Saturday, May 30, 2015

Yesterday, I Didn't Rape Anyone

I work at a campus of a large enterprise company. Every few hours, I like to take a break, bounding down four floors of stairs and walking the hallways of the lowest floor, then running back up those stairs, and ending up at my desk, panting wildly, but trying my best to act as if I'm hardly even winded.

As I take my usual strolls, I pass plenty of people. I also pass dark hallways and rooms, where, if I wanted to get lost, I could hide for quite a while. I also pass by quite a few beautiful women. And every single woman I pass (as well as men), I nod, sometimes acknowledging them with my voice. I love the fact that I work in a sea of humanity.

But, to this day, I haven't grabbed a woman, dragged her into a dark room, and raped her. What's surprising about this admission, is that I'm an atheist.

According to Ray Comfort, aka, Banana Man, during a "debate" with Matt Dillahunty, he began to list a large number of what his god considers to be sins. Amongst these sins, Ray listed 'rape'. His point was simple: The only reason an atheist refuses to acknowledge the existence of God was because he wants to continue doing what he wants - including rape. But, even worse, Comfort insisted that atheists view rape as a good thing, whereas God treats it as sin (a bad thing).

Essentially, without God, there is no reason not to rape a woman. Or, said a different way, the only reason one human being refuses to rape another human being is because there's a big fairy in the sky, holding a lightning bolt - no wait...that's Zeus...because God threatens hell fire for doing so.

This idea is echoed in  many of the loudest halls of Christianity. But it got me thinking. I wanted to figure out why, as a bloody atheist, I have yet to rape a woman. I mean, after all, I find the idea of a god to be laughable at best, full of ignorance at worst, thus opening me up to throwing all threats of divine punishment to the wind, and enjoying everything - because without God, even rape is perfectly permissible.

As I considered my lack of sinful enjoyments, I came up with the following list of very real reasons why I didn't rape anyone yesterday - or any day, for that matter:

1. I didn't want to

For some odd reason, I love it when I am in a relationship with a woman and she enjoys being in that relationship with me. Where there is love and a true "connection" with each other. That just isn't possible when I drag an unwilling subject by her hair, into my lair, and have my way with her. The idea simply doesn't even appeal to me. I shudder at the thought of a woman's fear, her tears, her screaming, her unwillingness. By gosh, I kinda want her to like me.

2. When I look at a woman, I'm not thinking only about sex (maybe not even at all)

Sure. I like sex. If you've read this blog long enough, you understand that about me. To me, it's the most meaningful connection I can have with a woman, within a loving relationship. I need to be touched and to touch. I need to know that I affect a woman in the most base of animalistic ways, causing her to desire me with abandon throughout her day, even when I'm not around.

But that's my sex life. It doesn't even begin to describe what a woman means to me. Being a software engineer, I can say, unequivocally, that no software department is worth a penny. without women on the team. The greatest single achievement our culture can do in this generation and the next, is to cultivate the minds and hearts of our female youth, to follow their hearts into the STEM fields. Personal experience. I will never back down from that.

But forgetting their gender for the moment, every human being is a ball of emotions, talents, desires, goals, and enough potential to put me to shame, every day and twice on Sunday. When I look at a woman, the first thing I think is, "I'd love to know what she does for a living!"

3. I didn't have a woman's consent

This is probably the most important reason. And it's a reason that the Christian theology of, "Without God, all things are permissible," brushes off with a shoulder shrug. Ray Comfort and his friends do not understand that there is a very human reason that prevents the vast majority of all humans from sexually violating their fellow humans - that the woman didn't say yes.

It's really that simple.

I don't need to fear some unseen being to stop me from looking at a woman that I'm sexually attracted to and, without her consent, rip her clothes off and violate her. I have zero desire to do anything so vile. 

4. The Golden Rule is actually kinda cool

I wouldn't want anyone raping me. Why would I do the same to them?

That's pretty much all the reasons I can think of, at the moment. But, look through them again and try and notice something. Do you see it? I'm sure you do - because it's bloody obvious:

Not one of those four reasons have anything to do with fear of consequences. 

Yep. Sure, I know that I would go to prison for a very long time, if I ever raped someone. Sure, I know that I would be reviled by most of the world. I would lose my friends and family. I would lose my job. In fact, not only would I lose my job, but I would never be able to walk into an interview and easily get another job - ever. I would be restricted to where I could live. I could never go near a school. A library. A sports stadium. Anywhere where I would come in contact with another human being, I would have the scarlet letter, "Sex Offender," on my record. My life would be over.

But those reasons don't even cross my mind. I am not prevented from raping a woman because of what may happen to me, when and if I get caught. Rather, I am prevented from raping a woman because the woman did not agree to be raped - and that matters very much to me.

And there you have the morality - yea...the superior morality - of those that do not not rape, because some god is looking down on them, wagging its finger, saying, "Nuh uh uh!!" And guess what, Ray Comfort, et al, I dare say, if you were honest with yourself, your reasons for not raping would line up pretty evenly with mine.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

And the Shoe Dropped: My Bride Lost Her Job Today

In my post from this morning, giving an update on our marriage counseling, I polished it off with the following paragraph:
Anyway, I'm just letting you all know, we're in a lull of goodness. Something bad is about to happen. I just know it. The next shoe is going to drop soon.
Little did I know that at that very moment, my wife had been called into the office of her company and was being laid off. The shoe did drop. 

The good news:

  • The company gave her two weeks severance
  • They extended her health care through June (our family of 8 relies on my wife's work for health coverage)
  • My bride HATED her job with a passion
  • The company had no clear path to raises or promotions and actually told my wife that she had no guarantee of a pay increase ever
  • She can now relax and work full time, finding a job that suits her
  • So much more good news...

The bad news:
  • This is hitting my wife hard, being that she graduated from college last fall, and has had hundreds of job applications rejected out of hand. Corporate America does not look kindly on a stay at home mom that wants to go back to work. Not to mention, she is very much a perfectionist.
But now is the time for me to shine and be the best damn husband there ever was. I think we'll party this weekend.

Marriage Counseling Update - May 28, 2015

I mentioned before, my bride and I are attending couples therapy, marriage counseling, whatever it's called. It's going well.

I have also talked, previously, about how we fight. How I fight, really. How I argue. And now, as a past tense, how I used to argue. I'm simply not into it anymore. In short, I was a veritable jackass. I've learned to listen and give a shit about what her side of the coin is all about. I've learned to step back and assess the situation and 

Now, before you get your hackles all in a hunch of pickles, our therapist is not "taking sides," proving to me that I am the sole problem. I'm all too familiar with the idea that men are always the problem and women are poor souls that must be coddled and treated with care as if they're a fragile flower that will wilt and whither away.

My wife wouldn't ever want to be viewed that way, anyway.

Rather, she is working with us, helping us to learn how to communicate properly, and giving us a wonderful foundation for solving any problems that come up during the day. It's amazing what you discover, when an objective third party is sitting across from you, listening to your stories and arguments.

It's not like we didn't love each other and all of a sudden discovered a passionate necking need. We loved, but had lost the ability to trust intentions. 

Anyway, I'm just letting you all know, we're in a lull of goodness. Something bad is about to happen. I just know it. The next shoe is going to drop soon.


I. C.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

My Daughter, the Connoisseur of Smooching

The Freak, my five-year-old, favorite child, always demands a hug and a kiss from me as I'm dropping her off at pre-school.

Today, I walked her to the cafeteria breakfast table, sat her down and began to walk away:

"Hug!" she yelled at my back.

So I spun around and sauntered back to the table, sat down on the bench beside her, and gave her a hug.

"Kiss!" she yelled in my ear, pursing out her lips.

I obliged, giving her a peck.


The next kiss I gave her was exactly like the first, but it apparently was a real kiss.

I really think you all should be asking her for advice when it comes to your proper kissing.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Sometimes, A Little Affirmation Is Nice - I Cried Today

Yesterday, I partook in my favorite activity - helping people move. My sister is going through some life changes and was forced to sell her dream home, so she put out a plea to the six siblings and their spouses, to come and help.

Wherever there's a truck to drive and free workouts, I'm in. I spent the rainy afternoon driving back and forth from the house to the destination, giving my kids rides, and testing the 0 - 60 capabilities of the 17-footer U-Haul truck. (It's 20 seconds, by the way).

My bride and all six kids were there, along with half-a-dozen other cousins. The kids all pitched in, then enjoyed themselves in all the echo-ey rooms, while we adults prepared lunch and did all the things that adults do when there is moving to be done.

Most of my siblings are some form of Christian, from devout fundamentalist, to John Piper-esque, to Sunday morning if you can roll out of bed every few months, to nearly ecumenical, unless in a theological discussion, to one devout and very pious atheist. The atheist doesn't talk much.

Then there's me. The odd ball of the bunch. I shirked my religious upbringings early on and was summarily treated with suspicion. I firmly believe that much of that treatment was inadvertent. Growing up in severe fundamentalist Christianity, as my siblings and most of their spouses did, it is difficult to accept a brother who jumps off the cliff, willingly, especially when children are involved.

And, quite frankly, my children are very inquisitive and curious. We talk about religion, theism, atheism, and life, all the time. Some of them have chosen to be super-atheist, while my 11-year-old wants desperately to believe in God, being that Grandpa is her favorite person in the whole world, and he believes in the sky fairy too.

And this is what mattered to my siblings. My children weren't like theirs. They had good children. Controlled. Godly. Mine were rambunctious and free. Sometimes a curse word would escape their lips. "Oh my god!" is a frequent phrase while doing flips on a trampoline, eating an ice cream cone with chocolate sprinkles on top. 

In my view, this bothered my brothers and sisters. They no longer came around. We were invited, less and less, to birthday parties, or just because. Family passed us by. We hurt for a while, then shrugged and moved on.

But, just once...I wanted someone to see that I did a damn good job as a parent, even if I wasn't forcing them to love a dead guy because he poured his blood on them.

As the moving progressed, I lost track of my kids. Except for the ones I was entertaining in the truck, I only caught glimpses of them, playing with the cousins, holding babies, eating cookies, and drinking pop.

The day ended and we went our merry ways. I thought nothing more of my siblings, as work called me to put my nose into programming an application the entirety of Memorial Day.

Then I received a text from my oldest sister, the contents of which read:
Just have to let you know...Your kids are awesome! They're so gentle and kind with other kids, as well as creatively helping them to solve problems. Plus, they are so friendly and respectful! :D Great job guys! ;) 
All I could think to respond with was, "Fuck me! God damn! Thank the ever living Christ for that!" 

And I cried.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Duggars' Moral Superiority: A Religious Right Stronghold, Exposed

The Bible says, in Romans 3:23, "For the wages of sin is death..."

This verse is very well known to both fundamentalist Christians, to which the Duggar clan belong, as well as evangelical Christianity. Sin is a big deal. It requires all humans to die. According to the book of Genesis, the fact that Adam and Eve ate the fruit of 'The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil', meant that sin was passed down to every human being. Sin was the one genetic thing that everyone got equally.

But the 'death,' spoken of in the book of Romans, wasn't speaking of when we die here on this earth. It was speaking of the eternal death, experienced by those who didn't willingly receive the 'Gift of God'. This gift is mentioned in the next half of the Roman 3:23 verse, "...but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ, our Lord".

This gets to the basic doctrinal foundation of the Duggar approach to life. Jesus died on the cross for their sins. They were born with original sin, though the Duggars would never call it that, being that they would be accused of believing in Catholic doctrine, but the essence of the belief is exactly the same. Not only did they inherit the sin of Adam, but they also were guaranteed to actively sin as a mortal human being.

But, not to worry, Christianity has that all fixed up. John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish (die), but have eternal life!"

See? Forgiven. All sins do not matter to the eternal soul of the forgiven. To the Christian, this is a beautiful idea. God is so loving, that he killed his son, shedding the holy blood from his body, to wash us clean of our vile selves.

But let's examine that idea a little more closely.

Psalm 103:12 says, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has [God] removed our transgressions (sin) from us."

This means, once we're "saved", having "believed on the Lord Jesus Christ", trusting that everything the Bible says about him is true, we are no longer a stench to the nostrils of God, but everything we have done, are doing, and will do, that is defined as sin, is now covered by the blood of Jesus. We are sinful no more.

This doctrine is what allows the Duggars to easily say, "God has forgiven us." But, even worse, it also allows the Duggars to turn to the victims of Josh's sexual abuse and say, "God has forgiven Josh!" The victim is then obligated to forgive, as God has forgiven the perpetrator of the sexual abuse. Doing otherwise would be the same as claiming that you were better than God.

As you can see, the consequences for sin, in the Duggar's world, are not of this world. They are eternal. If you die in your sins, having not believed in Jesus, you go to hell, dying an eternal death. If you are forgiven of your sins, having believed in Jesus, you live an eternal life, going to heaven to be with God and his son Jesus.

Contrast this with our system of laws that focuses on the consequences of sin (that which the law considers as criminal) being earthly. If you break a law, you pay the consequences in this life.

The Religious Right claims that America will be destroyed because those that are in charge of our government don't base their laws on God's morality, but on human morality. Even when what they consider as God's morality, converges with our system of laws, somehow it is still inferior to God's morality.

Consider the felonies that Josh Duggar was accused of. Sexually molesting a minor. The consequences for his sin are eternal. He will die a horrible, eternally burning death, in the fires of hell, for his crimes. Except he won't - because he is forgiven, having believed in Jesus. Consequences on this earth, under America's system of laws, are redundant and unnecessary.

This is why, JimBob and Michelle, hiding the accusations for a year and then waiting out the statute of limitations, threatening to hire a lawyer when the heat got too hot on their son, is a perfectly reasonable approach to illegal activity. Due to the moral superiority of God vs. the laws of men (and women), their consequences have already been dealt with.

That sheds light on another concept in the doctrine of sin: Consequences.

Sin has consequences. In fact, the greater the consequences, the farther those that adhere to the doctrine of sin get to puff their chests out with pride. What greater consequences than eternal hell is there for partaking in the pleasures of life, that the Religious Right and the Duggars consider to be sinful? 

They point to the unbeliever as sinful, due to the fact that this unbeliever ignorantly believes that there are no consequences for sin. They mock their sure path to hell.

Except, the unbeliever (as well as those that don't treat laws as lightly as the Duggars) doesn't, in fact, believe there are no consequences for breaking the law. They actually have set up a system of consequences for morality being broken - the same consequences Josh Duggar shirked because his god forgave him of his vile actions. The consequences are very real. They are not imaginary consequences that have already been conveniently avoided forever.

Finally, let's forget about the consequences of Josh's actions, with respect to Josh. We, as a society, view the effects of those actions on the victims, much more highly than the doctrine of sin and forgiveness of those sins views them.

In that world, there is no recompense for the victims. Josh was forgiven by the same god that forgave them for their sins. Thus, since God forgave Josh, they must forgive Josh. End of story. There is no room for the ramifications of Josh's sin on the victims. The entire focus is on Josh. The ramifications of sin (Josh's eternal death) have been taken care of, permanently. Again, there is no focus on the victims. Should they have sinned by inviting Josh's advances, though, that would have been forgiven as well. But that's as far as it goes.

This is why we see every single statement that comes out of the Duggar clan, focusing on the forgiveness that Josh was granted from God. Nowhere is there a concern for the future effects of Josh's actions on the victims. They didn't sin (that we know of), so what happens to them is truly irrelevant. Their only task is to forgive Josh, then move on with their sinless lives.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Garlic Cheerios, The Snack of the Future

The kids were hungry. 

Luckily, Costco recently had a sale on Cheerios, selling them for almost $1.50 for a family size box. I had grabbed the maximum amount (8 boxes) and thus had enough cereal for a few days of six kids' appetites.

But it was supper time and I was tired. I needed something quick to allay their hunger enough so I could prepare more courses for dinner over the next few hours. Moving slow is my MO.

I grabbed a frying pan and dumped about a cup of olive oil in the bottom of it, pouring half a box of Cheerios over the top. Then, I turned the fire on high and slithered and slathered those delicious round nuggets of goodness, until their surface was covered in the pungent oil.

As they heated up, I shook garlic powder on them. Stirred. Then seasoned salt. Stirred. Then freshly ground pepper (a dash). Stirred. Then more garlic powder and more stirring.

The oat morsels began to brown and sizzle. The house filled with the scent of garlicky goodness.

I took it off the heat, dumped it in a bowl, and called the kids into the dining room.

Five minutes later, I made garlic Cheerios out of the rest of the box. And that was supper.


Fuck You, Faceless Victims. God Forgave Us: The Josh Duggar Saga, Part Deux

Josh's wife, Anna, has released a statement. More of the same navel gazing, only caring about the aggressor, Josh, and having not a care in the world for the victims, except to note that Josh 'sought their forgiveness'.
I can imagine the shock many of you are going through reading this. I remember feeling that same shock. It was not at the point of engagement, or after we were married - it was two years before Josh asked me to marry him. When my family and I first visited the Duggar Home, Josh shared his past teenage mistakes. I was surprised at his openness and humility and at the same time didn't know why he was sharing it. For Josh he wanted not just me but my parents to know who he really was -- even every difficult past mistakes. At that point and over the next two years, Josh shared how the counseling he received changed his life as he continued to do what he was taught. And when you, our sweet fans, first met me when Josh asked me to marry him... I was able to say, "Yes" knowing who Josh really is - someone who had gone down a wrong path and had humbled himself before God and those whom he had offended. Someone who had received the help needed to change the direction of his life and do what is right. I want to say thank you to those who took time over a decade ago to help Josh in a time of crisis. Your investment changed his life from going down the wrong path to doing what is right. If it weren't for your help I would not be here as his wife — celebrating 6 1/2 years of marriage to a man who knows how to be a gentleman and treat a girl right. Thank you to all of you who tirelessly work with children in crisis, you are changing lives and I am forever grateful for all of you.
I highlighted the important parts that truly show the focus of Anna. Her greatest concern is how her 'sweet fans' view her husband.  While I don't disparage that, and actually think that it is a necessary step in any relationship (openness, honesty, love, and forgiveness for past behaviors), three things become clear in her words.
  1. Her statement is directed toward her 'sweet fans,' making it seem clear that this is a celebrity driven statement.
  2. The only mention of the victims is through the eyes of Josh, the aggressor, where she mentions that he 'humbled himself' before them.
  3. Sexually violating minors, including your sisters, multiple times, cannot be dismissed as a mistake.
Seriously, Duggars. You know the drill. I was you once. We knew what sin was. You were supposed to flog yourself for your entire life over it. Sexual sins were the worst kind. In fact, most fundamentalist churches didn't let you serve in a position of leadership if you had been divorced previously. My church nearly kicked me out because I had premarital sex.

Sin is a BIG DEAL in that culture! We never called sin "a mistake." Where is this rhetoric coming from? Is it because Josh was a child (teen) when this happened?  Or is it because of the money and spotless image that you're going to lose.

Why can't you talk about the subject in the vile terms that it actually was?

And it isn't a mistake when your daddy fights to keep it under wraps, by hiring a lawyer. It isn't a mistake when your daddy waits for a year to report the incidents. It just isn't a mistake.

And the victims. Your own sisters-in-law, among others, potentially more. How would it make you feel, Anna, if all the public statements about a filthy young man, who violated you, destroying the innocence of your childhood, focused on HIS humility, and how God forgave HIM! And summarily dismissed your feelings, because, after all, they don't really matter. By gosh, Josh humbled himself before you, and God forgave him.

Also, keep this very key thought in your mind:

Your culture teaches you that it is up to the woman to not cause a man to stumble. So was it the little girls' fault? Were they dressed provocatively? Did they lead Josh on?

Try again with the public statement.


I. C.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Fuck You, Faceless Victims. God Forgave Us: The Josh Duggar Saga

So Josh Duggar sexually violated five girls, including family members. This we know. He touched their breasts and genitals. This we also know, from the police report. Josh has resigned his cushy job as Executive Director of FRC Action, the virulently anti-everything (especially the gayz) political arm of the Family Research Council, also anti-gay. This we also know.

But not to worry. It's all fixed up. God forgave Josh and his daddy for not reporting the abuse for a whole year. We know this because, gee golly, they said so!
Even though we would never choose to go through something so terrible, each one of our family members drew closer to God. We pray that as people watch our lives they see that we are not a perfect family. We have challenges and struggles every day. It is one of the reasons we treasure our faith so much because God's kindness and goodness and forgiveness are extended to us – even though we are so undeserving. We hope somehow the story of our journey – the good times and the difficult times – cause you to see the kindness of God and learn that He can bring you through anything. - Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar
 Let's parse this pathetic rape apologist bullshit:
 Even though we would never choose to go through something so terrible...
Please tell me how this was not your choice? Did wonder-boy, Josh accidentally touch the girls? Did perfect dad, JimBob, trip and fall on his way to report the crime to the police, preventing him from doing so for an entire year? Or, are you saying that your god granted you this sorrowful test, giving you this trial in this life, so your righteousness can be refined?

But...the victims. The girls.

...each one of our family members drew closer to God.
Fuck your family members. Who gives a rats ass about your family (except, of course, the sisters of Joshie Boy that he fingered). If your god cares more about how your family went through something terrible, than to love and make whole again, the lives of those Josh sexually abused, then fuck your god. He's not worthy of anyone's praise.
We pray that as people watch our lives they see that we are not a perfect family.
You don't say. But, guys...we're not worried about the tarnishing of your perfect image here. Well...most of us, anyway.  Your Gothardite and fundagelical fans are yelling, "They're covered by the blood of Jesus!" No no...we already knew you weren't perfect, according to the old adage that nobody is. But this isn't a 'sweep under the rug,' nobody's perfect moment. No, this is much worse than that.
We have challenges and struggles every day.
 Like fingering little girls? Challenges? Struggles? Okay...struggles makes a little bit of sense. But, Jesus...challenges????!!!! But no...if one of you is 'struggling' with sexual advances toward non-consenting little girls, that is an issue that needs to be dealt with. It cannot be wrapped up with other daily challenges and struggles like children forgetting to flush the damn toilet.

But wait...they are about to say that Jesus helps them.

It is one of the reasons we treasure our faith so much because God's kindness and goodness and forgiveness are extended to us – even though we are so undeserving.
They did!!!!!! God forgave Josh! God forgave JimBob! Puh-raaaaaaze JESUS!!! Everything is better now. The show can go on. 

But the girls. What about them?
We hope somehow the story of our journey – the good times and the difficult times – cause you to see the kindness of God and learn that He can bring you through anything.
Journey? Now this is just part of a journey? Right on. 

It's all about the Duggars. That much is clear. They have NO INTEREST in the victims being made whole again, EXCEPT that Josh asked them to forgive him and, according to their religious expectations, they did.

BOOM! The girls are all fixed up. The show can go on! Move along now. Nothing to see here.

Isn't God great!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Secular Theocracy: There is no such thing

One of the favorite mantras of the Religious Right, and those GOP candidates that are running for President of the United States, as well as talking-head politicians that like to get their face on television, is that they can insert religion into our government, by mandate, based on the fact that atheist, Satanists, and otherwise other evil people have created a Secular Theocracy.

Thus, by the air-tight logic of "I can do it because you did it," they can create their own theocracy, using the One True God, rather than whatever they deem the atheists, Satanists, and otherwise nefarious blokes consider their god/s. Only, if you ask them if they plan on creating a theocracy, they will waffle around, deny it, then turn the conversation back to the fact that the secularist (atheists, Satanists, and otherwise naughty peeps) community has successfully created a Secular Theocracy, etc., etc.

There's a small problem: There is no such thing as a Secular Theocracy.

By definition, it just isn't possible.

Denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis.

A system of government in which priests rule in the name of God or a god.

God or god

The biblical creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority; the supreme being.

A superhuman being or spirit worshiped as having power over nature or human fortunes; a deity.

As you can see, the definition of 'theocracy' needs a god. By definition, 'secular' cannot have a deity. Thus, you cannot have a Secular Theocracy.

But then, the slippery blokes claim that government is the atheists', Satanists', and otherwise horrid mindbots' god, thus smugly concluding that the American government is, in fact, a secular theocracy. But, the definition of 'secular' doesn't even remotely account for that probability.

What the Religious Right and their allies truly desire is what I alluded to in the second paragraph - the ability to statutorily mandate all sorts of theocratic laws - "because Johnny did it too."  Except, Johnny didn't. Johnny...well...Washington, Jefferson, et al, divined a form of government that actually protected the religious from persecution by specifically not mandating a favored creed, even though many of them actually believed in God and spoke of him at length!

Religion (God/gods) have no place in our government, and yet our system of government provides a place for religion to flourish.

So flourish!

Oh are!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Effects of Mental and Emotional Abuse

That cold, January morning, was an exciting day, not only for me, but for the entire state of Minnesota. We, as a state, had always suffered, immeasurably, under horrible sports teams. 

The Minnesota Twins were coming off eight or nine losing seasons with stars like Alex Ochoa, and...well...Kirby Puckett had lost vision in his eye, so there wasn't anyone else. The Vikings had hung around mediocrity for so long, everyone expected them to stay there - until that year.

Fresh off a 15-win season, the Vikings were in the last round of the playoffs. Win this game and they would go on to the Big Dance. Randall Cunningham was our quarterback, tossing touchdowns to the best receiver in the history of football - Randy Moss. Number 84.  

I loved this team. At the time, I could name every player, knew every face, and could dictate to anyone who asked, every single play of every single game, for the entire season. I knew this, because I had listened to every game, under my pillow, on an old transistor radio.

Every Sunday, I would sneak up to my bedroom, hoping my abusive mother wouldn't catch me going upstairs, crawl into the top bunk, take the radio out from under the mattress, turn it on so quietly that it had to be right up to my ear to hear the calls of the game, and listen, racing back downstairs on the commercials.

This January morning was different, though. For some reason, I was in the dank, damp basement, listening to the game under the stairs. I could hear footsteps above me as the Vikings marched down the field. I knew which footsteps belonged to whom. My single mother's were very distinct. She was obviously sitting on her couch, reading her Christian reading material, lost in the conflicts of the Middle East, seeing the only solution as, "everyone needed Jesus."

The Vikings lost the ball. Atlanta marched down the field, getting into field goal range. They kicked the ball and the entire state held its collective breath, hoping beyond all hope, that the nearly perfect boot man would miss. The ball sailed through the uprights as time expired. 

The state shrugged.

Another season. Hopes dashed again. Except, this time, our hopes were raised up to a level we hadn't seen (or remembered) since the 1970's. 

I was crushed. I had fallen in love with this team. Every Sunday was an exercise in three hours of terror, thinking I would be caught, red-handed, at any moment, coupled with the sheer joy of circumventing my mother's inconsistent rules, and dodging the inevitable, nearly life-ending beating I would incur, should I get caught, just to feel the camaraderie of millions of other souls, being just like me - watching a game. And now it was over.

Nonetheless, my childhood was just beginning to flower. My independent spirit lit a small spark inside me, deep down. I was going to be somebody, someday, uncontrolled by my mother, far from the beating hand of the one who called herself, "authority, by God." I had proven that through the grueling season, never getting caught, learning new ways to hide, enjoying what I wanted to do.

I was 19.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Please Help Brianne Buy An Ergonomic Chair - $178.00

From time to time, I ask my readers to help me buy things for people. In the past, we successfully purchased a lawnmower for Darcy, an ex-fundamentalist, struggling in rural Montana, raised more money for Darcy, when her husband was in a severe car accident, made note of a new book, written by Katy-Anne, to help her with funds for her fledgling family, as well as varied other campaigns to help normal people with living expenses, and even a sweatshirt hoodie for a single mom.

Now, I'm asking for donations for another individual. $178.00 to be exact. I want to get her an ergonomic chair. The description of the campaign is below:

Brianne is a single mother, working full time, and is in chronic pain, currently undergoing copious medical testing to arrive at a diagnosis.  
The company she works for has finally given her the go-ahead to work from home, and yet has not provided much in the way of ergonomic comfort for her condition.
She cannot change jobs, due to the need to maintain medical insurance.  
Currently, Brianne is working from her kitchen, sitting on a wooden chair for eight solid hours a day. Obviously, this would end up hurting any normal person, but, for Brianne and her chronic pain, it hurts even more. 
All I am asking is to contribute enough to purchase a very good ergonomic chair, including shipping. I found one on for $160 + $17.99 shipping. It was originally over $400, so is good quality. 
Please help one person feel better.
Please donate here.


I. C.  

The Girl With the Grace Tattoo: One Woman's Journey Out of Christian Fundamentalism

You can buy the book on Amazon, here. (ISBN: 1508475342 - Kindle: $8.99. Paperback: $14.95)The proceeds go to supporting Katy-Anne and her family. Buy the book. The little you spend will go a long way to not only helping Katy-Anne, but also shining a light on the sickness of Christian fundamentalism. Katy-Anne Binstead describes the sexual abuse and consequent fundamentalist apologetics in the book below:

Christian fundamentalism said that my nine year old self was a slut.
I was sexually abused for the first time when I was just nine years old, it happened at school and was done to me by an older boy. I had no idea what had happened to me, but I pretty much shut down talking about sex or puberty or adolescence with anyone, and so my mom got a book from the library for me to read when I was fourteen. 
When I read that book, I finally understood what had been happening to me all those years, and I didn't want to return the book to the library because it was so freeing to actually know what had happened to me. However, the freedom in knowing what had happened didn't give me any more freedom beyond that because I blamed myself and if I shared with the fundamentalists, they blamed me too. 
I was nine years old when I was first touched, and the first time I told a fundamentalist pastor that, he asked me what I had been wearing. I had been wearing the school uniform, bought by my parents, but the pastor told me I should have asked for a longer skirt and said if I was going to wear short uniform skirts it was an invitation to the boys and that I couldn't blame them for taking me up on my offer. He told me that at nine years old I was old enough to know exactly what I was doing and that I must have secretly enjoyed it and that further attacks were also my fault because I continued to wear short uniform skirts.  
Although I read several books that told me my sexual abuse wasn't my fault, that message was quickly undermined by fundamentalism. I developed breasts on the early end of average and when I was eleven and in sixth grade, there was a boy at school who constantly fondled my breasts, as if he owned them. 
The fundamentalists couldn't really blame what I was wearing because, although I was wearing the uniform, the uniform was a polo shirt and there was absolutely no way of showing off any cleavage in a polo shirt. So they told me that I must have secretly wanted it and that I encouraged it by my actions, and by the fact that I never reported it. 
When I told a fundamentalist pastor about being raped with an object by my father, he told me that I hadn't been raped, that my ten year old self had committed adultery because the Old Testament commands a young woman to cry out if she is raped or else she is complicit. 
I never understood how they thought I could cry out when this was a person that I knew and who I perceived as an authority and a person that I loved. This pastor told me that I needed to repent of my rebellion and ask my mom to forgive me for committing adultery with her husband. Although I had a vague idea at ten about what committing adultery was, I wasn't knowledgeable in the specifics. And besides, he had raped me with an object, so I hadn't actually done anything. But apparently laying there crying in fear didn't mean anything because I didn't scream and make things worse for myself at the time. 
In my effort to survive the attack, I was told I had committed adultery and deserved to be stoned to death for my sin. At the time he told me that, I believed him, although I could never bring myself to ask my mom’s forgiveness like I had been told to. 
It wasn't until many years later that I wondered what grade of crack I’d been smoking to think that a ten year old deserved to be executed by having a crowd of people hurl large rocks at her because she was too scared to scream while being sexually attacked. The truth was I hadn't smoked any crack at all, but fundamentalism was just as damaging to my mind. 
Buy the book

Sunday, May 3, 2015

How Our Marriage Seems to Our Kids

As I've written before, here and here, my perfect marriage is nothing but perfect. If you decided to sit at my feet and write a how-to manual, based on my nearly 14 years of bliss, your marriage would fail. That's the curse of relationship perfection - it only works for that relationship.

One day, I sent my son upstairs to drop off a few blankets. My brother-in-law and his wife were living up in the third-floor suite for a few months. They were wonderful tenants. We've had a lot of people bed down up there, either passing through, or just to stay for a while. This couple takes the cake.

My boy bounced back down the steep stairs and softly shut the door to the third floor.

"Daddy, they're fighting up there," he said in a near whisper.

"Yep. Married people fight sometimes. It'll more than likely be okay," I softly called after him as he walked down the hallway.

As I turned to walk after him, my 13-year-old daughter called me from her bedroom.

"Daddy, are they going to get a divorce?"

I chuckled a bit at the question, but answered her, matter-of-factly, "Mommy and Daddy fight sometimes and we aren't divorced."

"I know, Daddy, but nobody knows how to make up like you and Mommy do. That's why other people get divorced."

Sometimes, I wish I had the faith my kids have in me. Adults understand that relationships that work are relationships that are worked on. But, for her to see the fruits of our labor in such an innocent and trusting light, made me smile and laugh.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Don't Forget to Check the Oil

I despise checking the oil in my car. Hate it with a passion. Hell, my microwave can work for fifty years without me doing anything but cleaning it. 

But checking it I must. Oil gets all nasty. Crap gets in it. It goes from delicious brown to black. And that's the extent of my knowledge of oil.

But really, this post isn't about oil. It's about relationships.

I was talking to a dear friend today.

"I'm about to ask my husband a very hard question," she said.


"Yes. I want to know if he still wants to be with me."


Yes, good. She's fearful of the answer she'll get, and yet, it is a wonderful question to ask.

I recently wrote a post of how religion has the potential to lull you into an understanding of your lover from an external point of view, and yet there is something even more insidious in long term relationships - time and familiarity.

Just stop. You new lovers...I'm not buying it.

"This won't happen to us! We're so in love! When we mash our lips together and drool into each other's mouths, the McDonald's sandwich we still have in our teeth from lunch - six hours ago - provides a spicy mix of onion and saliva. It just turns us both on so much!"


Anyway, just ask. You'll be glad you did - or maybe you'll learn that you should have, a long time ago. Maybe you'll discover the answer and it will cause you to grieve. Maybe you'll both learn new things about each other. Maybe you'll discover that, for years, you've been ships, passing in the night. Maybe....anything. Just check the oil.

Warning: Don't be like me and keep asking. Checking your oil every day is bloody pointless - and the car's hood (bonnet) might one day, fall on your head.

The Lulling of Religion in Relationships

Note: This post is specifically about me and my bride (from my perspective) and makes no wide-swath assumptions about the relationships of others, within religion, and those that have tossed off what I consider to be 'the shackles' of religion.

On September 1, 2015, I will have been married to my favorite lover for 14 years. We will have weathered a shitload of things that, to me, feel like nobody else has had to go through. Navel-gazing aside, the fact that we are still together, is a testament to the strength of our love.

A few weeks ago, we had one of our 'discussions' that basically called World War III on our marriage. At different points in the argument, both of us wanted to give up for good. When I considered it, it was more of a fleeting thought, here and there, with bouts of heavy consideration.

We didn't understand each other anymore.

And here is where I switch pronouns:

I sure thought we did, but it was a pile of assumptions, derived over a decade of artificial ideas of who a general female and male were, under the lens of the specific brand of Christianity we nominally belonged to.

I won't go into much detail about those assumptions, but, suffice it to say that I thought I had it all figured out. I knew I loved her deeply, or thought I did, and yet, we had fallen into a rut.

When we were married, I was very religious - and convincing. We decided against using birth control, that I would make all the decisions in our marriage, that she would submit to me, that we would go to church every Sunday, that we would both vote Republican, that we would pray together as a family, that I would be the spiritual leader, that I would be the only one to work out of the home, that she would be a stay-at-home mom, etc. We had so many rules and ideas of how I was supposed to be a man, not to mention, how she was supposed to be a woman.

Then, about four years ago, I began to thoroughly toss off those preconceptions of male and female. Except, I approached it from an externally theoretical standpoint, learning about how humans lived without religion, and not how she personally did so.

The divergence of my understanding of who she was and who she really was, began to grow. At one point in the last few months, I told her two things: First, that I understood her perfectly, and second, that I didn't really need her to finish her thoughts, being that I knew them already. After all, we'd been married for so damn long, why wouldn't I know them.

I saw both of those statements as 'off-the-cuff' comments. She saw them as indicative of how she was invisible to me. I couldn't understand why she took them so personally - until she scheduled couples therapy.

Yeah. Couples therapy.

Dammit. I was awesome! We were awesome! Again, we had weathered so much shit, just the fact that we still had the same address in the same county of the same state of the same country, was proof that we had nothing to work on.  Like hell I needed counseling. SHE needed counseling. She wasn't hearing me or caring to know who I was. 

It really wasn't that cut and dry, for me, though. I knew that I had issues that needed to be dealt with, and I also knew that, for the years since leaving religion, I was struggling to be able to see her outside of that lens. Religion had defined who she was supposed to be to me. When I tossed off those definitions, I was left in a sort of no man's land. But, rather than really learning who she was, I used the same tools I had used in religion - ignoring the person, and coming to "obvious" conclusions, myself.

It seems so clear, now, how odd that sort of thinking is, but, when I am in it, I am blind to everything else.

I went to therapy anyway.

Yes. I decided to go. But I was skeptical. I thought that the therapist wouldn't listen to my side of anything, being that I can be very hurtful to my wife when I am misunderstood - or really anytime I want to be. (Don't get the wrong idea that I'm this hurt and lost puppy, trying desperately to eke out some unrequited love from my bride. Hell no. I had problems and I knew it.)

As anyone who has been to a good therapist knows, every time you walk into their office, holding a gaggle of issues that you are convinced will bring them to their knees, admitting to you that you are perfect, they do this weird sort of head-fake, and come at you from a direction you never even considered.

And that was exactly what I needed.

Me, stuck in this rut of my own thoughts, feeling like I understood everything about my wife, and yet seeming to miss the mark, routinely, then assuming that the missed mark was simply her not understanding my understanding of her, so trying to convince her of who she was and who I was from hundreds of alternate angles - and then a third party comes in and knocks me on my ass.

I'm not naive enough to think that a few sessions with this lovely therapist completely "fixed" me or us. It hasn't. But what it has done, is it has given me new tools to be able to learn who my bride is all over again. Yes. My bride. Who SHE is. Not who I think she is. Not who others tell me she should be. But her.