A little randomness does the mind good…

I’m reading Michael Shermer’s Skeptic. I love this book. Chapter by chapter, it is both confirming and cleansing. I have a secret Instagram account where a photo of me reading this book has been posted, but I dare not post it to Facebook. Too many friends from the church, too many family, too many connections to the uber religious college I attended.

Speaking of friends from college, I stumbled across the profile of an old college friend who had unfriended me long ago. I don’t really know why. I sent him a friend request, and he surprisingly accepted. From his posts, I can tell that his journey has been similar to mine… by that I mean that he has moved from conservative to liberal…. from religious to secular. I admire his courage. The best I can muster right now is simply to not post anything religious or conservative in nature. Instead, I sometimes share subtle liberal jabs at the conservatives. That’s about it.

Did I mention that I went to school with Sarah Huckabee-Sanders? Boy, his she’s changed!

Anyway.

I apologize if my thoughts are jumbled. I’m actually sitting here right now trying to decide if I’m an atheist or not. I think I am. That adds a whole new wing to my liberal closet that I have to deal with, but now that I’m solidly in my mid-30s, I want to be honest with myself.

Your encouragement and support is appreciated.

Yep. Exceptionally good at vanishing….

Sorry about that. Where was I?

Oh yes. My kick ass summer. It was AMAZING. I did no work. None. Zip. Zero. Nil. I baked my body in the sun. I drank too much. I traveled – The Caribbean, Alaska, New Mexico, California, Salt Lake City, etc…. I lost myself and found myself again. The only word to describe it is EPIC.

And then August came. Actually, the end of July as my new job paid me to start a week early because they were behind. This is a completely new branch of an established organization, and when you are creating new things, it’s a bit chaotic. I literally worked 15-20 hours a day through to September when things started to slow down a little. Really though, it has not stopped. I’ve moved offices three times as my job title has changed three times… in five months. All good changes, mind you, but it does make it impossible to stay ahead of the game. You are always playing catch up.

But I am very happy.

Despite the stress, here’s what I don’t have to worry about: Listening to constant pro-Trump talk, having to stomach the pro-conservative positions of literally everyone I work with, and being forced to nod and smile when my colleagues and superiors discuss any kind of issue concerning the greater world. Money. I haven’t had to worry about that since my paycheck almost doubled. Also, I haven’t been had to worry over my very liberal, arguably non-religious leanings.

Speaking of religion…. I haven’t been to church since early summer. I’m not likely to go back. More on that later.

In other good news, while my books are officially out-of-print, I’ve had four other larger items published in the last five months, and I’m on target for one a month through June.

In short: The risk to quit my job, abandon my former career in the church, and look for something that was relating to what I actually believe has been, hands down, THE BEST DECISION I HAVE EVER MADE. Take that, self-doubt.

That’s it for now. I know it’s Sunday, but I’m sitting in my office right now, and I’ve got some glorious, fulfilling work to do. See you later!

 

Hell in a Handbasket

Image result for handbasket hell

Thanks to Byron for this post idea! Look for his first podcast, too, when it comes out. 🙂

Question: What would you say to someone who told you that you were destined for hell? 

I’ve been on both side of this now, so I can predict how this conversation would go. Here’s the dialogue of me talking to myself (I’m fine; I promise.) ten years ago…

Old me: You’re going to hell.

New me: *After pausing for laughter* Really? Why do you believe that?

Old me: Because the Bible says that anyone who does not accept Jesus as their savior is going to spend all eternity in hell.

New me: So you believe everything the bible says?

Old me: Yes. The bible is the truth of God on earth.

New me: According to the bible, we are the children of god and he loves us, right? Because he created us?

Old me: Yes. He created us and we must follow his word like sheep, like little children.

New me: Would you send your child to hell?

Old me: Excuse me?

New me: If your child was disobedient, didn’t listen to you, and wanted to follow their own path, would you send them to hell for all eternity?

Old me: Well, if a person doesn’t follow God, then…

New me: Not what I asked you. Would YOU send your child to hell for not listening to you? You created them. Shouldn’t your children do everything you ask them to do?

Old me: Well, no…

New me: Would you send nice, moral people who lead wonderful, fruitful lives to hell simply because they have no religion or were raised with a different one?

Old me: ….

New me: Would YOU send me to hell? I’m not concerned about god right now. Would you do it?

Old me: No, but it’s not my…

New me: Then you have a higher concept of morality than the god you worship.

THE END. That’s what I would say.

Geez. I really don’t like old me very much. 😛

The Health Care Question

Is it really a question? I mean, seriously, there is only one answer if you are a human being with morals and a heart. Does everyone deserve quality, affordable (or even better … FREE) healthcare regardless of their state of employment or financial status.

ummm…. YES.

Wikipedia has a list of countries with some kind of universal healthcare and guess what? The US is still not on it. I’m lucky. I have insurance through my husband’s work since my old job did not provide it. With the job change, I’ll likely switch over to insurance under my new organization so they will have to cover me. If I had to go get it on my own? Well, under Trumps plan I have three preexisting conditions so who knows how that would work out.

I’ll spare you the gory details but due to one of these conditions I had to have a medical procedure earlier this year (not a super dangerous or terribly scary one, mind you), and I had to spend five hours in the hospital and undergo anesthesia. Keep in mind that I have a great health insurance plan. Cost out of pocket? About $600 up-front before they would even take me back to have the procedure done. I had to get my credit card out twice while I was in a hospital gown. After the procedure? A bill for about $300 arrived that insurance would not cover. No one at the hospital prepared me for these costs. The procedure was simply recommended due to my condition and it was assumed that I would follow through. The only financial counseling given to me was a phone call the day before I went in where a receptionist told me the cost I’d have to pay when I got there. Mind you, the procedure was already scheduled and I’d already done half the prep for it at home the day before. Yeah. None of this was a pleasant experience.

Let me compare that to a friend, a US citizen, who had an accident in Denmark that required a visit to the hospital, a CT scan, and stitches. She was there for three hours, they took all of her information, copied her passport, did all of these procedures, gave her pain meds, and when they discharged her, did not charge her one single dime. Nor did she receive a bill later. They were actually confused when she asked whether she needed to pay anything!

Now, I know the counter argument. It costs too much. Countries with free healthcare have ridiculous taxes, and I won’t deny that. But NOT having free healthcare? People die because they can’t pay for the drugs and treatment they need. It’s usually not the very poor who suffer, either. It’s the folks just above the poverty line or just below the middle class mark who make too much to qualify for help and too little to pay for what’s needed. It’s the blue collar workers. It’s the Trump voters.

By continuing to not fund healthcare, we are making the rich richer and the sick sicker. That’s all there is to it.

Is Poverty a Symptom of Atheism?

THIS. Stop what you’re doing and read it. Please be as shocked as I am.

It’s an especially odd statement considering those living below the poverty line are statistically MORE religious than those more well-off.

The real culprit behind generational poverty? Lack of opportunity. Lack of equality. Until we acknowledge this, the cycle will only continue.

 

The Correct Way to Respond to Hate Speech

We live in a country where the right to speak whatever nonsense that comes into your head, be it true or false, hateful of compassionate is mostly protected by under constitutional law. You can deny the holocaust, proclaim that the world was created by a space alien god, promote the supremacy of one race over others, refuse to acknowledge science and spew forth sexist insults against women and the law will protect you – And it should. To deny one side the right to speak is to limit the free discussion of ideas on all sides. By silencing the extremes, we risk that sane discourse will die away as well.

So, how do we as a people who believe strongly in freedom of speech stand against that which is reprehensible?  How do we fight back when the opposition stirs our soul to action with its hateful words and when calling senators does not seem powerful enough?

CA: Women's March Los AngelesLet’s start with protests which are a phenomenal way to stir up the media and rally groups together for a cause. That being said, there are a few major problems with the protest movement as of late. First, protests may quickly turn to riots. I can’t stomach most of what Milo Yiannopoulos says but the rioters who cause his events to be canceled are only bringing more attention to his ideas. He will continue to use such occurrences to make himself a martyr for his cause. The second issue with protests is the use of ignorant, often vulgar shock tactics to draw attention. Dressing as a woman’s vagina does not make a point about women’s rights. Carrying a poster depicting an aborted fetus may shock but it speaks little truth about your cause. Again, such nonsense gives the opposition fuel and prevents you from changing minds that are in fact open to change.

This brings me to my next point: Engaging in meaningful discourse. Bill Maher is having to defend his decision to have Milo Yiannopoulos appear on his show with another ap17033125284839.jpgscheduled guest, Jeremy Scahill, canceling his scheduled appearance. While on the surface, this may seem like a good protest, but it is ineffective and short sighted. Again, it only brings more attention to the opposition. Worse than that, it eliminates the opportunity for Scahill to provide a rebuttal to Yiannopoulos’ ideas. If we are to spread truth, we must be willing to engage with the opposition openly for the sake of changing minds. Yiannopoulos is unlikely to ever change his mind on his most provocative topics, but those who follow him or those still on the fence, might be persuaded.

It’s unlikely that I or you, dear reader, will even get to the national stage in terms of discourse, but there are still ways to effectively engage in meaningful conversations and even arguments against such revolting ideas. Everyone in today’s world is on some form of social media and that may be your first instinct. Unfortunately, arguments made on Twitter and Facebook are rarely productive. Face to face, personal conversations are. If a friend or family member says something you disagree with, it is alright to graciously disagree and present evidence to your point. We are often too cautious in these areas. Also, those who write, should write. Local papers need thoughtful opinion pieces and even national news sources print letters to the editor. Engage with the media however you can.

Finally, many of us are too far removed from our local elections and pollical representatives. Hopefully the changing pollical climate will unleash a wave of town hall participants and engaged voters. We’ve certainly seen the stirrings of such a movement, but we must not let the enthusiasm diminish. Whether the issue is chickens in the city limits, school choice, or community budgeting, be informed and show up to the discussions. Such actions force elected officials to pay attention to the needs and desires of their constitutions.

For now, as a closeted liberal, I can’t join the fight in the way I would like… But soon. There are changes coming to my life which promise the freedom to speak.

Who am I?

cross-images-004I’ve been asking myself that a lot in the last year. Born and raised in the evangelical church, onward to a Christian university, fully indoctrinated to believe in certain things in a certain way. That’s certainly who I was. But who am I now?

Honestly, I haven’t believed that homosexuality is sinful or deserving of condemnation for a long time. I probably shed that belief sometime in 2006 after a close friend came out of the closet to me, and I had to decided how I felt pretty quickly. As that friend’s perspective evolved, he very quickly began slamming the “love the sinner, hate the sin” response. After all, it’s hard to be close friends with someone who condemns a very large part of your life, even to the point of believing your marriage is illegitimate. If someone believed that way about my life, I wouldn’t keep them very close – even if they were nice to me.

And then there’s abortion. I was anti-abortion for most of my life simply because I did not have a full understanding of all the complex circumstances and issues surrounding it. I still don’t think abortion is a wise choice in all circumstances BUT I now see that it is not may place to pass judgment. I also see the harm that making abortion illegal would do to women and women’s health care in this country. Do I think it should be restricted in some ways? Absolutely. But I cannot support any action that would endanger the life of the mother or take away her right to a safe, legal reasonably early term abortion. I also can’t stomach legislation that would cause clinics to shut their doors for no legitimate reason.

Oh, and then there’s science. My favorite project in the second grade was creating this hamdino-1024x706.jpglarge poster that showed the evolutionary timeline. I’ve always been pro-science, and I did not even know there was such a thing as a creationist movement in the church until I was in my 30’s. One day, a pastor who I had enormous respect for stopped me to talk about a lesson he was working on discussing how dinosaurs and humans lived together in Genesis. I was so dumbfounded, I don’t even think I was able to muster an intelligent response. Really? People take those stories literally? I’m still processing this one.

This leads naturally into what I think of scripture and ultimately God. My view of God and scripture has only shifted in the last two years as I began to independently explore and honestly question my faith through the writings and arguments of Sam Harris, James Radi, and many others. First, let’s discuss the Bible. It was written in a completely enhanced-buzz-4728-1374605113-6different time and place than the world we live in now. It condones slavery, puts women in a place of subjugation, and even directs us to kill people for minor offenses of the religious law. It’s filled with contradictions. It speaks of a God who created us, loves us, and yet would condemn us to Hell if we cannot accept the barbaric human sacrifice of his son. Yes, there are good lessons in the Bible, and there is enhanced-buzz-10568-1374604593-16scripture that can be leaned on for comfort and encouragement…. But if you are a person that believes the Bible is the true and holy word of God himself…. Good luck. You have to view the whole thing in its full context, and chances are, there’s something you should be stoned over.

So I don’t believe that the Bible is the true and holy word of God. I believe that it is book
written by men trying to understand who God is/was in their time, in the context of their morality. So who is God to me now? I’m not 100% sure, and I’m comfortable with that. I’m not quite ready to abandon him entirely, but I now choose to view religion through the evolving moral lens of humanism. Call me agnostic. Call me a cultural Christian. I’m not fussed. Just please don’t lump me in with the evangelicals anymore. I might vomit.

Now that I’ve said all of this, I must confess that I have spent the last ten years or so of my life working in a form of Christian ministry. The majority of my professional experience is with Christian organizations and churches. I’ve signed agreements to statements of faith and position papers that I do not agree with now. My friends and professional colleagues are all Christians or are in the ministry. Yeah. I’m stuck and I’m surrounded!

But I am trying to get unstuck. I’ve left the evangelical church that was associated with so many stifling beliefs mentioned above, and I’ve been slightly more vocal about my views at work. This has raised eyebrows and questions. I’ll keep the blog updated as things are moving forward. Regardless, I’ll leave in a few weeks to months… I would just like to have something in place before joining the ranks of the unemployed.

So that’s me in a nutshell. I am the voice of the closeted liberal screaming at the closed door in the hope that someday, I will be able to shout from the mountaintops.

A Word on Bathrooms

I was at Starbucks the other day, and after two coffees and three hours of work, I headed to the restroom in the back of the store. It was somewhat crowded, so I fully anticipated there might be a line in the women’s room, as is usually the case, but as I approached I saw two bathroom doors, each marked with both the familiar male and female symbol.

I paused. I figured these must be single stall bathrooms, and for a moment I wondered (a bit uncomfortably) whether a male or female voice would greet me when I knocked on the door? I did not hesitate long (I really had to pee!) and chose the closest door. I knocked. There was no reply. I pushed the door open slowly revealing what was indeed, a single stall. When I returned to my table, I did what I normally do when I’m taking a break – I pulled up my favorite news sight to look at the headlines and lo and behold what did I find? Our president has pulled federal transgender bathroom protections.

I guiltily thought about my experience approaching the single stall bathrooms at Starbucks, my momentary discomfort at the idea of having a man in the same bathroom I was about the use, and how quickly I was able to get over it. I wondered what I would do if I encountered a man IN the bathroom with me?

At this point, you may be wondering what side of the issue I’m on? So let me be clear about this: I’m not a big fan of having a man in the bathroom with me while I’m using it… But to call or consider a transgendered woman a man is offensive and demonstrated ignorance of the issue.

buck-angelLet me bring the following to your attention:
This is Buck Angel. Buck was born female. Buck is now male. See Buck pose like a male model? I do not want Buck in the bathroom with me. If I went into the restroom and saw Buck, I’d likely think I was in the wrong room. He’s likely to feel awkward and uncomfortable, too, so really no one wins.
This second photo? This is Andrea James. She was born a man. She’s an accomplished writer, produced, and activist. I wouldn’t give her a second look in a restroom.

andreaYes, I do understand that there are folks who are undergoing a transition, and they don’t necessarily look as male or female as these two examples. That’s absolutely okay with me. If a person is presenting themselves as female, it will be evident.

coyCan I show you one more picture? This is Coy Mathis. She’s 6 years old and was born male. Do you want her parents to have to
send her to the men’s restroom? Would you want your little six-year-old baby girl in a restroom with grown men? Imagine how awkward and uncomfortable that would be. Oh, and would you want your little girl to have to fight for the right to go to the correct bathroom? That’s what little Coy had to do.

Now that you’ve met some transgendered people, let me point out something to you: You do not have to agree with the idea of being transgendered – It’s your right to think that way. But even if your religion or moral principles mean that you cannot support a person undergoing a transition in their presentation of gender, you can still decide that it is okay for that same person to be in the bathroom with you. No one is asking you to change your sex. We’re just asking that you seriously consider this whole bathroom issue before deciding what to support. If you’re a woman, really, really think about this. Do you want Buck in your bathroom? Does he want to be in your bathroom?

Finally, let me address a few of the augments people use against transgendered people and their restroom rights in this brief list:

  1. Perverts are already perfectly capable of sneaking into restrooms to do harm, and we already have plenty of laws to protect the public. Unfortunately, children and adults of all genders will be assaulted in public bathrooms with or without these laws.
  2. Trans people are more often the victims of sexual violence than the perpetrators.
  3. There are not enough unisex/gender neutral bathrooms for transgendered persons to be covered in every circumstance. I didn’t want to hold it in Starbucks, and I’m sure you wouldn’t either.

Now, I ask you to set aside your ideas about transgendered-ness for the moment and consider one thing: These are human beings we are talking about. People. You may not agree with every decision they’ve made in their lives, but they deserve respect and dignity. They deserve jobs and kindness, love and a peaceful life. Now, get out of their way, and let them go pee!

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