Patriarchal Religion and Star Trek Don’t Mix

Star Trek is a fantasy.  Co-existing with other intelligent alien life forms and accepting them as respected equals is a fantasy.   As long as religion pulls the strings of our thinking, a possible future like we see depicted in the Star Trek universe, cannot be.

If we can’t even accept in our own species, that all of us are created equal, with equal rights over what happens to our bodies and equal rights to pursue our own happiness, how can we possibly embrace and accept the habits and behaviors of other intelligent, sentient cultures?

Because of religion we have sexism.  Because of religion we have bigotry and racism.  Because of religion we have intolerance and eagerness to judge others.  Because of religion we want to think in black in white and absolutes.  Either you are good or evil, followers of either a god or a satan, destined ultimately for either a heaven or a hell.

If some habit or behavior that is perfectly normal and healthy and positive for one group of people seems alien and beyond the comprehension of another group of people, it is regarded with suspicion, as are the people who engage in it.  

Human beings must be the entire reason why the immensity of the universe was created.  Human beings with our massive egos who want to believe we are the reason billions of years of evolution has taken place, and billions of other galaxies, along with ours, were created.

We are the center and everything else spins around us, and more specifically, human males are the center.  Even human females were created simply, just like other life on this planet and the Earth itself, to satisfy the wishes and needs of human men.  And even some races deem themselves superior to other races, god’s chosen people, with people of other tribes or races perfectly okay to overwhelm, invade, enslave, conquer, rape, or exterminate completely if the male made male, patriarchal god so commands it.

It’s a pie in the sky dream that human beings think we can reach out for the stars and co-exist with life elsewhere.  I have always been a devoted Star Trek fan, but at the same time that vision saddens me.  How can we hope to accept cultures so incredibly alien to our own, if we can’t even accept each other as equals?  Accept ourselves?

Silent No More!

And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions. error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. I deem the essential principles of our government. Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected.
Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

“As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation.  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?”      -John Adams, letter to F.A. Van der Kamp, Dec. 27, 1816

“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 cartloads of other foolish trumpery that we find in Christianity.” -John Adams

“The Bible is not my book, nor Christianity my profession.”
                        -Spoken by Abraham Lincoln, quoted by Joseph Lewis

“Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause.  Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by the difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be depreciated.  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, 1792

“. . . Some books against Deism fell into my hands. . . It happened that they wrought an effect on my quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist.”  Benjamin Franklin
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Tolerance.  For three years now I have been an atheist, after over 35 years of being a born again Christian.  What have I had to learn like I never had to learn before?  Tolerance.

When I was a Christian I thought nothing of not only proclaiming what I believed, but arguing about it, vehemently, sometimes even rudely.  Everyone else’s beliefs were wrong and mine were right.  And often I had other people back me up on it too, because mine was the acceptable, popular opinion.  I was indignant if anyone disagreed.  I couldn’t remotely entertain the thought that I might be wrong, or that my mother could be wrong, or her mother, or the church leaders I had grown up listening to and believing every word.  And the BIBLE!  The unblemished Word of God.   His might–at my fingertips if only I believed hard enough.  The “good book” that Christians arm themselves with in defense against Satan. 

I remember as a child I had cards in a box and each card had a bible verse on it.  I would memorize the card, and once I did, I’d put it aside and then memorize the next.  Until I could say one verse after the next correctly, and in order.   I did this because the church I went to preached that Satan is repelled by bible verses.  So I learned them.    And they sounded right to my young ears.

And of course they did.  They were cherry picked for the impressionable young.  There was none of the darker verses found throughout the bible. Nothing about burning witches or about women being forbidden to speak or ask questions in church, etc. 

At bible camp we sang our songs over and over, both morning and night, celebrating, among other things, having been “washed in the blood” or being “under the blood”–(a hold-over from the blood baptisms of pagan Mithraism Christianity replaced–where followers stood under a grate while above them a bull was sacrificed.).  To this day I can sing every song we sang then–I remember every single word.  Because that is part of belief.  It starts out as an idea.  It is repeated in verse and in song.  It is memorized.  It takes root inside your head –becomes a way of thinking and habit…until you forget when it started or where it came from.  That’s when you accept it’s always been, and it is true, absolutely true, so true that everyone should know!   Or so I thought.  Someone at some time must have done their research to prove it’s all true–so I didn’t have to–again, or so I presumed.  I just…accepted that the bible was history, and the tales in it–about real people.  But really, were they?   Did people like Matthew, Mark, Luke and John… actually exist?  Jesus too?   No one seemed to question it in my little bible-camp world.  I never heard anyone at my church or at that camp question if these characters in this book ever lived at all?  No one asks this.  No one asks WHO exactly wrote the bible, or why, or who hired them to write it?  For what purpose?  What was the agenda?

As a Christian the religious holidays were wonderful. Filled with fellowship and wonder and reverence and even hope of the promise the birth represents, and the sacrifice on the cross represents.  I walked around with a cross around my neck.  I was never a bible thumper but I was a Christian and I loved getting the warm and fuzzy Christian spam emails I got, and if anyone asked me oh sure, then I’d talk about my faith because then I knew it was safe.  Here was someone who would agree with everything or most everything I did.  I could talk and they’d nod their head and then they’d talk and further feed my belief, strengthen my delusion that this whole thing really is true.

If i ever came across a Jewish person, or atheist or anyone who was obviously not a believer, like someone wearing a turban or veil, oooh, I’d feel indignant inside.  I wouldn’t want to start up a conversation with them because…well, two reasons.  One, what did they know?  They were the lost.  The unsaved.  The ignorant.   And two…they might know more about their religion or beliefs than I knew about mine and I didn’t want my precious beliefs I hadn’t bothered to research, threatened in any way!  I didn’t want to look foolish, or have to be put on the defensive or hear the painful words said that MY beliefs are not true!  I didn’t want to be insulted by hearing someone say my Heavenly Father doesn’t exist or his Son who DIED for my sins…doesn’t exist!  That kind of thing offended me, angered me, deeply upset me.  So I avoided talking religion to these people–and in fact avoided people like this completely. I even avoided reading any books or articles by non-Christians which might challenge or put into doubt for me, my “faith.” I didn’t want to doubt, or question. I wanted to be like a little child as the bible commands, and blindly BELIEVE without question as good Christians do.

That was then.   Fast forward to now and I am an atheist.  Suddenly I notice how often people talk about their beliefs as if they think everyone agrees with them.  Suddenly people are making a big deal about whether our current President is a Christian or not–while I’m thinking, what difference does THAT make when most of our founding fathers were not!

Learning to not defend my new non-beliefs has been difficult, because I grew up quick to get indignant and angry and upset any time anyone attacked my Christian beliefs.  But to defend my new beliefs as a secular person who doesn’t believe…that’s wrong.  That’s offensive to the majority–to all those Christians who, just like it once offended me, get angry and upset and take it personally when they hear anything contradictory or like an outright challenge to their beliefs.   So really, it’s ok for Christians to broadcast what they think and believe and why.  That’s called witnessing.  It’s trying to spread the good news.  It’s a wholesome, happy message of hope.  A positive message. So it’s okay because since it’s so positive, how can it possibly offend anyone?  Right?

Well, it does!  I didn’t realize it’s a two way street, not just a one way street, until I found myself at an intersection and changing directions.  It IS a two way street and believe it or not, people who don’t believe in Christianity or the Christian god do still feel all the same burning passions inside them for whatever it is they do believe, be it belief in another religion, or belief in science, in evolution, in preserving the balance of nature, of being humane to each other and to animals.  Whatever the belief, it is close to the believer’s heart.

So when we have Conservative Republicans fighting to be nominated, and they’re busy vocalizing about how America is a Christian nation…which it isn’t and never has been…it basically says to all the rest of us who are not Christian, get the hell out, you aren’t wanted here.

There’s a Reason Rally on March 24th, 2012–a coming out celebration for Secularism.   Why?   Really, why?  What do people who don’t believe in God have to defend?  To cry foul over?   To get indignant about?

How about the fact this is our country too?  And we love our country too?  And we aren’t deceived by the bullshit they’re feeding the mainstream  that this country was founded by Christians–when we know perfectly well it was not.   This is our country too, and yet can a secular person, someone who does not believe in god or gods, have any hope of running for President?  No.  And how come that is?  Since when has the word “Christian” become the replacement word for words like wholesome, kind, compassionate, honest, ethical, caring, fair, gentle, forgiving, merciful, loving or good?

For a very long time people with no beliefs have felt no need to speak out.  For a very long time atheists and agnostics and pagans and heathens or whatever else you want to call us–infidels–whatever, have held our tongues and allowed the religious to walk all over those of us who don’t believe.  To silently smile and meekly try to change the subject rather than disagree and risk hurting someone’s feelings or upsetting someone.   But now we have the Religious Right trying to tell all of us that we are all of us Christians, and their puritan ideas of what is right and wrong, should be accepted by us all!   We’re back to that old song and dance again about how women should have babies if they get pregnant, whether or not they want to, and women should not have insurance coverage for birth control–which of course will mean so many more unwanted babies coming into the world with parents who can’t afford them.

I think it’s time to speak out.  I think it’s time that the secular population join together and protest our right to not believe, our right to not have to be silent just because our opinion is the less accepted, minority one, our right to not be governed by doctrine that seeks to keep our society in the dark ages, women under the dominion of men, and further allow our planet’s overpopulation crisis to multiply.

In my view such religious doctrine that abortion is murder (which the bible does not say, by the way), and the people or organizations like the Religious Right who seek to make war against women and take away their rights over their own futures–their own bodies, are one of the main reasons why  why our planet’s environment is so out of whack now–why we have too many people and not enough food–and why we have killer storms in parts of the world where they have never been before.

So it’s not just for the sake of our pride, and our desire to be counted as patriotic Americans too.  Nor is it just for the purpose of defending/preserving our human rights.  It’s for the sake of our planet, and for the sake of the advancement of science and understanding–the only weapons we have to defend ourselves, against ourselves.

Bigotry–Being Uncomfortable About Someone Different.

Bigot   “One fanatically devoted to one’s own group, religion, race, or politics and intolerant of those who differ.”  Such is the definition of the word in my badly abused and taped together Webster’s II dictionary.

Pretty much we all know what a bigot is, or what bigotry looks like.  But I had a friend yesterday point out something to me–bigotry I am experiencing personally in my life, toward me.

When I think of a bigot I think of someone intolerant of someone of a different race, or religion or sexual preference.  People tend to shun, avoid, stereotype, etc., people who look or think or act differently.   Differences they don’t understand make people uncomfortable, and rather than feel uncomfortable which is often unpleasant, people try to avoid contact altogether with that person or persons, rather than try to understand, and in working to understand, learn tolerance or maybe even appreciation for what is different.

People who are depressed are different.  We don’t think the same, or react the same.  We behave irratically or are overly emotional sometimes.  We might blow things out of proportion, or just seem whiny or petulant or childish.  We might be high maintenance or act like drama queens.  We might be needy or fearful or paranoid or laugh at the wrong times, or cry at the wrong times.  Because depression is a chemical imbalance–it alters how efficiently our brain processes thoughts and feelings.

Meds do help.  Talking over our problems help.  But this is a physical illness, not a series of bad days or just not loving ourselves enough.   We can’t wave a magic wand and say ok I”m normal now.   Some people with depression have to battle it all their life.  For others it comes and goes–people have episodes.   Not everyone knows it when they have depression.  In fact sometimes the ill person is the very last to know.  All they might know is, it’s harder to get out of bed.  It’s harder to deal with social situations.  It’s harder to multi-task.  It’s harder to care about one’s appearance or eating healthy food, or going to the dentist twice a  year, or keeping the house clean.  It’s harder to smile.  It’s harder to look someone in the eye.  It’s harder to believe you are likable.  It’s harder to believe you have any worth.

Little things happen that add to this belief about self too, and the self esteem does, over time, slowly collapse.   The person perceives they are different–they perceive that others around them are being treated differently than they are.  They start to understand they are not someone people want to talk to, or be close to.  They are being avoided.  They are being shunned.  No one seems to like them.  What friends they did have, don’t want to deal with them anymore.  

All these things only add to the problem, create more unbearable hurt on a person already in pain.   This process of being avoided by others–being seen as different because your demeanor is not the same–isn’t this a form of bigotry?  The person with depression experiencing bigotry for making people uncomfortable because of being sick?

Bigotry hurts, in all it’s forms.  No one asks to be sick and everyone who is sick is trying very hard, every day, to feel better.  A society that shuns the ill because they make the healthy uncomfortable…all that does is make it harder to be ill, and harder to get better.   Depression is an illness and it’s one that’s unfortunately here to stay.  There are some really wonderful, loving people in the world that suffer from this illness.  People with good things to offer.  People with something to say and plenty of love to give.   By shunning anyone for being different, we are, as a society, not only making the hurt so much worse for the person or persons, we are cheating ourselves of the potential, the treasure that might be lurking just under the surface–if only we offered a hand instead of turning our backs.   In every garden a seed has the potential to grow or die–and that potential is up to the gardener.   Not all gardens are blessed with healthy soil.  Some seeds are sown in rocky soil, or sandy soil, where the ability to flourish is harder.  Do we give up on those gardens?  Pull those plants that have to struggle more to bloom, or let the weeds choke them to death?  Or do we give a little more work, a little more love–sprinkle on a little more fertilizer so that garden too might bloom and bring smiles to those who see it?

Our society is a garden.  We can help it grow or let it die.  Whatever we decide, starts with how we tend the flowers.