yes, those were the words we and many others used back then)for a Christian to get involved with. It required deception as well and that was dangerous.

That ended early in 1982, when our young pastor was invited to a three day Ronald Reagan "prayer breakfast and conference" in Washington D.C. He was flattered and went with the church's blessing.

The Sunday after he returned, the world turned upside down. No one expected it. A usually kind hearted (if not long winded) pastor turned into a right wing hate machine, repeating in his sermon (several times in case we missed them) the most outlandish and insulting language I ever heard. I remember portions well. I didn't hear things like this again until the early days of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.

"God has called us as a church to destroy the evils of the liberal welfare state and its hand outs for laziness."

"God has annointed this church to stand as a wall and defense against the evil manipulations of the hairy legged lesbo-feminists of the teachers unions and the secular humanist educators."

There were then cracks about blacks being on welfare, welfare laziness, the ungodliness of Democrats in general, and "taking the country back for God." And within two weeks, almost every black, Latino, homosexual (though they were not singled out in the sermons), poor person, and student was gone. For good. The church split two or three more times in the next few years, leaving me a lost and stranded soul. My view of the church was increasingly assaulted by demands of 1000% loyalty, shameless pandering and financial matters that I will not elaborate upon. When I think of the turning points of my life (and there have been many), nothing determined the course of the next 23 years as that one out of the blue offensive right wing sermon.

From there I drifted from church to church over the next few years and then decided to sell my businesses and continue my education (I thank God for women who push you on to do this (my late mother) and bear the consequences of that decison (one hell of a mate). Though I originally considered studying for the ministry I soon declared a double then triple major (theology, history, linguistics). And I did well. Then I got talked into grad school and a Ph.D program. I progressively moved to the left (contrary to Horowitz, I was a Republican grad student and never encountered discrimination in grad school. We all got our asses kicked by professor after professor). I completed my Ph.D in 1998. I now teach Ancient History (primarily Church and Roman history and World History. Once in a while when I get the bug I teach a Greek or Coptic class for fun.

I didn't become a Democrat until I was teaching at a fairly well known southern institution in 2000 and George Bush's goons roughed up two of my students who simply brought a sign into an open meeting that read, "Mr Bush: What is your position on the Environment?" It was one of two dozen questions on signs that students brought in. They were knocked to the ground, their sign was ripped up and they were ejected. There was quite an uproar since me department had invited the chimp to campus. I am now a moderate Democrat, but anger is moving me further to the left. It is not the best motivation, but it has made me politically active.(Sherry #3 now). I now teach in a northern state hard hit by Bushanomics and very happy as a liberal Methodist in an open and affirming church.

Why am I writing this? I think because I enjoy the illusion of the bar and miss the many good conversations and stories of grad school. But more seriously the idea of Frist's "Judgement Sunday" has brought flooding back into me that sea of faces shocked by the relentless right wing semonizing/demonizing back when the religious right was young and Sun Myung Moon wasn't funding it. That shock and my reaction to it defined my life to this point more than other personal event. I can only hope that when this travesty of both government and faith is perpetrated upon congregations across America that honest people will react with the kind of revulsion and disgust that I felt two decades ago. Good night friends and bar keep. Say hi to Billmon.

Posted by b on April 18, 2005 at 05:22 AM | Permalink

Comments

good idea to post this. It was a striking testimony. Thanks to diogenes for posting this (and hope you don't mind the spotlight!).

b - the link is currently broken, can you fix it?

Posted by: Jérôme | Apr 18, 2005 5:30:22 AM | 1

b - never mind...

I'd like to state for the record that I think we talk too much about religion these days (whether to criticise it or to defend it). It's in my view a sign of the restlessness and rudderlessness or our times, which makes me worry that some charismatic figure will seize the opportunity to lead us to crazy things.

Enough with absolutes. Relatives are fine!

Posted by: Jérôme | Apr 18, 2005 5:32:42 AM | 2

That ended early in 1982, when our young pastor was invited to a three day Ronald Reagan "prayer breakfast and conference" in Washington D.C. He was flattered and went with the church's blessing.

The Sunday after he returned, the world turned upside down.
I wonder what happened here. Who did the brainwash and how?

Posted by: b | Apr 18, 2005 5:41:36 AM | 3

@ Jérôme:
Your relatives may be fine; mine are often a pain in the ass (;-)
(Just kidding, of course.)

Posted by: Hannah K. O'Luthon | Apr 18, 2005 5:42:04 AM | 4

Diogenes,
read yours after bellatrys second post on the other (frist) thead, and hope this is going around. Good to see you at the moon again.

So much that we see on the media is abstract, until its in your face -- then its proverbial pudding. Thanks.

Posted by: anna missed | Apr 18, 2005 5:48:10 AM | 5

I don't think we speak too much about religion per se Jerome ...we speak about our experiences connected to this world and other people.
As I said before I think that religion is soooo personal and I don't see what is there to be spoken about...But unfortunately too many defrauds use religious feelings and also fact that it's pretty hard and confusing to live in a world as it is today...And they use it for the purpose that has nothing to do with religion as such...They just discovered (again) it's a good way to control “half-mad” masses in these uncertain times...if you know what I mean. All tho I do not exclude possibility that some of them actually are complete lunatics...
I am all for this fight again those "religious" bastards...I am NOT to fight fate as such...
Thanks Diogenes for your experience. It's even harder for us "East Europeans" to understand what a hell you are going through in USA AND HOW THIS COULD HAPPEN AT ALL...
As someone said , at first I was watching those lunatics on TV here and I thought it was entertaining stuff...until it became serious with BushCo on the stage...

Posted by: vbo | Apr 18, 2005 6:18:07 AM | 6

There is at least one Christian Church which did excommunicate Bush: the the Artotyrites. But they're in California so I suppose they don't count.

Posted by: Lupin | Apr 18, 2005 6:51:04 AM | 7

Lupin: Let's not forget that according to late Pope JPII (one of his latest official writings), Bush won't go to Heaven since he's not a Catholic and therefore doesn't have the entire Truth.

Diogenes: "I soon declared a double then triple major (theology, history, linguistics)"
This is a very good move, imho. Actual knowledge of the texts as they were written, and of the overall context, is what lacks more in our modern discussions about religion, and in my opinion in our understanding of the religion and beliefs as well (basically, I don't think you'll get far if you just read the KJB - but then, as a once ago wannabe philologist with occasional bits of history and linguistics, I may be slightly biased ;) ).

Posted by: Clueless Joe | Apr 18, 2005 8:28:49 AM | 8

Yikes! I'm up on the page! See what the demon rum...er..demon sherry will do? Next time I'll heat up some saki! But seriously, thank you. It's been my experience that millions of people, not just myself, had experiences like this. But I'll provide a ray of hope. The religious right is a series of constantly shifting alliances and negotiations for the sake of political strength. One blogger referred to it as "people who hate each other in harness together for a common cause." The divisions are many and various movements have swept through these connected churches like wild fire, shaking some out and adding some on. Right now, some older congregation members are finding out the role of Sun Myung Moon and his money (who remember well Moonies infiltrating their meetings attempting to evangelize and know his doctrines well) and are at odds with younger members unaware of his bizarre history. But what is more useful example is how abortion became a Protestant issue.


This is perhaps the most interesting cross over issue and it entered into the Pentecostal churches first from the Catholic Charismatic movement and inter-church fellowships such as the Full Gospel Businessmens Fellowship. The latter is a Pentecostal parachurch business organization (various notables from John DeLorean to the actor who played Tonto in the Lone Rangers Series to Pat Boone to various high ranking military officers were members and speakers)started by a Armenian diary man name Demos Shakarian in the 1950's. It originally was the haunt of classical Pentecostals (Church of God, Assembly of God, various Faith Healer Movements, etc). But as more and more Catholic Charismatics (Catholics that came to believe in the "Baptism of the Holy Spirit" and spoke in tongues among other things)joined parachruch organizations and/or left the Catholic Church to join classical Pentecostal churches, they took their anti-abortion views and aggressively marketing them (I like to use the old Maoist term of agit-prop to describe this).


I think (and this is pure speculation) that they held to this issue as the single shred of their previous faith that legitimized their Catholic experience. The rosary, veneration of saints, the Catholic Bible with the Apocrypha, purgatory and many of the sacraments all had to go. But there was no doctrinal baggage with being anti-abortion (unlike being anti-birth control!). The issue began to be dabated more heatedly in these Pentecostal circles by the late 1970's and outright activism was common in the early 1980's in churches that previously had been apolitical. Most pastors strugled with these activists in their midst. I remember my youthful Pastor Disaster being furious, particularly at women who were passing out little plastic fetuses towards the end of one service! Later they wanted to create a dead fetus graveyard in front of the church and about two years later they were given permission.


At the same time the first knowledge of the AIDS virus came into popular view and the prophets (inspired speakers who would interrupt services with inspired holy utterances) among the Pentecostals began to speak of God's judgement for homosexuality being expressed. In a short time prophets were proclaiming God's judgement against America for homosexuals and abortion. Now judgement prophecy was nothing new and the end of the world had been popularized for my generation since Lindsay's Late Great Planet Earth was published in 1971. But now these prophets began to see ways to avert God's judgement by political action and organization. Churches that mocked the Religious Right in the early 1980's became affiliates as this major doctrinal shift was popularized. As older parachurch organizations began to wane after the deaths of their founders, members found other outlets for their zeal: in the political arena, where their usual custom of seeing things in black and white (and not grey) played into the hands of ideologues who learn precisely what buttons to push for predictable actions (though I think this game is being played in a clumsy manner with the fillibuster and Terri Schiavo circus). None the less the old "Christians serves as the salt of the Earth" people (those who feel that the Church helps preserve the world from judgement by kindness, love, and example, evoking God's mercy) were replaced by those long despised, those who felt Christians were to take the whole world and have Dominion over it (Adam's original failed call). Hence Adam and Eve (and creationism) also become of critical importance to this group, as they are legitimized only by a real Adam and Eve and a historical Fall! Well I am running out of time. I'll finish quickly.


This movement is fragile because the issue of correct doctrine still lives, though it is suppressed by the tyranny of the urgent. The Religious Right can only hold its factions together in crisis mode, so you will find these occasionally manufactured (such as the jihad against SpongeBob and Postcards from Buster). If you go to the jungle of the AOL message Boards, you will find some fragmentation as fundamentalist snipe at Catholics and their traditions. But interject controversy and threat, and the movement runs on "greased groove." Well time to mold fresh, young minds. Salve, bar keep!

Posted by: diogenes | Apr 18, 2005 8:49:45 AM | 9

A friend of mine once said, "There's no point in talking about religion." He then told the story of a tribe found in the back of beyond (Papua New Guinea?) who had never left their valley. They had a total world view related exclusively to their valley. He added to this the experiments where researchers have stimulated certain parts of the brain (I believe they are where our heads rise to their pointy tops) and produced religious experiences. They did this (is this an urban myth?) with nuns and, lo, the nuns saw saints etc...

But I think he was talking about spirituality, something so personal that it is indescribable and therefore incommunicable. Maybe this is because no life can have all the elements of another.

Religion, on the other hand, is a systematic belief system. To argue against a religion is to disagree with this belief system. One can argue with religious people from within their belief system (you say X, but doesn't that imply Y?), or from without (your belief system claims X, but mine claims Y).

But people don't want religion, they want spirituality, which is...what? Something personal, to be discovered by walking one's own path, from the aggregation of all experiences.

I think there is a danger when people gain information second-hand (e.g. through texts) that one form of experience (read, consider, assent or dissent) overwhelms other forms of experience.

Round the corner from our flat is a house where various foreign nationals live. They appear to be Africans in that they are brown-skinned (various hues), and wear opened-toed sandals. They live quietly, chat to their friends, and I suppose they are refugees of some kind. Migrants, at any rate.

In the UK there is an idea that we have a problem with immigration. Articles are written, politicians pontificate. The reality of human beings, in open-toed sandals, leaning on a wall and chatting to friends--all gone.

I think this can happen the other way, too. Reading articles about, say, Ethiopia, one can hold an idea that the place is full of gunmen pointing at and shooting starving people, as if there weren't friends chatting lazily over a wall somewhere there, too.

Perhaps the fact that education has moved indoors and become individualised means that people are becoming like theoretical scientists who never pick up a test tube, never make chemical reactions, and so weaken certain senses, e.g. that experience comes in many shapes and forms.

Oh Lord ("So you believe in--?" "My cat, yes."--Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy), whyohwhyohwhyohwhy. Right. My point being, er, lost somewhere above.

Here's a poem by Elizabeth Bishop:

CASABIANCA

Love's the boy stood on the burning deck
trying to recite "The boy stood on
the burning deck." Love's the son
stood stammering elocution
while the poor ships in flames went down.

Love's the obstinate boy, the ship,
even the swimming sailors, who
would like a schoolroom platform, too,
or an excuse to stay
on deck. And love's the burning boy.

Posted by: Reg | Apr 18, 2005 10:25:18 AM | 10

Your minister's trip to the Reagan conclave calls to mind the story of Satan the tempter taking Jesus to the moutaintap and promising him power to do good.

Posted by: John Emerson | Apr 18, 2005 10:36:57 AM | 11

Matthew Chapter Four:

Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.".

Ralph Reed or Karl Rove or Pat Robertson plays Satan in this scenario.

Posted by: | Apr 18, 2005 10:43:49 AM | 12

Interesting stuff. I was raised a baptist and have a southern baptist minister for an uncle. They are so hypocritical. My aunt still used the N word for african americans when I seen her last. But they are going to heaven you know.

I twisted off from the Baptist and rejected their bullshit years ago. I don't believe in hell and don't believe in some rapture BS.

Hal Lindsey should be excommunicated from the US for all the people he scared the shit out of in the 1970s. If religion is about scaring people strait I want no part.

I am glad you went on with education diogenes. Logic takes over when education is pursued. The US founders all believed logic was the way to good decisions and policies.

On the spirit thing, I like distilled spirits.

Posted by: jdp | Apr 18, 2005 12:28:12 PM | 13

But fermented is fine with me too. Hal Lindsay is a fruit cake and had led many a young lad or lass astray with his numerous crank books at the end times, but he is one out of many. A number of end of the world wanna bees starting popping more books out in the mid 1980's hoping for a rapture or capture, or something in 1988, the 40th anniversary of Israel's establishment. The books is a hoot today becuase many were based on absurd predictions of the success of the evil empire of the USSR. I remember one of these literary giants published two books: Christ Returns by 1988 and More Reasons why Christ Returns by 1988. I asked the author about the scripture that states that "No nan knows the hour or the day." He replied that Jesus words do not preclude that fact that we can know the year, the month and the week! Oh well. Such things happen when you gain your visions standing on the shoulders of mad men! Lindsay went on to have a lovely career in plagiarism, lifting chunks of material from a book by church scholar Dr. Edwin Yamamuchi a few years ago. The books had to be pulped.


But being an evangelical of any denomination in the 70's and 80's brought you into the end of the world crowd. Movies such as "A Time to Run" and a "A Thief in the Night" made the return of Christ and the anti-Christ table discussion. They have their current counterparts that keep Gary Busy employed. And the secular world had its Anti-Christ series too of movie fare as well: The Omen, Rosemary's Baby, Bride of Anti-Christ, Son of Anti-Christ, Abbot and Costello Meet Anti-Christ, Anti-Christ Beach Party...all right, I go too far. But it seems that one popped up after the other, perhaps some happy alternative to being the nuclear toast we all thought we'd end up being. Ain't life grand?

Posted by: diogenes | Apr 18, 2005 1:51:05 PM | 14

Thanks to Diogenes, moving and interesting.

In the US, the Church.

In CH, a slow but highly noticeable erosion of progressive stances and common goals. During the 80’s and even early nineties, I was involved in the women’s movement (no literary chat; pragmatic stuff - women’s position in CH is not good and hasn’t improved lately...) I was also a Union Boss (in another EU country.)

In both areas exclusionary principles, a sucking up to authority, a loss of the idea of the common good in favor of narrow group interests, and personal advantage, took place. On the whole, it was less bad in the Union (in my particular case), as Union work/aims are very practical, linked to the concrete, the material, the measurable, and all must nevertheless cooperate to achieve some result - the women’s movement is largely crossed by ideological and social issues, and it was taken over by the upper-class ladies once it became respectable (some lesbians in the lot, with gay-issue agendas.) To their detriment and loss; just the other day (with the downsizing of the State) three of them lost their -by-now- institutionalised positions. I had a good, but bitter, laugh. Punchy girls here today from the lower classes are apt to go for Neo-nazism or Gothism. And loose their teeth at 25, work in the supermarket.

It was an insidious, slow, and rather mysterious process - no turning points like that described by Diogenes. I’m still working it out. It is continuing of course.

In a land of plenty, with individualistic values and a weak Gvmt. (US) Religion becomes political - people have nowhere else to turn, or one might say, it becomes the only avenue one can exploit. In a country like CH authoritarian and reactionary movements have mostly been confined to the political arena. Typical People’s Party EU stuff.

But..but..all the chat about religion (taking up Jerome)..

Here in Geneva, since yesterday we have a new political party. Their advice on the 8 (complex) objects to be voted on 24 April will be published along side the biggies, information paid by the State.

They are the Neo-Communist Christians. Jesus was the first communist, they claim. Their platform seems similar to that of the Christian Democrats, and is quite sophisticated, despite (or because of?) the reference of Jesus, not conventional here, naturally. (Calvin inter alia.) They are the only party which is advising voting YES on all 8 objects.

The party has only TWO members. One is a man of 74, ex-big-biz-high-up (Nestlé) and former publicity type (big Ad Agency). He is the Président. The other is a 14 year-old school boy. He is Sécrétaire Général et Conseiller Juridique. He’s been hitting the law books! This little example shows:

a) the growing respectability of religious references in a Republic that maintains a rigorous separation between Church and State. This is completely new - they are the first!

b) the fact that when political expression is easy and encouraged people have to tackle big issues (the 8 objects, or in Eng. questions, issues, laws...) and gather adherents through means other than voodoo and the exploitation of despair, poverty, victimhood and the attendant whipping up of hate. (See the enginnered Iraq example today...)

c) (!) New political movements around here are tending to leave out or by pass the 35-55 year-olds who have mortgages and drive Mercedes. This is an excellent thing.

bit of a ramble - -

Posted by: Blackie | Apr 18, 2005 1:54:04 PM | 15

reg,

There was a PBS special on brain function several years or so ago, which featured various injuries to the brain and their symptomatic results. There was a young man (who was non-religious before) who received an unusual injury (car wreck?) which produced for him profound religious experience. He would be taking a walk and suddenly be struck with these epiphanies he could not explain or control. The researcher working on the case surmised there may be a part of the brain that is responsible for such religious experience. So, not an urban myth -- but since that time I'm unaware of any other claims from research into this phenomena, not sure how the religious community would take to such research. Interesting though.

Posted by: anna missed | Apr 18, 2005 3:01:42 PM | 16

@anna missed,

there is reseach being done. Not to long ago I read that a spiritual center has been found either in the hypothalamus or something near by, that when stimulated created spiritual or religious experiences. If I can find it again I let you know.

Posted by: Fran | Apr 18, 2005 3:13:50 PM | 17

profound religious experience

I´d rather speak of extrodinary mental experiences that are interpreted, explained and framed as religious.

Such experiences can happen through near-death situations, drug influences, unbalanced brain chemistry, intensive meditation, extrordinary physical exhaustion, hunger etc.

People who have never experimented with such mental states and do not have the background knowledge of their existence will have problems to explain these and may seek the easiest explanation of a "higher might" interfearing.

Well,that is my explanation, I am sure there are others available.

Posted by: b | Apr 18, 2005 3:31:27 PM | 18

As I said, my spirtual area has been taken over by distilled spirits. (Just joking)

I do have dreams that seem to come true though. Its kind of a deja vu thing. (Although that oil rig I dreamed of falling off hasn't happened and I quit the oilfield in the 80s, oh, and that car wreck at forty didn't happen, it must still coming.) But it only happens once in a great while. My grandfather had it also. But I don't break out into talking in tongues or prophecy. I surely don't turn to religion though I am religious in some ways. Are there sub brain areas that lend toward certain propensities? Yes. Can people see the future? I don't believe so in a modern sense. If they do it comes from happenstance.

Most things are planned and if they are not, things become self fullfilling prophecy. Your subcon tells you thats how it should be because everyone else believes it. Its more of pack mentality.

Sorry to rant.

Posted by: jdp | Apr 18, 2005 4:06:35 PM | 19

@anna missed, I couldn't find the one I was looking for, I think it might have been in the NYT. But the following two links give some overview of the research being done.

Tracing the Synapses of Our Spirituality

the following was first printed in Newsweek:
RELIGION AND THE BRAIN

@b, I don't know if your explanation really explains much about what is happening during meditation or even near-death experiences, etc. Not much is really know about these phenomenons, and all explanations end up being beliefs one way or the other, at least in my oppinion.

Posted by: Fran | Apr 18, 2005 4:07:45 PM | 20

@Fran - I have experimented with some LSD in my younger days and that stuff gives some strong visions an feelings. Others who had some trips along it did take theirs as religious experience.

I also have some (years) experience with buddhist meditations which can be quite strong in this regard. One can transform oneself into a different world - subjectively of course - by meditating on specific "gods" or figures in specific situations.

Also many religions do use some of the things I mentioned. Drugs, hunger, meditation, extreme exhaustions can be found in various of them. Extreme psychological rituals are also involved like the central canibalistic catholic ritual of eating Jesus body and drinking his blood.

So that is my working hypothesis. Religion is an explanation for special state of minds. Religions use methods to cause such special states to reinforce their specific lecture.

Posted by: b | Apr 18, 2005 4:36:34 PM | 21

@b, I have no problem with your 'working' hypothesis, I have experienced some of this stuff too, not with drugs however. But still, I think what is happening during these changes of consciousness is not really known and is in the realm of beliefs. However, your working hypothesis looks good to me, at least for the time being.

Another thing, for me religion does not have much to do with these mental states. To me religion is more about organisations of power. I prefere the term spiritual states, as this term for me does not include anyone who interprets or explains my experiences. I know it can look like hair splitting.:-)

Posted by: Fran | Apr 18, 2005 4:48:31 PM | 22

Bernhard: Natural drugs have been used by Native Americans for a very long time, for mystical and shamanic uses as well as others more mundane and secular - and they definitely are not the only ones. Just think of peyote to get an idea.

Posted by: CluelessJoe | Apr 18, 2005 8:10:42 PM | 23

Diogenes, thanks for the initial diary and subsequent comments. My own early experiences with christian beliefs and churches in the USA were somewhat similar. This thread has really taken me back. I won't go off on a rant, or on a discussion of my own interactions with churches while growing up. But I do think there are many like Diogenes, and like myself, who have some affinity for spirituality, even christian spirituality, and who are totally repulsed by what christianity has become in our time. (That may not be D's view; just my own.)

Posted by: Maxcrat | Apr 18, 2005 8:51:55 PM | 24

OK. When ever discussion about religion is started on the net I see that there is tendency on a “progressive” side to ridicule people who have religious feelings. It’s getting so bad it’s not funny at all. And I am talking here about educated and well mannered otherwise reasonable people. How about some tolerance?
On my side I do respect people’s choice not to believe in anything that they can’t put on their “empiric” hands. It’s people’s right to do so. On the other hand I’ve never heard any scientific answers on the questions that bother me and my humble existence and I feel it’s my right to believe in what ever I want to feel the gap of meaninglessness of this existence that is killing me. As long as I do not hurt anybody by doing so.
And NO, “some” of us do not have visions ( all tho I tried LSD when I was young and I had non religious visions at the time, so I know what visions are all about).You don’t need to have visions to have fate. In my opinion one just needs to think and live long enough in this absurd situation called “ life on Earth” and if you are sincere you’ll admit that you need something more than science to get a “piece of peace” for your soul and mind. Do not get me wrong. I respect science and I believe it is given to us for the reason. All tho church that I sometimes go in is Orthodox Serbian Church and I go there for the sake of tradition more then for anything else. Thanks God my church is not aggressive and pushing in any way and is not robber when it comes to money (like I hear some churches are taking 10% of people’s income…what a business!).It’s all voluntary there. I go there when I can stand the priest and there was a time when I couldn’t stand my local priest and I did not agree with my church’s point on various issues so I avoided going there. But it didn’t affect my fate.
Why I think there is nothing to talk about when fate is a subject of conversation? Because as we all know there are not material facts there. The word is telling it all : FATE. We do not need to have fate in stuff that can be proven empirically. We KNOW it . But this is something nobody have credit of knowing while on this planet. We can only go to a historic point of view and than we are talking about history…or to a philosophical point of view and we are talking philosophy. In both cases it’s about scientific point of view…not simply human point that can explain why religion (and I mean any religion ) is here with us for so long and against all odds.
I am not really someone who studied Bible and can’t seriously comment on it. From what I read I feel that “trouble” with a Bible (and here I think New Testament) is that it could be interpreted in so many ways all tho most of the messages are so simple and are basic
“manual” to our existence and happiness that it’s so hard not to acknowledge it. Still people manage not to…some even manage to make a business of “explaining” those messages to masses. As we (again) see, it’s even possible to make a political stand and electoral victory out of it.
It only tells about us- people…and our pervert nature …and why we needed those messages at the first place.
I do not exactly understand why communism and religion excluded each other so forcefully. OK it probably is about totalitarian nature of communism and church’s need to dictate so there is no place for mixed messages there. Anyway this travesty that has been made with new party in CH does not sound that ridiculous to me. I do not see antagonism in being fateful on one side and being for social justice at the same time. I would actually say it looks like a future and maybe those two (75 and 14 year old) just have a good marketing skills, haha.

Posted by: vbo | Apr 18, 2005 10:51:02 PM | 25

I appreciate the comments. I have veered back and forth between materialism, deism, and some form of orthodoxy in past years. At times I know if there was a religous center in the brain I'd hit mine with a hammer. But I do appreciate some people of faith but not all. I tend to gravitate towards a God that says "Love your neighbor as youself" as opposed to a God who develops elaborate justifications for a pre-emptive strike. And I still pray. Bush has a habit of driving good people to their knees.


Of course because the church tradition I played with seemed to value emotion and spiritual experiences as much as the Bible (they never admitted it, but those without them were never quite in the club). The folks I was with years ago seemed to think they were on the Truman show: God had produced an elaborate script and brought in divinely appointed character actors and extras while He and the saints of Heaven looked on amused at the drama of human fraility. That holy standard allowed me to witness some trainwrecks of friends and family members that still tear at my heart upon occasion. So now I tend to distrust spiritual emotional experiences. But the opposite of dysfunctional is also dysfunctional so perhaps I've over done it. I find myself open to very little. I am Diogenes after all, carrying my lantern through the American church looking for an honest televangelist. It's not my fault that they run like cockroaches when they see any kind of light approaching.


But this has been the experience of the born again skeptic for generations, from Peter Abelard in his youth to Marjo Gortner (imagine those two in the same sentence. Has to be the booze!). The unique thing is the vulgar politics attached like a bloated tick to the conservative church , feeding on the religious insecurities of the conservative masses and looking very satisfied. And apparently successful for the time being.


Well bar keep that kills the sherry and my winter bottle is done. I will endeavor to keep the shreds of my faith benign and if I err, I promise to err on the side of compassion and the other. That way I sleep at night, brain disorder or not. I'm going to try to see Frist's Judgement Sunday firsthand this weekend. I may have to go to a local independent Baptist Church to see it up here in Maine that has connections to Bob Jones University. They had David Barton from Wallbuilders there last October and I am still ill from that. Perhaps to ease the tension, I'll dress as St. Paul or Tony Clifton. I haven't been this excited since I went to see The Passion last year. At that time I marvelled how much blood can come from one living human body. This time I'll simply wonder how much bull shit can come from one political party!

Posted by: diogenes | Apr 18, 2005 11:44:02 PM | 26

vbo, I agree faith is very important, however I think religious dogma is not helpful. For me religion has become associated with church and dogma and power. I agree more with the spiritual aspects of different religions, which interestingly enough agree with each other in their teachings. These are usually the mystics, like the sufi's for islam, or the hashidim for hebrew's and some of the saints (not all of them) in christianity. I find often the church, and here I talk of the christian church, is very intolerant of deviation from the dogma. There is just know an entire village, near were i live, that is fighting to keep there priest, which in my opinion was not only religious but also spiritual - he filled his church, people love him and because he was open minded the church now wants him out. I came across a story in Italy were again church dogma is interefering with the spiritual needs of people.

As to the research, I think it is interesting that they can now show that there are changes in the brain when you meditate or are in deep prayer. The interpretation will again depend on beliefs. It can be said that there is no God because it only is a chemical change in the brain, or it can be looked as, because of the changes in the brain we can perceive God (or however you call that higher aspect). In the end it is something very personal between each of us and what we might call the Light, God, Allah or what ever. As there is supposed to be only One, I think the name is irrelevant.

Posted by: Fran | Apr 18, 2005 11:45:59 PM | 27

Religions have made such a mockery of human spirit that, to some, anti-spirituality must seem downright scientific and logical. Pity.

Posted by: gylangirl | Apr 18, 2005 11:51:53 PM | 28

Quote:

...however I think religious dogma is not helpful. For me religion has become associated with church and dogma and power. I agree more with the spiritual aspects of different religions, which interestingly enough agree with each other in their teachings.

...church dogma is interefering with the spiritual needs of people.
***
Fran I agree with you totally. I even had same experience with my "benign" church wanting a good priest out. It used to be "benign" because it was excluded from politic for 50 years of socialism. Now it's back and it started to interfere in politic and I soooo do not like it. Many of us do not like it. But result in our case is that our people all tho started to visit churches more frequently when " democracy" came , now have stopped going there in masses.
It's a long story and our case is not usual one, that's for sure.
On individual bases I totally lost my fate when I was 18th and my mother died in her 39 years of age. It took me awhile to understand my feelings in this field and to find some peace.

Posted by: vbo | Apr 19, 2005 12:22:12 AM | 29

I do not know how my comment disappeared and at the same time it's listed on the right side of the main. Here it goes again:


********************************
Quote:

...however I think religious dogma is not helpful. For me religion has become associated with church and dogma and power. I agree more with the spiritual aspects of different religions, which interestingly enough agree with each other in their teachings.

...church dogma is interefering with the spiritual needs of people.
***
Fran I agree with you totally. I even had same experience with my "benign" church wanting a good priest out. It used to be "benign" because it was excluded from politic for 50 years of socialism. Now it's back and it started to interfere in politic and I soooo do not like it. Many of us do not like it. But result in our case is that our people all tho started to visit churches more frequently when " democracy" came , now have stopped going there in masses.
It's a long story and our case is not usual one, that's for sure.
On individual bases I totally lost my fate when I was 18th and my mother died in her 39 years of age. It took me awhile to understand my feelings in this field and to find some peace.

Posted by: vbo | Apr 19, 2005 12:25:54 AM | 30

My opinion. We are all potentially the Good, the One-ness, the Universal Wisdom, in other words, ultimately God is us. Egotism delays that transformation. Subconsciously we all seek our highest potential; a few enlightened ones have achieved it; religions and philosophies and even medical and social sciences [initially] study and organize their methods. Many have approximated it via brain/mood-altering experiences such as drugs, sex, emotionalism. Dogmatism, religious or otherwise, is only one form of egotism blocking this ultimate human potential.

Put scientifically: We use only one-tenth of our brain power. Spirituality is about tapping ever higher percentages of human brain potential. When we do, science and spirituality become no longer contradictory ways of explaining our condition. Scientific observation ultimately validates spiritual experience. Spiritual enlightenment ultimately recognizes/intuits scientific facts. One without the other is partial knowledge.

Posted by: gylangirl | Apr 19, 2005 12:46:04 AM | 31

Nop...not working...

Posted by: vbo | Apr 19, 2005 1:46:37 AM | 32

The inclination toward the "spiritual" in my book is totally reasonable, understandable, and most lilely innate, so who cares if it's some part of brain function, how could it not be -- givin the fact that the most ancient artifacts known to man are in fact "spiritual" objects that mark it in time, someplace around the dawn of consciousness, as we know it to be. Just guessing but, in many ways the spiritual impulse, is also a process of rudimentary reification of rote physiological processess into iconography* that facilitate personal identity in respect to establishing social order. Eventually, through ever greater individuation and elaboration it has not only produced metaphysics and religion, but also the liberal arts, science, and mathmatics, and yes I'd go so far as to say that all the above also require a large dose of "faith" as opposed to "belief" -- to press the project forward. I tend to see "belief" as the fixed, static, and stubborn adherence to any of the sedimented iconographical structures deposited along the road of history. And its not that there's no value here, quite the contrary, the better of it will continue to emit its knowledge and intuition throughout generations, but to, in any way bind and tie it up as a final truth -- to "believe" at the expense and isolation of the wonder of experience itself, is to belie both the incarnation of that knowledge (its process) and its potential projection. It is imho, the problem with religion in general, is that its spirituality is so often stratified into an experiancial closed loop of belief, to worship God for Gods sake. And thats the animist and the artist in me talkin.

Posted by: anna missed | Apr 19, 2005 1:53:24 AM | 33

iconography*

using this word to mean - exemplification to illustrate proportional relationship(s) between things through abstract depiction. ie a dance that celebrates puberty through specific motions, or say a russian religious "icon" in which jesus is painted larger than the other characters to show importance.

Posted by: anna missed | Apr 19, 2005 2:18:24 AM | 34

Thanks again to Diogenes for his posting - hardly original, I know, but polite.

I collect "end o' the world" books, including one which "proves mathematically" that Mikhail Gorbachev was the Anti-Christ, and another that delares that 25% of the population of the United States will have AIDS by 2000. Fun stuff!

There is a magician in the UK who, as part of his act, temporarally makes you a Christian.

http://www.derrenbrown.co.uk/

(He is a "good" magician, in that he never actually claims to have mystical abilities, letting his audience know he's a mentalist.)

As a lifelong athiest (I stopped saying the Lords Prayer in grade 2), I'm fascinated by this ability of his, what it relates to, and whether it causes a revelation, simply a sensation, visions, voices or what exactly. What does conversion entail, and why does it work? And why temporarily?

gylangirl: That's actually a common misconception. The quote refers more to what we understood of the brains functioning at that time, rather than how much we "use". We actually use all of it. There is, and never has been, any conflict between spirituality and science, as they cover cover different realms of human experience.

Your belief that "God is us" was one of the core tenets of the gnostics, and the first great schism in the Christian church. (Plenty of Eastern religions too, of course.) Lots of good books out there on them.

To me, any religion in writing becomes fossilised - dead, inert; instant dogma. Pretty much the only thing approaching a faith that fits me is Taoism, and not the goofy-assed sexual nonsense. My wife's got a much firmer believer in small gods - a Tao/voodoo kind of vibe. Some mulit-tasking Sky God, she's not so interested in. Someone who helps with her baking on the other hand, she can tolerate.

Posted by: Thursday | Apr 19, 2005 3:36:51 AM | 35

vbo says:


And I am talking here about educated and well mannered otherwise reasonable people. How about some tolerance?
On my side I do respect people’s choice not to believe in anything that they can’t put on their “empiric” hands. It’s people’s right to do so.

The following rant is not aimed at or in specific response to anything posted here really, more an explanation of how non-believers get a little tetchy discussing religion.

Do you have any idea how frustrating, annoying and at best energy sapping it is to listen to otherwise reasonable people referring to fairy stories and superstitions the whole bloody time, often as a basis for action? Whether the nonsense of organised religion or fuzzy new age spirituality or pseudo-science, it drives me potty. It takes energy to ignore it, to resist the constant propaganda, the constant sales pitch. Not to mention the horror and the pity when you tell religious people that you just about believe in your own existence, never mind any mythical higher power. Pity, because I try to live in the real universe, naked to it without hiding behind a mythical fabric of my own weaving. This makes you cranky, let me tell you. For older generations it's horror: I'm still not able to talk openly about this to the older members of my family.

And it's not a fucking choice. I could no more choose to believe that nonsense than I could cut off my left arm. Well, I guess I could cut off my left arm. Not sure I'd survive the experiment though.

I don't care if it's ancient religion, new age spiritualism or whatever, it's all superstitious nonsense to me. Mysticism, yoga, meditation are at best ways to trick our primitive, kludged together brain into doing what we want to do.

I'm not surprised some people aren't very tolerant. I'm surprised we manage to be as polite as we are most of the time. I guess it's the lingering fear of being burnt at the stake.

Oh, and the basic rule of human morality: treat others as you would like them to treat you while looking out for your own interests? It's the basic rule of living in social groupings: I'm reasonably sure all the social animals obey some form of it. Not a special human thing, no God required. All successful religions have it as their basis because if you promote selfishness and self-interest you won't be a successful religion.

Posted by: Colman | Apr 19, 2005 4:02:30 AM | 36

Someone who helps with her baking on the other hand, she can tolerate.
No, my baking's ok. If, however, anyone has a hand-writing god or two to spare maybe we can talk.

Posted by: Colman | Apr 19, 2005 4:04:40 AM | 37

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said, "two vast and armless hands of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half drunk, a shatterd Colman lies, whose frown,
And clumsy fingers, and expression of exasperation
Show that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on those stony digits,
The serifs which mocked Colman, and the difficult bit
where you have to link and "r" to an "s" without the
"r" turning into an "n",
And on the wrist these words appear:
I am the God of Handwriting:
Look at my looped "J"s, Colman, and despair!
Nothing beside remains (except Colman, trying to
Read his own handwriting and cursing). Round the decay
Of those granite tentacles, boundless and honest,
Colman's honest plea for life not to be stuck in a box marked
"Here be fairy explanations" stretches far away
and hits The God of Handwriting between his furry nuts.
The God of Handwriting winces, says,
"Colman, I would like to help you. Really I would. But I have recently re-trained as the God of baking and can no longer take orders for Handwriting miracles. Sorry."
And yet, by heaven!, Colmans' handwriting will improve!
For their is another, smaller, God,
the God of Elegant Lettering, a sort of sub-division God,
of more recent origin, who would be glad to help.
Indeed--

BANG!

-----------------

Argh! Apologies! God made me do it.

Colman, yea, yea, and more yea. Religion is organised belief--no thanks. When you express your spirituality others will hear gibberish.

Me, I like memorising the Tao Te Ching and Shakespeare's sonnets. There are no Alzheimers patients who have forgotten the Tao AND the Sonnets, they say.

But "they" are fairies from pixie land, and we all know fairies from pixie land are tricksy types, so they may have been lying.

Enough! I hope your irritation levels are lower.

(The MRI scan experiments with nuns and Tibetan monks is interesting, btw--seems the monks and nuns were up to quite a bit more than meditating, but that's a terrible rumour.)

Hey, I can remember some of the Tao. This is the beginning of 41:

The great scholar hearing the Tao
tries to follow it.
The middling scholar hearing the Tao
sometimes has it, sometimes not.
The lesser scholar hearing the Tao
has a good laugh.
Without this laughter, it wouldn't be Tao.

----------------------------------

ARRRGGGHH!

Posted by: The God of Handwriting | Apr 19, 2005 5:58:37 AM | 38

Heh. I'm pretty sure that if there were a God of Handwriting, I would have a special place in Her demonology. Or least a few special commandments. "Thou shalt not go near a writing instrument" for a start.

Posted by: Colman | Apr 19, 2005 6:12:58 AM | 39

And lo, The Goddess of Handwriting looked into hell, and thereupon the COLMAN, and sayeth unto him, "What sayeth thou?" And COLMAN sayeth, "Look, Goddess, upon the mighty forest of my craft--not one dots rests above its I; no dashes cross my T's. My C's resemble O's. My e's are small waves lost in a sea of unreadable consonants! What of it?" "Nothing," sayeth the Goddess, "Just thought I'd pop in for a chat."

So sayeth the Lord.

Posted by: The Goddess of Handwriting | Apr 19, 2005 6:33:01 AM | 40

I recently saw a program on PBS about Islam. Fascinating in that it reinforced many of the things I had read, like the debt we in the west owe to Islam for perserving the works of ancient greek scholars such as Aristotle, that were considered heretical by the Christian church during the dark ages. Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose". It seems back then Islam had no difficulty reconciling science and reason with faith. I don't think "the religious" and "the spiritual" are necessarily mutually inclusive. It's easier to talk about "religion" than "the spiritual". Religion is more about power and control in my estimation. I don't think too many diferences have led to arguments and worse about things of a truly spiritual nature. I could be wrong. Perhaps the ancient Hebrews were correct about the ineffable name of ______.

Posted by: Shoeless Joe Stalin | Apr 19, 2005 7:34:57 AM | 41

Colman, funny you should mention this:

I could no more choose to believe that nonsense than I could cut off my left arm. Well, I guess I could cut off my left arm.

in response to vbo's:

On my side I do respect people’s choice not to believe in anything that they can’t put on their “empiric” hands.

I would try to explain it but I would mangle it. There is an interesting piece in the January 2005 National Geographic of all places on a recent study about proprioception and Descartes' "brains in vats". I'm sure you both will find this interesting. It appears you may be able to cut off your "other left arm" and be none the worse or wiser for it.

Posted by: Shoeless Joe Stalin | Apr 19, 2005 7:54:15 AM | 42

diogenes. Thanks for starting all of this.

Posted by: beq | Apr 19, 2005 8:31:12 AM | 43

Shoeless Joe Stalin it was very interesting...
Colman as I said I have no problem with people who do not "believe"...I was one of them at one point in my life but I couldn't find answers I was after in material world. I had to face death and absurd very early in my life and I was constantly after "reason" from that point after. If you have found your answers wherever they may be, well good for you. You are lucky one. You should explain it to your family and they should respect it.
Of course my spelling is catastrophic among other things about my writing but I hope you people do not mind too much. I was thinking faith not fate of course and yes belief is word that I don't like too much too.
Again I am not talking about churches as such when I talk about faith and I think I am clear about that. I do not like (any) church’s dogma as such as I do not take literally Bible and teachings...I chose to understand it my way as I do believe that this is deeply personal field….It's unexplainable on individual level ... how to explain faith?
On the other hand I understand how there are really a bunch of religious lunatics around especially in USA but they are spreading here too. It’s really frightening to see them come to a public light like it’s happening now. What’s that about USA to “grow” them I wouldn’t know…Something in the water? Hahaha it wasn’t funny lately I can assure you…

Posted by: vbo | Apr 19, 2005 9:42:22 AM | 44

My SO (significant other) believes in a deity he calls Zorbek, in a fun way. One day he (SO) said, "The Bible was written so that people could be controlled." Same as it ever was.

Posted by: beq | Apr 19, 2005 9:51:21 AM | 45

Yes, but... was it Zorbek who revealed this to SO, or did he come to this conclusion on his own?

Posted by: Shoeless Joe Stalin | Apr 19, 2005 10:31:18 AM | 46

Glad you found it so, vbo. Is it possible that "hand" may be less "empiric" than we thought? I hope the rise of lunacy we are observing around the world is just post millenial madness. It is the same thing as the centanarian nonsense we go through every hundred years, to the tenth power it would seem. This is just the second one we have lived through, assuming that we do, live through it.

Posted by: Shoeless Joe Stalin | Apr 19, 2005 10:40:44 AM | 47

@ SJS: On his own, I believe. We both came to the conclusion at an early age that organized religion was not a welcoming thing and escaped the control. He is still waiting for the straight poop from Zorbek. Funny. When he was saving his farmhouse from the termites, he had to resort to renting a port-a-john during the renovation and he called it the "Church of Zorbek"...so Zorbek did help deliver him from the termites. =)

Posted by: beq | Apr 19, 2005 11:22:34 AM | 48

God is an anarchist.

Posted by: Shoeless Joe Stalin | Apr 19, 2005 11:52:44 AM | 49

Amen.

Posted by: beq | Apr 19, 2005 12:44:14 PM | 50

religion is the science of 'i don't know'. if people don't understand (know) something it must be god's doing. humans can't just say 'i don't know'.
where the shit hits the fan is when science proves some previously unknown (religious doctrine) to be something other than god's will.

blind faith lessens with education.

Posted by: lenin's ghost | Apr 19, 2005 3:17:34 PM | 51

Quote:
blind faith lessens with education.
***
I agree to the point that blind faith is usually a "faith" - loyalty to the church, other people (priests, Pope, religious community...whoever).
There was interesting program on a TV once where they showed quite a few scientists (some of them awarded very high awards and even one Nobel’s prize winner as far as I can remember) mostly physicist, mathematicians of high rank too (exact science), that came to the point to start to "believe" in God (some higher power if not our "usual God")...cause they lost their faith in science and they started to question things they KNOW...after all they archived.
What is it exactly that we actually KNOW for sure? You "knowledgeable" people make me laugh (but in a positive way)...no offense…

Posted by: vbo | Apr 19, 2005 11:13:30 PM | 52

what is frightening to me is that so far on this thread i have not seen anyone that was truely raised in pennecost.(?)you cannot reason with these people.if you do not conform,they take pleasure in your spiritual,emotional,and physical destruction.and they have no guilt about your demise.be very afraid.my parents helpt start PTL way back when in the 70's.i have as a young girl worshiped with the best.katheren culman?,david wilkerson,pat boone(yep he was there at one point with johnny cash)lets see the chaplin of bourbon street,jimmy jones,(billy grahm was always nice to me so i won't include him)fuck his son though!jerry F,pat B,oral roberts,and damm who was that guy in canada?oh fuck i forgot jim and tammy baker.there were many more.i read studies now about how the christian right came into power and realize i was there in the begining,prevy,to a back stage look.someone i think on kos who was adopted did a diary about her experience.she said she thought she was born a liberal,adopted by conservative parents.i think she was right.out of a hudge extended family,only myself,& my father tried but couldn't buy in to the madness.these leaders (mentioned above)who could SAVE drug addictics,prostituts,and murderers,had absolutely no room in their hearts for myself and my father.you see we did not think we were demon possesed,horibly rotten sinners,who could only burn in hell.in fact we found the entire sinerio(can't spell sorry)hallirious.i have alwas been an agnostic,up until i had a brain anyerism.my dear mother who could not make it to my bedside,called me as i headed toward surgery.(i had less of 50%chance)she reminded me how on their deathbeds even atheists found and asked for god.i at this point asked her to do me a favor.if i denounced god and became an atheist would she for christ sake quit trying to convert me.well that didn't quite jive with her well known seniero.and i havent talked to her but once since.3 yrs after operation,one month before diebold had its way with us.i don't think i can ever talk to her again.she is the enemy.of myself,my beliefs,my government and to everything that is good and honorable,balanced in this existance.she went to spread the word of jesus to the phillipines,iran,saudi a,turkey and china smuggling bibles,etc(at 15 i came home from school found a note and $100 bill.the note said we have gone to spread the word of god.i spent 3 years ditching social services till i turned 18)(very christian that,leave your 15yr old alone in usa while you spread the gospel)shit i am fucked up and rambling.sorry.i am just so scared.i suddenly feel 15 again and i've come home and got an empty house and a note:gone to spread the gospel you are fucked!

Posted by: | Apr 20, 2005 7:57:50 AM | 53

"...in fact we found the entire sinerio(can't spell sorry)"
In context, you spell very well. Thanks for your story anon.

Posted by: beq | Apr 20, 2005 8:09:36 AM | 54

Who cares about spelling! Thank you for sharing anon.

Posted by: Fran | Apr 20, 2005 8:20:27 AM | 55

u kno, i rd somwhr recntly tht it rly dsnt mtr if u use al the ltrs u r supsd to
and tht pepl r prfctly abl to mke sens of wht u wnt to say wout al thos ltrs
anywy. ;-)

Posted by: beq | Apr 20, 2005 8:45:41 AM | 56

that was me anon,and that you beg

Posted by: onzaga | Apr 20, 2005 8:56:11 AM | 57

you and fran are both very funny thanks i needed that

Posted by: onzaga | Apr 20, 2005 9:00:49 AM | 58

laughing to hard to abbreviate

Posted by: onzaga | Apr 20, 2005 9:03:41 AM | 59

beq, this might be the text you saw:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is that frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe.


Posted by: Fran | Apr 20, 2005 9:27:42 AM | 60

LOL! Thanks, Fran. I guess mine is kind of a shrthnd. And onzaga, thanks again. It's good to make you laugh. If you have more to tell, we want to hear.

Posted by: beq | Apr 20, 2005 9:47:18 AM | 61

Quote:
I wish I wouldn't have to care about religion and religious leaders because this would be a strictly private matter with no relation to the public world and the way countries and the planet are ruled; alas, it isn't really like that.
***
Very much so.
Onzaga I feel for you...And I am scared too of what's coming.
Maybe they are right after all, maybe the end of the world is close, because they want to end it and we do not bother to save it.
As bad as it is becoming lately maybe the world as we'll soon know it is not even worth an effort...
I am depressed...not because of what's in there for me but because of my children and grandchildren...How do we teach them to survive in these circumstances?

Posted by: vbo | Apr 20, 2005 10:49:56 AM | 62

Sunday in a Red State by Joe Bageant.(pdf)

Posted by: beq | Apr 20, 2005 10:55:08 AM | 63

...and after that, a helping of Republic of Pickle Vendors, "The Devil Does Not Live in the American Heartland, He Just Shits There" (also Joe Bageant, God love'im)

Posted by: beq | Apr 20, 2005 11:10:29 AM | 64

Wow, Joe Bageant is great...so vivid picture ...thank you for that beq...I haven't enjoyed this much reading anything for ages…brilliant…

Posted by: vbo | Apr 20, 2005 10:50:38 PM | 65

Colman says: "I could no more choose to believe that nonsense than I could cut off my left arm. Well, I guess I could cut off my left arm. Not sure I'd survive the experiment though."

http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=533472003>Or maybe you would :-)

I'm kind of in your corner, anyway -- I must be tone-deaf to religion in the same way that some people are tone-deaf to music. Not that I haven't had some transcendent moments, great upwellings of emotion, uplifting sensations and all that -- usually in the context of the biotic world doing its glorious thing -- I just cannot associate these moments with some kind of static dogma or doctrine; and the notion of gods, saints, etc. leaves me kinda cold. I think I'd be an animist or a Shintoist if I had that much superstition in me; sometimes I think of boats as if they had personalities, that's about as far as I'm willing to go with the animism :-)

It does bug me some when otherwise reasonable friends of mine observe religious rituals and seem to believe in them. It worries me in the same way that it would worry me if they told me about seeing fairies at the bottom of the garden :-) I guess I worry about people making decisions based on imaginary input -- the cold creepy brush of the irrational in human nature, which to the empiricist is terrifying. But heck, from an existentialist viewpoint I suppose that is what we all do -- trust the http://stangoff.com/index.php?p=68>internal, ductile, untrustworthy record of our senses and base our decisions on it.

Has anyone read that book on the "Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind"? I always meant to but never got a Round Tuit.

As to tolerance -- after years of debating the Jesus Freaks in high school and at college, I got tired of arguing with the religious -- I figured out that some religious people were very nice and reasonable and apparently sane in daily life, and some non-believers were real jerks, so I had to give up the idea that religion is a uniformly bad influence and just kind of take people as they behave rather than as what they claim to believe. I've been content to let them do their thing as long as they don't expect to drag me into it; attempts to convert me I find really irritating. Unfortunately the current crew of nutters in the US seem to be determined to drag us all into it.

Posted by: DeAnander | Apr 20, 2005 11:39:16 PM | 66

Having been around there enough to have seen that one( and only) late model brown sedan with vanity plates reading "Jesus", I'd say Joe has again nailed it brilliantly.

Posted by: anna missed | Apr 21, 2005 12:04:33 AM | 67

A couple of thoughts on the fine posts here. Rather limited as the spiritual interests me, patriarchal monotheism not at all. I must admit to a curiousity about the nature of the emotional state that drives one to become a religious fanatic.

The only person I've ever read who made religion intelligible in light of Western European Intellectual traditions & science, is the Great Cultural Historian William Irwin Thompson. Have any barflies read him?

I heard a lecture he gave come over my local non-commercial radio station (not NPR) ~2am one night in the early 70's. He rescued me when I got lost in leftism & was so bored I couldn't stand to hear myself talk any longer. He was an MIT historian (@~27yrs. of age.) & dropped out 'cuz he wasn't interested in being part of a culture dedicated to subduing nature w/its power. He wrote the best bk. on the culture & counter-culture "At the Edge of History". It was up for the National Book Award in History the same yr. as the Whole Earth Catalogue- the Original. When the latter won, half the committee resigned in protest. He observed that it made sense 'cuz W.E.C. was a performance of the history he was describing.

His next book was "Passages About Earth: An Exploration of the New Planetary Culture." That ended w/a chapter on his trip to Findhorn. I recommend him, because he will drop you off at Findhorn Garden. I doubt that I could have taken seriously what happened in that garden w/a less mainstream certified reliable, Time Magazine reviewed guide. W/such an introduction, I strongly suggest that anyone who hasn't check out the Findhorn Garden book.

(Paul Hawken's, better known for his recent bk. on "Natural Capitalism" also wrote a much less interesting bk. on his trip there - I don't recommend that 'cuz it's dominated by his sexist archetypes.)

Perhaps I'll say more about him another time if anyone's interested. Just wanted to check in & see if anyone knew him - and offer a doorway from one's private garden to the spiritual world.

Posted by: jj | Apr 21, 2005 1:49:05 AM | 68

In the two Bageant stories (above) I was struck by the last sentence where he is able to use biblical language "who am I to say that hand is not best described as Satan's?" in describing his unwillingness to be saved by his brother the preacher. Interesting that first the hand, is his own saving himself from the fall, then the hand that pulls the trigger, and then its the hand that keeps him apart (from his brother, then his community) as the proverbial whore in church. In the second story, Bageant goes on at some length in both describing the entrenched political corruption that keeps his community underfoot (in which the church is compliant), and his own self-acknowledged socialism. For Bageant and anyone interested in community this is a dilemma, perhaps worthy of being the hand of Satan -- having to refuse community on one hand to embrace it in the other.

While any Libertarian would eshew both (religion&socialism) as statist and collectivist, there are differences and Bageant sees a largely buried one, in the hand that saves himself from the fall -- his own sense of self. And it is interesting that one who sees himself as socialist, be so unwilling to relinquish the self, as an individual, to the proselytism of religion. The fact is, and in spite of (or because of) the alliance of Christianity and Laissez-Faire Capitalism, individualism has little or no place in either the church or the community -- so as Bageant sees it, to submit the self, in the name of religion (be saved) is to ironically also sacrifice any hope for life of the community.

Posted by: anna missed | Apr 21, 2005 2:56:59 AM | 69

DeA,
As far as animism (or pansysychism) goes, there is this little argument: If matter, neither created nor destroyed, has over time rearranged itself into the organic life world we see and take as a fact all around us -- come to be infused with what we call mind, spirit, or consciousness? Not likely it falls from the sky or comes from nowhere as something new. Science generally assumes natural bodies arise out of pre-existing elements, so why not apply the same assumptions to the inner spiritual process as well? Perhaps one and the same. It's not as crazy as it sounds.

And you know that boats talkin to you, go with it!

Posted by: anna missed | Apr 21, 2005 3:55:20 AM | 70

I think I like posting on a thread called "After a Sherry" mmmmm.

Posted by: anna missed | Apr 21, 2005 4:05:27 AM | 71

Thanks Anna. It provoked interesting discussion, but I really wanted folks to see a little of how the religious right worked as opposed to whether we are hard wired for religion or not. The present threat to Democracy is three days away: Justice Sunday.

Posted by: diogenes | Apr 21, 2005 7:28:43 AM | 72

Smoke Gets in Our News by Maureen Dowd.

The doctor who would be president is down on both knees. He's happy to exploit religion by giving a video speech on a telecast next Sunday that will portray Democrats who block the president's judicial nominations as being "against people of faith."

A flier for the Christian telecast, organized by the Family Research Council, shows a confused teenage boy with a Bible in one hand and a judge's gavel in the other. The text reads: "The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias, and it is now being used against people of faith."

Posted by: beq | Apr 21, 2005 9:35:06 AM | 73

Well, I guess you have to give them marks for chutzpah.

Poor people of faith, with only a 97% majority. How will they be protected from the evil atheists?

Posted by: Colman | Apr 21, 2005 9:42:21 AM | 74

For personal safety, what should one pay attention to with the right wing faith fakers? imho, fear is the answer.

physically, when afraid, one tends to lose fine motor control (because loses track of feedback necessary to fine motor control) but gains in power. One loses awareness but gains in concentration. This is powerful, but unskillful.

For a leader, it's useful to have people below you who are very powerful, but so unaware that they need your guidance. And again for a leader whose primary fear is loss of status, it's useful to be afraid because one is blind to the degree one's own actions are blind thrashing.

Because questions would tear down one's own status, the leader wills self not to question. Because questions are forbidden by the leader, followers will their selves not to question. Because they are training themselves to replace love with fear, it is hard to love others. But only when fear threatens something they or we love does any person have enough reason to plunge into the fear and ask questions for more than an hour or a day. Fear for something loved is also the cause to enter or leave membership.

But if fear drives us all to some extent, theirs is an articulated structure of fear, and so, channeled by oozing envy of people not so driven to fear the same shadows.

Watch for the envy, but especially be on guard if you choose to mention it. You don't want to corner any beast unless you can defend your soft parts.

Posted by: citizen | Apr 21, 2005 12:55:02 PM | 75

Fear, fear and envy are the two...

trying hard to stop channeling Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition.

Posted by: citizen | Apr 21, 2005 12:59:43 PM | 76

From our dear Betty Bowers by way of Peter Hansen:

Dear Fellow American Theocrat:

As those of you who follow my blessed ministry know, Jesus has graciously waived almost all of His more ill-advised New Testament rules for connected, conservative Christians -- providing they meet retroactive, but stringent tithing guidelines. As America's Best Christian, I have, of course, played no small role in this joyous amelioration of Jesus' stated preferences. Indeed, the most useful waiver of scripture occurred after some coquettish wrangling on my part, which stopped perilously short of giving hope that my come-hither glance was anything other than something that happened to work with my Marc Jacobs dress.

After several bottles of a rather pretentious Brunello (that teetered on the threshold of being aloof until it was shown its place by my assertive Baccarat stemware), Jesus waved away His notoriously onerous "Judge Not!" proclamation with a dismissive fluttering of His lovely, if somewhat scarred, Caucasian hands. Friends, truly, the Lord does watch us from afar! Because I immediately recognized that His pantomime had been shamelessly appropriated from me (without, mind you, attribution). Yes, as the Lord floridly freed me from a biblical prohibition I had so often come close to almost following, He employed precisely the same vexed gesticulation I pull from my encyclopedic arsenal when seated in a restaurant near some odious creature that ignites one of those dreadful cigarette things or answers a cell phone.

If this bluntly carved caveat to Jesus' otherwise almost wholly acceptable teachings comes as news to you, someone has evidently not been paying attention to today's conservative Christian politics, dear. Judging is all the rage! Nevertheless, even the most loophole-dexterous Christian never likes to give the impression that one of Jesus' teachings has been forgotten, rather than simply ignored. That is why we take pains to show our awareness of scripture we otherwise seem oblivious about by graciously taking time to verbally apply any orphaned proscription to other people.

This is precisely why Republicans are not simply discarding "Judge Not!" -- to join "Give All Your Money to the Poor" on the already enormous landfill of charming, but regrettably inconvenient Biblical teachings. Instead, "Judge Not!" is being recycled (a word you never thought Jesus would type on my keyboard!) with a glitzy new campaign. You see, since we Republicans are no longer applying the "Judge Not!" rule to ourselves, who better to apply it to than, well – judges?


Posted by: beq | Apr 21, 2005 1:44:54 PM | 77

Betty Bowers! What a web site. Is it Landover Baptist Church? Her # 1 bupmer sticker: God Told Me to Hate You!

Posted by: diogenes | Apr 22, 2005 9:16:00 PM | 78

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