Category Archives: religion

Evidence There is a Living God

A humorist does well to remember that you should not joke about religion.  God does have a sense of humor.  But it is a sense of humor backed by the ever-present threat of being struck by lightning.  And among religious types, a sense of humor is about as common as a nudist wandering into the midst of a porcupine convention just as the thistle-pigs begin arguing about whether or not God is actually a porcupine.

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On the question of God and whether we actually have one, or whether he’s alive or not, we often turn to philosophers for insight.  Friedrich Nietzsche was a philosopher with a hard to spell name.  People often turn to him for evidence of god and the accompanying God-thoughts.

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But it is entirely possible that Nietzsche did not get the absolute last word on the matter.

Nietzsche was a bit of a poozer when it comes to questions about God.  He said that God is dead because the big guy in the sky didn’t seem to be active in the world.  At least, not since Bible times.

And if we are supposed to believe that God Jehovah is real because he’s written down in a magic book that so very many people believe in, they why isn’t god Thor to be believed in any more?  He’s written down in some very old books too.  And isn’t the story about how Thor almost drank the ocean dry on a bet just as impressive as Jehovah parting the Red Sea for Moses?

But Nietzsche wasn’t a complete and total poozer.  He did have some wonderful things to say along with the klunky and hard-to-understand God stuff he said.

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It takes a big mind in a big head to think of making the stars dance just by generating chaos-waves in your big old head.  That’s the kind of big idea that could become a religion of its own… if Nietzsche wasn’t already dead, of course.

But I tend to believe there really is a living God.  My sister posted an old picture of some of the reasons why on Facebook today.

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My thing one, thing two, and thing three (in the baby carrier with her feet up) are all the reason I need to believe in miracles.  Thing one was recently promoted to Corporal in the Marines.  Thing Two has applied for a job at Walmart, and thing three will be a sophomore in high school this fall.  Grandma Aldrich is in the middle between thing one and my sister’s girl.  The little blond one on the left is my sister’s kid too.  All of them are miracles in human form.  Grandma Aldrich is gone now.  She died not long after this picture was taken.  But her life resonates through mine, and through me to my children and nieces and nephews also. I would not be me if it wasn’t for her.

So there is proof of a living God.  Everything that exists cannot be erased from existence, even when it disappears from memory.  So we are all eternal.  We  all have touched the stars… at least, in a metaphorical sense.  And our bodies, science has proved, are made of star stuff in a literal sense.  So it is not too much of a stretch to believe we can make the stars dance.

And if my quasi-religious joking around has God thinking about how to apply a good thunderbolt, well, I was making fun of Nietzsche… wasn’t I?

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The Right Words

I discovered a new artist today.  I was reading posts in the Facebook writer’s group, 1000 Voices for Compassion.  And there in a post by Corinne Rodrigues was a YouTube video by Andrew Peterson.  And it was a miracle.  I clicked on the video and he sang my soul.  Here is the original blog post.  And here is the video.

Yesterday I posted a self-reflected goopy bit of nonsense about how I write and draw.  Today, I realized I haven’t explained why I write and draw.

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You can capture it in words.  You can capture it in pictures.  Like Andrew Peterson did, you can capture it in music.  It is deep and profound and eternal… and you can’t really explain it, but it is the singularity… the right word… the way to caress the very face of God.

 

This music from Andrew Peterson is musical poetry that expresses love in terms of romance and religion.  Love of the significant other is equal to and intertwined with the love of God.  There is a truth in that, and a fundamental reason why despite how religion has let me down, I will never be an atheist again.  Through the right words I have come to know God.  I speak to him daily.  I spent twenty years as a Jehovah’s Witness, even to the point of knocking on doors and sharing the little pamphlets that are supposed to contain the capital “T” Truth.  I can’t do that any more, though.  The thing is, they believe the chosen of God, the only people who can reach paradise, are the people who all say and do and believe the very same thing, the very same words.  Anyone else is left to destruction.  No paradise.  No life after death.  And they clearly tell you what the words are, and you must repeat them like a magic spell.  Peterson’s music is forbidden.  JW’s don’t want you to listen to anyone’s words but their own.  So, since this is Christian music, but not JW Christianity, it is the work of the devil, trying to lead you to destruction.  What kind of selfishness is this?  And yes, I have repeatedly been shown the words in the Bible that say that this is so.  But I have stopped believing that all words in the Bible are the right words.  When the Bible speaks of love… those are the right words.  When the Bible speaks about what you must hate and who is condemned… those are not.

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You may have noticed that I have obsessively searched out and shared this Andrew Peterson music.  I do that when I find the right words… good words… I obsessively want to find more and more.  I did that once with butterflies.  When I was a boy, I chased them down with nets and collected them.  But you have to put butterflies in killing jars and then mount them on pins and Styrofoam boards to collect them.  I realized too late that this was not the right way to treat them.  You have to let them flutter in the sunshine and float on the breeze.  You have to let them live.  And so must you do with the right words when you find them.  You must use them and share them and let them live.

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Yes, the reason I write is because my life has been lived and it is coming to an end.  But it is a good life.  A life filled with wisdom and love and the very best of those words I have collected in butterfly nets over time.  And I must share those very right words… and let them live because they are beautiful and true… and it is simply who I have to be.

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Wisdom From the Bob Ross Bible

If there is a Church of Sacred Landscapes then Bob Ross is its Jesus Christ.  That is not a sacrilegious statement of bizarre cult-mindedness.  Painting is a religion that has its tenets.  And Bob Ross explained to us the will of God on his painting show on PBS.  All the illustrations used in this post come from the Facebook page Joy of Painting with Bob Ross. All the wisdom comes from things the Master said on the show.

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Bob Ross was the prophet of the paintbrush.  He would present us with a lightly prepared canvas at the beginning of the show and then proceed on camera to take his brush and palette knife, and all his paints, and create a piece of the world before our very eyes.  And he was not Picasso or Van Gogh or even Norman Rockwell.  He was not a talented artist, but rather a very practiced one who knew all the tricks and shortcuts to sofa painting, the art of knocking out scene after scene after scene.  He could make his little piece of the world in only half an hour, and he made it obvious how we could do the same.  His work was not gallery quality… but his teachings were Jesus-worthy.1918971_1025737477472968_4026443126606690255_n

His work was natural, flowing, and realistic in the random complexity it presented.  He took standard paintbrush strokes and pallet knife tricks and made them dance across the canvas to make happy little trees.

His painting methods presented us with a philosophy of life and a method of dealing with whatever mistakes we might make.

And of course, any good religion must take into account the existence of evil.

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Bob Ross tells us that evil is necessary as a contrast to what is good and what is true.  We need the dark.  But we don’t have to embrace it.  Bob’s paintings were never about the dark bits.  He always gravitated towards the light.

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Of course, sometimes you have to beat back the darkness.  A good artist takes care of his tools.

Bob Ross admonishes us to look and to learn and love what we see.  The man radiated a calm, gentle nature that makes him a natural leader.  His simple, countrified wisdom resonates because we need calm and pastoral peace in our lives.  It is one of the main reasons mankind needs religion.

So I definitely think we ought to consider building a Bob-Rossian Church of the Sacred Landscapes.  We have our prophet.  The man has passed away, yet he is risen to paint again endlessly on YouTube.

And if you are willing to try… Bob Ross will smile upon you.

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Monkey-Wild About “Peanuts”

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Yesterday the Peanuts Movie came to the dollar movie theater in Carrollton.  And my two kids at home and me went to it.  I invited my wife, but with the righteous indignation of a Jehovah’s Witness unshakable in her beliefs, she said, “Why would I want to go to a Christmas movie?”  She associated it not with the beloved comic strip in the newspapers, but with the old Christmas special.  And she would not be talked into it.  It is a matter of faith, after all.  Celebrating Christmas, naturally, loses you the chance to live happily ever after on a paradise Earth… after Jehovah God smites all the wicked people and all the deluded people who never worshiped him properly using his proper name, and also that rude postman my wife doesn’t particularly like.  Of course, it is not a Christmas movie.  The only Christmas part it has in it is a brief Christmas carol from the old TV special that Snoopy ruins.  So God didn’t punish us for enjoying this movie… at least, not yet.

We unrepentantly enjoyed the movie.  I enjoyed it as a culmination of more than 50 years of reading and laughing at Charles
Schulz’s satire of the uncertainties of childhood as they affect the whole of our adult lives.  My kids loved it because it is an excellent cartoon that is filled with hilarious moments that trace directly back to the comic strip.

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The central story is about Charlie Brown’s self doubts mixed with his never-ending crush on the little red-haired girl.  In his own hesitant, hide-behind-the-bushes style, Charlie pursues her and plans how he might win her heart.  In the comics, it never worked out.  He always failed.  He was always the lovable loser, and the red-haired girl never noticed.

I was inspired to write a poem about it because I could so deeply identify with his crisis of confidence.  Here is that sappy poem;

Little Red-Haired Girl

You never told her that you loved her, Charlie Brown

That little red-haired girl, so cute, so nice

You only looked and looked from afar

You never told her that you loved her, Charlie Brown

You could’ve held her hand

You could’ve walked her home from school

You never told her that you loved her, Charlie Brown

She never got your Valentine

At least, you forgot to sign your name

You never told her that you loved her, Charlie Brown

No hope of marriage now, nor children

Happily ever after has now long gone

You never told her that you loved her, Charlie Brown

Now every love poem is a sad poem

And the world is blue and down

You never told her that you loved her…

You never told her that you loved her…

You never told her that you loved her, Charlie Brown

 

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The main story is paralleled in Snoopy’s Red Baron fantasies as the movie goes along.  The lady-dog-pilot, Fifi, is kidnapped by the Red Baron.  Snoopy, the dashing, daring WWI pilot sets out in his Sopwith Camel dog house to rescue her.  And after being foiled several times… he succeeds!  And not long after, Charlie Brown himself succeeds.  The little red-haired girl actually chooses Charlie Brown to be her summer pen pal project buddy.  I should probably be outraged because in the comic strip she never knew he was even alive… But I loved the happy ending.  Charlie Brown deserves it.  I deserve it.  I believe even Charles Shulz would be charmed by it if he were still alive to see it.

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I apologize if I spoiled the movie for you, but it is something you should already know anyway if you ever read and loved the comic strip.  It is not the surprises that make this movie work.  It is the being true to a time-honored comic-strip and the bringing of it so completely and so beautifully to life.  And my wife looked again at the movie trailers and decided she had been wrong about it being a Christmas movie.  Maybe we are not doomed after all.

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The Jesus Logic

Danse 4Here is a syllogism to explain Jesus logic;

  1. Jesus walked on water.
  2. Cucumbers are 80 per cent water.
  3. I can walk on cucumbers.
  4. Therefore I must be 80 per cent Jesus.

Here is another.

  1. Jesus turned water into wine.
  2. I can drink wine and turn it into urine.
  3. Urine is an icky kind of water.
  4. Since I can do the opposite of Jesus, I must be the anti-Christ.

You can draw your own conclusions about the mathematics of believing in religion.  I have no qualms about letting others believe whatever they want to believe about the universe, its purpose, and who made it.  I think it is very pompous and self-serving to think you are qualified, either from science or faith, to say you know the absolute truth about those things and others must accept your logical conclusions.  Here is my own pompous and self-serving opinion.  There is a God. I know this because I talk to Him daily.  He speaks to me through signs and resonances and Bible-reading and feelings.  But, here’s the rub; I have hoarding disorder and diabetic depression and other mental illnesses.  Since I am crazy, you probably shouldn’t believe the voices in my head that I listen to.  But I get comfort from my belief in God.  Christianity teaches that we should love one another.  This, I think, is the most important truth we can possibly accept.  Part of loving others is not condemning them for what they believe and trying to impose my beliefs upon them.  God, to me, is everything that there is.  The universe around me is vast and complicated.  I will never know even a half a grain of sand worth of all the knowledge wrapped up in grains of sand on all the beaches on all the planets in the universe.  But the universe is alive and self-aware because I am alive and self-aware, and I am part of the universe.  And here’s the kicker, my conclusions about life, the universe, and everything make no more sense than the Jesus logic I presented at the outset.  After all, I am provably crazy.

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Burning Issues

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As the sun rises over the baked and burning land of Too-Hot Carrollton, Texas, the clouds have decided to finally give us a break.  It rained today.  And that is significant in the land where Texas Republican government flatly states that climate change is a hoax, and fracking and drilling for oil and natural gas are the best thing in the world for all.  I can’t breathe because the drought out west, caused by this hoax, has led to the world being on fire in more literal ways than Texas Senator Ted Cruz ever thought to scare toddlers with.  Smoke from California makes the air difficult for someone like me to breathe.  I have lung problems from a long ago encounter with farm chemicals.  Texas officially recommends that instead of complaining, I should just try to conserve air, and only breathe every other day.  I am doing my best, but turning a little blue.

Matthew 5:44&45 says; “However, I say to you: continue to love your enemies and pray for those persecuting you; that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens, since he makes his sun rise upon wicked people and the good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous.”

So, I take note of that, and appreciate that the unrighteous are sharing the cooling rain… whether I believe in the words of the Bible or not.  The Bible says many things that are very true, in spite of the fact that there are many people praying for the destruction of me and my kind (people who actually think for themselves) and basing those curses and ill wishes on what the Bible says.  Of, course, they call it “cherry-picking the Bible” when they pick out isolated verses and use them to justify not doing their clerky jobs or condemning immigrants and people of the wrong color.  I often think of it as being more of the “rancid lemon-picking of the Bible” myself.  There is a lot of cow poop in that wondrous old book if you look for it.  And I have personally read the entire Bible twice with numerous re-reads of many of the good parts.  Where, then, does a heathen like me look for salvation?  Buckminster Fuller, of course.

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Who the hell is Buckminster Fuller, you say?  Well, he is hero of mine from high school where I learned about him from a beloved Math teacher who told me about his efficient use of construction theory mathmetics in things like Bucky balls and geodesic domes .  Yes, it is in fact a nerd thing.  Bucky is a demigod to me, almost as much as Jesus of Nazareth.  Here is a website you can read about him at, and hopefully learn to love him as much as I do; https://bfi.org/!!!

The truth is, I believe science will do as much to ultimately save our souls as religion does.  But the point here is clear.  We must learn to love and value 100% of our fellow human beings.  Even the ones who hate us and insist that their right to make huge profits outweighs my right to breathe fresh air.

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As the sun sets, reddened by the smoke from western fires, this suffering cowboy wishes to acknowledge that a fellow blogger, Angie Trafford, wrote this blog It Had To Be Said and made me twist the lemon-juicers of my brain about how to make people appreciate others more.  So appreciate her and the people she passionately defends.  I know Bucky would.

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Matters of Religion

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People around this country are busy expressing their religion.  They refuse to do their government clerical jobs and deny people marriage licenses.  They do it because of their beliefs.  They picket military funerals with signs about “God hates fags” (though I don’t see why the creator dislikes English cigarettes so much) because of their beliefs.  They refuse to bake wedding cakes because Christian fundamentalism has somehow become about who gets to eat your cooking.  They condemn parts of the Middle East and pray for war because there is religious head-chopping going on, and certain countries are not promising to give up their nuclear daydreams sincerely enough.  Expressing religious beliefs seems to be mostly about condemning stuff.  And, admittedly, some of it is bad stuff… like the head-chopping.  But is that what religion is for?

The Paffooney I am using today is called “One Day the Old Mad Gods Will Be Made Whole Again” which is a nutcake picture created during my grad student years in response to the basic undercurrent of fear that underlies most of Christianity.  I think I may have written it wrong, though.  It used to be about “fear”, and today it has become about “FEAR!”

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angel by Adolphe-William Bouguereau (1825-1905)

People turn to religion primarily because they fear death.  Christianity promises an ever-lasting immortal life, either in Heaven (Which I have my doubts you will ever find on a map) or (as the Jehovah’s Witnesses in my family believe) on a Paradise Earth.  To never die you are expected to follow a secret formula, or somehow cast a magic spell that will guarantee that even if you are killed, you will never die.  If you knock on enough doors to share the “Good News of Christ’s ransom sacrifice” you will be resurrected to everlasting life.  If you “Love what is good and hate what is bad”, you will claim a spot in Heaven.  But you can’t earn this undeserved kindness.  God gave his only son to die on the cross so that everyone else might live.  …But not sinners.  Not people who do not get the formula right… or do not express the right views… or say the wrong thing.  What the… Heck?

It is not a logical construct.  Elders among the Jehovah’s Witnesses explain to me that is all about belief.  You have to express belief through action.  And where belief conflicts with science or logic, you must prefer belief.

So, the man puts his hand down in an old aquarium full of rattlesnakes, and God is supposed to protect him.  But if the man gets bitten and dies, well, he must’ve been a sinner or needing to be punished.  Hellfire for all eternity… you can’t beat fundamental Christianity on the matter of punishment for sins.

If you have gotten this far through my essay without throwing up your hands and consigning my sinful soul to the darkest pit of hell to burn for eternity, then you have probably concluded that I am just another old philosophical atheist spouting semi-logical nonsense about why there is no God.  And you would be dead wrong.  There is a God.  I talk to him daily.  He helped me write this post.  I am a Christian existentialist.  I believe there is a God, and he can be found in the Bible at First John 4:8.  “He that does not love has not come to know God, because God is love.”  I don’t believe in everlasting life.  I believe I am a part of the whole.  I believe in love, because loving my fellow man is part of loving myself.  I would willingly lay down my life to save another, out of love, because that other person and I are one.  And when they bury me to become worm food and fertilizer, I won’t be feeling the pain and confusion and fear anymore, but I will still be part of the whole.  And the whole is God.

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