Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween, or Not

It's Halloween and for me the scariest thing about today is how much money one must spend on candy to keep up with the demand in our town. Being a rural village, families come into our town from the hinterland to go trick-or-treating and we've had over 300 visitors in 1 and a half hours, but it's great for the kids having a nice safe environment in which to celebrate. I'm always a little curious, however, about how many local kids must be sitting at home unable to participate because their parents are evangelical Xians.

If you've been reading my posts (of course you have) or following the Freshwater hearing going on (well, off and on) a few miles up the road from me, you're aware that there is a large fundy population around here, and I've heard local parents express concerns about participating in a "satanic" holiday. So, there must be some especially paranoid Xians trying to shelter their kids from evil while making mental notes of which neighbors have devil-worship decorations (like inflatable ghosts or fake cemeteries) or dress their kids like witches or devils (because, if you dress like a witch, you either are or want to be a witch). Maybe the number of non-celebrants is lower here because the trick-or-treat activity is such a long-standing tradition in our town it seems more benign.

I first encountered fundyhalloweenophobia when I worked at a living history village. We put together programs for school groups to let them participate in 19th cen. style holiday celebrations but got requests from group leaders that the students not participate in our Halloween activities. I wasn't too surprised since many of our groups were of Xian home-schoolers, but it was irritating that apparently they not only didn't celebrate Halloween, they weren't even to learn that it was celebrated 150 years ago.

Our Halloween public evening programs sometimes drew complaints as well; some didn't like the fortune tellers or the ghosts or anything else they could find offence at. One incident stands out in my memory; we had a black woman that told traditional ghost stories in one of the houses. To add to the drama she had confederates who would scream or bang a door or make other noises at appropriate cues. One family, after visiting this story teller, complained to the organizers that Voodoo was being practiced in that house and they wanted it stopped! We'd scored a twofer; religious bigotry and racial bigotry at the same time. Of course she was shut down lest bigots stop buying tickets.

I suppose the most important thing is lots of kids get to enjoy a safe, fun Halloween that will leave them with many happy memories and if some chose not to participate, there's more candy for the rest of us. Have a fun Halloween and ,if you get a cut or something, wipe off the blood quickly so your neighbors don't suspect you of sacrificing a baby.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Could I Have an Opinionless Cashier, Please

This article in Yahoo News about a Home Depot employee who was fired for refusing to remove a pin from his apron that read "One nation under God" reminded me of some of the discussions I had with co-workers when I worked at a Home Depot. I worked at a store in Ohio when Bill O'Reilly started his big campaign to try to force retail stores to greet customers with "Merry Christmas" rather than something more generic like "Season's Greeting".

There were some staunch fundie employees who were convinced that a generic greeting was, at best, political correctness run amok, or at worst, an atheist conspiracy to wipe all references to Christianity out of the US. Efforts to make the fundies understand that a generic greeting was more inclusive and less likely to offend non-Xian customers was responded to with "Jesus is the reason for the season!" and similar cliches. Their insistence that Xmas was the only holiday that needed to be acknowledged was especially absurd that year because Dec. 25th was also the first day of Hanukkah.

What my co-workers and the guy in Florida could not wrap their minds around is that they don't have the right to advocate their own beliefs when they are being paid to reflect the policies of their employers and when their customers perceive them at representing their employers' views. Furthermore, others have the right to expect as much respect for their beliefs as the Xians demand for their own, and that people of other beliefs have as much right to be offended by a store representative advocating for Christianity exclusively (or theism in the case of the Floridian) as the Xian would be if the rep appeared to be promoting Wicca. The sense of entitlement among some Xians is so ingrained that conceptualizing other beliefs as having equal value would probably cause a brain aneurysm.

I think most US Xians, but especially fundamentalist, are so conditioned to unquestioningly accept what they've been told in church that they just cannot force their atrophied brain cells to think outside the little church-shaped box. People in the US with other beliefs don't have the luxury of such rigid thought because they are constantly bombarded with the message they are members of a lower class. Why else would something as innocuous as the phrase "There might not be a god" cause paroxysms of rage, or the mention of the proposed construction of a mosque or Buddhist temple in a neighborhood result in picketing, vandalism and threats of violence?

I can't imagine a life where I was dependent on someone else to tell me my opinions, especially if I was expected to believe that those opinions were facts, but it obviously has a strong appeal to a large number of Americans. I guess it's up to those of us with less impaired powers of cognition to keep chipping away at Xian cerebral concretions until, if they still don't understand, they might at least come to accept the fact that tolerance is the rule. Also, if someone proposed a law requiring periodic dope slaps for fundies, I'd support that.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

S. C. Talking Secession Again

OK, it's just the Episcopal Church of South Carolina that wants to distance itself, but not completely divorce itself, from the national church. The S. C. Diocese doesn't like the way the national church has allowed Gay bishops in the church or their tolerance of same sex unions.

At least the S. C. Episcopals are remaining consistent with the state's historic level of tolerance for minority groups, and bigotry is really what this is all about. Although those opposed to rights for GLBT folk have always supported their position with scripture, it's often pointed out that the same oppossers are more than happy to disregard any scripture that forbids something they like (shrimp cocktail, any one?) and the signs of simple bigotry are obvious.

When there is irrational hatred of a group there is a constantly moving target that must be hit by that group for acceptance. For GLBT's, they were criticised for being out of the mainstream, so they demonstrated their value in all sorts of occupations. Then the target moved. They were told they were too promiscuous in their private lives, so they made people aware that they were settled in long term monogamous relationships. So, the target moved again. The bigots insist their relationships are a mockery of real marriage; and on and on it goes.

History has many examples of this moving target treatment, with Blacks, Native Americans, religious minorities as a few examples. Some people just seem to need a group or groups to hate. The hatred never completely goes away but when a group can no longer be attacked in polite society, one can watch the bigots test the waters by attacking different groups until they find one for whom they can show intolerance without social repercussions. Gays are a great choice, because if you defend the gays, you can be accused of being a bad Xian.

Since a fair percentage of people seem to live to hate others, there will always be victims of bigotry in this country, but if we could convince South Carolina to secede again, then quickly fence them off before they can change their minds, it just might send a message to the rest of the country; if you want to advocate intolerance in the name of an entire state, there can be some very negative consequences.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Slides from my Vacation

Is this proof that the Christians are right?

What do they want to know? Spend my spare change? my free weekends? my momentum? What?

Actually, my wife and I laugh at these signs every time we pass them going west on I70. The people who put up these signs must think they are converting drivers to Christianity. We imagine the sign-posters visualizing drivers noticing the sign, slapping their foreheads and crying out, "Wow! Jesus and Heaven! I never thought of that before! I gotta get me some of that Christianity right now!" Call me a cynic, but I don't think that happens very often.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

How to Shoot Yourself in the Foot

I'm supposed to be packing for a trip to the inlaws' house, so I decided to goof off at the computer instead. Don't get me wrong, I love my mother and father-in-law, but my father-in-law has alzheimers as did my father for the last few years of his life. These men were 2 of the best examples, for me, of what Christians should be; moral, loving, generous men who gave a great deal of time to their churches and communities. They got one hell of a reward for years of faithful service.

An even more graphic example, from my wife's family, is what happened when her maternal grandfather died, survived by a maternal grandmother with alzheimers. Grandma, who lived with them, would, at least once a day, ask where her husband was, and my wife's mom had to explain that he had died, forcing both of them to grieve over his death again and again.

Most Christians, and people of all religions, dedicate great big chunks of their lives to trying to follow the rules in hopes of a reward and fear of punishment, but way too many end up spending their final years in agony. Meanwhile, at least in the US, their efforts to follow the rules of their religion include hamstringing any efforts to solve the problems they face. Organized efforts, especially in the name of Christianity, try to suppress and subvert education, science, and their applications.

Until we can convince these folks that education and scientific research are not biased against them, they'll keep protesting against misunderstood facts being taught in school, they'll continue to view scientific research only as potential for immoral acts, and they'll continue to elect representatives that can't understand that funding fruit fly research IS funding cancer research.

The dogma of religious groups, seem to make them their own worst enemies, and maybe it wouldn't bother me as much if they were only shooting themselves in the feet. They however keep bringing out the blunderbusses and insisting that everyone have a share in the bullet wounds. They can rationalize this by saying, "sure I've got massive trauma in my lower limbs, but my reward's in heaven.", but, to belabor the analogy, they're mostly going around with bandages and crutches for fear that something worse than cancer and alzheimers is awaiting them if they don't subject themselves and everyone around them to unnecessary suffering in this life. You could say Hieronymus Bosch's paintings of hell are why cancer hasn't been cured.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Christian Grip on Our Schools

John Freshwater was back in the news this week because the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that R. Kelly Hamilton, Freshwater's attorney, could not force members of the Mount Vernon School Board to testify at the hearing. The comments on the above linked article are a fair indication of the local views about the hearing except, this article having been printed in the Columbus paper, the number of comments supporting Freshwater are probably much fewer , and maybe a little less subjective, that if the comments had all come from the Mount Vernon area (but more numerous and subjective that most of Earth, I'll bet).

Mean while, the Christian Post had a couple of articles about the interaction of public schools and religion. I know I shouldn't go to the Xian home turf for material. It's unsportsmanlike, but sometimes I just need a laugh or to induce a headache when the aspirin's near its expiration date. Anyway, the first aricle was about the heart-break of having to tell public high school cheerleaders in Georgia that they could no longer display their banners with bible quotes at football games. The other article was about how 350 (I'm guessing public) schools in 43 states are offering courses in the bible (and I'm betting zero schools teaching the Koran or Rig-Veda. Any takers?). Texas has the most schools offering bible classes and #2 is (drum-roll) Georgia!

Comments supporting the cheerleaders' banners and the classes tend toward the "majority rules" rationale for perpetuating Xian bias in public schools, completely missing the point that the 1st Amendment's intent was to protect the rights of the minority groups against suppression by the majority. Also it is suggested that those on the other side of the issues are probably mean, immoral Xian-haters (and probably commie homo baby eaters). It is just like the way the atheist Muslims in Washington are taking away all their rights and destroying America. In summary; They're right and anyone who disagrees is the enemy. Most of these people couldn't shift a paradigm if it came with an automatic transmission and a copilot.

I'm sorry, I got a little off track there. My original intention was make early thoughts flow seamlessly into the next point I wanted to make (It could've happened. Oh yes it could. Could too. Could too! Could too infinity!). All right here comes the seamless part. Comments always seemed to express the problem as "keeping religion out of the classroom." It's like some book stores I've been in where the Religion section contains only books about Christianity and if you want a book about another religion, you have to look in the Philosophy section. It's not about keeping religion out of the classroom, it's about keeping A Religion and the blatant bias toward it, to the exclusion of all other beliefs, out of the classroom.

The problem in all these examples is that a protestant Xian majority has had a privleged place in American society for a long time and they have come to believe that it is part of the design of the US government and therefore anyone who suggests that a different belief is guarenteed equal treatment under the law is viewed as anti-America and therefore a legitimate target for their righteous hatred. I can only hope that continued court cases and public demands for equal treatment for all will slowly eat away at the strength of the intolerants until the vast majority of Americans see the obsurdity of their position and realize how ridiculous it is to support people like Huckabee and Palin who try to turn every political move into an evangelical sermon. Or maybe we could start by putting "kick me" signs on all their backs.