Archive for the ‘afterlife’ Category

Dr. Death

I just noticed a headline that indicated Jack Kevorkian, the infamous Dr. Death of assisted suicide notoriety, has passed into whatever lies beyond the back side of his own eyelids.

I couldn’t help but ponder a few questions, because….well….his “mission” is such a question gold mine for those of us who like to rock the boats of the comfortably confident God-pleasers.

So here goes.

Upon hearing of his death, what was your knee-jerk, first instinct reaction?

Was it …

A) I thought he died 20 years ago.

B) May he rot in hell along with those poor people who committed suicide with his machines.

C) Why do I even care?

D) That was one courageous old dude. May he rest in peace.

I confess, there was a time several years ago when I probably would have chosen B or C. Today, I’d be a D.

…Which leads me to my next question…

Why are we as a society generally accepting or at least tolerant of euthenizing animals whether gravely ill or perfectly healthy, yet we are repulsed to the point of mob mentality over the mere mention of helping a truly terminally ill human escape their prison of torture?

I’m guessing there is a God factor working on the psyches of those who have the strongest negative reaction to the idea of assisted suicide. You know….that whole twisted notion that people who commit suicide go straight to hell and that God has a purpose for extending a person’s disease ravaged, agonizing existence. We like to give God all the credit and blame for being in control of things…..

unless we don’t…

Because we all “know” that while God is completely in control of the human thing, he’s incapable of controlling the animal thing. We have animal control specialists for that. (FYI—the previous two sentences are oozing with classic Angie sarcasm.)

And that whole Bible bit about clothing the sparrow is probably not relevant to us today…..

unless it fits the sermon this Sunday.

Of course, we can carry this “God is in control of life and death” thing a bit further, if you like…..right into the abortion vs. pro-life argument.

Most pro-lifers are somewhat moderate. They seem to think that abortion should be illegal except in certain cases such as rape or mother’s life being in danger.

My question is why the exception? If we truly believe God is in control of this life and death thing, why are we willing to kill a fetus in one situation, but not in another? Maybe God wants that baby to be born and that mama to die.

OR…..maybe we say those things to avoid having to commit fully to a position that says under no circumstances should anyone other than God end a life. Except God doesn’t cause death, does he? He’s not mean like that…well…unless your name happens to be Uriah or Nadab and Abihu, or you were unfortunate enough to be a citizen of Jericho when Joshua came knocking, or didn’t get invited onto the boat with Noah when the rains came.

It must’ve sucked to be camel number 3 that day.

“God, what did I do wrong to earn a ticket to the big swimming pool instead of the floaty pass? I was trying to be nice and not push to the front of the line. If only I had known, I’d a run her over.”

Maybe, if the truth be known, we are more afraid to commit to a position that says God doesn’t “care” what the heck any of us do with life.

Don’t ask me. I’m just trying to find a little consistency in anything remotely attached to religion.

Besides, I’m still stuck trying to figure out that poor number 3 camel situation.

Analysis of an Attitude

“I’ve come to the conclusion that the story of Jesus speaks directly against the things embodied in American Christianity (at least, its most prominent forms). It’s amazing how far it’s come when people who (frequently, loudly) call themselves his followers are most commonly associated with mocking people who seek peace, with lambasting the poor for their condition, with demanding vengeance in all things foreign and domestic, and with their unquestioning support of a financial system that inevitably promotes the accumulation of useless shit.” –Rob, in a comment on Nakedpastor’s website.

That just about sums up perfectly where I am at this point in life. As you may have noticed in previous blog posts, my current spiritual quest is to find and follow as best I can the real Jesus.

Not the one created in 70 C.E. and the 300 years that followed.

Not the one created by Constantine, Peter, or Paul.

Not the one most of us hear about on CBN, the Angel Network, or even Pat Robertson (although I’m considering becoming a fan since he suggested legalizing pot might actually improve this country).

Not the one who died for our sins so that our poor, wretched, miserable, sinful, self-loathing, unlovable,  pathetic, awful, unworthy selves could sit at the feet of a lightning-bolt-wielding, angry, bitter, resentful, all-powerful, ever-present, all-knowing male God for all eternity.

Not the one who didn’t go down to Georgia and didn’t make a deal with the Devil.

Nope. I’m in search of the guy who walked the earth in leather sandals, said love is the greatest commandment, told his disciples to go above and beyond in their compassion to others, even when those others are their “haters”, and used the healing power of touch and energy transference to change people’s lives.

I’m looking for the one that showed people how important it is to take care of one another‘s basic needs.

The one who was killed because the church of the day saw him as a subversive.

Yeah.

That’s the one.

I want to be like him.

Maybe minus the “killed” part.


Peace on Earth

That’s what Christmas is about, right? Wishing for “Peace on Earth and Goodwill Toward Men”?

But what would it take?

Really.

What would it take to bring peace to this planet?

Praying for peace obviously hasn’t worked. You’d think an Almighty God would be totally and completely into making that one happen.

Oh yeah. “He” gave us  free will. Darn the luck. Guess that means those prayers for peace on earth are pretty much wasted effort.

So what’s another option?

I mean, after all, if the Big Cahuna can’t make it happen (or won’t), that pretty much leaves it all up to us, doesn’t it? So much for an all-powerful God.

At this point we will pause for a minute to allow you to process that logic. Go ahead. Throw out all the “yeah, buts” you can muster. Explain how all is right with the world because God is in control and answers prayers, but that whole Peace on Earth thing is just not in his cards. Be sure to go down the road “God is a God of Love” right to the intersection of “God is a God of War”. Pause on the side of that road at the part where innocent babies suffer from starvation and women can be stoned or hanged in the name of God for opening their mouths (or showing skin for that matter) in public.  It’s okay. I’ll let you work through it.

Try not to lose your religion over it.

Or…..

Maybe that’s what it will take.

Maybe the path John Lennon “Imagined” is exactly what is necessary to finally achieve peace on earth.  Take a moment to listen and watch this. Focus on every single word and phrase. Ask yourself honestly what the world would be like if there was no religion. Set aside the knee-jerk reaction about “no heaven” and “no hell” if only for a moment.

Just ponder the possibilities.

Gives me chills every time I hear it. That’s the energy of the Universe coursing through my veins.

I get it.

Do you?

Special thanks to Christopher Ledgerwood for giving me reason to pause and consider this at a deeper level.

Several Things I Might Have Gotten Wrong

Fate landed me in front of a TED Talk video of Mike Rowe this morning. At first, I thought we were going to celebrate those who had broken free of the 9-5 (or around here 8-5) “prison” that seems to suck life right out of its hostages.

Boy was I wrong.

And apparently that was the point of this 20-minute video shared by Danielle LaPorte of White Hot Truth.

After watching the full 20 minute presentation, which is odd since my attention span rarely tolerates 20 minutes of anything, I asked myself:

How many times have I gotten it wrong?

Ouch. This could be a real ego-buster. I mean, MOI???? WRONG????? Say it ain’t so, Joe.

But alas, it is true. There is a slight possibility I might have been wrong about a few things in my life. I’m thinking a top ten list might be in order, so here goes:

Top 10…I mean…Several Things I Might Have Gotten Wrong (Darn list keeps growing.)

1. Farm life is for the birds. I wanted to be a city girl. (Age 17-22ish) Today, I’d love to be out where the only people who would think of cutting across my yard to get from Point A to Point B were likely birthed of my loins.

2. Picking the right church and following the right rules are necessary prerequisites to getting into heaven. (Birth through about age 37.) I now wonder if we are looking for heaven in the wrong place. Didn’t Jesus say the kingdom of God is within us?

3. The Bible was written by God (er…uh….men “divinely inspired” by God?). That one survived to about age 41. The more I study, the more this notion dissolves and I feel like a victim of terrorism and manipulation compliments of Constantine and his goons. That’s not to say there isn’t good stuff contained therein. Just a note to self regarding origin and authority.

4. A college education is a necessity. Okay, advanced training is a good thing, but I’m no longer convinced it has to come in the form of a 4-6 year degree and $40K in debt.

5. A big house is a blessing. The older I get the more I long for simple and cheap. Big = Expensive + Liability

6. Energy healers and new age crystal-loving types are quacks. It’s amazing what personal experience does to shift one’s perspective. Don’t knock it if you’ve never given it a decent chance.

7. Seeing is believing. What’s that phrase they holler out when everyone’s dancing to The Cotton-Eye’d Joe? Yeah. That one. The one I can’t use on my blog because my mom reads it. Anyways, there are now lots of things that I accept as possible, yet cannot “see”. Sometimes that which we think we can “see” and prove is merely an illusion.

8. God only speaks to us through his written word. All other forms of direct communication with a divine source are probably the devil or some level of psychosis requiring hospitalization and pharmaceutical drugs. Wherever shall I start hammering on this one? If you wish to continue believing this, that is your choice, but don’t put ME in the straight jacket for seeing things differently.

9. There is an evil spirit entity called Satan that loves to slyly entice us into doing evil things like suggest there is no Satan or that the Bible was not actually written by God…er…uh…God-inspired men. Yeah. Right. And Zeus impregnated how many women to bear his half-god, half-human offspring? You believe that, too, don’t you?

10. Christianity is about following Jesus Christ. I wish. Most Christianity is about following Paul…..and Peter….and the guy on TV….and the guy at the front of the auditorium/sanctuary on Sunday morning. If it were about following Jesus, things would look a whole lot different. Actually, it would probably look like this and this and this every day. It certainly wouldn’t look like this.

And a bonus (or two)……

11. Scientific research has proven………. (see my response to #7 above). If there is anything I have learned it’s that the only correct response is “…based on the knowledge we currently possess, we now think this is how it is.” Ain’t no such critter as “proof”. Just ask Christopher Columbus, Galileo,  Pythagoras, Socrates, and a few other guys that dared question the prevailing “proofs” of their time. Oh, and while you are at it, Stephen Hawking might appreciate some acknowledgement, too. Possibilities, Baby. Possibilities.

12. Humans are inherently evil and need to be saved. Yeah. Not so sure about that one. We aren’t born evil or sinful or bad. Kids learn bad or good from their environment. Some seem to actually posses an incredible and almost super-human level of compassion.

13. You simply must go to church every time the doors are open, or you aren’t a good Christian. Uhm…..no. I’ve got nothing against a get together, but that whole guilt and terrorism thing is just dumb….and very un-Jesus.

14. Children need church to become good people. Children need parents or at least some type of decent role models who are good people. Church does not make good people.

15. Check back. I’m sure I’ll think of more.

Yes, there was a time when my life pretty much existed as black or white. I almost miss those days, yet I really do like the freedom that evolved once I began to realize that I just might be wrong about a lot of things.

For that matter, maybe I am right. Hmmm……now there’s a twist.

PS: While I welcome your thoughts, comments, observations, etc., please know that I’m not interested in being preached at or proven wrong….mostly because your proof is no more solid than mine (see #11 above) and quite frankly I get downright cranky when someone tries to suggest I am wrong. My husband and children would greatly appreciate if you wouldn’t contribute to that mood swing.  Besides, if your education has never seen the outside of a religious library, you probably don’t have anything to offer that I haven’t already heard in the way of “proof”.

If you find that your chest tightens and your face turns red when you read this, or you feel an urge to grab a Bible and pound your fist on a piece of wood, you may be defending something that you can’t prove or something that you choose to believe because someone in authority taught you to believe it without question, and…well…doing otherwise would simply be an ….ahem…..abomination.

I Would Have Been A Floater For Sure

Cowgirl has been laid up for over a week waiting on the medical establishment to get her leg bone secure enough to rejoin the rest of the world. That means she has been home from school for seven days now. Don’t get me started on how dumb it is for a high tech school to not be able to patch my kid who’s sitting in a high tech home directly into her classrooms. That was my previous rant.

In an effort to keep her on top of her studies, I’ve been retrieving her assignments from school, cracking the “git ‘er done” whip, and returning said assignments to the school upon completion.

One of Cowgirl’s assignments has involved reading a novel for her English class. Apparently Cowgirl was accustomed to having the novel read out loud to the class, so I was obligated to continue the learning experience precisely as had been her in-class experience.

The book is called The Witch of Blackbird Pond, an historical fiction novel about a girl in the 1600’s who lands herself in the midst of Puritan religious legalism and is accused of being a witch. Interestingly enough, there probably isn’t a twelve year old on the planet whose attention has ever been grabbed so quickly nor emotion stirred so intensely as what this 42 year old’s was. An English teacher could only dream of engaging a student at the level I became engaged.

For many readers, I’m betting the most significant parts of the story were the emotional highs and lows of romance blossoming and the terror of being placed on trial for being a witch.

For me, the intensity lay (lied, lain, ???) in the realization that not much has changed in 400 years. I identified with Kit on so many levels. Her experiences were much wider than those of the mostly uneducated Puritans. Her view of the world was so much more positive and trusting. Her ability to see past human differences was so much greater.

The Puritans were convinced of what was God’s will and what was evil. They were so sure of themselves, they were willing to kill those who did not believe or conform to their religious ways. They feared and reviled that which was different. Quakers happened to fall into the category of different and thus evil.

I know what it’s like to be part of a religion that’s convinced everyone else is wrong and destined for hell.

It occurred to me while reading through the story that I likely would have been ostracized, singled out, and possibly drowned, hanged, or burned at the stake had I lived in that time. I’m pretty sure I would have been a floater, and floaters were automatically guilty. A pure woman would be accepted by the water and God according to their beliefs.

Sounds like I’d be dead either way.

That’s got an irony all of its own. You end up dead if you’re following their life-sucking religious rules and you end up dead if you don’t. Either way you’re “Dead Woman Walking”.

Because I choose to challenge what I perceive to be ignorant, blind belief of things that I see as being far from real evidential truth, things that do not promote charity and love, but rather promote divisiveness, isolation, and hatred, I would likely be killed.

That’s what happens when legalistic religion is allowed to trump love for humanity.

Jesus recognized it in the Jewish religion. He saw how harsh and cruel and loveless the Law of Moses was and how much worse it had become under the enforcing eye of the Pharisees and the Priests of the day. He tried to be different. He did his best to love and teach love. He healed wherever and whenever needed regardless of the religious laws. He fed people who were hungry wherever and whenever necessary, even breaking the religious laws so his followers could have a few grains of wheat on the Sabbath.

And they killed him for being a trouble-maker because he interfered with the religious status quo.

And then they deified him and made up a whole bunch of new rules and said the new rules were given by Jesus himself.

And then they killed people who didn’t follow the new rules. And they killed people who saw things differently: People who attempted to find the truth and enlighten others, and people who simply chose not to participate in their legalistic game.

And it continues today. Not so much the murdering part (although there are still plenty of people right here in America who are murdered by religious extremists for choosing not to be bullied by extreme religion), yet every day people are isolated, shunned, and disowned because they choose love over religion. They are labeled and branded as trouble makers or worse, all because they have been blessed with the gift of sight and a voice of intelligence. Their eyes are no longer clouded by tradition, fear, and loyalty.

They call it for what it is, and they are hated for it.

Nope, not much has changed in 5,000 years.

I haven’t decided yet whether or not I believe in reincarnation. It really doesn’t matter. I am here. Now. In this place. At this time. But I have a hunch that if I have lived before, I was probably every bit as challenging, every bit as sighted, every bit as annoying to the religious legalists as I am now. I’m pretty sure I would have been tried as a witch and likely convicted along the way.

I’m pretty sure I would have been a floater.

And I have a hunch that even then, there were those who stood by my side, much like Kit’s Uncle Matthew did, knowing that the challenge to the status quo and hand-me-down beliefs was long overdue.

Thankfully, no one has tried to kill me this time around. Even though things pretty much remain the same, there are more who have allowed love to trump religion, even when they are employed by religion.

Imagine how incredible the world would be if everyone could simply release the religion and just be pure love.

What If It’s Us, Not God?

I just came upon a religious website that is quite a ways from the theological roots of my faith heritage. It had a paragraph explaining the “Basic Beliefs” of the religion that triggered an AHA moment for me.

Those AHA moments are dangerous ’round these parts.

For a good while now, I’ve held the belief that the fiery place called hell is actually a creation of the human mind in an attempt to control and acquire money from other humans through fear of death and pain. My reasoning behind this belief lies in the difficulty I have accepting something as absolutely black and white when so many contradictions surround it.

I can rattle off several examples, yet the one that packs the greatest punch for me is the God is Love vs. God is a vengeful God argument. You see, the same people that preach God is love, God is the ultimate Father, God so loved the world he gave his only son, yada yada yada, also preach that God destroyed his creation once because they became so wicked he hated them, and he’ll do it again if we don’t do things exactly right, like vote for the Republicans who won’t allow gays to marry because that’s an “abomination” (Bleah!) or get dunked appropriately in the watery grave of baptism–just as soon as we can agree on what is “appropriate”.  Not doing things exactly right will cause us to spend an eternity being punished in a fiery furnace of torture.

So, this tells me that there is a supreme being, a man that isn’t really a man, but, well, he just is sorta male (according to those who think they know because we all know men are better leaders, right? Double Bleah!), who is the ultimate loving compassionate father figure, who essentially birthed us all (let’s see a man do that one!), gave us free will because he wanted us to love him by choice and not by command and fear, then issued a bunch of commandments and said if we don’t follow them, he’ll pout and withdraw from us and we’ll spend an eternity being burned to a crisp without burning up while he says, “Nanny-nanny-boo-boo—you didn’t play by my rules!”

Uh, excuse me, but where’s the free will in that? And where’s the divine supreme loving entity in that?

That folks is what I call a contradiction. There are several others within religion, many of which I began to recognized long before this one, and which led to my awakening and departure from my faith heritage.

Besides, as a daughter, a mother, even an animal care-taker, I can say with a good bit of confidence that no sane entity, especially not the supreme God of Love, would or even could do this to someone in their care. I mean, I know for a fact that there were times when my dad’s blood pressure probably blew out the top of the sphygnomanometer (or however you spell that thingy), but I don’t think there is anything we could have done that would have pushed him to the brink of going out back and building a bonfire for the purpose of chunking me or my brother in it. It might have crossed his mind a time or two, but nothing would have caused him to actually follow through with his momentary frustration with us.

And I realize mine is quite the extraordinary dad, but this religion thing has preached all along that God is supposedly SOOOOO much more loving and incredible and giving and caring than even the most wonderful dad that has ever lived on earth, including mine.

So where’s the logic in preaching/teaching this loving father theory then scaring the crap out of us by reminding us that if we don’t love him and obey him, he’ll throw us in the big bonfire he’s built for his naughty children because he is a vengeful God?

Then there’s the whole bit about the divinely inspired Word of God that is THE AUTHORITY on God’s will for us. Except that it contains all this contradictory crap that religious people try to explain away or conveniently dismiss when it interferes with their views of what God intended for us to believe.

Oh yeah….and it took how many thousand years for THE Bible to be written? And HOW MANY different people? And HOW MANY different agendas? And how many supposedly inspired writings were dismissed when the ruler of the entire world decided to have them assembled into one book that he liked? And how many people died through the centuries because they didn’t agree with the emperor and his mignons? And how many years AFTER the death of Jesus were THOSE “eye-witness” accounts written? Don’t know about you, but my story gets better and better (and wilder and wilder) as time passes. Oh yeah….God possessed the writers’ bodies, glazed their eyes, and wrote HIS words through them.

Yeah…..Right.

I’m thinking the almighty supreme God would have made it a little less contradictory and a little more clear than the mess he is credited with creating that we call Christianity. Messes are usually made by men, not supreme beings. The only things I believe to be divinely inspired about the Bible are the egos of the ones who assembled the writings and proclaimed it as Divinely inspired. I’m pretty sure their Divine was no one any higher up than than a Roman ruler.

Religion is apparently the only acceptable field where otherwise rational, skeptical people can suspend all logic and intelligence in defense of their beliefs and get away with it. Hence, we have hell because the Bible says so, and because Mommy and Daddy said so.

And if the Bible says so (and Mom and Dad said so), then it must be so. Even if it doesn’t make any sense.

Which takes me back to the paragraph I found a religious website that appears at first glance to be significantly different in its teachings than my faith heritage preached. Paraphrased, it says that the the Holy Spirit purifies one of karma (sin), making it possible for him to accept the full love of God in this lifetime. Then he gains wisdom, charity, and freedom.

In other words, we CAN’T accept the incredible fullness of God’s love as long as we think and act in ways that are anything other than full of love. Only through fully connecting with Spirit (which requires stripping away the rules and laws created by religion) can we begin to see the possibilities for accepting the fullness of God’s love.

Remember that guy who said there are only two commandments? I believe he was a prophet named Jesus, and I believe he said to love the Lord your God with everything inside of you, and love your neighbor as yourself. Pretty short and sweet and simple.

What if it’s been us all along, and not God who invented hell (and religion and its laws)?

Maybe we’ve been blaming God for creating the hell that we have created for ourselves. Maybe hell is right here on earth (down below?), living out eternity one lifetime at a time until one day we understand love to the point that we can release the religious crap in favor of both giving and receiving love unconditionally. Maybe the Buddhists and Hindus are smarter than we give them credit for being.

Maybe this shoots the hell out of the hell thing.

The Call

No matter how prepared you are, words can’t begin to describe the feeling that accompanies a middle of the night phone call with the news.

It’s like a sucker punch to the gut, delivered with a gentle dose of love and relief.

We’ve been waiting on that phone call for quite awhile. I guess if the truth be known, it’s been about five years we’ve been waiting and wondering when the call would come. However, recent days have heightened the intensity and expectation as decisions were made to stop life extending medical interventions and let nature work her spirit-freeing genius.

The call came at about 1:30 am Friday morning. It was the hospital delivering the news we knew would be coming, and had even predicted the likelihood of it being this night. No surprise at all.

No tears. At least not yet. It’s the circle of life, Cox style.

Just a big dose of raw practical gratitude and relief.

Plus that feeling of being lovingly slugged in the stomach.

And the opportunity to pass on the sucker punch to other somewhat prepared, but not bullet-proofed guts.

The Call is actually a game of tag. We were tagged first this time. We then tagged the others. We became their gut-punch of love, relief, and sadness.

Thirty minutes after our phone first rang, we were back in bed planning on a peaceful night’s rest knowing THAT call would never come again.

WRONG.

There are just some things life skills class doesn’t teach you.

Like the fact that there is never just one phone call after a loved one passes.

And the phone calls will come at intervals designed to make sure you will not get that peaceful night’s rest tonight.

2:30 AM: “Would you like to donate his skin for skin grafts?”

Huh? It’s 87 years old and paper thin. Why would you even want it? Not exactly a decision to be made at 2:30 AM by only one of four brothers. Someone should have asked that about 3 days ago during daytime, wide-awake hours.

Another hour passed, our brains began to settle down just a bit, and the fit-full, mind-racing sleep almost overtook us again.

And the phone rang…..again.

It was Steve, the sweet guy who will graciously prepare our loved one for ceremony and burial asking my husband’s permission to begin his work. It never occurred to me that his night would be interrupted, too. However, I did give his precious wife the heads up Thursday evening that I thought Eric’s dad would pass before morning.

And so we are up. Coffee is made. It’s now 3:40 AM. Sleep will have to wait until later this afternoon when our bodies decide to slam us into the relaxing embrace of an easy chair.

Mama said there’d be days like this, but she forgot to mention there’d be a few nights, too.

Adios, Charlie. Give Alex a hug for us. You boys try to stay out of trouble up there, ya hear? Say hi to my Pappy, if you see him. He’ll be the one out hunting rabbits, dove, and pheasant.

Spiritual Opposites

I had a conversation yesterday with a beautiful lady. Against my better judgment, I allowed the topic of my religious views to burst forth, so to speak. I couldn’t help it. She point blank asked me what I thought.

The “hell” topic surfaced, and of course I totally freaked her out. It makes me sad to freak her out. Yet I have to remind myself that it is not me who inflicts the freaking, but rather her choice to be freaked about my thoughts and current beliefs.

I don’t control the thermostat.

I just am.

I am.

That’s got some spiritual overtones to it, don’t ya think?

Anyway, I’ve continued to ponder that conversation a bit, and this morning some things began to click for me.

I’m pondering a view of opposites and how rather than giving power to what we perceive as negative, we can simply leave all the power with that which is positive. In doing so, we choose to see its opposite not as bad, but merely as an absence of that which we believe is positive.

For example….

Light and dark.

Religiously speaking, we tend to honor the light. We sing songs about walking in the light. We suggest that Jesus is the light of the world and in him is no darkness. And yet, darkness is nothing more than the absence of light. In and of itself, darkness is not bad. Without darkness, we would not even notice the light. We could not see the subtle light of the stars in the heavens.

Without total darkness, our bodies do not fully rest. Melatonin in our body’s is produced best when we sleep in total darkness. Melatonin is a protective hormone we need for good health.

Darkness is necessary. Darkness is even good.

Black and white.

Here’s an interesting twist. Black is actually the presence of all color whereas white is the absence of all color. Again, how would we know of the purity of white without first knowing of the melting pot that is black? Is black somehow bad because it is a mixture of everything? Is white somehow better because it has no color and is pure? Sounds a bit boring to me. We simply cannot know one without knowing the other. Neither is any better or any worse. Both serve a significant purpose. A beautiful painting would be nothing without the ability to mix colors into something other than white. Black defines white.

Heaven and hell.

Ah, this one may really get the ball rolling. Heaven and hell. Divine opposite destinations for all eternity. No one really knows what or where these places are, yet we believe they exist because ancient writers and religious teachers have told us so. We believe each “place” has special characteristics, and we believe one is good and the other one is evil. Yet if we follow the pattern of opposites we are seeing so far, wouldn’t one simply be the absence of the other? Wouldn’t hell simply be the absence or lack of heaven? The Bible mentions the righteous being taken up into heaven at the judgment. We use terms like “left behind” to describe a religious invention known as “The Rapture”. Is it possible that the spirit world to which we escape at death is actually heaven, and life on this earth living in a physical body with physical limitations is actually hell? The interesting thing is that there isn’t much info on hell in older religious documents. According to historical information, hell seems to be a creation of the church…. a church in need of loyal, fearful, paying members.

God and Satan.

Here’s a good one. Supposedly there is an all powerful universal entity we call God. S/he is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. I’m good with that. Unfortunately, humanity has created for him/her a nemesis, an arch enemy of temptation and evil, if you will. Kind of interesting that the ultimate force in the universe would allow such a destructive being as this entity called Satan to thrive. Mere belief in a tempting force called Satan implies that God is not all powerful.  And, it gives us someone on which to blame our shortcomings.

Maybe “evil” is what we get when we do not acknowledge the power of the Universe. Maybe pitfalls and tragedies and so-called temptation are all brought on through our own lack of understanding of a God who desires love above all else. Our failure to understand the miracles of “…ask, believing you have already received…” and “….give and it will be given unto you, pressed down, shaken together, and running over…” leaves us feeling desperate, poor, broken, and helpless when in fact we  have the riches of the universe at our fingertips.

According to the Bible, God is love, which implies God = Love. If we pursue this line of thought, then Satan = No Love. Satan could simply be the bigoted animosity created by religion, which is often aimed at those who see things differently. Satan or evil could simply be a lack of loving our neighbors, and the consequences thereof.

Love and sin.

Jesus is reported to have given two commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Doing those two things implies obedience to God. Not doing those two things implies disobedience or sin. Hence, sin is merely the absence of love. If we act in love in everything we do, then we cannot sin. I would even go so far as to suggest (and I may catch “hell” for this one–pun intended) Jesus saved us not through his death and resurrection, but by getting this message to us. Love is what saves. It is through love that we fulfill our destiny on earth. Once we get that part figured out, then maybe we get to spend the rest of eternity in the spirit world of heaven instead of constantly being sent back to the hell of earthly humanity to try and figure it out.

There’s us something to chew on for a bit.

What other opposites come to mind that follow this possible pattern of one being the absence of the other rather than the horrible, terrible, evil it is often portrayed as being?

YouTube Video on the Concept of Hell

This is neither an endorsement nor a sampling of my beliefs. It’s simply me offering you something I’ve had the opportunity to view so that you, too, may ponder the possibilities.

Don Rogers posted it over at his site, and I think he saw it on someone else’s blog site.

Intriguing………

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XaL7CkQaQpU&feature=player_embedded]

A Week of Emotional Challenges Topped Off with Some Religious Extortion

It’s been a busy and somewhat emotional week. My in-laws are now more-or-less settled into their new home at what I have known my entire life as the nursing home. It was always a very scary and uncomfortable place to me. Smelly, disheveled old wrinkled faces, wheel-chair-bound-droopy-headed nappers, bony hands reaching out to touch anything that resembled youth….most waiting and hoping to die quickly. That has long been my image of this particular place. I even have a phobia of wheel chairs.

My in-laws don’t belong in a place like that.

I guess it’s a good thing that this particular place has changed a lot over the years. Yes, there are still a few sites and sounds that an unprepared and even shallow person might not handle well, and yet there are many more sites of older people who still have lots of life left to live, who simply can’t handle all of the day to day chores of staying in and maintaining a household, and whose extended families aren’t equipped to handle the job for two households. For these people, I prefer to think of this as more of an assisted living situation. They have actually been set free from the prison that their house had become with its steps and chores and bathtubs and navigation obstacles and social isolation.

With them settling in fairly well comes the chore of cleaning out and sorting through decades of stuff. With that task comes even more emotional stress. It’s not like they are dead, yet we know they won’t be living at that house again. What do I throw out? How many people must I consult before getting rid of something? How do I distribute mementos? What if I hurt someone’s feelings?

I am paranoid that I’ll hurt someone’s feelings.

That solution has been easier than I thought it might be. Every family represented by one of the boys has their “stack”. In some cases the stacks are tubs. Anything that represents one of those boys or their families goes into their tub. If it is strictly representative of the in-laws, it goes in the in-laws tub for the boys to decide amongst themselves at some point. If it is plastic (almost without exception), it goes to the dumpster. I’m not dealing with plastic, and yes, I know I could have a garage sale or donate it or recycle it, but that stuff isn’t good for us anyway.

I am also sorting through decades worth of mail, most of which is saved Catholic newspapers, articles, donation requests, donation thank yous, and more. If my “faith” in religion hadn’t already been shot to what I perceive as a non-existent hell before, it is pretty much sitting in the middle of it now.

I found response and affirmation letters where my mother-in-law had dutifully sent a donation of God only knows how much to some place (where people have nothing to do but pray and clean and read church law) begging them to pray for the repose of her son’s soul.

It really pissed me off that religion terrorizes people into believing that their loved one might not be at peace and then extorts money from them to pray him into heaven.

Even worse is that they do it in the name of a spiritual man who taught against that kind of crap.

My own religion did that, minus the extortion thing. It just terrorized people while they were living into fearing they wouldn’t be quite good enough to get into heaven so that their final days were full of worry instead of excitement. It also terrorized families whose deceased children hadn’t been following (their version of) “The Way” into spending their entire lives dreading the judgment day when daughter Susie would go the way of the goats while hopefully mommy and daddy went with the sheep.

In all fairness to the convent sisters and monastery dudes their letters of response were quite sweet.

What the heck is repose of the soul anyway?

Oh yeah…I have the internet. According to NewAdvent.org, “[We define] likewise, that if the truly penitent die in the love of God, before they have made satisfaction by worthy fruits of penance for their sins of commission and omission, their souls are purified by purgatorial pains after death; and that for relief from these pains they are benefitted by the suffrages of the faithful in this life, that is, by Masses, prayers, and almsgiving, and by the other offices of piety usually performed by the faithful for one another according to the practice [instituta] of the Church” (ibid., n. 588)….”

In other words, your loved one is in a quasi-hell right now and you can shorten their stay in that bad place if you give the church money to perform a mass for him, and the more you give and the more masses we perform, the sooner he gets to get out of hell. So if you are really rich and donate lots of cash-ola, your evil Uncle can get to heaven fairly quickly, while this poor mama who is barely eeking by goes without many of life’s luxuries in hopes of someday getting her tragically-taken offspring into the pearly gates of heaven.

Don’t get me wrong. I think giving is a good thing. I know that by giving, we release something inside that allows more to flow into us. It’s that whole flowing river vs. stagnant Dead Sea thing. But seriously? Extortion of someone who is in deep emotional pain to financially benefit the church? Guess they need the money to pay off all the sex scandal victims.

So yeah….I enjoyed throwing most of that crap in the dumpster.

It’s been an emotional week.


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