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Another Reason to Go to Washington DC

Atheists are people too.  And citizens.  And while I’m not an atheist (I’m a panentheist), I live with one.  When she told me about her non-belief at the age of 9, I told her to keep it secret from her friends, Girl Scout troop leader and grandmother.  Pretty sick, huh?  I didn’t want her to be treated differently, harrassed or be subjected to a sermon.  The girl scout troop leader was a religious fanatic.  I was so afraid she was going to slip up (and she had a hard enough time fitting in) that eventually I took her out of Girl Scouts.  Better that than send me on one of my crusades against a national organization for imposing on her conscience.

But there is one thing I do not believe in.  I do not believe that a 3000 year old document is the word of God.  No, I do not.  There are sections of the life of Jesus that I love.  I’m a big fan of Psalms, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon, mostly because these books are so dang weird compared to the other books and they have a musicality about them that makes them fun to sing.

But all those stories about miracles and floods and parting of the Red Sea and writing on the wall and the Whore of Babylon riding a Great Beast?  Nope, not into it.  There’s a lot of silly laws and two stories of creation and misogyny for reasons that should not apply to the modern world.  But the biggest problem with The Scriptures is that they were written for a world that doesn’t exist anymore.  Back then, we didn’t know anything about DNA.  Now that we do, there’s no reason to favor any one creation myth over another.  Personally, I like the Tolkien creation as recounted in the Ainuindale.  Why should I prefer Genesis if they’re all just metaphors and myths anyway?  Why can’t I pick the one I like the best?

And the attitude towards women in The Scriptures is barbaric and stupid.  I don’t believe in the God of the Bible but if he did exist, why would he want today’s religions to hold women down?  From what I can tell, God can use all the help she can get.  I was baptized Catholic, loved Catholic mass, loved going to church with my grandparents, loved St. Joe’s Catholic community.  But I could never be a Catholic because of the crazy and stupid attitude modern Catholics have towards birth control and women in general.  In a time when the Catholic church is plagued by priest problems you would think that the Pope would get a clue and say he misunderstood God.  His bad.  Totally need women in the pulpit.  But no, Catholics keep hiring these hard ass guys in red beanies to make rules that only apply to half of the planet’s population.

Women are supposed to live by tribal rules in a modern world.  We’re not supposed to admit we are sexual beings.  We’re not supposed to want autonomy.  When we’re at work, we are counseled to watch what we say for fear that we might offend some guy who thinks we’re too aggressive.  Screw the outcome of the work itself, we have to make sure we don’t get fired for being too ambitious or insufficiently deferential to a guy’s tender ego.  And the religious blame this on The Scriptures.  They can’t help it, they say, that’s what’s written in The Scriptures.  That dusty old book written by the first people who mastered the art of writing and scribbled down all of the collected myths and legends they heard around the campfire.  We’re supposed to live by these scribblings and forget the world in which we actually live.  I’m sorry but that’s just f^&*ing nutz.

Here’s a question that the religious should ponder: why is it that there has been no modern book of scriptures worth following?  Why isn’t there a modern, 21st century person they can consider a new messiah so that we can dump these decrepit, anachronistic, old writings?  How come no modern book meets the criteria for worship?  I happen to like the Silmarillion.  At least Tolkien was no misogynist.  His pantheon consisted of males and females of equal stature and all of his heros married up to stronger, more heroic women.  To Tolkien, resisting temptation in an evil world is more important than the absence of evil altogether.  To be the invisible hand behind unaccountable actions was to exercise the worst kind power and evil.  And Tolkien warned repeatedly that it is not original sin but the fear of death that leads to the fall of mankind.  So, why don’t we all follow Tolkien?

The reason is pretty clear to even the fundies.  We recognize a myth when we see it in its modern form even when that myth reveals profound truths.  We are not expected to take these myths literally.  But for some reason, we are incapable of applying that truth to The Scriptures.  And this is profoundly strange because The Scriptures tell important historical stories as well that are often overlooked.

For example, the oldest section of the Bible is not Genesis.  No, the oldest part of the Bible is in the old testament  book of Judges.  It is a song of victory and revolution after the Prophetess and Judge Deborah lead the Israelites in a triumphant battle.  Yes, one of the first leaders of Israel was a judge and a woman appointed by the people.  And she was good and wise and kicked ass.  Under her leadership, before the line of patriarchal kings, Israel prospered. She was appointed because people under siege by forces foreign and domestic tend to get over their objections about whether a woman should lead them.  They look for the wisest, craftiest, bravest people they can find and sometimes, they are women. There was a time in history when a people realized they had to put aside their tribal rules and regulations in order to survive.  They choose among themselves the person with the characteristics and traits necessary for survival.  It is the essence of the theory of natural selection. Once you wrap your head around that concept, the rest of The Scriptures don’t make any sense until Jesus makes his brief cameo appearance and then disappears behind a veil of first century mythmaking.

So, where am I going with this? This country has been destroyed by politicians repeatedly appealing to the religious.  The religious, in turn, have provided a screen for the real power in this country.  The rich and powerful have used them.  They find out what makes the religious tick and then put those issues front and center in every electoral contest because they know that politicians are terrified to upset religious people.  It looks disrespectful.  They capitulate because it is easier than looking like they are testing God.  That leaves the rest of us who live in the light of reason without political champions, respect or even recognition.  We have to stay in the closet. We aren’t treated like citizens worthy of respect and equality.  We’re treated like children who won’t eat our spinach instead of rational human beings who try to do what is right, not what is written.

We can not continue to govern ourselves in a modern world using the texts of a tribal people from 3000 years ago.  There are a lot of things we don’t do in this country because we recognize them as barbaric and cruel.  We don’t burn witches, beat children in school, own slaves or prevent women from voting.  We figured out that these things were wrong and we civilized ourselves.  It is now time to put The Scriptures in their proper historical context and free ourselves from their ancient rules and regulations that no longer apply to a modern people.  Failure to do so means we will fail to evolve as a civilized society. That doesn’t mean you have to give up your belief in God.  It means your definition of God will get bigger and more awesome.  God stops being irrational, jealous, vengeful, a capricious, mysterious enigma, a fudge factor in the equation of the universe.  Or it may mean that you can navigate through the world using your own resources and with greater attention to the suffering of the men and women around you because their hardships are not always the result of sin or some supernatural plan.  Sometimes, those hardships are the result of injustice, ignorance, cruelty or just a series of unfortunate events.

Let’s put The Scriptures back on the library shelf next to the Thesaurus and stop acting like fools.

27 Responses

  1. Amen, sister!

  2. Please develop this into a book that becomes a bestseller. You will be a modern saviour for getting This Word out.

  3. Contrary to popular belief (in our own minds) the United States is a backward country. You only have to look at how long it took to get rid of slavery and the fact we have yet to elect a woman president.

    I expect our love affair with a collection of Bronze Age writings will last a bit longer than most of us want.

    Back in the 1950’s part of a comedians repertoire would be a skit or bit about rude French waiters. The comedian and his or her audience missed the point. The waiters weren’t rude, they just didn’t suffer American fools.

  4. Brava, RD!!!

  5. This post makes me feel old.

  6. I’ll go with Brian Jacques’ Redwall books.

    • Number 1 child loved those books. Number 2 child has no appreciation for fantasies.

      • I’m mostly with Number 2 child on this, but for me Redwall is different. Mice, living in an abbey, in monk drag, protecting all the good (nonpredator) folks of the land from bad (predator) folks, and with absolutely no mention of the god person. None. And the predators don’t transform. Actually, I snarled my way through the first twelve syrupy pages until a much beloved ancient badger mum died. To my surprise I cried and from then on it was total immersion. And the several British dialects are fun, too.

    • Unfortunately, the victim was partly to blame for her death. T-butyl lithium is notoriously flammable. I’ve never worked with it but that’s just something everyone knows, like, never quench your sodium sand in the sink.
      Also, the very first day of organic lab, we were told never to wear synthetic clothing in the lab. When it burns or comes in contact with acids, it melts. We were told to wear cotton, specifically long denim jeans, shoes with closed toes and heels and always wear a labcoat and goggles. I’ve seen accidents. Chemistry labs are dangerous places. My friend had a flask blow up in her face. It’s a good thing she was wearing protective clothing and goggles because she would have been blinded. As it was, she had minor facial lacerations, second degree burns and burned the hair off her forehead. She spent a night in the hospital. So, it’s not like this lab assistant didn’t know the rules and the precautions to take.
      In the corporate setting, you have to take lab safety training before they let you in the lab and this has to be repeated every couple of years. There are additional courses in how to handle biological materials, gases, radioactives and many other topics too numerous to mention. You must take them or you can be fired. I think it’s not as rigorous in an academic lab but maybe it should be.
      Chemistry is no place for people who are careless.

      • Thanks for the explanation; I wondered about parts of the story but since I am no where near campus couldn’t find anyone to query. I am glad I didn’t jump to conclusions. (I was next to my high school chemistry teacher when he did one of those “don’t ever do this” and sucked a pipette of acid into his mouth. Yuk and ow.)

        • I think the authorities are going after the wrong professors. The ones they should be questioning are the ones at Pomona college where she got her degree. When she was hired at UCLA, there was probably a reasonable expectation that she knew what was safe. That’s not to say that the university is off the hook. Was she working in the lab alone? A BIG no-no. If she was in the lab alone, was she wearing a “man-down” monitor? Where the fuck was the safety showers (that might not have helped her) and other fire prevention materials? Where was the fire extinguisher?
          Bottom line: she should never have been working in the lab with t-butyl lithium while wearing a synthetic sweater and no lab coat or goggles. She shouldn’t have been working alone and she should have had quick access to fire deterrents like a safety shower, fire blanket or fire smothering materials like halon or some other substance. We’ve all been trained. We all know where these things are. I guess she might have panicked but it still might have turned out OK if she hadn’t been alone.

    • Come to think of it, labrats violate the business casual dress code all the time. If they’re smart and safe, they almost have to. I’m not sure the MBA class understabds the reasoning.

  7. Great points. I agree with nearly everything you said.

  8. I would add that I find truth (and falsehoods) in many religions and philosophies. I don’t buy that there is only one way. The truth is within us, not some frickin book or invisible being in the sky or down below.

  9. All of the problems with the Bible that you point out are the main reason why a lot of people are stepping outside the Judeo-Christian system entirely and becoming Buddhists.

  10. I used to belong to a cult that worshipped Frisbees. We believed that if you led a sinful life, then when you died, your soul would go up on the roof and you couldn’t get it down again. :mrgreen:

    Seriously, I’m a very imperfect and somewhat heretical Christian (United Methodist variety), who believes in getting the full mileage out of the concept of “priesthood of the believer”. Using my right as a Protestant to interpret the Scriptures and church doctrines for myself, I simply assume the nasty, unloving parts reflect human folly rather than Divine wisdom. Fortunately, the UMC tends to be one of the saner, less authoritarian sects, so I am tolerated. 🙂

    “Remember, there’s a big difference between kneeling down and bending over.”–Frank Zappa, from his song “Heavenly Bank Account”. :mrgreen:

    • Fine, believe what you want. But you have to admit that using a 3000 year old text is a lousy way to run a country.
      I don’t think it’s divinely inspired and you can’t force me to revere it.

      • RD, I wouldn’t try to force you, even if I were silly enough to think I might succeed. Please don’t confuse me with the fundies. 🙂

        You can’t produce true faith by coercion, any more than you can produce true love by coercion. The authoritarians, of course, aren’t interested in producing true faith; they’re interested in producing obedience to the alleged earthly representatives of God (who just happen to be them–how conveeeenent, as the Church Lady would say). If God thought authoritarianism worked best, S/He’d come down here and run the place Hirself, as the ultimate “benevolent despot”. So, I don’t heed the authoritarians–again, I refer all to the Zappa quote above. :mrgreen:

        Oh, and I don’t think the nasty, backward, unloving parts of it are divinely inspired, either.

    • More and more Americans are finding it impossible to coherently integrate the Old and New Testaments into a cohesive whole. They also can’t maintain their religious faith in Christianity or Judaism by performing the sort of selective interpretation of the Bible that you are able to. They simply can’t make it work. That’s why they’re stepping outside the Judeo-Christian system entirely in favor of Buddhism, whether it be Zen, or Theravada, or Tibetan, or Soka Gakkai, or Jodo Shinshu.

      • For about 9 years of my life (roughly ages 15-24; I turn 49 in May), I left my childhood Christian faith and became agnostic. The only other religion I ever gave a thought to trying was Buddhism.

        You mentioned the difficulty of reconciling the two Testaments. Some of the early Christian heretics thought the god of the Old Testament was a different god from the one in the New Testament.

  11. Ever notice that the 3 major “founder religions” have one founder from each of three classic social classes? Siddhartha Gautama (who became The Buddha) was an aristocrat, Jesus of Nazareth was from the working classes (a carpenter), and the Prophet Muhammad was from the middle classes (a caravan merchant).

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