It's time to grow up and start seeing the world the way it really is and not the way we want it to be.

Monday, October 29, 2012

I tried to pay attention

History is a funny thing.  The more I live through the more out of touch with  history I have become.  There was a time when a first person account of a historical event was deemed primary evidence when assessing both the event itself and the implications that followed from the event.  Now eye-witness accounts are treated as 'anecdotal evidence' as if they were some story I made up about what happened even though it happened in front of my eyes and to me.  Unless they mesh with the received wisdom or support a political expediency in the present time, which they never seem to do, then the events of my life are cast aside like the world I speak of never existed.  Like I never existed.  I have become an Orwellian non-person and have been written out of the history of my own life.

Sometimes I want to echo the pathetic cry of Joseph Merrick:  "I am a human being!"

When I insist "That's not what happened, I was there, I lived through it" I am met with blank stares "like cows at a passing train."

It is the oddest feeling to be told that I am incompetent to comprehend and assess the events of my own life.  I'm sixty-two years old.  I have been a part of every political, social and religious movement of the last half of the 20th Century.  And, as I would like my epitaph someday to read, "I tried to pay attention."

I have studied furiously in the last thirty years, much harder than I ever did in university and with no credits toward a degree in anything.  I studied because I wanted to know the truth.

The truth.  There's another word that has lost all meaning.  When I dare say there are true and false beliefs about anything, or worst of all declare there is truth and there are lies made up by evil men with evil motivations.  When I extend the Biblical line:  "The truth will set you free..." adding "...and anyone not telling the truth is trying to keep people in slavery" I might as well be speaking in Latin for all the comprehension in the faces of the people I'm talking to.

I don't give a good Goddamn for all the hard scientists out there who want to hedge their bets by calling truth such wishy-washy names as 'theory' or 'consensus' or 'probability.'  That's great for building a career in a university, but it is an act of moral cowardice nonetheless.  If you don't believe in what you are asking others to believe enough to call it the truth, then you are half a man and the half that's left isn't worth the gunpowder it would take to blow it up!

I have been fighting tooth and nail for over thirty years now only to see the United States slip further and further into the abyss.  I have watched in awe and terror as this country has reached the state where fully half of our citizens are about to vote for the Libertarian/Fundamentalist bloc who openly declare their hatred for democracy.  I cannot for the very life of me understand how people are willing to vote to have their own power to vote taken away from them.  I cannot understand how their are people who claim to Libertarians and Atheists at the same time.

Is it that they simply don't know their own history?  I do.  I lived through their history, was a part of it, just like I was a part of Christianity as Fundamentalist mandated political platforms as a necessary part of what it means to be Christian.

I reject both Socialism and Libertarianism and for the same reason:  they are both 'isms.'  That is to say, they are forms of government based not on the will of and with the permission of the governed but rather are based on ideology.  All ideologically based forms of government are dictatorships.  They have to be.  In order to gain power and survive they have to take away the right of the people to choose their own government.  The first thing once they are voted into power is to take away the power to vote from the people.

The only form of government that allows the people governed to change their form of government is a Democracy.  Libertarianism wants to tie themselves in with Republicanism just as they want to tie their economics to Capitalism hoping that no one will notice they are neither until it is too late.

Barry Goldwater was the last Republican just as William F. Buckley was the last true Conservative.  And they both detested and disavowed Libertarianism as a radical, anarchist born of the Sixties complete with Vietnam war protests, draft-card burning and a platform that consisted of legalizing all drugs on the theory that each man...not woman, they are die hard patriarchal misogynists just like the Mormon front man they are running for president...has the right to put whatever he wants into his body no matter how much damage he does to his family and society.

Most importantly, Libertarianism is Utopian.  Their core beliefs have never been tried on a national scale or even on a communal level with success.  They want, in spite of the Globalization of the World Economy, to pull us backwards into economic and political isolationism.  They want to disband and disarm the federal government turning over all the powers of a legitimately elected government to what they call 'private enterprise.'  Think about Zimmerman.  Where has he gone in this election?  Think about the disbanding of all Federal law enforcement agencies.  Think about turning over the state police departments to 'contractors' and the local police to armed Neighborhood Watch groups.  Does anyone want to live in such a country?  Yet we have Blue State Liberals, of all people, who would be willing to allow the Red States to secede from the Union and undue the work Abraham Lincoln and hundreds of thousands of young me died to preserve.  But the Red States don't want to secede, isn't that an historical flip-flop?  They want the whole country.  Libertarians have openly stated that they want people from both sides of the political aisle to join them.  They want and intend to create a nation where there is only one party and that is theirs.

Libertarianism is the policy of the worst of the radical underground right groups, groups that have swollen in numbers during the Bush and the Obama administrations.  Obama because he's black and rallied all the racists in the country to unite.  Bush because his oxymoron-ically named War On Terror didn't happen to include the terrorists groups in the US like the Posse Commitatus...who were actually given legitimacy by the state of Arizona when they hired them as mercenaries to patrol their borders and enforce their immigration laws... and the militant militia movement whose supreme accomplishment was the Oklahoma City bombing.  Ask yourself why in the middle of an alleged War On Terror these groups were given a free pass like the John Birch Society was given by the FBI in the Sixties?  More to the point, why did the Supreme Court in this country turn over the plum the NRA backed terrorist groups had been begging for, the radical reinterpretation of the Right to Bear Arms to mean people had a right to stockpile private arsenals to be used, by their own admission, if the Democratically elected government of the US dared to pass much needed gun control laws?  

No matter which man wins this election, Obama or Romney, it is the United States that will lose.  If Obama wins he will only be kept from doing anything for another four years while the Libertarian/Fundamentalist bloc becomes even stronger and deeper entrenched.  If Romney wins then the push for an ideologically based dictatorship will now have the White House as well as the Supreme Court and both Houses of Congress behind their movement.

I'm tired.  I've lived too long and, frankly my dear, I don't give a damn any longer.  I want to get myself and my family out of this country and back into the Free World again.

If I'd only had the foresight in the Sixties to ask everybody who told me to "Love it or Leave It" for a dollar I'd be rich enough to get out by now.

Anybody up for starting an Atheist Refugee Society?








 

Friday, October 26, 2012

how can i describe you


how can i describe you

how can i describe you
without seeming
unbearably sappy
and romantically redundant?

you are the first breath i took
when i rose screaming
from the womb

you are the marrow in my bones
where my life’s blood
is manufactured

you are the dawn
of a day that never ends

you are the fawn
frozen in the headlights
of my speeding life
the one i chose
to wreck my self
into the gutter
and across into the trees
to avoid hurting

you are the taste
of wine sap apples
on my tongue
the essence of cinnamon
and nutmeg

you are the appetizer
at my banquet
and the main course
and dessert
all served at once

you are the one
i was waiting for
before i even knew
i was waiting

you are the ferris wheel,
the merry-go-round,
the bumper cars---
the carnival of love

you are the gold crayon
in my crayola box
and the blue and yellow
and red and green
there is no picture
i might want to color
that i will not find myself
reaching for you

you are the one
of which there is no other
the prime cause
and end result
of all my days

you are what god gave me
as compensation
for my failure
to get to heaven

you are the pulse
in my wrist
and the pain
in my side

you take my breath away
and breathe life
into my lungs
all at the same instant
the cat who straddles me
and sucks my breath
and the paramedic
who gives the cpr
to bring me back from death

if i had never met you
then i would never have known
what love means
i would have stumbled
in the dark
blind to the meaning of light


if i had never met you
i would have never understood
the purpose of poetry
my talent would have been
so much sand
to be blown by an indifferent wind

you are my mother
and my child
my beginning and my end
and all the life between

i could have died
without knowing you
and my life would have ended
like the life of a fly
without so much as a whimper
but now i will scream in dying
trumpet like a bull elephant
at the outrage of mortality

how can i be
what i am
without being in love with you?
there is a simple equation
at work in my world now:
i love
therefore
i am

don’t think i am obsessed
i am as rational
as any man dared
hope to claim
as sane
as a psychiatrist on valium
and as calm
as a cow
who has been fed, bred and milked

yet
i love you still
and the crazy part of me
loves you
just as much
as my rational self

how can i describe you?
when i open the door
into the dark room of my heart
you are the light
that floods in
and illuminates my soul

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Exorcism In the Modern World


I'm sitting here listening to Tift Merritt...surfer girl out of Chapel Hill, North Carolina in the US of A and one of the best in Country Alternative...voice like Dusty Springfield one review of her work commented.  Her "Good Hearted Man" is an anthem for every woman who is tired of dating bad boys and losers and is ready to grow up.  If you don't know her work, look it up.  I think you'll like her unless you're one of these people who is prejudiced against country music.  In that case, to quote Kris Kristofferson: "If you don't like Hank Williams, you can kiss my ass."

What's this got to do with exorcism?  Not a damn thing.  Another quote, this time Andy Warhol to Lou Reed from his Songs For Drella album:  "You think too much because there's work you don't want to do."

I'm reading "Religion and its monsters" by Timothy K. Beal right now.  Great book.  Shows the origin of the Hebrew mythology in the Chaos Monsters of Babylon.  Just read the chapter on Dracula showing the Antisemitism and Patriarchal thinking at the heart of Stoker's novel.

Watched Cabin In the Woods last night.  Good movie, interesting take on the Stupid Teenagers Must Die genre in horror with a heavy dose of Lovecraft thrown in.  Lionsgate production.  Two of the coming attractions on the DVD were for Possession and The Last Exorcism.

The first time I heard of Carl Sagan's "The Demon haunted world" I wondered if he knew what he was talking about.  I have since come to realize that most atheists have no idea what is out there, the reality of the demonic world as believed in and practiced by Christians today.

It's the only way I can comprehend their lack of fierce anger at what Dawkins rightly describes as child abuse by teaching children to believe in the Christian mythology of demons and angels and curses and blessings.  I was raised in such a world and, when I turned from Christianity, I continued to believe in this world as the reality surrounding me.

The evil that is perpetuated by Christian and 'spiritual' believers is worse than anyone has ever described it.  All super-naturalism...whether Christian or Pagan or Oprah Winfreyism...is evil.  I don't know any other word to describe it. Can  any good come from lying to ourselves and our children?  Is there any comfort to be gained by turning your back on the truth?

When I came out of the Charismatic world in 1979 a curse was placed on me and my children...a curse placed by a Christian, not a Satan worshiper.  A curse that said one of our children would die if we left the church.  Make no mistake about it, this was a Christian curse upon my family.  Within a year following our leaving, my daughter was born and went into congestive heart failure when she was three days old.  By the time I got her to the hospital she was clinically dead.  Science through modern medicine revived her and has kept her alive...often against her own wishes...to this day.

Do I believe in curses...Christian or pagan?  No.  I believe in laws of probability. But at the time I knew nothing of such things.  I still was living in Sagan's 'Demon haunted world.'  And, as I result, I sent back my own curse to counteract the Christian curse.  For many years I was a practicing witch...for want of a better term.  I grew quite adept at spell casting and the "arcane arts."

This is coming out in a jumble.  Usually happens when I try to talk or write about it.  After over thirty years, the pain and the horror still haunts my dreams and reaches out to me from the shadows when I'm awake.

Let me start at the beginning.

When I was eight years old I jerked awake with a sensation of a hideous electrical current coursing through my body.  There was a palpable Evil presence like a thick and noxious cloud in my bedroom.  I struggled against this Evil, trying to turn on the goose-necked lamp on my bedside table but it wouldn't come on.  I had to have light.  The desperate need for light was so...adult.  It was like all the desires and lusts and greed and ambition of a grown man were crammed into my child's body.  I was coming apart even as I was held to gather by a crushing gravity.  I lurched out of bed and walked on tottering, drunken legs to the switch for the overhead light on the wall next to my bedroom door.  I reached with palsied fingers for the switch...

...and my hand passed through the wall like it was made of smoke and I was thrown across the room and back into my bed.

This went on and on...for hours?  Forever?  Time had ceased and I was caught in an everlasting loop of horror and evil.

It must have ended but all I knew was with the sunrise I was back.  The memory of the night before didn't fade as much as it was absorbed into my spongy brain...dark water down deep inside waiting to rise again in a terrifying tide.

And rise it did.  Night after night, at first.  Then, as I grew older, the times between grew but the tide grew stronger each time it came.  I learned the feeling that came before...like when the ocean drew back exposing the sea floor before the tsunami roared in.  The feeling became more intense, the struggling more frantic.  I would find myself out in the street trying to run from my house only to be snatched back like a dog on a leash.

I couldn't talk to anybody.  My brother, asleep in the twin bed next to me, never knew what I was going through.  My mother was quite insane.  My father was a minister in the Church of Christ and believed the Age of Miracles theology that said, when the Scriptures were written and canonized, the need for miraculous verification of the Good News ended and the Holy Spirit today only worked through the scripture.  He was, in a way, a very rational man when it came to claims of the supernatural and miraculous.  Not to mention he never talked to me when I was growing up except for two occasions where he took me to his office in the church building and lectured and shamed me on the evils of masturbation.

I grew up alone.  Just me and the monsters.  I came to two conclusions.  One, the spirit could exist apart from the flesh.  Two, I was possessed.

I read Dracula when I was 12 and Richard Matheson's I Am Legend and saw the Vincent Price movie the Last Man On Earth and George Romero's Night of the Living Dead and The Exorcist...the single book and movie that set the popular image of exorcism in stone.  These books and movies were supposed to scare you.  With me I was living the reality and, instead of scaring me, they taught me how to fight back.  I remember the first time I killed a zombie attacking me in the night like other boys remember standing up to the bully on the playground at school.

I became a Pentecostal/Charismatic in the Seventies.  I wasn't looking for personal salvation after my death or to rule with Herr Christ in his Thousand Year Reich.  With me it was personal and intimate and immediate.

I was looking for an exorcism.

They called it the Deliverance Ministry.  They taught through books and cassette tapes of Derek Prince and others supplied by the Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship International and other lesser known sources.  Along with the crass antisemitism of the Underground Right and Messianic Judaism.  That's a story for another time.

We were taught that demons were everywhere.  That when we walked about in the world, we had to 'plead the Blood of Jesus' and shake them off since they would attach themselves to us like burrs after a walk in the woods.  Women were taught to cut their hair because demons of lust would entangle themselves in their hair and seduce men.  We were taught not to read or watch anything that wasn't cleared by our Controllers.  We were taught not to go to the library, especially, since it was the "Lie-Berry" the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.  We were taught that the caring image of Jesus the Good Shepherd holding the Lost Lamb in his arms was because when the Lamb strayed Jesus would break his legs to teach him to stay with the flock and had to carry him until he regained the strength to stumble along with the others.  We were taught that children especially were susceptible to the enticements of Satan, that their "imaginary playmates" were demons.  We were taught that God made babies small because if they were full grown they would surely murder us.  This was so we could use our superior physical strength to beat them into submission to our will and the Will of God.  We were taught to beat our children...children as young as 18 months old and barely able to talk at all...if they refused to say "Jesus is Lord" since any Spirit that would not make this confession was Satanic.

It was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the late Seventies I found my exorcist.  She was a former mental patient by the name of Sister Grey and her ministry was called Sister Grey's Travelling Soul Saving Mission and House of Deliverance (Jesus is the Deliverer!) and could barely fit on the side of the elongated van we traveled in from Milwaukee down the Mississippi to New Orleans one long hot summer.  She was Pentecostal Holiness.  The Pentecostal movement began in the early years of the 20th Century with the Asuza Street Revival in Los Angeles, California.  It was an offshoot of the Nazerene churches...James Dobson of Focus on the Family is one of their ilk...and of 19th Century revivalism who believed there were two levels of being Christian.  The first step was salvation from your sins but this only prepared you for the second step...Holiness...in which you became incapable of sinning through the power of the Holy Spirit.  At that point, anything you did was approved by God and people who thought you were sinning lacked the understanding of the Holy Spirit to show them that your actions, no matter how absurd or out and out immoral, were all part of God's Plan.

The problem, of course, was how to tell someone who was filled with the Holy Spirit and had achieved this perfect Holiness from just another conman out to fleece his flock of all he can get and sleep with any woman of his congregation he wanted to in the process.

Pardon me if I get my history mixed up on some points.  One of the truths about Christians is they talk long and hard about Jesus but give you no information about the particular history and doctrine of the group you are being asked to join.  They're kind of like Libertarians on that score.

I do remember the lady's name was Agnes Ozman...she was a convert trying to achieve Holiness...who first began Speaking In Tongues.  She was part of a religious school in Kansas City.  Glossolalia and other manifestations of ecstatic religious practices had a long history in 19th Century revivalism what was new was associating Speaking In Tongues as proof of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the moment one passed from normative Christianity into the state of Holiness where one could no longer sin even if they tried.

Sister Grey's home church, when she wasn't travelling and saving souls and exorcising demons, was in a basement of a house in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  You came in through the side door and down steps.  Upon arrival, you were given a portion of the Sunday newspaper...there were several copies stacked on a table...by one of her deacons.  The service was...well, it was Black Pentecostal Holiness church.  The singing was repetitive and came in waves.  Various women of the congregation and a few of the men would do their 'filled with the Spirit routines.'  For those of you who have not had the experience...and I say this not as a racial comment, but rather a cultural one...of black churches it is far different from any white church...even those who are Charismatic and practice 'praise worship.'  It is a much more physical and psychological draining type of worship.  But the essential element of praise is the same black or white.  That is to say, what you see going into such a service the first times seems genuine, but as a member who attends such services consistently...even though you may not admit it till you leave the church and Christianity behind altogether...you begin to see that each person has their own 'act' just as you are creating yours.  Dancing in the Spirit is often prominent, with the fluttering of a fan and the long flowing dresses and hats that are towering and ornate and vibrantly colored it is quite a spectacle.  Some of the more athletic men in churches of a more traditional design practice 'running the pews.'  That is a sight to behold.  The men, filled with the Holy Spirit, of course, will actually run from the back of the auditorium to the front bounding from the back of one pew to the next.  Bear in mind, this is all performance art and each person has their own particular act.  It looks like an ecstatic expression of deep spiritually driven emotions but, like speak in tongues, it is learned behavior.  Many teachers, myself included, can teach you how to speak in tongues in a half an hour.

After setting the mood and whipping up the crowd, the minister delivers a 'sermon' usually based on a literally translated passage of scripture or about sin and hell-fire and the coming Tribulation.  My favorite, in a more sedate white Church of God, was a sermon based on a passage of scripture...I think from Revelation, I gave up 'proof-texting' in favor of actual historical and biblical scholarship a long time ago...where the Saved are given a 'white rock' by the Lord.  The minister went on and on about how one day "I'm going to get my White Rock from Jesus!"  The church was swept up into the ecstasy of getting their White Rocks.  Nobody thought:  "This White Rock has to be a symbol for something else."  Nope.  The Bible said Jesus would give us a White Rock and that's what we were going to get.

At the end of the sermon there was the traditional 'altar call.'  Only in the Deliverance Ministry of Sister Grey, everyone in the congregation lined up, speaking in tongues, doing their dances, everyone with their hands over their heads no matter how long it took or how tired your arms got and chanting a line from a song...my favorite was "I'm not no-ways tired!"  I think it had something to do with your arms killing you after a while.   Not sure what the rest of the song was about, didn't matter.  We just kept repeating that single line.

When you got to the front of the room there was Sister Grey flanked by her deaconesses all dressed like novitiate nuns and blankets.  You were exhausted by this time, out of balance with your arms over your head, dizzy from the heat and driven senseless by tongue speaking and chanting.  Sister Grey would pour olive oil in her hand and anoint you on the forehead...given you quite a smack and pushing you backwards in the process.  At this point you were 'Slain in the Spirit' meaning you were knocked off your feet.  The deaconesses would help you as you fell and cover the upturned skirts of the women with the blankets.

Then you took your section of the newspaper...thought I'd forgotten about that, didn't you?...and went back to your folding chair, got on your knees on the hard concrete floor, and prayed and groveled and spoke in tongues weeping and begging for your 'deliverance.'  After the last person had been anointed, Sister Grey would come around and minister to individuals as the spirit led her.  Her hands would flutter around you like blackbirds, then she'd order the demon to come out of you pleading the blood of Jesus with such ferocity and spittle you could almost feel his blood on your face and forehead.  If that didn't work, she would press her hands into your stomach as the ecstasy grew inside of you from the abdomen up.  And, finally, when all else failed, she would 'anoint the demon' directly by forcing your head back and pouring olive oil down your throat.  Pompeian Olive Oil was her brand.  The taste still makes me gag to this day just as it did back then.  The exorcism ended when you vomited...or hacked up some spit and stomach fluid just to get it over with...into the newspaper you were given on your way in the door.  This was called getting rid of the demon's 'nest' since they would drag all sorts of things into you...glass, nails, balls of hair, twigs, leaves...just like a bird making a nest.  Sister Grey would slip these items she had carefully palmed while you were blinded with tears and snot as proof of your exorcism.

In order to keep things from getting too stinky and messy in the confines of that basement part of your preparation for Sunday morning service was to fast from the end of the Wednesday night meeting and not eat anything till after church on Sunday.

For those of you who were deemed in need of special treatment Sister Grey had a special hut set up in the bare attic of her house.  There were planks laid out across the unfurnished rafters to a small square island on which set the hut.  It was so small you had to bend over to get in.  Once inside there were religious icons on all the walls and a small prayer bench lit by a single un-shaded light bulb hanging from a wire and just room enough for you and her as the deaconesses, who had led you up the narrow stairs to the attic front and behind holding flickering candles against the gloom stood around the hut and chanted and sang.

OK, I'm worn out now and in need of a drink.  I'm afraid I've set myself up for another night terror tonight by writing all of this.

One last point needs to be made.  I was involved in all forms of Christianity for forty years of my life.  The entire gamut of the religious experience offered in the USA in the last half of the 20th Century.  I was involved in Neo-Paganism for ten years as well.

Not once in all of that time have I ever seen or experienced anything supernatural.

Not one damn time.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Death has its own anesthesia...

My mother took her nurses training when I was a child and worked the 3 to 11 shift in the ER for years.  She tells of the first time she witnessed a death.  She was terribly upset and distraught but knew she had to get past these emotions if she was to become a professional and competent nurse.  One of the doctors in the ER saw how the death was effecting her and took her to the cafeteria for a cup of coffee and a talking to.  One of the things he said to her that stuck with her and helped her to keep going was that:  "Death has its own anesthesia."

This was in the 1950s but the doctor has been proven right over the ensuing years. As medical science has gotten better at resuscitating  patients who at one time would have died from injury or illness we have all become increasingly familiar with what is called the Near Death Experience.  All of the aspects of the NDE can be and have been explained by science without recourse to the supernatural.  I'm not interested or competent to write a full article on the subject but would refer you to 50 popular beliefs that people think are true by Guy Harrison as a good entry level discussion and the books listed at the end of each chapter under the headline Go Deeper on a variety of subjects including NDEs.

For my purposes I want to zero in on the peacefulness of the dying process.  The 'anesthesia of death' as the doctor explained it to my mother years ago.  As blood flow slows and ultimately stops leading to cellular death of the brain NDE reports often relate a sensation of extreme peace rather than continued agitation, panic and even terror as is experienced when the brain is still fully functioning and fighting to cling to life.  

A NDE is what Alan Segal in his brilliant work Life After Death:  A History of the Afterlife In Western Religion refers to as a Religious Attributed Altered State of Consciousness or RAASC.  That is to say, an ASC that occurs then is given religious imagery by our own minds and with the help of others to bring it in line with the common religious belief of our culture.  The alternative is a Religiously Inspired Altered State of Consciousness (RIASC) in which the individual takes extraordinary measures with the full intent of forcing himself/herself to have a 'spiritual experience.'

Often the person experiencing a NDE comes back with a changed attitude towards life.  This is reported both in cases when the NDE formed the basis of a RAASC or when it did not.  The person is, briefly at least, unafraid of death.  All Altered States of Consciousness are just that:  an alteration in our consciousness through which we perceive the world, not a revelation of a spiritual or supernatural world.  As such the impact brought about by such an experience tends to fade and disappear unless the person engages in a conscious and active attempt to cling to the feeling as the conscious mind begins to reclaim its rightful place as our only window on the world around us.

This relaxing of our fear of dying brought about by physical trauma to the brain as the upper levels of our mind are shut down through lack of blood flow indicates this fear is a product of our environment rather than innate.  I would suggest the philosopher Stephen Cave's book Immortality as further reading in this area.  Cave makes what I believe to be a common mistake however when he relates the survival instinct to a questing after immortality by simply not dying.  The fact that people fight to stay alive shows they full well understand, no matter what they our told by their religion, that death is final and there is no afterlife or coming back.  It's acknowledging your mortality and living a life with that knowledge not as a peripheral comment on the end of life but as the basis for life itself.  Back to Alan Segal and the relatively late introduction of the concept of immortality into the religions of the West for more on those ideas.  But Cave's work is not to be dismissed.  His conclusion more than makes up for this slight misstep.

Fear of death, and religion itself, is a function of the human imagination.  As a Christian Atheist (oxymoron, of course, but one that clarifies which God doesn't exist) I would offer two quotes attributed to the self-proclaimed apostle and proto-Gnostic Saul/Paul (Elaine Pagels The Gnostic Paul is good for further reading on that subject).  

First, he shows the innate flaw in Pascal's Wager when he says:

"For if in this life only my hope resides then I am, of all men, most miserable."

And in another place:

"The sting of death is sin."

Clearly, religion without an afterlife is a source of misery, not comfort.  The basis of this misery, the 'sting of death', comes from the belief that our sins, as taught to us by religion, not merely the things we personally feel bad about doing, will be un-forgiven and we will suffer eternal punishment.

NDE/RAASCs show that as the higher brain function of the human imagination closes up shop as we die then the misery engendered by religion and the teaching of sin and salvation and damnation leak away from our minds the actual experience of dying itself is rather pleasant even though a permanent, one-way passage from existence to non-existence. 

I have stated in other places:

Atheism makes good on all the promises religion makes and fails to keep.

The NDE leaves many people to have a however fleeting feeling of the absence of the fear of death.  This is brought about through the closing down of the human imagination where high concepts such as religion and immortality dwell and the opening up to the prospect of impending death as something that is not to be feared but rather to be accepted as natural.

Cut off the RAASC tendency and just leave the experience as it is without further explanation attuned to religious beliefs and you are getting close to what the world would be like without God.

A world that we can live in, right now and not after death.  A world without religion, without God, without sin and punishment in an afterlife.  Yes, without reward as well, but the rewards promised in Heaven are now yours to have and enjoy while you are still alive.  And these rewards can be shared with others.  You don't have to send the rest of the world to Hell in order to have Heaven.  

Imagine a world where no one is taught religion.  Where there is no sting of death because there is no sin.  A world in which when we harm someone else it is to the person we harmed that we need to make amends and ask forgiveness. Imagine living a life without fear and shame. Where the greatest moral precept is "Live and let live."

A world in which all people grow up with an acceptance of their own mortality.  A world where we accept our position as animals within a complex biosphere.  A world where we are part of the environment and not some special creature given dominion over the rest of life on our planet.

A world where children are cherished and not abused and used physically or sexually or mentally by religion.

As I write this the bookshelves and talk shows are still fascinated by the alleged vision of Colton Burpo as related by his father Todd in Heaven Is For Real.  That this alleged vision came out gradually over a period of months following his NDE is typical of a RAASC and is guided by his father in an act of child abuse his son may never recover from.

Child abuse?

Most certainly.  In the medical field there is a delightfully whimsical term for a terrible disorder where a parent gets their own emotional and often financial needs met by convincing others their child is ill with all manner of diseases.  It's called Munchhausen by Proxy.  What we have in the case of Todd Burpo is religion at its most vile.  We have a father who is deliberately using his own child in order to create a cottage industry from which he will profit both mentally, emotionally and financially.  

Is it his parental right to do this to his child?

Absolutely not.

Should he be prohibited from doing this to his child by the same sort of laws that are applied to other cases of child abuse?

Yes, undeniably this is what would happen to this monster in a better world.

But we don't live in a better world.  We live in one dominated by superstition where magicians walk on water and dead men return to life.  

Can we take this world and, starting today, move from here into this better world, a world where all of the old gods are destroyed, as the childhood of the human race ends and we as a species become adults?

Yes, we can.  We have only a little over three hundred years in striving to destroy an evil that has had dominance for three thousand years.  Yes, it may take us three thousand years to undo the damage that his been done to our species.  And yet we have already made a good start in that direction.  

Growing up is hard to do, believe me I'm a Baby Boomer and the childishness I see in the generations born since makes us look like sophisticated intellectuals in comparison.  But over the last half of the 20th and the opening decade of the 21st Centuries we have been losing ground.

We can lose, but only if we choose to stop fighting.  

Death is nothing to be feared.  Life is nothing to cling to.

Freedom is all that matters.  

And, as John Le Carre put it:

We have given away far too many freedoms in order to be free.  Now it's time to take some back.


  
















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Suggested reading:

  • A History of the End of the World by Jonathan Kirsch
  • American Colossuss: The Triumph of Capitalism 1865 - 1900 by H. W. Brands
  • American Colossuss: The Triumph of Capitalism 1865 - 1900 by H. W. Brands
  • Life After Death by Alan Segal
  • Radicals for Capitalism by Brian Doherty
  • Radicals for Capitalism by Brian Doherty
  • The Science of Evil by Simon Baron-Cohen
  • The Science of Evil by Simon Baron-Cohen
  • Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt
  • Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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About Me

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I am from West Virginia. Born in New Martinsville to a minister's family. Traveled around West Virginia and Southern Ohio growing up. The only stability I got was from my mother's side of the family in Boone County. My Great Grandfather on my father's side was preaching in Madison during the Mine Wars. He ran for the state legislature on a pro-union ticket and won only to have the coal companies tie the results up in court so he ended serving only one day out of this term. My Grandfather on my mother's side stood with the miner's at Blair Mountain and died of Black Lung when I was still in my teens. I was raised a Conservative Christian...not a Fundamentalist. Strict separation of church and state based on the understanding that what makes for a good politician is pretty much the opposite of what makes a good Christian. I'm politically radical in that I believe in one man/one vote and the only way to have political equality is to have economic equality. I'm an atheist because once I accepted the fact of my own mortality I found no need for belief in God.