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Reasons etc

It’s after Labor Day and we all know that new stuff gets rolled out after Labor Day. It’s time for some freshening up around here. I’ve been thinking about that for some time now, what with the Presidential Election *finally* really getting under way at the end of this year. Wait, when is Iowa? And why is it so important? Don’t we ask ourselves this question every four years? Anyway, I am still seeing a lack of something for people such as myself. You know, the tail-end baby boomers who aren’t anywhere near retirement age but are expected to make our way in the world like Millenials. You know, incredible job uncertainty, vastly reduced wages, the expense of everything just dropped like a steaming pile on top of our heads, Here ya’ go, you pay for your retirement, medical care, education. You know the spiel.

But I’ve got to think about restructuring a little more. On to what I did during my summer vacation.

The bright spots are that someone finally took out the Duggars. So, there’s that. It was one of the highlights of the summer. Maybe Josh Duggar will be the one to write the tell-all book. Or maybe it will be Anna Duggar. They’ve got to make money somehow. The show has been cancelled. It’s too late for Jill and Jessa. They done got married and knocked up. But their sisters might still have a fighting chance. In any case, the Duggars are toast. Oh sure, there will always be people like them and their fan base might not be ready to ditch them yet. But their golden halo is gone and now there is space to ask ourselves what the hell THAT was all about?? That whole “no kissing before the wedding” thing backfired spectacularly. So, maybe the rest of their schtick isn’t so wholesome either, eh?

In fact, it seems like the grip of authoritarian religions and cults is starting to weaken all over the place all at once. It’s like a tipping point. The Jehovah’s Witnesses also seem to be becoming unhinged in a relatively short period of time. Does it mean my relatives will start coming to family holidays? I doubt it. But with the BBC documentaries on them and the number of associations of the JWs to Scientology in culture and indoctrination, the Royal Commission in Australia looking into child abuse and the incredible increase in the number of YouTubers who are creating their own “How I got out” channels (Reaching Out, JW Survey and Katja Christian to name a few), it looks like there may be some kind of “Hey, we’ve been eating grass!” movement afoot.

(It’s ok, guys, Jehovah will not strike you dead if you start enjoying the rest of your family at birthday parties. For one thing, we’re not certain that that’s his real name anyway.)

The same phenomenon is happening to Mormonism. John Dehlin did not die after his excommunication. Nope, he’s alive and kicking and doing well in Cash Valley, Utah with his MormonStories Podcast. He just got his PhD in psychology and he and his family are thriving and forming a new community of ex-mormons who’ve had it up to here with prematurely decomposing old men posing as prophets and imposing 19th century rules of behavior on their wives, children and gay brothers in law.

By the way, if you want to know how I spent my summer vacation, check out Lindsay Hanson Park’s Year of Polygamy Podcast. Oh. My. She had no idea what she was getting herself into when she started it. Sweet Mormon housewife takes it upon herself to casually explain this quaint Mormon legacy to the rest of the world and a year later, she’s ditching her garments and wearing halter tops in church. One of her best episodes was on Mountain Meadows, aka, the original September 11 terrorist attack and massacre by a fanatic bunch of violent religious extremists.  Highly recommended.  Start from the beginning of a Year of Polygamy and listen as Lindsay’s realization and horror grows week by week. She deserves an award for this series. THAT, my friends, is the way everybody should research their religion. If your religion can withstand a Lindsay Hanson Park treatment, it’s a keeper.

But the authoritarians are not done yet, folks. Nope, there’s a new Mormon extremist group out there started by Julie Rowe who claims to have seen visions of the end of the world during a near death experience. Right now, there are tens of thousands of her followers who are leaving their jobs, cashing in their savings and becoming preppers in the desert for the great tribulations that are about to descend on us at the end of September 2015. Or over the next year. She can’t be specific. Visions rarely have a time stamp on them, you know.

The most troubling aspect of the Julie Rowe following is that in some respects, it shares a lot of similarities to what lead to the Mountain Meadows massacre. There’s a lot of anti-government rhetoric, fueled by the media, a paranoia that the government is going to crack down, a lot of extremely twitchy second amendment types, doomsday prepping on a massive scale, some tacit approval from the church authorities and many religious zealots who fear they’re going to be under attack soon. Not a good combination. Somebody’s going to get hurt. In this respect, the more legitimate media outlets are not doing their duties, obsessed as they are with trying to knock Hillary Clinton out of the presidential race. The next Great Disappointment and the accompanying fallout isn’t even on their radar yet but the west is full of some very deluded people and some of them have guns.

The general sense I’m getting is that the Witnesses and the Mormons are starting to panic. It’s making them more authoritarian, they’re excommunicating and disfellowshipping left and right and demanding complete obedience to the authorized earthly authorities while at the same time, broadcasting about their even more urgent needs for money. As John Dehlin has observed from his interviews with academics who follow trends in religion, people are leaving these religions in droves.

I blame the internet.

They probably do too, which is why the faithful are told to avoid it.

Catholicism on the other hand seems to be having a bit of a moment due to the new pope. It’s still a patriarchal religion that is *trying* to be authoritarian but can’t quite pull it off anymore. Catholics are on to the church. For many Catholics, it’s a cultural affiliation, not a religious one. Catholicism is comfortable with evolution, the Old Testament as mythology and many other modernities. They’re not cracking down on your conscience for trusting Darwin or reading real history. Plus, Catholics aren’t into shunning like real authoritarian churches are. They do have an indoctrination regime but it’s not significantly worse than Presbyterians at this point.And yeah, you can read the bible on your own. At some point since the birth of the printing press, Catholics stopped fighting that losing battle.

That doesn’t mean it’s still not run by a insular band of red beanie boys in Rome for whom sticking to the script is part of some political pissing contest that has nothing to do with their worldwide constituency. But Pope Francis seems to be successfully changing the focus of the church from an obsession with sexual morality to global economic inequality. I’m sure his upcoming visit is going to get a lot of attention and make many people uncomfortable. Maybe the next Pope will see the light on women. This one seems to be channeling Occupy Wall Street. Pass the popcorn.

Finally, the 2016 Reason Rally has found a venue at the Lincoln Memorial. I went to the last one with my then resident atheist who surprised me with her Beatlemania reaction to the prospect of seeing Richard Dawkins in person. I had NO idea. So, I took her. It rained like crazy but there was a substantial mass of thousands of people. I expect that the one next year will be even more crowded.

You don’t have to be an atheist to go. I’m not. I’m more of a panentheist who doesn’t believe god is a supernatural being but I digress. All that is needed is that you believe that the people screaming about being oppressed over their “religious liberties” have been getting far too much attention and it’s time for them to grow up and realize they’re not the only people in this country who count.

I’m going to start saving my pennies for that one. It’s reasonable.

Finally, Happiness is former Jehovah’s Witnesses waking up and dancing for joy. Cue the music John Cedars:

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The Duggars, the Puritans and the Quakers

Thanks for your indulgence on my absence for awhile. I’m still trying to work my way out of perpetual underemployment. My contract was extended for a bit and I’m in the midst of  intense learning curve type program activities. So, I’ve been a bit disconnected from the news and politics.

BUT, did I hear this right that the Duggars are going to Fox in order to try to salvage their tarnished reputation? I should make it clear that I don’t think that Josh Duggar is a unreformed pedophile. The fact that some of us think this is the result of Fox News promulgating a culture of fear, uncertainty, dread and pedophiles around every corner. That’s why you have mothers walking their sixth graders to the bus stops and hanging around attempting to make awkward connections with their neighbors. (Can you really trust these people if you haven’t background checked them?)

In any case, live by the sword, die by the sword. That’s what’s happening to the Duggars.

However, it didn’t have to be this way if the Duggars were more aware of American history. I’m currently reading Albion’s Seed about four English folkways and their impact on American culture. Highly recommended, by the way. A good 5 sponge read if you have some deep cleaning to do. The Duggars could have learned a lot from the Puritans and the Quakers and how they ran their families. Let’s look at the Puritans first.

The Puritans were fanatics about personal responsibility and Calvinism and being born sinful and all that stuff that the Duggars are always pushing on their poor kids. They also had LARGE families. The average family size for Puritans in New England was over 9 kids/family. Huge. Lots of little “blessings”. Well, sinfully, naturally bad blessings who needed discipline. But here’s the thing about the Puritans. They had a tradition of “sending out” their kids to other families to be fostered. They did this for several reasons. Sometimes it was so a boy could get an education or be apprenticed. But what about the girls? What could possibly be the benefit of sending a girl out to learn domestic crafts?

Some historians believe they did this when the kids hit puberty because they wanted to minimize the likelihood of incest between siblings. And that theory makes sense. The setting for these families was semi-rural, there were lots of kids jammed into small salt box houses, for long winter nights. Things happen. So, they sent their children to other families.

Now, that wouldn’t work for the Duggars because then their daughters would be exposed to unrelated males in the same house and things might happen there too. Yes, but it wouldn’t be incest.

Another English folkway inspired the Quakers of the Delaware Valley. They were not as violent as the Puritans and didn’t believe that children were unrepentant sinners from the moment they were born. They were quite kind to their children and raised them in an almost Montessori way. Don’t get me wrong, Quakers could be harsh towards friends who were lusty but they were kind towards children. And maybe that’s because they didn’t have a lot of them. Yep, Quakers were the Americans who were most into birth control. As a result, their family sizes were much smaller than the Puritans and they had no need to send any of their kids out when they hit puberty.

So, there ya’ go, Jim Bob and Michelle. Incest problem solved.

Gotta go. Tomorrow, how to take a BITE out of undue influence.