A to Z Challenge 2020 (D=Déjà vu)

I recall one day as a child walking with my parents to the park where the county courthouse was (and is) along with a bronze statue of a deer upon which the tradition is to be photographed. I was about seven years old. I told everyone that I had been to this place before. I was certain of it. I don’t recall who told me that I had not been there, and that I was imagining it. But I think it was my father.

It was the only real déjà vu event in my life, that I can recall so vividly. If I went to the town where I grew up, I can stand on the exact spot where I said and felt it.

I’ve never forgotten. Then, one day about 5 years ago I was going through old photo albums and found a picture of me on the courthouse deer with my mother. She had to hold me up, so I was between six months and two years of age. I had been there before.

There were no pictures of my father. I had been there years earlier, probably with my mother and her sisters while Dad was at work. Déjà vu means “already seen” and indeed I had already seen as I thought. My memory was an actual memory within the confines of my actual life.

One of the issues with a woo-woo déjà vu experience is the feeling of strangeness, which is common. It happens often. My skepticism is, in terms of it being a lost memory (that is plausible), past lives (not so plausible), clairvoyance (nope), or other mystical and misguided explanations, there is a real-world explanation.

What we should focus on is the real. The feeling that may be caused by a brain state or things that precede brain temporal lobe epilepsy attacks or hallucinations. This, too, is common.

And I love the trite phrase, it’s déjà vu all over again. What’s your story?

Bill

A to Z Challenge 2020 (B=Backmasking)

Backward Satanic Messages come from playing musical lyrics backward, not that many music lovers would do that. I do listen to Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven sometimes, but I am never inclined to ask Pandora to play it backwards. The people who believe nonsense like this are those who cannot see or hear anything without trying to figure out how Satan plays into it (SNL Church Lady).

Someone has so much time on their hands that they listen to music, play it backwards, and hear messages (satanic or whatever), then manage to convince others of their discovery.

…Ooh, it makes me wonder
Ooh, it makes me wonder

There’s a feeling I get
When I look to the west
And my spirit is crying for leaving
In my thoughts I have seen
Rings of smoke through the trees
And the voices of those who standing looking

Ooh, it makes me wonder
Ooh, it really makes me wonder….”

I have so much time on my hands, I write about it. To be clear, I think this back-masking nonsense is more religious crap that no one, even most religious folks, should believe.

Bill

A to Z Challenge 2020 (A=Angel Therapy)


Angel therapy is new age woo-woo claiming effective psychotherapy based on the idea that communicating with angels brings healing as the angel guides the patient.

I don’t remember ever trying to communicate with an angel, but I probably did. As a child, I was taught that we all had a guardian angel to guide each of us through life. I am certain that said guardian never said a word to me. If there ever was one, I’m sure he quit in frustration.

That is what this form of therapy (let’s not forget the therapist) is all about. It sounds copy-cat to me. Yesterday mine told me to wear a mask and gloves into the grocery store, even though I had no intention of robbing the place, although they did seem to have an unguarded supply of TP.

I should have acquired at least one roll to wipe up BS like this.

Bill


How’s That?

“Some believers accuse skeptics of having nothing left but a dull, cold, scientific world. I am left with only art, music, literature, theatre, the magnificence of nature, mathematics, the human spirit, sex, the cosmos, friendship, history, science, imagination, dreams, oceans, mountains, love, and the wonder of birth. That’ll do for me.” ― Lynne Kelly

It seems that for some, if not most, being a thinking conscious creature is not enough. I have no idea what anyone thinks, let alone most. I try to accept what others say they think at face value, but even that is often filtered information, which is probably just as well. I don’t want to have this discussion with any believers (an event also shunned by Kelly), but I do want to highlight my personal experience because it was something I did not expect.

In the Lynne Kelly quote, reality is depicted as cold and dull by the believer or god-worshiper point of view. My experience was the reverse. One day everything was possible because god did it. Eh! Yay god and all that, but I also felt like saying, So what? If god is so omni-amazing-everything, what’s the big deal? Surely a god can do better than this. Right?

After I’d cleared all the god stuff from my world view and how I envisioned or saw the universe, everything became wonderous and amazing, just the opposite of what Oprah Winfrey thinks about how atheists must see the world or universe. She doesn’t know, but sadly, she thinks she does. Yes. I was more in awe of magic without gods (or woo-woo), than I ever was as either a believer or seeker.

I appreciate the fact of life, existence, and my personal reality more than ever before. After standing up as atheist (which simply means god isn’t, in my case), I discovered how amazing everything is, even if it means a universe that is on its own and random. I am pleased to be me, unbeholden to any spirit, god, guardian angel, patron saint, or talk show host.

But to make a couple of points here, I have never in my many years had anyone tell me how embracing their atheism made them sad. Indeed, some miss church socialization and fellowship stuff. I get that. I never missed it, but I understand how others might feel that loss. My experience was probably due to my personal circumstances.

Second, while I accept that everyone has a dark side, most people seem wonderful to me. When I encounter some jerk on earth, I need to remember the nine or more good people I also met.

So, with a nod to Lynne Kelly: me, too. I’m not in the business of contributing to deconversions, but I would if I could. That is because my experience was better. What I can do is share my personal experience, strength, and hope through an awareness not given through any religion.

Like Dr. Phil is wont to ask, “How’s that workin’ for ya?” It feels just mighty fine.

Bill

Some things just are.

Essay: Learning Reality

I’ve lived most of my life thinking god is either likely or unlikely. I suppose that’s normal for many people. Did I believe in a god? Who was I trying to please by playing along?

At times, I have said something about being agnostic. However, I never said I did not think a god existed until a few years ago. But that’s what I thought. The only conversations on the topic that I recall were with people who claimed to believe not only in god, but who also thought their religion was correct.

While I tried to believe that a god existed, I considered virtually all religion as nonsense regardless of whether any god existed. In the case of Christianity, some denominations seemed more looney than others. That was my point of view even when I acknowledged only the good side of religion. Now I more clearly see the dark side of religion. My opinion feels balanced.

Over the years, I probably worked harder at not being a nonbeliever (which I seemed to be) than I did at being a believer (which I wasn’t), if my double negative comments make sense. That is for me what religion is all about, at least on the surface. Oddly enough, I never had much of a cognitive dissonance issue with this conundrum. I assumed that I wasn’t getting it.

This back and forth (or on and off) went on for a long time. During the last twelve years of my experience in the deep end of the Christianity pool, I was all-in; meaning I was on a mission to fix my 40+ years of personal doubt. What happened was the opposite. I changed from a quiet (keep it to myself) skeptic going through the motions. I became an outspoken atheist who loves to say there are no gods. Prove me wrong if you can. I’m justly called cantankerous for less.

When I was silent (practicing religion or not), I was never asked to prove anything. I was never asked to provide a meaning for my life. No one asked me how humans and animals came into existence, even though I’d reconciled evolution with Genesis. Others seemed more willing to inform me of how the Universe popped up from nothingness (whatever that is), than to ask how I thought that had happened.

One does not need to come out as either atheist or agnostic. But we should when it’s safe. Depending on the situation, claiming to be deist might work. Or, one can also simply stay away from religious practice and admit to not having a church ‘home’ or no religion: to being a none. But that opens the door to proselytization.

Many folks make exactly that choice, and no one hates or fears them as with an atheist. I know some self-proclaimed Christians who are a party of one as far as proclaiming denominational alignment. They claim to be anti-church or anti-organized religion. Maybe it’s complicated.

My wife and I have always had friends, family, neighbors, or workmates who were involved with religion. That social aspect of our lives may account for several efforts of accommodating various Christian denominations. All of which fell apart for some legitimate reason.

My search has ended. I find it interesting that I spent such effort, time, money, and talent trying to be (and apply) something that was never a serious intellectual or mindful part of me. I thought I was missing out. While I never felt a spiritual loss, I was socially missing something. Something I now scoff at.

Unfortunately, some folks don’t understand why I have no regrets about trying. Others seem to proclaim regret for a religious past. Perhaps it was psychologically damaging to them, or maybe they regret wasted time and effort. I learned things about myself and human nature during those years. It is a reality of my life. How can I regret learning about reality?

Bill

Poetry: To Be Chosen

To be chosen, preferred, favored
from among the many typed or penned
by Him,
to be selected as a creation
of Creations,
to know this favoritism
is of His own doing
brings light with pleasure.

Gratification being a true piece
of self,
of Him,
of art.

Is there to be joy
in words
or pity for the many
not so selected?

How does the poem know the poet?

He who worked weeks
to trickle a passive single
or wildly, emotionally
swinging for the fence
and finding a home run
from the glory of gut—
if it is sin, prideful sin.

Essay: Good Bye, Faithful Scout

I felt slightly disappointed when I read this article stating that the organization formerly known as the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) had filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. This protective action was ostensibly precipitated by BSA’s failure to manage the behavior of its leadership and members. Furthermore, Boy Scout’s attempts to be inclusively fair, if not openly and officially accepting, to LGBTQ members and leaders and to females, even going so far as changing its official name seem to have contributed to the struggle. I am uncertain about the details of all that, but it seems to me that the Boy Scouts have fallen victim to the clichéd rock and a hard place.

I was a member of BSA as were my two sons. Julie was a Brownie or something. None of us were abused, that I know of. The two troops I was associated with were each aligned with two different Christian-denomination churches. I recall using words like loyal, helpful, friendly, jamboree, scout’s honor, motto, merit badge, ranking by class (first, second, etc.), and the three-finger salute. Neither I nor my sons were inducted into the Order of the Arrow or Eagle Scouts, nor did any of us do more than eventually move on after some meetings and camping trips, although my tenure may have been longer.

One of my son’s friends was Jewish and a member of the same scout troop. My wife recalls the boy’s Jewish mother, a family friend, commenting that BSA was a Christian organization. It’s interesting how different things look from the inside of organizations, religions, and groups than they do from the outside. Organizations sponsored by churches or religions take on trappings of the sponsor, no matter the struggle for fairness.

At least one of my grandchildren was steered away from association with the Boy Scouts due, at least in part, to its religious, God and Country, core influences. Yet, ironically, it is BSA’s tie with religion, particularly with Latter Day Saints (Mormon) and other vestiges of Christianity as well, that is it’s undoing along with stacking up lawsuits and the ever-present litigation by lawyers making a living over organized misconduct. But those details don’t bother me.

What I did wonder about is why I gave a shit when I read the news. Why do I feel badly seeing an organization founded with good intentions foundering after being attacked, perhaps deservedly, from all sides, religious and secular? Intellectually and rationally, I don’t care. Some might even say I was corrupted by being a Scout, but I disagree. Yet, there is no denying how I feel emotionally.

I’ve been criticized for not regretting my religious, Roman Catholic, past. I’ve been called corrupted, ignorant, and diagnosed with cognitive dissonance by fellow atheists, none of which know me personally, for my lack of acrimonious bitching about religions. While I admit that I would not encourage anyone’s association with and participation in BSA today, I confess gratitude and a smidgen of pride for what the Boy Scouts taught me. The organization I knew is long gone. Such a group will be replaced (already has been in some arenas), but it will never be the same. Neither will I (Scout’s honor).

After that, it’s time for some Eagles. I was going to paste-in a YouTube of the song Get Over It, but I failed to find a public domain link. What is cyberspace coming to? I’m sure I’ll get over it.

Wait! I found this one. Not great, but eh. It works and cured me.

Bill

Essay: Thank Godless Goodness

My wife says grateful people are happy, and I want to be happy. Don’t we all? I like to think I am peachy-keen-ecstatic, perhaps with an occasional snarkastic twist. It is generally a wonderful world for me, but at times not so much. In many ways, I also think I’m fortunate to exist at all and the timing seems good.

This opinion is based mostly on my thoughts, but also on an essay by Daniel C. Dennett titled “Thank Goodness.” It’s from an anthology I’m reading, Philosophers Without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life, by Louise M. Anthony (author and editor). Here’s a quote separately attributed to Dennett about happiness: “The secret of happiness is: Find something more important than you are and dedicate your life to it.”

Now, given this reciprocal relationship between happiness and gratitude, isn’t gratitude (called by some the least felt of all human emotions) usually toward someone? When folks say we should be grateful, I agree. But to whom? Thank you, god, for all this that and the other good things, but not for any of the bad stuff? (we need a font for sarcasm) Thank you, science and scientists, doctors, researchers, inventors of medical equipment and pharmaceuticals?

Thank goodness is supposedly a euphemistic idiom for saying thank god without saying god, for some reason. Kind of like saying dad gum it for god damn it! Yesterday, that HGTV show guy in Mississippi said dad gum. (Preacher’s kid) Did anyone complain?

Is there more to this? Can saying thank goodness be useful to folks, even those who don’t believe a god exists; or that some god, spirit, or invisible force of nature did not intentionally cause the good luck?

And if there is a god, does he, she, or it give a crap if you’re grateful or not? I’ve mentioned before about my sister praying for a job and promising to go to Mass every Sunday if she got it. Can you imagine any god reaching out to shake hands to seal the deal? Nice of her to promise to keep her Catholic duty and avoid being sent to hell, but you had to know Noreen (and many others) to navigate such hazy reasoning.

If you are a believer, you may believe that in your superior wonderfulness you can repay god’s good graces in some way. Think about that. Talk about the man who has everything! (Dennett used that cliché in his essay, too.) Noreen worked at that job until she was 80 (good grief!). What if she had stopped going to church? Would she have lost the job? If I had told her that such logic is a basis of the protestant health and wealth movement, I’d a been given a look followed by some manner of listen, baby brother, condescending big sis-splaining. I got lots of that.

But Dennett claims saying thank goodness is not only good for the skeptical crowd, it’s okay for everyone. I agree. It makes sense. Goodness is just that, with or without the god factor. People, places, and things that are good foster more goodness. Intentions and actions that make the world a better place today and, in the future, comprise goodness. We can be grateful for goodness. We can repay goodness with more goodness.

Thank goodness for music, for art, for love, for the good side of human nature. Thank goodness for clean drinking water, medical science adding healthy, good quality years; for schools and teachers. We can be grateful for trees and plant more. We can find ways to help others. Or, I suppose you can say thank God. It’s up to you, but goodness is real, and we can repay it backward, forward, or right here and now. Can you add to my thank goodness list?

Have a goodness-filled weekend, and enjoy every day, if possible.

Bill

Essay: My New Religion

I no longer have a religion, but if I did it would be Epicureanism. Heathenistic Hedonism would be a more accurate descriptive title and it sounds cool, but it might be considered a joke or some sort of oxymoronic widdlewaddle (is that a word?). “What religion are you?” “Oh, I’m a Heychie.” But some of the UUies thought of it first.

Omar Khayyam was a Muslim (so that’s a no), but given the right circumstances, perhaps I could be a philosophical Omarist. There is that sweet A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread, and Thou message that so many folks like. Who does not know that line from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam? The man’s poems are all about the here and now. According to his writing, he liked women, wine, and good food. Omar’s poems are even in Hitch’s atheist anthology, The Portable Atheist. I can hear The Byrds singing Pete Seeger’s Turn, Turn, Turn.

I dig the epicurean idea that there’s a time for all things; and the ‘eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we…’ conflation seems honest enough. It’s very Epicureanesque, if you ask me. Life can be a bitch, and once you’re mort, you’re dead. So, do it now.

After entering the world of retirement, I classified myself as a leisure aficionado and pleasure seeker. Well, don’t we all pursue things that give us happiness and pleasure? Apparently, some people interpret pleasure seeking as always immoral. Many of them believe (thanks to religion) that only misery and suffering bring eternal happiness (speaking of oxymorons). Right? Admittedly, leisure and things that please us get some of us into a lot of trouble. But, there’s always pizza, beer, and rock ‘n roll music.

I am Epicurean. It’s a philosophy or way of looking at life, perhaps a bit of a world view, but it’s not a religion. There is the health and wealth wing of Christianity, but that nonsense is a whole other series of blog posts.

While the origin of Epicurean thought has it as admitting that the gods exist in a material way, it also claims that the gods don’t care about humans and we should reciprocate (as in the definition of deist). So, fuck them. It’s also not exclusively about food and drink, as modernists might define it, although those things are indeed on our pleasure lists.

Epicureans are supposed to be disciples or students of the Greek philosopher Epicurus. In the more modern sense, we are people devoted to sensual enjoyment, to living the best life we can, while we can. Perhaps the exact opposite of religious orders such as Trappist monks or Trappistine nuns, or Capuchin Franciscan friars or nuns.

Synonyms for epicureans include hedonist, sensualist, pleasure-seeker, sybarite, voluptuary, bon vivant, and bon viveur. Related words are epicure, gourmet, gastronome, connoisseur, and gourmand (see the link with chow?). I like the idea of me being a generous, life-loving epicurean (back to Omar’s quote).

Of course, there are problems with virtually any excess. Health factors such as weight gain, allergies, addictions, and waste leading to environmental damage can be consequential. I read this morning that one can even exercise too much. But those problems are about excess, not pleasure or the relief of pain. Epicureans are not opposed to common sense and we applaud evidence-based solutions to the problems of life. Yay, science. Yay, research. Yay, logic and empirical evidence. Boo, religion and other woo-woo.

I’m in good company with my pleasure seeker philosophy. Other adherents to the teachings of Epicurus included the poet Horace, whose famous statement Carpe Diem (“Seize the Day”) illustrates the philosophy quite well, in my opinion.

So, the next time someone asks you if you believe in a god (and you don’t), simply respond with, “I’m a practical Epicurean. Some of us have claimed the gods are all real. We believe in life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, the relief of pain, and enjoyment of this life, as we know it.”

Bill

Poetry: How we came to be

Note: Prometheus (forethought) and Epimetheus (afterthought) were spared imprisonment in Tatarus. Zeus gave them the task of creating man. Prometheus shaped man out of mud, and Athena breathed life into his clay figure.

####

Unintelligent Design

Thus Zeus,
before humans roamed Earth,
set Forethought and Afterthought
to task. Animals lived and roamed
without reincarnation or karma
fish swam, birds flew, and each
creature of day or night,
did the natural things, no karma required.

Dinosaurs upset a jealous god—gone!
With Athena, Prometheus made man.
But then monkeys mated with people
and Afterthought declared, “now
we need second chances”—
reincarnation, and karma came to be.

Humans did not know
what they were nor what to do.
so they caused trouble for goddess Gaia,
fought, became reincarnated afterthoughts
in lower and lower life forms to learn,
but each time, the lower form of
human was worse than the last.

Afterthought said to Forethought,
“look now, lower forms we need
for karma, these are slow learners.”
They created Lumbricus terrestris.
Earthworms that eat dirt and crawl
into the ground and are slimy and ugly
and are both male and female,
thus confused and lost bird food.
But to no avail as human nature
continued to confuse the gods.

Nirvana was vast and empty
when Afterthought reminded
Forethought, “Have you noticed,
we create humans, they fuck with monkeys,
die into lower karma never moving up,
and Zeus is pleased, laughing at us?”

Forethought said, “Indeed. We need a cover story.
I have one about a talking snake, two naked
humans too dumb to know it, some other god,
a garden, a tree, and an apple or some variety of fruit.”
Afterthought said,
“Without reincarnation and karma, no one
will ever believe that story. You need
worms, snakes are too hissy.”