Monday, August 25, 2014

It's everywhere...

I have jury duty tomorrow.  I am so looking forward to it, I cannot even tell you! I've never been called. Not once in all of my years. And I've been a registered voter (what is supposed to trigger it) since I was 18. Brent gets notices regularly. As soon as he is eligible again he is called. C got called two years ago, though he ended up not serving because he was in college at the time, but I've never even been called. Talking to C yesterday and I mentioned (again) how excited I was that it was finally here and he said, "You are either really odd, or really bored." I had to laugh, because he had wanted to serve as well when he was called and was actually disappointed that it didn't pan out. So we are both really odd.

But it's interesting. I've only been in court once and that case was dismissed as soon as it was called. The cop who wrote the ticket I was fighting didn't show up so they called my case number and name, Dad and I stood up and the judge read the charge, called for the officer, then dismissed the case with a side comment about how silly the ticket was. I KNOW! That's why I was fighting it. But..still...that's been it. Which is good. There have been times in my life where people would have told you that by now I should be much more familiar with the inside of court room. Either arguing the law as a lawyer or well, let's say providing one with job security. But nope, I changed my mind about law school and decided to be a fine upstanding citizen. So no true life courtroom experience. But it will be really interesting to experience it all. At least once. We've all see it on TV and can picture the proceedings but life is different than the polished version we get in 40-45 minutes plus commercials.

And now this dovetails in to the main blog....

When you picture a trial what is one of the first things you see in your head? Maybe the swearing in of a witness? "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? So help you God?" You know the part where you put your hand on the Bible? And then proceed to go against what the Bible says about that sort of thing. (James 5:12 also Matthew 5:33-37) But trifles...

Last week I went to pick up tickets for Winterhawks training camp games. The home office is in the basement of their home arena. Memorial Coliseum, and as is befitting a Memorial Coliseum there is an actual memorial outside. I was looking at the wall of names and was struck by the wording so I took a picture.

It's a war memorial. Honoring our vets who gave all in their service. For God apparently. Which struck me as odd because I don't remember the US fighting any religious wars. But there it is.

And it's on my money, In God We Trust, and in my pledge to the flag (though it wasn't originally) and in every speech every President and other politician makes, God Bless the United States of America, and on and on and on.

But the thing that really got me thinking about writing this blog was a silly online quiz. A friend of mine posted it. Quick back history: we grew up in the same church, have known each other for as long as I can remember, he is two (maybe three but I want to say two) years younger than I am. We went to the same high school as well. I even remember our last argument in youth group my senior year when he announced that he didn't like the Whitney Houston song "The Greatest Love" because learning to love yourself was not the greatest love of all, the love of God was the greatest. (I bet you didn't even remember that did you, Kerry?) By this point in time I was just biding my time in the church waiting to get out and he was already well on the path that he would remain on. He grew up to be a minister and I grew up to be agnostic. 

Okay, so the quiz he posted was "Which Christian Religion Are You?" I took it just to see what they would do with my answers. (I'm Quaker, by the way, which actually is pretty close to what I believe, if you take out the god parts). But the thing that struck me with the quiz was the belief that pretty much anyone looking at it was Christian. Or at least identified as such in some base way. The questions were designed to assume that you already had a base in Christianity. Unlike the silly quizzes that you take to find out which dog breed you are, they don't assume you are already a dog. But that base belief that you are some sort of Christian is pervasive.

Not just in silly little quizzes where you know what you are getting in to, but in every thing. Every day. See the examples I gave earlier. And think about your news feeds on Facebook. How many "Blessed", "Pray for me", "Praise" statuses do you see in a day? And not just from your friends who grew up to be ministers, but from the people who you know haven't stepped foot in a church since grandpa's funeral. But they identify as Christian and assume that you do as well.

I've written before about leaving the church and reaching the point where I decided I can only describe myself as agnostic. I know a lot of people assume I'm an atheist, and I will admit that my arguments in favor of science over magic tend to push me in that direction, but I have never fully let go of the idea of something more. Because I was raised steeped in religion. Everything we did. Everywhere we went. Everyone we knew. We were the family you saw in restaurants praying before our meals. (Funny aside, I made friends with someone in high school because his parents were deaf and my family prayed in public. We ate at the same restaurant once a week and both busted each other staring at the "different" family, mine the prayer, his the sign language)

But religion, Christianity, Evangelical Christianity specifically, is woven in to my fiber. I had to consciously decide to not be religious, and even after that decision was made for awhile I thought after I had kids I would go back to the church so they could be raised that way. To keep them out of trouble. Let that one sink in for a minute. Drinker, smoker, hellraiser that I was I still thought that somehow church kept me out of trouble. Like my sister's drug habit or the son of an elder who tried to rape me. Church doesn't keep you out of trouble, it can keep a kid busy, but it's not a magic panacea. Once I wrapped my head around that I raised C without religion. Morals, oh yes. Strong sense of right and wrong. But not because God says so, or you will end up in hell if you don't, but because it's the right thing to do for your fellow man. And I have always said I would put his morals up against any number of kids raised in the church. Including mine at his age.

So with all that being said I still hold on to that something. That other. I know what it's like to be sitting outside at sunrise at El Porvenir with a cup of coffee (that is more chocolate and milk than coffee but still) listening to the forest. Feeling that calm stillness and being filled with Awesome Wonder...I know what it's like to pray in a room by yourself and really feel like someone has answered you. I know those  feelings. I also know that I can experience the same things now and I call them appreciation for nature and listening to The Universe or your inner voice...but I understand how if you are raised in the church those things translate to God.

And I don't know. I used to say I was strong with the God is in the Gaps theory. The things science couldn't explain, that's where God lives. But as science closes more and more of those gaps what does that leave? For me it changed my thinking from GOD to god. I think there could be something out there. A unifying presence. Energy can be neither created or destroyed right? So we are all a part of something. That something for me is god. It's us. But that is a deeper discussion than we are having right now. Or at least a different one.

For someone who is agnostic (or atheist) living in the United States is a constant bombardment of god images. And for people who identify as Christian they don't even see it. I told you about going to a seminar a few years ago with a friend and talking about it afterward and I said I had wished it wasn't so religious and he hadn't even noticed. Even though they did an alter call in the middle! I posted a few weeks ago about being angry that people are only concerned about ISIS because they are now hurting Christians. It's frustrating to me to see the assumption that not only are you a Christian but that you somehow believe that that elevates you to better than.

Because any time you use Terrorist and Muslim as synonyms that's what you are doing. Because anytime you decide that people just need more god in their lives when things don't go well that's what you are doing. When you think other people should suck it up if they have a problem with your high school coach praying before a game (even if a few of the kids are Jewish, or agnostic, or atheists) What you are saying is that your religion makes you better than.

And it doesn't.

Not for a second.

And if you think it does then you need to spend more time with your bible. And see that what your religion actually teaches is that you aren't better than. You are just as bad as. But what you have is a path to forgiveness. That's what your religion teaches you. Just so you know.

Because, like I said, I grew up steeped in it. I know it pretty well. I just don't believe it anymore.

But it does give me a really unique perspective on life. I see the way religion permeates everything in the States, and then I see people complaining about how if they can't make a law that is based on their religious belief that is somehow persecution and I just shake my head.

I don't begrudge anyone their beliefs. My family is still mostly with the church. I have a lot of friends who stayed with the church (not just as ministers, though Kerry isn't even the only one of those). I have a lot of other friends who might not attend church but would say that they are Christian if asked. I also have friends who practice other religions. And I have friends who are atheists. I don't care about your beliefs. I really don't. As long as you respect my lack of them we are cool.

And that's the part I'm seeing less and less of lately. I see more people fighting to make laws based solely on their religious beliefs (though some of those are finally being found to be unconstitutional) I see people posting nonsense revisionist history trying to paint the country as even more religion based than it was. I see people becoming less tolerant of those that call their god by another name. And it all makes me shake my head.

I don't really have a nice tidy wrap up for this blog. I wish I did. I guess I will just leave you with a few last thoughts.

Pay attention to how much of your daily world (assuming you live in the States, as I haven't traveled much I have no clue what it's like elsewhere) is colored by a religion that not everyone shares. Wonder for a second what it would feel like to be a stranger in a strange land. Someone who didn't share those beliefs. What would it be like to read a news article about prayer in public schools and see the angry comments from people who are SHOCKED! that the ungodless masses dare tell them to be polite and considerate of those that don't share their beliefs. Wonder what it's like for an atheist when a town hall meeting is opened with a prayer. When a NASCAR race starts with an invocation. When someone wins an EMMY tonight and Thanks God. or if they don't and people freak out on them!

Instead of so much anger about not everything being tailored to your personal belief system you should probably be a little appreciative how much of it is.

You might not notice. But you should. 

And also keep in mind when you rail against Sharia law on one hand and your right to have the Ten Commandments up at the courthouse on the other I am shaking my head at you...

And possibly coveting your ass. But dat ass though....


  1. I'm very honored to be mentioned in this blog, Denise. And you’ve made SO many excellent points, I’m not sure where to begin. I guess I’ll start at the end (no pun intended – I’m gonna skip the “coveting” reference – but I get it – and it’s HILARIOUS!)

    Denise, I think your ultimate conclusion is that we should be fair to all viewpoints… but we’re not. And sadly, I think you’re right.

    I could probably go line-by-line and defend some of the things Christians do, but I must also confess that some of them make me shake my head too. The fact that some people use the words “Muslim” and “terrorist” as synonyms is just as offensive to me as it is to you.

    Regarding Christians’ desire to see others conform to their beliefs, I will say one thing in their defense: many (if not most) Christians take Jesus’ words in John 14:6 (“I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me”) to mean that people who DON’T believe like them will find the afterlife rather unpleasant. So I think their desire to convert others to their beliefs comes less from a place of wanting to be right than it comes from a place of genuine concern for others’ eternal souls. I think their hearts are mostly in the right place.

    You also maintain that Christians shouldn’t look down on (or engage in cultural warfare with) people who people who don’t share their point-of-view, and I agree. In fact, you make an OUTSTANDING point when you say, “What you are saying is that your religion makes you better than. And it doesn't. Not for a second. And if you think it does then you need to spend more time with your bible. And see that what your religion actually teaches is that you aren't better than. You are just as bad as. But what you have is a path to forgiveness. That's what your religion teaches you.”


    You also demonstrate how religion permeates everything in the United States – and how most of us don’t even notice. I think you’re right. And I would agree that, when some people claim Christianity is being marginalized and/or persecuted in America today, those complaints are hyperbolic. (In some cases I can empathize with the concerns being expressed; but at other times, they seem ridiculous to me as well.)

    SO BOTTOM LINE: I’m glad you’re a Quaker (LOL!) No, but I’m glad you haven’t completely closed the door to the possibility of “that other” or that “God is in the Gaps”. I certainly have my intellectual doubts too; I think many thoughtful Christians do. At the end of the day, I choose to believe. But I still love & respect the agnostics and atheists who don’t, just as I love & respect ALL people, regardless of their religion, beliefs, nationality, gender, age, affiliation, orientation, etc… all except Oakland Raiders fans. (J/K!)

    A couple side notes:

    It’s funny you should mention El Porvenir. That ragtag, ramshackle little church camp in the New Mexico mountains is a holy place to me too (even though I haven’t been there in decades). At some point over the last few years I had an epiphany, and told my wife & kids I’ll want my ashes scattered there someday.

    And finally, I DO remember the discussion you & I had about Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All” in youth group. (I have a TERRIBLE memory, but for some reason I’ve always remembered that.)

    1. I'm with you on the Raider's fans. Just no.

      In past blogs I actually addressed the whole "They are literally trying to save your soul in their belief system" aspect of why I tend to cut people slack on the conversion part. Mom prays for me every night that I will come back and I know that it is real grief she feels that I left.

      I think camp was just so important to all of us growing up. So many HUGE moments in lives happened there. I can see why you would want your ashes spread in those mountains. Lovely place to rest.

      And isn't it funny what we remember out of everything? Who knew Whitney would stick with both of us?