proselytizing by any other name is still…

There are some things I will never understand, and one of them is why it seems so impossible for people to have strong convictions/beliefs without proselytizing.

Religious fundamentalists of all ilks are the big offenders, but I’m seeing more and atheists who are becoming similarly inclined. And it seems to me that there is a big difference between making one’s case/having an intelligent debate and trying to convert someone from her or his way of thinking to yours.

In truth, I’m a big fan of Pharyngula’s PZ Myers and Skepchick’s Rebecca Watson — both hard-nose atheists whose function in this larger world group of thinkers seems to be to press the offensive line of rationality against all who are against them. They are both incredibly brilliant, and, in that brilliance, incredibly arrogant. But, hey, they are so good at what they do that I enjoy the ride they take me on. (Watson’s clips on youtube are in-your-face riveting.) And they are not wrong in their analyses. But neither does that mean that they are all right.

Let’s face it. There will never be global agreement on why we are here and how we got here. Sometimes scientific evidence and religious beliefs might overlap. But usually their perceptions of reality are just too different.

I read somewhere recently something that explained that science is a way of knowing, and knowledge evolves as evidence is uncovered; religion is a way of believing, and faith/belief does not evolve.

There are many individuals who somehow can blend the two in a way that brings them both comfort and enlightenment. Deepak Chopra, one of them, recently wrote the following in his piece in the Huffington Post:

We often hear that humankind is on the verge of a major change in our perception of reality, a paradigm shift as it is called. But there’s no necessity for the new paradigm to break into laboratories and smash all the test tubes.

The brightest prospect is for an expanded science, one that takes consciousness into account. This is actually unfolding all around us. Even 10 years ago, a scientist who took consciousness seriously risked career suicide. He was likely to be rebuked with a common Physics slogan, “Shut up and calculate.” In other words, stop this foolish speculation and go back to what we trust — mathematics. But there is no getting around the bald fact that every human experience occurs in consciousness, including mathematics. If there is a reality beyond our awareness, by definition we will never know it. One branch of science after another, starting with the quantum revolution in physics a century ago, has been faced with mysteries that force it to consider consciousness. How does the brain produce thought? Why do genes respond when we interact or have experiences? Is biology a quantum phenomenon? Happily, there are now sizable conferences on these once unthinkable topics.

To be honest, I find the rantings of atheists more exciting and challenging then the writings of paradigm-shift philosophers. But that’s just me.

Like Walt Whitman, I’m just one big contradiction.

Because, in truth, I don’t get why we all can’t say “this is where I’m coming from, but/and, hey, whatever works for you is fine.” Of course, that all has to be in the context of some overarching values, such as “first, do no harm,” and “treat others the way that you want to be treated,” and “hey, you never know but you have to keep looking.”

I just don’t get what’s so hard about that.

Of course, proselytizing is what sells books, makes money, strokes egos, and earns notoriety. And there are lots of people who get off on that. And everyone needs to earn a living.

Finally, maybe it’s just that I’m getting old and am tired of the debate, and feel that, if you lead a life that is responsible to others and to the planet, what difference does it make what you “believe” on a religious or unreligious level.

And so, when I read something like the following, written by (much maligned scientist) Bruce Lipton in the Huffington Post I an inclined to hope his is right:

Humans evolved as the most powerful force in supporting Nature’s vitality. However, we have misused that power and are now paying the price for our destructive behavior.

The crises we face present us with the greatest opportunity in human history-conscious evolution. Through consciousness, our minds have the power to change our planet and ourselves. It is time we heed the wisdom of the ancient indigenous people and channel our consciousness and spirit to tend the Garden and not destroy it.

The story of human life on Earth is yet to be determined. Our evolution depends on whether we are willing to make changes in our individual and collective beliefs and behaviors, and whether we are able to make these changes in time. The good news is that biology and evolution are on our side. Evolution — like heaven — is not a destination, but a practice.

But I’m still a fan of PZ Meyers and Rebecca Watson, because while people like Lipton and Chopra are pulling at one end of the envelope, those other two and pushing at the other.

Do I contradict myself?
Very well, then I contradict myself.
I am large, I contain multitudes.

Walt Whitman

What to tell your kid about dying
when you don’t believe in heaven.

Your eight-year old can’t go to sleep because he’s crying so hard. He’s crying so hard because, he says, he doesn’t want to ever die and he doesn’t want anyone he knows to ever die because he doesn’t want to be alone.

You don’t really believe in “God,” and don’t believe in heaven. You’re not religious, and the Golden Rule is about the closest you come to embracing any doctrine, although you try to pass along a moral and ethical code that you hope he understands and continues to live by.

But what about “after?” What about after this life? What do you tell your eight-year old that will calm his fears without outright lying?

What you do is write a book that explains who and what we are in a way that will address his fears yet still be in the realm of what might actually and scientifically happen. ( After all, Carl Sagan thought so.)

And you call this book Spark.

Go over online and read through Spark — and see if it’s the answer you’re looking for.

My Blue America
Our Secular America (part 2)

[This piece is even more appropriate now than it was six years ago, when I originally posted it after the fiasco that was the election of George W. Bush. The archives link has been truncated for some reason, but I had a text version. And so I am re-posting, as a small lesson in history for those who don’t know. You can read Part 1 here.]

I am so sorry you feel this way. If you actually had a clue as to what made this nation great, you would quit trying to suck the life out of it. America was founded on great conservative christian values (the Ten Commandments). You are free in this country to think and for the most part do what ever you want. But you do not have the right to hijack this country with your socialist values that undermine our national identity and security. We will continue to fight you and the terrorist with every fiber in our bodies. Because it is you who invited the terrorist into our country to kill our family members.

The quote above is a comment left on my blogpost of 04/11/04 by someone calling him/herself “Righteous.”

Well, I say that those who don’t know our country’s history are bound to keep screwing it up.

Perhaps “Righteous” is referring to those “Christians” who fled from Europe to seek religious freedom, freedom from religious persecution.

Oddly enough,

Although they were victims of religious persecution in Europe, Puritans supported the Old World theory that sanctioned it, the need for uniformity of religion in the state. Once in control in New England, they sought to break “the very neck of Schism and vile opinions.” The “business” of the first settlers, a Puritan minister recalled in 1681, “was not Toleration, but [they] were professed enemies of it.” Puritans expelled dissenters from their colonies, a fate that in 1636 befell Roger Williams and in 1638 Anne Hutchinson, America’s first major female religious leader. Those who defied the Puritans by persistently returning to their jurisdictions risked capital punishment, a penalty imposed on four Quakers between 1659 and 1661.

In other words, those righteous Christian Puritans became just the kind of persecutors from whom they were running away. And we all know what they did to those poor old women they decided were witches, right? But that’s another long and horrible story that needs truth telling about.

And let’s not forget all those Native Americans that were displaced and persecuted and executed by all of those righteous Christian members of our military. (The United States Army Seventh Cavalry used gattling guns to slaughter 300 helpless Lakota children, men and women.)

I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream. And I, to whom so great a vision was given in my youth, — you see me now a pitiful old man who has done nothing, for the nation’s hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead. — Black Elk. Oglala Holy Man on the aftermath of the Massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota December, 1890

Oh, well, maybe my commenter was referring to our Founding Fathers — you know, the ones who were smart enough to use the structure of the Iroquois Confederacy to inform the creation of our Constitutional form of government:

On June 11, 1776 while the question of independence was being debated, the visiting Iroquois chiefs were formally invited into the meeting hall of the Continental Congress. There a speech was delivered, in which they were addressed as “Brothers” and told of the delegates’ wish that the “friendship” between them would “continue as long as the sun shall shine” and the “waters run.” The speech also expressed the hope that the new Americans and the Iroquois act “as one people, and have but one heart.” After this speech, an Onondaga chief requested permission to give Hancock an Indian name. The Congress graciously consented, and so the president was renamed “Karanduawn, or the Great Tree.”

With the Iroquois chiefs inside the halls of Congress on the eve of American Independence, the impact of Iroquois ideas on the founders is unmistakable. History is indebted to Charles Thomson, an adopted Delaware, whose knowledge of and respect for American Indians is reflected in the attention that he gave to this ceremony in the records of the Continental Congress.

Now, speaking of those founding fathers:

The Framers derived an independent government out of Enlightenment thinking against the grievances caused by Great Britain. Our Founders paid little heed to political beliefs about Christianity. The 1st Amendment stands as the bulkhead against an establishment of religion and at the same time insures the free expression of any belief. The Treaty of Tripoli, an instrument of the Constitution, clearly stated our non-Christian foundation. We inherited common law from Great Britain which derived from pre-Christian Saxons rather than from Biblical scripture.

[snip]

Although, indeed, many of America’s colonial statesmen practiced Christianity, our most influential Founding Fathers broke away from traditional religious thinking. The ideas of the Great Enlightenment that began in Europe had begun to sever the chains of monarchical theocracy. These heretical European ideas spread throughout early America. Instead of relying on faith, people began to use reason and science as their guide. The humanistic philosophical writers of the Enlightenment, such as Locke, Rousseau, and Voltaire, had greatly influenced our Founding Fathers and Isaac Newton’s mechanical and mathematical foundations served as a grounding post for their scientific reasoning.

A few Christian fundamentalists attempt to convince us to return to the Christianity of early America, yet according to the historian, Robert T. Handy,”No more than 10 percent– probably less– of Americans in 1800 were members of congregations.”

The Founding Fathers, also, rarely practiced Christian orthodoxy. Although they supported the free exercise of any religion, they understood the dangers of imposing religion. Most of them believed in deism and attended Freemasonry lodges. According to John J. Robinson, “Freemasonry had been a powerful force for religious freedom.” Freemasons took seriously the principle that men should worship according to their own conscience….

The Constitution reflects our founders views of a secular government, protecting the freedom of any belief or unbelief. The historian, Robert Middlekauff, observed, “the idea that the Constitution expressed a moral view seems absurd. There were no genuine evangelicals in the Convention, and there were no heated declarations of Christian piety.”

How about we let those Founding Fathers of ours speak for themselves about how they feel regarding mixing religion and government:

JOHN ADAMS:
I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved–the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! …in a letter to Thomas Jefferson.

But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed. …in a letter to F.A. Van der Kamp, Dec. 27, 1816, 2000 Years of Disbelief, John A. Haught

The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity. Nowhere in the Gospels do we find a precept for Creeds, Confessions, Oaths, Doctrines, and whole carloads of other foolish trumpery that we find in Christianity.

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
Lighthouses are more helpful than churches. ….Poor Richard, 1758

The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason . ….Poor Richard, 1758

When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, ’tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one. …. 2000 Years of Disbelief, by James A. Haught

Religion I found to be without any tendency to inspire, promote, or confirm morality, serves principally to divide us and make us unfriendly to one another.

THOMAS JEFFERSON
Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are serviley crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God, because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blind faith. …to the Danbury Baptist Association on Jan. 1, 1802;

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and State. ….The Writing of Thoma Jefferson Memorial Edition, edited by Lipscomb and Bergh, 1903-04, 16:281

…the legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. ….Notes on Virginia, Jefferson the President: First Term 1801-1805, Dumas Malon, Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1970, p. 191

…no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship ministry or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise..affect their civil capacities. ….”Statute for Religious Freedom”, 1779, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, edited by Julron P. Boyd, 1950, 2:546

I could go on and on. But I’m not about to try to teach historical facts to those Righteous people who obviously never got educated beyond what they’ve been told is in the Bible.

No, Righteous, it’s neither me nor my ilk who make other peoples look at this country with hatred and resentment. It’s neither me nor my Blue Brothers and Sisters who treat other cultures, lifestyles, and personal beliefs with such disrespect, misunderstanding, and righteousness that the seeds of potential terrorism are ungraciously fertilized.

My Blue America doesn’t require that everyone believe that the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament are the rule of law of the land. My Blue America requires that every citizen abide by the Constitution and Bill of Rights. In addition to that responsibility, they have the right to embrace the Old Testament and its Ten Commandments, and/or the New Testament teachings of Jesus, or the teachings of Upanishads or the Koran, or the Tao te Ching.

My Blue America does not pretend to be perfect. It does not insist on being Christian.

As the PBS series The Meaning of America explained:

Beyond the symbolism of flag-waving and patriotic cliches lies the heart of American Democracy: our system of personal rights and human dignity. Conceived in rebellion against the absolute right of monarchs, the American revolution asserted that the people are sovereign, that they must be free to speak, to choose their leaders, to pray — or not to pray — as they wish. Messy,highly imperfect and in need of constant maintenance, it is a system that confers on us the priceless gift of human freedom.

Amen, amen, I say to that.

Addenda:
— as one might expect, the email address left by the cowardly Righteous was bogus.
–Much of my original interest in the the legacies left to this country by the Six Nations was stirred up while I worked in the New York State Museum, where the histories of the Hau de no sau nee are preserved and revered. It was there I learned about the status and influence that women, especially older women, held in those Native American communities. Among all of the important democratic legacies of the Six Nations that our American system has discarded is the fundamental role of the Clan Mother, the Crone. Dr. Friedberg explores those legacies in her “Death of Democracy” article (no longer online).
— However, these other pieces by her are available:
http://www.opednews.com/friedberg_111504_media_whitewash.htm
http://www.opednews.com/friedberg_111104_america.htm
— You also might also take a look at a piece written by The One True b!X shortly after the election of George W. Bush, which was the inspiration for my Radical Rosie image/post.
— other relevant posts by b!X (who is becoming an expert on the separation of church and state) can be found among the other pieces here.

Our Secular America: the truth is out there (part 1)

Every once in a while I get obsessed about some issue — usually not a minor one. I try to deal with my obsessions with some degree of intelligence.

Occasionally I do a really worthwhile job, and so before I embark upon several posts that are developing from my current obsession, I’m going to share some evidence of my credibility, my ability to do a worthy job of intelligently obsessing.

More than six years ago, I posted a piece that is no longer accessible online because some of my archives were lost when I switched from a MoveableType to a WordPress blog format. But I did have the text saved as a document and it will be my next post.

Right now, however, I am self-servingly sharing part of an old post with the response I got to that six-year-old piece from a (then) doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago. And here it is:

Hello Elaine,
I recently discovered your website, and was so delighted (and sincerely impressed with the very good content) that I mention it in my most recent column, “Voices of the Peoples” at the ClarkPost. This month’s column is called “The Death of Democracy in America: The Foundering Fathers and the White Roots of Peace” and includes a paragraph or two about your site.

I do hope you’ll understand my discussion of your site in the appreciative and playful spirit it is intended. It is a wonderful place to visit.

Another dissenting Crone,
Lilian Friedberg, PhD
Cognitive Dissident

Dr. Friedberg’s piece [no longer available online] is long but worth reading for the well-researched perspective she gives not only on the death of democracy in America, but also on its origins and the misconceptions most people have about its development.

Of course, to me, the best parts are what she says about Kalilily Time, which I post here with a big dissident smile on my face. Note that the kitschy clip art to which she refers was the design of my old format.

To my cognitively dissonant delight—one ray of inspiration did appear on an otherwise dim string of search results which led me to the weblog of Elaine of Kalilily, Self-Proclaimed Resident Crone of Blogdom, who also describes herself as a “True Blue American,” and whose blog entry for November 5, 2004, “My Blue America,” glimmers with subtly placed signs of hope. The real gems are buried in the links she supplies: truths debunking myths of Puritans fleeing religious persecution only to export it to the colonies in the form of domestic tyranny abroad, truths about witch-burnings, and about the foundational principle of genocide underlying the birth of this nation—on a link that’s worth singling out here, since it’s rather cleverly cached behind a hyperlinked reference to the military that benignly obscures the page’s content. [link no longer works] (Genocide and The American Indian Peoples)

Nor did I leave Kalilily’s site without finding the scoop I was looking for on the founding fathers, in particular as they relate to the third part of this essay, The White Roots of Peace—but we’ll return to that in a moment.

Emoticons cannot express my response to the quality and truth content of these treasures on a site that looked, at first blue blush, to be an exercise in kitsch- and cupcake-artistry. Just goes to show, never judge a blog by its clip art.

About the time I hit the genocide link, I went back and, with a quizzed “who-the-hell-is-this-person” look, and clicked on the “ABOUT ME” link. Voila!: My faith in the American people restored. At the risk of offending the self-proclaimed Crone of Blogdom, I must admit what first came to mind: “Well, I’ll be damned,” I thought, “it’s just a little old retired grandma sitting there raising hell at the keyboard!” (That wouldn’t be an altogether fair assessment of a rather accomplished career woman and crafty writer who truly has earned her Crone-Coronation, so I invite the reader to read her site for the rest of the story.

And it was on Elaine of Kalilily’s site that I found one of the spokes in the wheel I was hoping to “uninvent.”

The people of the Six Nations, also known by the French term, Iroquois Confederacy, call themselves the Hau de no sau nee (ho dee noe sho nee) meaning People Building a Long House. Located in the northeastern region of North America, originally the Six Nations was five and included the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas. The sixth nation, the Tuscaroras, migrated into Iroquois country in the early eighteenth century. Together these peoples comprise the oldest living participatory democracy on earth. Their story, and governance truly based on the consent of the governed, contains a great deal of life-promoting intelligence for those of us not familiar with this area of American history. The original United States representative democracy, fashioned by such central authors as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, drew much inspiration from this confederacy of nations. In our present day, we can benefit immensely, in our quest to establish anew a government truly dedicated to all life’s liberty and happiness much as has been practiced by the Six Nations for over 800 hundred years. The Six Nations and the Oldest Living Participatory Democracy on Earth.

More than six years have gone by since I wrote the lost-in-cyberspace “My Blue America.” The dispute over the origins of our secular democratic roots has reached disturbing proportions, and, sadly, many of the most vocal political people in this country still don’t get it.

So, watch for my re-post of “My Blue America,” which will be Part 2 of my series on “Our Secular America.”

down we go

Huckleberry Finn is being whitewashed while black birds fall from the sky.

I don’t subscribe to the “end of times” theory, but I am thinking that civilization is heading for a big fall — very much like the one that overtook that major power that was once the Roman Empire.

There are quite a few parallels between, say, a country like America, and ancient Rome, looked at in the context of their specific historical times.

The United States of America occupies 3.79 million square miles (9.83 million km2) and has a population of over 310 million. [go to] In its heyday, the Roman Empire consisted of some 2.2 million square miles (5.7 million sq. km), and its citizenship numbered as many as 120 million people. [go to]

Let’s face it. In the context of their times, America is, and Rome was, a power to be reckoned with.

From here:

Rome started out as a small settlement in the middle of the Italian boot. By the time it was an empire, it looked completely different. Some of the theories on the Fall of Rome focus on the geographic diversity and extent of the territory the Roman emperors had to control.

Think about America, with its diverse geography and diverse population and diverse regional needs. And think about America with its 50 states and their governments having conflicting agendas. Sounds a bit like Rome, doncha’ think?

Now, historians pretty much agree that Rome fell for a variety of reasons –reasons that echo into our times. From here:

There was the economic decay that accompanied the political decay. Some add Christianity to the mix of causes, and some add paganism. These aside, the political system was geared for occasional failures in competent leadership. And one might want to throw in an increase in population among those living outside the Roman Empire.

And from here:

Many historians believe that a combination of such factors as Christianity, decadence, financial, political and military problems caused its demise. Very few suggest that single factors were to blame. Some even blame Rome’s fall upon the rise of Islam, suggesting that the Fall of Rome happened at Constantinople in the 15th Century. Edward Gibbon, an English historian and Member of Parliament in the 18th Century, wrote a number of books, by far his most famous being “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” (written in six volumes between 1776 and 1788). This author placed the blame for the Roman Empire’s demise upon the loss of civic virtue among its citizens.

Gibbon’s famous “History” did conclude that the loss of civic virtue and the rise of Christianity were a lethal combination……..

One definition of civic virtue, from here, is
interested in having the government work for the common good

Wikipedia says this:
Civic virtue is the cultivation of habits of personal living that are claimed to be important for the success of the community.

TeaBaggers have replaced the kind of civic virtue that informed the creators of the Constitution with it’s opposite — a focus on its own small fundamentalist agenda to the detriment of society as a whole.

America has fallen before, (e.g. between the 1870s and 1890s).

A new economic superpower undermines established economic leaders. The collapse of complex financial instruments turn a boom into a bust. Banks fail in waves. Unemployment reaches up to 25% in some areas. A global depression holds on for more than two decades. Class warfare breaks out. Transportation networks stall—along with industries dependent upon them—as the main “fuel” for transportation disappears. Pandemic disease exacts a terrible toll. Religious fundamentalism skyrockets. Totalitarianism rises around the world.

If we generalize a bit from the 1870s-1890s, a handful of key issues emerge as likely to have echoes today:

# Aggressive self-interest on the part of states, despite clear potential to damage the overall economic/political structure;
# Desperate need to find scapegoats;
# Embrace of religious extremism as a way of finding support and solidarity;
# Heightened conflict between economic classes and political movements.

Rome did not fall in day. It was in decline for centuries before the final boot dropped.

I can’t help thinking that we’re on the same trajectory as Rome.

too soon old, too late smart?

Under his white cassock, the good-looking young priest is wearing sneakers and jeans. I can see them peeking out from underneath the garment’s neat hem. The inside of the 110 year-old ornate church of my childhood is colder than this winter morning in the urban outside. The seat of the wooden pew is freezing my butt.

The church’s boiler has stopped working, and all through the service periodic clangings continue to irreverently punctuate the “words of the Lord.”

I am sitting in the exact spot in which I sat almost exactly a month ago. That was for my mother’s funeral service. This time it’s for my aunt’s (the wife of my father’s brother). They say that death comes in threes. I wonder if my 87 year-old aunt sitting to my left will be the third. I hope, instead, what will count is my dead desktop computer, which, at the moment is awaiting a possible resurrection on the repair desk of my most trusted geek. These are things over which I have no control.

I only go back to my home town for weddings and funerals, all of which include rituals celebrated in this spectacularly vaulted nave that is bordered by detailed mosaic depictions of the Stations of the Cross, above which large elaborate stained glass windows tell the rest of the story. The aesthetics of the church inspires awe, even without the faith that sustains it.

Neither my cousin nor I join in the line to receive Holy Communion. It has been decades since either one of us believed and practiced what we had been so carefully taught during our 13 years of Catholic schooling. When we sit around the table hours after her mother’s burial, my cousin and I and dredge up shared memories of some of our more innocent times — the May processions in which we tossed rose petals as we walked down the aisle (“one, two, three, this is for you, Baby Jesus…”) My mind slips away to the less innocent scenes from the movie “The Polish Wedding.”

We spend hours sitting around that table — my cousin and I and our remaining paternal aunt and uncle — sharing family stories and attitudes that had somehow eluded me during the 17 years I lived in the bosom of a clan that had, apparently, quickly separated into two camps — the “laws” and the “in-laws,” although which was which depended on whose perspective one adopted.

The story that surprises me most is one associated with the version my mother told of a seminal event in my life about which I once wrote a poem. In my mother’s version, her mother saved my young life; in the “in-law” version, my other grandmother believed that my mother was withholding medical treatment for me in favor of “leeches.” I see now that it became a stand-off between two matriarchs, and family relationships through the generations suffered as a result.

While it was my mother’s side of the family that I came to know best, it was an aunt on my father’s side who most impressed me, even though I only knew her for a very short while in my pre-teens.

Eleanor married my Uncle John, to the chagrin of my paternal grandmother. Eleanor was a free spirit, odd and artsy and strikingly beautiful. She had her kitchen ceiling painted red, she started to teach me how to sketch faces, and she sewed me a lavish ruffled robe that I wore until I could no longer button it across my chest. Suddenly (or so it seemed to me) she and my uncle were gone — moved out of state, out of touch.

And, in our post-funeral table conversation with my relatives from that side of the family, I learn just how strict my paternal grandmother was, refusing to accept her non-conformist daughter-in-law and leaving the couple with little alternative but to create a life for themselves apart from family expectations. I begin to understand the difficulties that my mother had in fulfilling her daughter-in-law role.

Eleanor and John had children — five, I think. I have never met them or been in touch with them. My cousin has but lost track of their lives long ago.

We have been a family burdened with expectations, and both my cousin and I acknowledge (with some private pride) that we opted not to meet a select number of them.

We are the matriarchs, now — much different in attitudes and expectations from our foremothers.

At least we hope so.

I hereby officially quit Catholicism

According to this site, it is possible to officially quit being a Catholic, despite the fact that Catholics believe there is an indelible mark put on your soul at baptism that identifies you forever as such so that the hereafter knows what to do with you when you get there. Apparently, you just need to make a formal and official statement, called the Actus Formalis Defectionis Ab Ecclesia Catholica, and you will be taken off the list of identified Catholics kept by — hmm. Whom, I wonder?

I just found out about that statement from here, which led me to the official wording of the document here.

I have to admit that it’s hard to totally shake the programming of 13 years of a Catholic education. For example, although I shed the confines of Catholic doctrine decades ago, I still won’t allow myself to put that wafer in my mouth, even though I have since been to many wedding and funeral masses (that’s the only time I go; and only for relatives). I was indoctrinated (through horrific stories of the wafer oozing blood into the recipient’s heathen mouth) with the fundamental feeling that it is a terrible sacrilege for a non-Catholic to receive communion. I don’t know if I sit out the communion line because I refuse to be a hypocrite or because it just doesn’t feel right to go against that old rote rule.

However, having come upon an official way to sever that denominational tie (if not erase that indelible soul mark), I feel that it is time to do just that. So here is my Actus Formalis Defectionis Ab Ecclesia Catholica:

DECLARATION OF DEFECTION FROM THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH

I ___Elaine of Kalilily__, do hereby give formal notice of my defection from the Roman Catholic Church. I want it to be known that I no longer wish to be regarded as a member of the Roman Catholic Church.

I further declare that I am aware of the consequences of this act regarding the reception of the sacraments of the Church, including the sacraments of the Eucharist, marriage and the sick and also with regard to burial.

I undertake to make this decision known to my next of kin and to ensure that they are aware of these circumstances in the case of my being incapacitated.

I acknowledge that I make this declaration under solemn oath, being of sound mind and body, and in the presence of a witness who can testify as to the validity of this document.

Signed:___Elaine of Kalilily______________________ Address:___www.kalilily.net______________________

Witness:____the readers of kalilily.net_____________
Address:____the world-wide web___________________________

Date:____October 23, 2010______________

Now, the instructions say that:

With the above Form, you should include a letter with the following PRINTED information:
Your name,
Your full address,
The name under which you were baptised if married since,
The date of your baptism,
The parish Church of your baptism,
Your date of birth,
The name of your parents, and
The name of your godparents.

Of course I’m not going to put all that information out in public here, but if the ecclesiastic official who needs that information emails me (link to above “About” for address), I will be glad to send him those specifics. (I can use the male pronoun without question here, since we know that, in Catholicism, only males can be ecclesiastic officials.)

While I probably should have been excommunicated a long time ago, given I never got married in a church and then got divorced anyway — and I have proclaimed heresy any number of times and ways — somehow making it official makes it feel like it’s finally official.

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! I am vocally and officially coming out as a big
atheist

Since our inner experiences consist of reproductions and combinations of sensory impressions, the concept of a soul without a body seem to me to be empty and devoid of meaning.
— Albert Einstein

What have been [Christianity’s] fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.
— James Madison

The Christian god can easily be pictured as virtually the same god as the many ancient gods of past civilizations. The Christian god is a three headed monster; cruel, vengeful and capricious. If one wishes to know more of this raging, three headed beast-like god, one only needs to look at the caliber of people who say they serve him. They are always of two classes; fools and hypocrites. To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.
— Thomas Jefferson

Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.
— George Washington, letter to Edward Newenham, October 20, 1792; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 726]

(go here for some of the above quotes and more that show the intent of the founding fathers to ensure both freedom of religion and freedom from religion.)

ADDENDUM: Somehow it seems even more appropriate to post this today, Creation Day!

…the date that James Ussher, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, determined to be the very first day of creation in 4004 BCE. That makes the world 6013 years old today, in his chronology (if you’re adding it up at home, remember that there is no year 0).

Keep in mind that you now have excuses to party almost all week. Tomorrow, you should celebrate the creation of heaven and Space Water. You knew the earth was a floaty in a watery universe, right? I think the appropriate celebration is to drink.

Monday, you can celebrate Oceans and Plants day. Garden or go to the shore. And drink.

Tuesday is Moon Day. It’s also Sun Day. It took god a few days, but he finally got around to creating the celestial bodies. This should be a day sacred to werewolves and anathema to vampires. Celebrate by voting for Team Jacob. And drinking.

Wednesday is birds and fish day. This is a day of sorrow, because all the cephalopods will be weeping at their neglect — they don’t even get a mention in the book, except for a later declaration that they are generically unclean. Either that or the clueless idjits who wrote the book considered squid to be fish, which is highly offensive. Celebrate by contemplating cephalopods and raising many toasts to them.

Read more here.

the lesson of comic books: The 99

I got interested in reading and in mythology by reading comic books. Particularly Wonder Woman. And that was back in the 1940s, before the whole superhero thing really took off. My two kids grew up with comics. In the 1970s, my son had the expected monumental comic book collection, which I made him sell off when he went off to college. (Argh. Not very smart of me, since he had some first printing editions which became very valuable to collectors.)

Comic book heroes like Superman touted good ol’ American values: “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.” Other cultures have similar values, however, and the time has come to create heroes that can demonstrate values that are common to all humane cultures.

And someone just did.

The 99 is the brainchild of Naif al-Mutawa, and he recently gave a talk at TED about the origin of the idea. The gist of it is that he was inspired by the positive values imparted by the heroes of Marvel and DC comics. He wanted to create a more multicultural team of heroes who would extend those positive messages to people outside of the U.S., and expose American audiences to a more culturally diverse team of heroes. So here is a New Yorker—inspired by an American art form, who sees no difference between his Muslim and his American values—being vilified by the conservative noise machine for wanting to export those values around the world.

President Obama made a special mention about THE 99 superheroes and its creator, Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa, in his speech given recently at the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship held in Washington. The President commended THE 99 for capturing the imaginations of young people through the message of tolerance. Entrepreneurs from all over the globe are attending the summit, including Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa, creator of THE 99 superheroes.

Go to the The 99 website to see an animated preview of the series and learn about the diverse group of 99 heroes whose combined adventures just might do more for multicultural tolerance and understanding among young people than any textbook on the subject.

You can also download a comic book that tells of their origins. How cool is that!