Church

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Back in the mid-1990’s, a friend of mine emailed me an incredibly ridiculous and obviously fabricated story about an “atheist college professor” and a student. I can’t remember the story, and I refuse to look it up, but gist of it was the college professor was challenging the faith of the student, a miracle occurred and everyone fell to their knees and prayed.

The story listed no names, no dates, no facts at all, and was vague in all regards to anything at all that might have defined more clearly when and where and who. But it was my first encounter with the the “atheist college professor” stories. There’s quite a few now.

Yesterday, I took Mama to church, and I went in hoping that for some sort of social contact for Mom. About ten minutes deep into the sermon, the preacher said, “how are we going to send children to face the ‘atheist college professors’?” and I nearly walked out.

My hostility towards religion in general, and towards Christianity in particular, is certainly a function of my personal disdain for the systemic methods of the used car salesman techniques employed by those who practice Christianity. But used cars are sold each day. It’s an effective practice, and because religion is a very profitable business, it is to be expected to find such. That my grandmother’s religion, my mother’s mother, has been turned into a commercial enterprise for men and women who have repackaged it and sold it, as a commodity, and turned churches into spiritual Wal-Marts, is more than enough for me to treat the religion itself, and the people who pretend to practice it with utter contempt.
But this goes much deeper than that. We live in a time where people openly believe the world is flat! A thousand years or so has passed since that issue was settled, yet even as we speak there’s a professional basketball player who goes in front of a national audience on social media and espouses the deepest sort of nonsense and people believe him.
Growing in popularity, is the concept that ignorance is a virtue, and belief, in and of itself, when taken to heart without substantiation or the slightest hint of evidence to bolster it, is a virtue. Worse, infinitely worse, there’s a disdain for anything educational. It’s as if the process of education itself, at any level, for any reason, is somehow heretical, or blasphemous.
This is dangerous to the extreme when dealing with people who, because they read something on the internet, believe vaccines cause a variety of maladies, including autism on children, even though there is a wealth of evidence to the contrary. Now, in the year 2019, measles, a disease all but eradicated through the use of vaccines, is spreading again. The “my beliefs are sacred even to the detriment of society” movement is gaining strength, even as it sickens and kills.
In 2006, a woman accused members of a sports team of rape. It was an easy thing to believe, that a group of young, privileged, white men, drank themselves into attacking a woman. But the DNA evidence said otherwise. The woman’s story unraveled further when one of the young men she positively identified was shown to be absent from the scene of the crime entirely. Yet when interviewing other students at Duke, this response was recorded, “That DNA stuff is just crazy, who believes it?”

We are training our citizens to choose their reality based on belief, and belief alone. What feels good, what sounds right, and what we have always thought was true, is, simply because we think it is so. Those who teach, instruct, and offer systems of thinking that counter or contradict are messengers of evil and are to be distrusted. Volume, yelling, screaming, drowning out an opponent with obscenities or untruths, intentional or not, is considered a proper method of debate. Any source, regardless of its content or origin, is considered doctrine, as long as it agrees with a beloved assertion.

Were there a simple fix, some national realization of peril even, there might be hope. But the money to be made off of the ignorant drives the desire to make sure it continues. If a man has no idea how a car operates, then by looks and how it makes him feel alone are selling points. He’ll shell out hard earned money for transportation regardless of its quality. Likewise, if you can convince a populace that education, critical thinking, facts, evidence, and peer reviewed research, all of it, is equal to belief, then you can sell them any other idea, at a premium.

We aren’t going to send our children to face “atheist college professors”. Increasingly, higher education is for those who can afford it. The rich can buy their way in, and you have to think, buy their way through, universities. This is a cycle which circles; only those who can afford college can go. Those who can go make more money than those who cannot. We’re left with less educated citizens, and worse, citizens who distrust education. I shouldn’t have to tell you what it means to have an electorate whose means of selection has nothing at all to do with how educated they are.

There isn’t a way out of this. We can’t simply wake up one day and start valuing education and critical thinking and hope people are going to flock to it because it’s a good idea. Ignorance has become a sellable condition. People will pay to become less knowledgeable. They will give money to other people who tell them education is wrong and thinking is dangerous. Our society is being sown with ideas that are unprovable, and even if they are disproved, evidence can simply be labeled as “fake news” and ignored. Go with what feels good. Believe what makes you happy. Read only from sources that agree with you. Listen to only what you’ve learn before, like your favorite music, because you like it.

What I heard in church yesterday was passive aggressive hate speech wrapped in fear mongering, by a used car salesman who told a willing audience his beliefs were what they needed to buy. The number of people willing to pay for this sort of thing will teach him to repeat it.

Take Care,
Mike

Murder at a Funeral

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You’re not likely to remember it, you know. I don’t. I cannot remember the last time someone asked for my ID because they thought I was too young to buy alcohol. I remember being carded when I was twenty-seven, and I thought it was funny, and the woman who carded me held on to my license, as if she thought it might be a fake one, for just a second or two. I’m not talking about those places that card everybody regardless, and back in the day, I was buying when I was sixteen. Time was when a kid could go to the store and pick up a six pack for his dad and they’d sell it to him, too. But by the mid-eighties it was illegal to drink and drive, in a major way. I miss cruising dirt roads and drinking, and listening to music and not having to worry about anything going wrong.

 

I looked like a little kid when I was in my late teens. When I applied for a job in a town where no one knew me they really thought I was a runaway. I worked as a dishwasher in a truck stop and the waitresses there thought I was someone’s kid who got some sort after school job or something. I handed my ID to most of them and said “Yes, as a matter of fact I am really nineteen”. I moved in with a thirty-one year old woman and people wondered if I was her son. That really pissed her off. I aged well, at least while I was young.

 

You age the first time you have to deal with murder. Be it someone you know who kills someone or if it’s someone you know that’s dead, murder is something that changes the way you look at life. Everyone, sooner or later, has to deal with a friend who drives a car into something or gets a car driven into them, and everyone knows someone who died on the road, but murder is different. A car accident could be a lot of different things, like the couple I knew who lost a daughter when a car hit a deer and threw the still living deer through their daughter’s windshield. It’s a freak accident that leaves you breathless and bereft, but murder leaves you with someone gone, and you’ll never truly trust strangers again. It’s a difficult thing to talk about when you’re with someone who feels that same loss of that same person and you both try to make it make sense.

 

After a while, you know you’re going to lose someone to some sort of illness, and cancer is a good bet when you know someone with a family history and smoking habit. It’s more difficult to lose someone’s child, or someone young you expected to last longer than your own life. You lose a friend, and then one of his siblings, and suddenly, you start to hear the sound of those hooves behind you.

 

A friend of mine lost her mother on Sunday, and it was expected and the disease had eaten away at her, and now there is a funeral, and a viewing, and I’m getting close to not doing funerals anymore, again, ever. It’s getting to where funerals are nothing more than commercials for religion and one of these days, at the wrong funeral, and certainly at the wrong time, I’m going to beat the fuck out of a preacher at a funeral, and I assure you, it’s going to be worth every moment I spend in jail for it. Might be soon. I kinda hope so just get it over with, truly.

 

There are only two kinds of people; those when they grow older get more religious, and those of us who despise it more.

 

I drove through Valdosta tonight. It was eerily quiet, as it would be in the first hours of a Tuesday, and thirty years or so ago I lived in this town, I still work here, and know which side roads connect to the main roads, and that’s something that the mind finds comforting, the familiarly of knowing where stuff is and how to get there. It’s also a rut, where the sides get higher and higher, and the path get more and more narrow, and I wonder at this very moment if in the same bedroom where I once slept is someone who is having these same thoughts about this same town, and if they’ll find a way out. I almost edited this paragraph but something told me to keep it. It’s important.

 

Something someone said stuck with me today, and I wonder if it will still be here tomorrow. I hope so, because I’m not done with it yet. I have to keep it in my mouth, like a toothpick, and dig around with it, and use it to find things, and maybe put it down somewhere and I might need it again. We are all different people depending on whose perception is being lived. I written things tonight, or this morning, that might seem violent or heretical, to some, and maybe someone else sees them as liberating. Certainly, those whose livelihood I threaten will see this as apostasy but that has nothing to do with me at all, even though it might seem evident.

 

You’re not likely to remember the last time you saw someone. You might remember it was at their house, or in their yard, or they were at some event, but will you remember how it felt to perceive this person, how you looked at them through the eyes of someone who might have really knew this person, or maybe you didn’t. Maybe you read something they wrote and then wondered what in the hell was that all about, or maybe you wanted to ask why, but do you remember what that person was feeling when you stood inside that personal space and shared the same oxygen?

 

If you’re over a certain age then you see a lot of it coming. You see people who have drank hard all their lives and you know that sooner or later it’s coming. But there are sudden events that take people away and you’re left with a memory of seeing that person in the store when both of you were in a hurry and the last thing you thought was, “Well thank god I got away from that before it lasted too long,” which might be what the other person was thinking, and maybe it’s a thought that has more meaning that you realized at the time.

 

It bothers me that she’s dead. It bothers me that some disease they can likely cure but won’t because there isn’t enough profit in it, killed her. It bothers me that I can’t go to the funeral because there is no longer a guarantee that I won’t simply have enough at some point and say something that’s going to leave a permanent scar. Take a moment with this thought, please, that there has to be a commercial for religion during a funeral because they have to strike at people when they are at their weakest emotional state.

 

They can’t get you to believe on pure merit because there isn’t any. There has to be blackmail and threats. Imagine the kind of god that needs that sort of extortion to have believers because that is what you have, you know.

 

When someone is murdered it changes how people look at them. They become a victim, a statistic in some way, of someone who was in the wrong place at the wrong time or with the wrong person, and their death defines part of who they are and who they were.

Preachers murder the dead. They have to make that person’s life connect with what they’re selling, like they are going to mention the dead person’s clothes were cleaner because they all used Tide Pods, and sometimes we’re talking about someone who hadn’t set foot in a church in decades but there the preacher is talking about how you aren’t going to see this person in heaven unless you join his religion.

 

It’s spiritual blackmail. It’s extortion. It’s a blatant lie.

 

These people do not own the afterlife and they don’t know a damn thing about what happens after we’re dead. They’re used car salesmen. They are con artists, liars, murderers of the spirit and thieves of the afterlife.

 

I can’t go to a funeral. I just might fight back.

 

Take Care,

Mike