Tag Archives: religion

Irreverence

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It is a difficult thing to be an atheist who believes in God.  Sometimes it takes an oxymoron to find the Truth.  And you often have to go heavily on the “moron” portion of the word.

The thing I find most distressing about faith is the fact that those who have it are absolutely convinced that if you don’t agree with them and whatever book of fairy tales they believe in and interpret for you, then you are not a True Believer and you do not have real Faith.

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I remember being told by a Mormon girl in one of my classes that I was her all-time favorite teacher, but she was deeply distressed that, because of my religion (I professed to be a Jehovah’s Witness at the time) I was doomed to burn in Hell forever.

Hey, I was raised in Iowa.  I have experienced minus 100 degree Fahrenheit windchill.  I am among those who think a nice warm afterlife wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

But I am no longer actually a Jehovah’s Witness.  So I guess that helps with the whole Hell-burning thing.  The Witnesses are a religion that claims to understand the Bible is full of metaphorical truth, and yet insist that it is literally true.  They don’t believe in Hell, which, honestly, is not actually mentioned or explained in the Bible as we have it now.  But they do believe your prospects for eternal life on a paradise Earth are totally contingent on knocking on doors and telling other people that they must believe what you believe or experience eternal destruction.  I have stopped being an active Witness and knocking on doors because I got old and sick, and all the caring brothers and sisters in the congregation stopped coming around to visit because number one son joined the Marines, and the military is somehow evil hoodoo that cancels out any good you have done in the past.  Being a Jehovah’s Witness was really hard work with all the meetings (5 per week), Bible reading (I have read the entire Bible two and a half times), door-knocking, and praying, and you apparently can lose it all for saying, thinking, or doing one wrong thing.

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According to the Baptist preachers, Jehovah’s Witness elders, religious zealots, and other opinionated religious people I have known and dealt with in my life, if I do not believe what they believe and agree with them in every detail, then I do not know God and am therefore an atheist.  So, okay, I guess I am.   If I have to be an atheist to believe whole-heartedly that everyone is entitled to sincerely believe whatever the hell they want to believe, then I’ll wear that label.

On a personal note, my favorite verse of the Bible has always been 1 John 4:8,  “He that does not love has not come to know God, because God is love.”  That is why I claim to be an atheist who believes in God.  I know love.  I love all men, women, children, animals, sunrises, artwork, paintings of angels by Bouguereau… everything that is.  And I even love you if you exercise your freedom to tell me, “Your ideas are totally wrong, and you are going to burn in Hell, Mickey, you bad guy, you!”  Mark Twain always said, “I would choose Heaven for climate, but I would prefer Hell for company.”  I am not going to worry about it.  I will be in good company.  Some things are just bigger than me.  And trying to control things like that is nonsense. Sorta like this post.

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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, then why isn’t god Thor to be believed in anymore?  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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Humbuggery

Technically I am not supposed to be celebrating Christmas.  Jehovah’s Witnesses have institutionalized “Bah, Humbug” and made it a religious offense to celebrate Christmas or any other birthdays.  And I have not yet been disfellowshipped from the JW religion.  That is, however, a mere oversight on their part.  They have not read this blog enough to be offended with my worldly views.  I have suggested here that I am a Christian existentialist… something that any JW who understands what that philosophical term means would call an atheist.

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Fozzie tells really bad jokes, which isn’t necessarily irredeemable, but Alf not only tells bad jokes, he also eats cats. How can they be saved by religion?

I definitely understand why atheists avoid proactive religions like the Witnesses.  For one thing, JW’s believe in the redeem-ability of the human race.  Open the door, listen to the proselytizer’s mini-sermon, read the infallible Bible verse, and paradise in an everlasting life on Earth is yours for the taking.  So, get out there and knock on some doors with a Bible in your book bag!  These redeemable Texans whose doors they knock upon being the same ones that have the police arrest Muslim clock-making teens for showing their project to a teacher, and throw hungry school children’s lunches in the trash in front of their friends if they owe $1.70 over the limit for their reduced lunches.  These redeemable Texans are also the ones who sent Ted Cruz to the US Senate and may help elect him president.  Despicable is too good a word for that type of human being… unless Sylvester the cat is the one saying it with extra sloppy spray coming out of the sides of his mouth.

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I confess that I have been working on a comedic science-fiction novel about a planet-wide civilization destroying itself for greed and despicableness.   I even put Ted Cruz in that story as lizard-man alien (which I am not sure if it is an insult or a complement to Cruz).  I also idolize Mark Twain, and often wonder if he isn’t right about the “damned human race”, and how Noah should’ve let them drown.  So I should be embracing humbuggery for so many reasons…

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Senator Tedhkruzh, the lizard-man from the doomed planet Galtorr Prime.

But today I re-connected on Facebook with a former student from not so long ago.  Ronan Pablomia was an ESL student from the streets of Manila in the Philippines.  As a teacher, I normally love students, even the stinky ones, and I tried for three years to get through to this kid.   He was repeatedly in fights in school with other students.  He was disruptive in the classroom, saying intentionally horrible and insane things during class.  He was probably an un-diagnosed bipolar person, but he was definitely diagnosed as having a learning disability and a rage disorder.  He was hostile and made life so miserable for his classmates that they begged both the principal and me to expel his sorry behind from our high school.

Today he had the remarkable good sense to tell me on Facebook that I was the best teacher ever.  He said he finally acknowledged his fighting problem and got help (after getting out of jail).  He has a job now and is helping to support his parents.  He apologized for how stupid he acted in class, and I ended up reminding him that the best students are the ones that learned the most.  He was not the smartest kid ever, but he was bright, and if he has learned to control his bipolar temper, he definitely qualifies as one of kids who came the farthest down the learning path, and probably learned the most after all.

So Ronan gave me an excellent and unexpected Christmas gift.  He added one more hint that my career as a teacher was not in vain, and three years worth of patience and suffering did not go for nothing, even though he never graduated high school.  Maybe the aggressive and carnivorous primates that populate this planet are not all that irredeemable after all.  So have a happy Christmas.  Frohe Weinachten.  Feliz Navidad.  And God bless us, every one.

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Notes From the Archangel Michael

I was born and raised a Methodist.  But I married into the Jehovah’s Witness faith.  Yes, those annoying little people who come knocking at your door offering free Bible studies and wanting to talk to you about the “good news from God’s Word the Bible”.  I was one of them for the better part of 20 years.  And I want to tell you from the outset that I have been guilty of knocking on doors.  I have been threatened to have the dogs sicked on me.  I have been threatened with guns by Winchuks, Hickenloopers, and other rednecks.  Laughingboy Larry, a seventh and eighth grade former student of mine even begged me to come to his door so he could throw a pie in my face.  I requested lemon meringue pie because… mmm, lemon meringue!  Jehovah’s Witnesses are not bad people.  They are real honest-to-God Christians who believe and teach the essential lessons of Christianity, Love and Forgiveness.  Some of the finest people I have ever met are self-sacrificing, hard-working Jehovah’s Witnesses.  I would never speak against them.  But this post has to explain why I no longer am one of them.

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I have always been a reader of the Bible.  I began seriously reading it in my youth when I was a victim of sexual assault and the life-threatening depression that can cause.  A very thoughtful and loving Methodist minister, the father of my best friend, taught me how to use the Bible to seek answers and find comfort.  As a Jehovah’s Witness, I have read the entire Bible cover to cover twice.

But I have also always been a Christian Existentialist, even before I knew what that was.  I believe that existence precedes essence.  There has to be a real, observable rock in front of me before I grant faith in the existence of a rock.  I don’t accept “rock-ness” as something that is real because other people tell me that “rock” exists.  If God is going to be the rock upon which I build my faith, then I have to observe that God is real.  I need proof.  Superstition is acceptance of something without proof.  As far as I can tell, almost all religions… organized religions… are based on superstitions.  “How do you know that Jesus loves me?”  “Because the Bible tells me so.”  “Why must I believe I go to Heaven when I die?”   “Because your father and his father before him believed it.”  “Can I accept these as real reasons… as evidence?”  “Of course not.  These things follow the patterns of superstition.”

“Kill the infidel! Die a hero’s death, and you will be granted 99 virgins in paradise.”  “How do you know this to be true?”  “Allah has told me in a dream.”

 

So, if you follow any of this (undoubtedly due to the same curse of relentless intelligence that plagues me), you are probably wondering why I don’t just come out and claim to be an atheist like Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens?  Well, because I believe in God.  I have seen the proof.  When I talk to God, he answers me.  When I ask him to guide me, he sends signs and leads me to the answers I seek.  He comforts me, even though it is only by helping me to find comfort in my own mind… my own self.  He helps me find the power within me to do what is right and overcome what is wrong.  Why, then, am I not still a Jehovah’s Witness?  Why am I not still knocking on doors?

The truth, as I see it, is… each of us must find God for ourselves.  Each of us must obtain the certainty we seek with our own efforts, or be satisfied with a perpetual state of not knowing all the answers.  Either result is perfectly acceptable.  Jehovah’s Witnesses will tell you that you can’t obtain eternal life unless you believe what they believe, do what they do, and accept everything just as they interpret it from their magic book.  Personally, I believe there is no eternal life.  I am made of star stuff (as Carl Sagan used to say, because science has mathematically proven it is true).  When I die, the configuration of star stuff that is me will simply be no more.  But I have existed.  And my atoms will go through a large number of processes that disperse them and turn them into something else.  My individual consciousness will be disbanded, but the overall consciousness of the universe will remain.  The universe is greater than I am.  In fact, the whole human race could wink out of existence in a massive fireball that consumes planet Earth, and the whole still remains.  I don’t have to worry about any of it.  I am the author of my own story.  I am responsible for its content, both good and bad.  And I am not sorry for any of it.

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Most of the angels used in this post are by William-Adolphe Bouguereau…and one is by me.

Now you know the awful truth.  Mickey is a humanist.  He thinks for himself about everything… even matters of religion.  How horrible!

“Tell me, oh great and powerful, Vishnu, will I be offered 99 virgins in paradise if I kill him for you?”

“No, Singh-Rama O’Malley.  You are simply being stupid and superstitious.  And besides, that particular superstition doesn’t belong to my religion.  You are mixing things up.”

“Oh, sorry, Lord Vishnu.  But is it okay if I don’t kill myself for my error?”

“Singh-Rama, you are a child of the universe… no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here.  And whether or not it is clear to you, the universe is unfolding… as it should.”  (Note; These last words are the words of the poet Max Ehrmann in his wise poem, Desiderata.)

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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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