“Who says we can’t challenge or joke about religion? You have the right to believe what you want; I have the right to believe it’s ridiculous.” -Ricky Gervais
This quote is true. And you have the right to think my belief is ridiculous.
One thing people don’t like to acknowledge is that we don’t like being ridiculed for beliefs. We also don’t like being called out when we do it to others – even when they deserve it.
It’s more difficult to get by with criticizing if you are criticizing something mainstream, such as Catholics. But if you walk into a room of Catholics listening to a story about Mormons or Scientology, you will hear derision and laughter. But if you point out to the Catholics that much of their ideas are just as crazy to you as the Mormon’s beliefs are to them, you have basically just punched them in the face.
Common courtesy dictates that you don’t go out of your way to ridicule or undermine someone’s beliefs.
But if you are expressing your beliefs in public please don’t expect to be given a free pass. People do have the right to express their opposing beliefs. And we can do it without calling everyone else names.
As ignorant as I am about so many topics, I have never been able to wrap my mind around the sheer amount we spend towards “defense.” I use the word in quotes, as everyone has his or her own definition of which portion of our budget actually is for defense and what constitutes a defense expenditure.
Google “federal pie chart” and look at even conservative estimates for defense spending. You’ll see that at least a 1/4 of the pie is defense. Factoring in “past expenditures” for pensions and benefits and it gets even more surprising. Additionally, you have to factor in the amount we are actually spending on the off-the-book wars. No one agrees on how many billions per year that’s costing.
(You’ll see a figure of about 1/4 if you use the government’s accounting system. It’s so far off even with a cursory glance at where the information derives from. Start with looking at how much of the budget results from ex-military benefits, for example. )
Almost 1/2 of the world’s military spending is from us. That statement alone should cause you to stop and think for a long minute. It’s absolutely crazy and not justifiable.
We argue and fight socially about a few billion dollars for education, housing, homeless shelters, etc while entire truckloads of our money is being used for “defense” spending. It is simply unethical.
It’s hard for me to bash a church for hoarding and wealth when we as a country are doing much, much worse in regards to wasting our resources and cash instead of bettering the lives of human beings in the world.
When I was younger, I used to be much more irritated by things like this. Ultimately, as I’ve written about, it dawned on me that my personal opinions were of no value against the size of the problem. Worrying my life into ruin was not logical. It’s unethical for me to have such strong opinions about the stupidity of our defense budget at the expense of human beings and not do something about it. I know that makes me a hypocrite.
Although my liberal views haven’t changed and I’m no less sickened by our sense of priorities in this country, I note that it is only getting worse. We will probably not learn our lesson until we are bankrupt
In case you missed it, my point is that our defense spending is much too high. Social efforts should always take priority over war and defense spending.
Hiding the true cost of defense spending allows our system to continue to hurt all of us.
“He’s at peace…” “He’s in a better place…” “He was a good man…”
I would rather have my carcass loaded with dynamite and detonated on live television than have the traditional inanities uttered after I’m gone, especially if untrue. (Please televise it on Fox news as a sort of beyond-the-grave satire if you choose the detonation method.)
Feel free to speak ill of me after I’m gone – if you have legitimate grievances about how I behaved toward you. If you think I was a nefarious bastard, please say so. If I am guilty of an offense, the truth is not weakened by you saying so. My ears won’t shrivel from your comments. I’m sure that you’ve noticed that no one’s motives are gauged honestly while we are alive. It is foolishness to expect that once we are gone that the same craziness, gossip, and outright insult won’t follow you to the grave. Each of us has our own multitude of opinions about everything and everyone and the truth is that we all judge other people, even if we don’t voice it. Whether you like to call it “judging” it or not is a matter of semantics. Much of the disinclination to speak ill of the dead derives from the hope that we will not be complained about once we are gone. After decades of observation, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that most of the people I’ve been around, watched and listened to have very specific opinions about people who pass. Most seem to maintain the social norm of not being actively vocal during the traditional mourning cycle.
(“It’s generally considered bad form to take a bullhorn to a funeral. ” – X )
But the opinions of individuals remain, layered under a blanket of social acceptance.
Each person has a spectrum of opinions about himself or herself – we are different people to many other people. I have one relative who will undoubtedly be lauded as a great, religious woman, whereas my personal opinion about her is much more harsh. When she passes, it will not be my isolated and personal opinion that lasts; at least, probably not. The fact that our paths don’t merge frequently is even more reason to discount the negative opinions of people in your life – they matter no more in death than while you are alive. My pious relative’s reputation won’t suffer due to my minority opinion. Her opinion that I’m an ass won’t affect my reputation, either.
If I’ve not used my time here appropriately, don’t feel saddened or express remorse. I’ve had a great, long life, even if cut short by a burning meteorite falling from the sky tomorrow morning on my way to work. (Although, dying on the way to work would be a horrible legacy, much like falling over at some hideous place such as Kohl’s or Bed, Bath and Beyond.) Each day has been of my own choosing, with each hour and minute used deliberately and in full realization of how fleeting and precious our time is. If the meteorite hits me tomorrow, don’t stop and waste your time wondering why my time was cut short. Instead, stop in amazement of how dumb we get sometimes, forgetting that time is the most precious commodity and that one person can live more in twenty years than some people live in seventy. I wasn’t promised any length of time and what I did with the time I was given was my responsibility.
I don’t mean to diminish the heart-felt words of others who can express themselves easily after someone dies. I’ve know a few people who are masters of the spoken word, those rare people who can describe a cow pasture while convincing you it would be a great idea to sleep under the noonday sun in the middle of one. Social decorum is generally desirable, but I’m not so sure that it is what is best for us as a species – not all the time.
Most people seem to need the traditional platitude patter and commentary that pervades services and gatherings after a death. In my case, I would love a joyous sharing, even if not all the content is glowing and positive. A service anchored in truth is much more desirable. We’ve all been to the funeral where the evil sister is sitting in the corner, cigarette dangling from her lip, mumbling invoked words of hatred toward the deceased. We all talk about it at the fringes of our overlapped conversation. Everyone had their own ideas about the departed and it is weird to me personally to categorically reject its presence and effect on everyone. Better to air it out and learn to respond to the awkwardness collectively.
Everything I write in this blog is a feeble attempt to badly describe what’s going on in my head. That, too, changes, much like a series of sunsets. (Each individual sunset, although strikingly different, can still be recognized as a sunset.)
Personally, I’ve never been a true believer in how we celebrate Xmas. I’m referring to the secular aspect of it in this short post, not the religious aspect. It’s difficult to get into the “true” spirit of Xmas when you don’t think of Jesus in the way that religion wants you to – which I don’t.
I wish that we could find a way to get away from the mad rush of consumerism. Everyone says it and I’m sure I’m not much different for repeating this trite-but-true cliché. Trying to get away from it would evidently cause our economy to collapse, too, if you listen to the news.
I can easily imagine a world where, instead of waiting until a designated approved day, each of us was encouraged to surprise our friends and loved ones with heart-felt gifts, anytime, throughout the year. This would not only allow us to get away from yuletide consumerism, it would also allow us to individually get gifts without pressure, when we can afford to do so, and to anticipate and plan surprising each of our friends and family as people.
No one would then know when they might be surprised and treated. It would truly be a better way of acknowledging people as people
It would kill the growing trend to ruin everyone’s holidays with insane shopping, stress, and pocketbook madness.
I much prefer the ‘surprise’ method of gifting. I periodically do it to remind myself that I’ve always wanted it to be that way.
Maybe this coming year will be the year I finally just do it without concern for how everyone decides to follow the herd?
After all, the person I love the most, my wife, has a xmas eve birthday, so I can easily get by with my alternate plan and still make her happy around xmas.
A thought to consider…
I don’t want to get gifts that aren’t heart-felt or worthwhile. The minimalist in me doesn’t like it. : ) I don’t need knick-knacks, clothes or books on fingernail painting. If you are my friend or family you don’t need to prove it to me. Let’s go eat and skip the normal gifts.
Notice I said “normal.” If it’s something humorous or crazy, go for it. But not a set of coffee cups or bath set, unless the bath set contains exploding bath salts or the cups are filled with caribou dung.
If it were the thought that counts, truly, instead of many of the gifts, I would get a note or a picture of something I COULD have had under different circumstances. Take a picture of a new car and tell me that if you win the lottery that the car would be mine.
Give money to your favorite charity. Better yet, give it to my favorite charity.
Better still – surprise me at a random time throughout the year. That suits me just fine. Collective holidays can sometimes surprise me and add meaning – but mostly, the obligatory nature seems to kill much of the “a-ha-ness” of the gifts.
This “blog” goes back several years. Off and on, I have went back and re-read many of his posts. While I don’t agree with a lot of it, the truth is that Steve is smarter than me and a better writer. In case I forget to mention it, he believes a lot of things that I disagree with and that I know aren’t defensible.
I would say that much of his content is the vague ‘personal development’ genre. In light of that comment, I will admit that I once was an avid Wayne Dyer reader. One of my remote family members had a copy of Your Erroneous Zones in English. I read it. Being incapable of understanding most of it, it wasn’t until years later that I realized how blindingly obvious it was – and surprising. Not only did I go on to read all of his books, but I read most of them the first time in Spanish. I reread it until I could cite much of it verbatim.
Especially with some of his earlier writing, I liked the brash style. His comments on religion echoed a lot of what was swirling around in my mind. Paradoxically, his blog also contributed to my interest in returning to church to investigate the fuss before I got too old and close-minded.
The point of this note is to point people toward Steve Pavlina. Agree or disagree, he is one of the best at what he does.
He will piss you off if you are reading closely. Much of his later stuff dealing with his personal choices makes me itch – it really is that far off base.
But many good writers can have great things to say – even when they sometimes sound like madmen dancing in shards of glass.
—Everything in quotes below is from Steve Pavlina. I’ve mentioned his site before. While I don’t agree with a lot of what he says, sometimes his words strike a chord with me. I don’t usually quote long passages. There are enough nuggets of interest hidden in the paragraphs below to interest someone else, too, I would htink.
“My life and my writing are intricately intertwined, such that it’s impossible to separate the two. When someone reads this web site, they’ll eventually come to know a great deal about me as a person. Usually this creates a skewed and inaccurate impression of who I am today because I change a lot over time – I’m not the same person I was last year – but it’s close enough. Getting to know me makes it easier for people to understand the context of what I write, which means that more value can be transferred in less time.
I’ve told many personal stories on this site, including my most painful and difficult experiences. I don’t do this to be gratuitous but rather because those stories help make a point – that no matter where you find yourself today, you always have the opportunity to grow in some small way, and no matter how small those changes are, they’re going to add up over time to create massive lifelong growth. That’s a lesson we all need to remember.”
If the stuff I’ve written on this site means I’ll never be able to run for a political office, I can live with that. I’m willing to write what is true for me, even if it goes against my social conditioning. Being honest is more important to me than being popular. But the irony is that because bold honesty is so rare among civilized humans, in the long run this may be the best traffic-building strategy of all.
People often warn me not to write things that might alienate a portion of my visitors. But somehow I keep doing the opposite and seeing traffic go up, not down. I don’t treat any subjects as taboo or sacred if they’re relevant to personal growth, and that includes diet and religion. It’s no secret that I’m a vegan ex-Catholic. Do I alienate people when I say that torturing and killing defenseless animals for food is wrong? Perhaps. But truth is truth. I happen to think it’s a bad idea to feed cows cement dust and bovine growth hormone, to pack live chickens into warehouses where the ammonia from their feces is strong enough to burn their skin off, and to feed 70% of our grain to livestock while tens of thousands of people die of hunger each day. I also think it’s a bad idea to pay people to perform these actions on my behalf. It really doesn’t matter to me that 999 people out of 1000 disagree with me. Your disagreement with me doesn’t change what went into producing your burger. It’s still a diseased, tortured, chemical-injected cow, one that was doomed to a very sad life because of a decision you made. And you’re still responsible for your role in that cow’s suffering whether you like it or not.
That last paragraph is a good example of the kind of stuff I write that makes people want to put me in a cage, inject me with hormones, and feed me cement dust. It wouldn’t surprise me terribly if that ends up being my fate.
I write what is true for me, regardless of public opinion. Sometimes I’m in the majority; sometimes I’m not. I’m fully aware that some of my opinions are unpopular, and I’m absolutely fine with that. What I’m not fine with is putting truth to a vote.
I take the time to form my own opinions instead of simply regurgitating what I was taught as a child. And I’m also well aware that there are people spending billions of dollars to make you think that a burger is not a very sad, diseased, tortured, chemical-injected cow. But I’m going to keep writing to help you remain aware of things like that, even though you may hate me for it. That defensiveness eventually leads to doubt, which leads to change and growth, so it’s perfectly fine. I’m good at dealing with defensiveness.
I don’t worry too much about hurting people’s feelings. Hurt feelings are a step in the right direction for many people. If I’m able to offend you so easily, to me that means you already recognize some truth in what I’ve written, but you aren’t ready to face it consciously yet. If you read something from me that provokes an emotional reaction, then a seed has already been planted. In other words, it’s already too late for you .
My goal isn’t to convince anyone of anything in particular. I’m not an animal rights activist, and I don’t have a religion to promote. My goal is to awaken people to living more consciously. This requires raising people’s awareness across all facets of their lives, so they can make the big decisions for themselves. It requires breaking social conditioning and replacing it with conscious awareness and intention. That’s a big job, but someone has to do it. And if I don’t do it, then I have to admit I’m just part of the problem like all the other hibernating bears.”
I love nothing better than interacting with those rare religious people who don’t feel the urge to push their religious ideas on me. I usually learn a lot and can gauge their ideas without feeling like there is a power dynamic. Why it seems difficult to be both religious and laid-back in one’s approach to sharing one’s ideas is an ongoing puzzle. Any element of coercion about one’s beliefs tends to cause an opposing, resisting reaction in others. Yet, many religious people don’t see it. Much more can be accomplished when you let people discover your religious ideas, after observing how you talk and behave. The power of example communicates more effectively than insisting. (I admit my hypocrisy at not being able to shut up on many topics, too, but none of mine have the underlying threat of eternal loss of soul for disagreement!)
“Truth that is “self-evident” doesn’t need a fist in the face to convince anyone.” – x
Where opinions rule, it is best to avoid the temptation to pontificate, insist, or eye-roll. Like it or not, religious beliefs are indeed opinions. I’ve written many, many times about the breadth and complexity of religions and ideas in the world. It is a presumption to insist that your particular idea is the “one” which is correct above any other. Millions of people spend their lives studying and thinking about all sorts of religions, yet despite all the intelligence being directed toward religion, a startling array of religions, denominations, and ideas remain, many wildly incompatible with the others. Despite this ongoing intellectual disagreement, some people still pound the table with religious condemnation when presented with an opposing opinion. Quite a few others resist being vocal about their dislike of people thinking they are wrong, but this dislike of opposing religious viewpoints quite often fuels indirect behavior with the intention of quashing doubts in other people.This is one of the many reasons secular societies are preferable to religious ones.
(“After decades of thinking about it, basic capitalism and most religions aren’t compatible without considerable strain on the definition of both sides of the comparison.” – x )
The urge to preach and insist on correctness is too strong for a lot of people. This is the kind of religionthink I don’t like. (To have no doubts, and not think twice about having the power to force your particular concepts on everyone else, usually with arguments about undeniable truth or the obviousness of your claims.) To many, it would never occur to them that they could be wrong about many of their ideas or that they were guilty of some of the sins their own religions would accuse them of. Many know that they must affably claim to recognize their own shortcomings but privately know that theirs is the proper course.