Against the Will of the Creator

on Thursday, August 6, 2015

I took part in an amazing event this past week on Madeline Island in Wisconsin: my dear friends, Amanda and Stacy, got married. I've known Stacy for over 20 years, and Amanda over 10 years, and both of them are truly amazing women. The ceremony itself was mostly private (a group of us watched from a distance) at the request of the Happy Couple™, but the amount of love and acceptance expressed at the reception was an amazing thing to see.

It's kind of odd to find a destination wedding that also features a pot luck supper, but that's what they did, and no one was turned away, even if they weren't a wedding guest. By the end of the night, most of the food was gone, and I saw a lot of Native Americans from the local reservation walk by me with filled plates. Feeding the poor, that's a pretty cool thing to do.

Strangers offered their best wishes to the Happy Couple™, and no one judged them because of their gender -- not one person. That is the way it should be.

It took the Supreme Court to make it legal for Stacy and Amanda to get married in Wisconsin, a state which had a law on the books making it illegal for them to do so. Equal Rights means Equal Rights, and there is no good reason to keep two people who love each other from marrying, even if they're both of the same sex.

Unless you're religious.

Despite the love and support from dozens of friends and well wishers, despite the generosity of the Happy Couple™, despite the loving acceptance of everyone from the oldest to youngest person in the room, they're broken. That is the term used by a person I know: broken. Why? Because their love goes against God's Law®™.

By following God's®™ that way, you are intentionally blinding yourself to the full spectrum of humanity, and you're willfully ignoring Jesus' second greatest law: Love others as you love yourself, AKA the Golden Rule of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Hate begets hate, and goes against Biblical teaching, as does judging others, ignoring the beam in your own eye, and casting the first stone. And it is so, so easy for these judgmental types to ignore all the other teachings of the Bible while waving their cherry picked portions in your face: eating shellfish and pork, cutting your hair, wearing mixed fabrics, having tattoos, and if you're a woman, speaking in public.

Jesus apparently came along to correct some of God's mistakes, at least that's what I've heard from a lot of Christians. I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean. Obviously, killing, stealing, lying, and fucking someone else's spouse is still frowned upon, and I guess now it's okay to eat shellfish and pork, to wear mixed fabrics, and, if you're a woman, to speak in public. But the gay thing still means you're broken. For some reason. Honestly, I just don't get it.

I had originally meant for this post to be a response to my friend's comment that gay people "went against the will of God," but I decided to let it go. She can believe that tripe if she wants to, but I know better. Gay people aren't broken, they're people just like anyone else.

Jesus supposedly hung out with and helped prostitutes, lepers, and the poor, setting an example of acceptance that I witnessed personally on Madeline Island, and at the other gay wedding I attended in Minnesota last year. I would rather live that kind of life than one that labels people as broken because of who they are.

Bingo!

on Monday, February 24, 2014



  1. Where do you get your morals?

To be honest with you, I was raised Roman Catholic and most of my morals come from there. However, one doesn't need to be religious, or to believe in some sort of Divine Punishment to know that killing, stealing and fucking your neighbor's wife are all shitty things to do. And there are plenty of cultures that came up with societal rules with absolutely no exposure to the Judeo-Christian God.
  1. You'll grow out of your rebelious phase.

I'm 50. I've been an atheist longer than I was Catholic.

  1. So you want to outlaw all religion?

Not at all. I'd prefer if you kept your religion out of my politics, however.

  1. You're what's wrong with society.

That is an offensive statement without any merit.

  1. 95% of the world believes in God. Doesn't that say something?

Ah, the old vox populi! That doesn't prove anything. 95% of the world could believe in unicorns, but it wouldn't make them real.

  1. It takes just as much faith to be an atheist as it does to be a believer!

Actually, you're wrong. It doesn't take any faith at all.

  1. How arrogant.

Another offensive statement. Arrogance is believing that your religion is the One True Faith and that anyone who doesn't believe as you do will be cast into a lake of fire for all eternity.

  1. You can't prove there's no God!

First of all, no one can prove a negative. Second of all, you can't prove there is.

  1. Atheism is a religion, too!

No it isn't. There is no “atheist church”. There are atheist organizations, but they do not dictate a way of life to other atheists.

  1. The evidence for God is all around you!

I see no evidence of there being a God. Sunsets and rainbows are well understood events that are thouroughly understood by science. And I'm confident that any unanswered questions we may have now about the natural world will one day be answered by science.

  1. God loves you anyway.

How nice. This is the same guy who will burn me for all eternity because I don't believe in him, right?

  1. What's stopping you from going on a crime spree right now?

Are you saying that your religion is all that's keeping you from going on one yourself right now? That's truly frightening.

  1. Pascal's Wager.

I'll give my favorite of the hundreds of responses to that. Pascal's wager assumes there is one Judeo-Christian God. What about Odin? Or Zeus? Or any number of Hindu Gods? Of the hundreds of choices of Gods in this world, how can you be sure you're worshipping the right one? It's like a big game of roulette and you're betting on only one square.

  1. Aren't you afraid of Hell?

I'm not afraid of imaginary places.

  1. I feel sorry for you, not having a reason to live.

Another bit of arrogance from your camp. You assume I have nothing to live for. For me, knowing that any day could be my last means that I have to make this life count. I'm not going to be rewarded in heaven, so I better do good right now.

  1. There are no atheists in foxholes.

Tell that to the thousands of atheists who have served this country on the front lines.

  1. But you HAVE to believe in something!

No, I don't. If I have faith in anything it's my faith in human curiosity and our ability to find answers.

  1. Hitler/Stalin/Pol Pot was an atheist, too, you know.

Really? You're going there? Andrei Sakharov, Charlie Parker and H.G. Wells were atheists, too. So is Stephen Hawking. Wanna talk about the Cruscades now?

  1. What are you going to tell your children?

IF I were going to have children, which I'm not, I'd teach them to believe their eyes and to never take the easy answer of “God did it.” Ultimately, when they reached an age when they could decide for themselves what they wanted to believe, I'd accept whatever it was.

  1. I'll pray for you.

Thanks, but that won't be necessary. You see, prayer doesn't actually do anything.

  1. You're doing the Devil's work!

Another creature I don't believe in. Questioning and learning is not the Devil's work, and if you think it is I pity you.

  1. If you read [religious text] you'd change your mind.

You assume I haven't. I've read the Bible (okay, I skipped a lot of “begats”), and it didn't change my mind. If anything it reaffirmed my stance.

  1. You are so closed-minded.

Because I refuse to believe in an omnipresent, omniscient being? If you bring me proof of God, I'll accept it. What would you do if I brought you proof that there was no God? Also, unicorns.

  1. Stop being intollerant of my beliefs!

That's ridiculous. Your beliefs are none of my business. However, your beliefs should not be the basis of law; your beliefs should not be forced upon me or others. In the public square there should be no religion, not just yours.

  1. God doesn't believe in atheists, either.

How pithy of you. And there you go, claiming to know what's inside the mind of God.

Religion and Politics

on Tuesday, September 4, 2012

I found this in the comments section of this blog, which is devoted for the most part to debunking the claims made by pseudo-historian David Barton, who claims that the Founding Fathers, and Thomas Jefferson in particular, were Christians whose aim it was to create a Christian nation.

######

The Ten Commandments of our Founding Fathers

1. Your neighbor’s religion is none of your concern.

“But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782

“Religion is a subject on which I have ever been most scrupulously reserved. I have considered it as a matter between every man and his Maker in which no other, and far less the public, had a right to intermeddle.”

Thomas Jefferson to Richard Rush, 1813

2. You shall not mingle religion with politics.

And here, without anger or resentment I bid you farewell. Sincerely wishing, that as men and Christians, ye may always fully and uninterruptedly enjoy every civil and religious right; and be, in your turn, the means of securing it to others; but that the example which ye have unwisely set, of mingling religion with politics, may be disavowed and reprobated by every inhabitant of America.

Thomas Paine, Common Sense. PDF download from “The Lou Frey Institute of Politics and Government.” Pg. 51, Appendix.

3. You shall not establish any religion above any other.

‘We the subscribers, citizens of the said Commonwealth, having taken into serious consideration, a Bill printed by order of the last Session of General Assembly, entitled “A Bill establishing a provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion,” and conceiving that the same if finally armed with the sanctions of a law, will be a dangerous abuse of power, are bound as faithful members of a free State to remonstrate against it, and to declare the reasons by which we are determined. We remonstrate against the said Bill…



“3. Because it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of Citizens, and one of the noblest characteristics of the late Revolution. The free men of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. We revere this lesson too much soon to forget it. Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects?”

James Madison. Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments. C. June 20, 1785

4. You shall not bar your neighbor from public office on the basis of his beliefs.

“The proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right.”

Thomas Jefferson: Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779. ME 2:301, Papers 2:546

5. All religions shall have equal recognition.

“The bill for establishing religious freedom, the principles of which had, to a certain degree, been enacted before, I had drawn in all the latitude of reason & right. It still met with opposition; but, with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally past; and a singular proposition proved that its protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word “Jesus Christ,” so that it should read ”departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion” the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of it’s protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.”

Thomas Jefferson, July 27, 1821, Autobiography. ME 1:67.

6. You shall be religiously neutral.

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, “thus building a wall of separation between Church
& State.”

Jefferson, Thomas. “Jefferson’s Letter to the Danbury Baptists: The Final Letter, as Sent.” The Library of Congress Information Bulletin: June 1998. Lib. of Cong., June 1998. Wednesday, 7 Aug.
2010.

7. You shall exclude the clergy of any religion from your public schools.

“Ministers of the Gospel are excluded [from serving as Visitors of the county Elementary Schools] to avoid jealousy from the other sects, were the public education committed to the ministers of a particular one; and with more reason than in the case of their exclusion from the legislative and executive functions.”

Thomas Jefferson: Note to Elementary School Act, 1817. ME 17:419

8. You shall not disturb the religion and peace of other nations with missionaries.

“I do not know that it is a duty to disturb by missionaries the religion and peace of other countries, who may think themselves bound to extinguish by fire and fagot the heresies to which we give the name of conversions, and quote our own example for it. Were the Pope, or his holy allies, to send in mission to us some thousands of Jesuit priests to convert us to their orthodoxy, I suspect that we should deem and treat it as a national aggression on our peace and faith.”

Thomas Jefferson to Michael Megear, 1823. ME 15:434

9. You shall not ban any books.

“I am really mortified to be told that, in the United States of America, a fact like this [i.e., the purchase of an apparent geological or astronomical work] can become a subject of inquiry, and of criminal inquiry too, as an offense against religion; that a question about the sale of a book can be carried before the civil magistrate. Is this then our freedom of religion? and are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule for what we are to read, and what we must believe? …. for God’s sake, let us freely hear both sides, if we choose.”

Thomas Jefferson to N. G. Dufief, 1814. ME 14:127

10. You shall question the Bible.

“The whole history of these books is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills.”

Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, January 24, 1814

“And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerve in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors.”

Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823

I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.

The Age of Reason. Thomas Paine. Chapter I – The Author’s Profession of Faith.

EVERY national church or religion has established itself by pretending some special mission from God, communicated to certain individuals. The Jews have their Moses; the Christians their Jesus Christ, their apostles and saints; and the Turks their Mahomet; as if the way to God was not open to every man alike.

Each of those churches shows certain books, which they call revelation, or the Word of God. The Jews say that their Word of God was given by God to Moses face to face; the Christians say, that their Word of God came by divine inspiration; and the Turks say, that their Word of God (the Koran) was brought by an angel from heaven. Each of those churches accuses the other of unbelief; and, for my own part, I disbelieve them all.

Ibid. Chapter II – Of Missions and Revelations.

IT is upon this plain narrative of facts, together with another case I am going to mention, that the Christian mythologists, calling themselves the Christian Church, have erected their fable, which for absurdity and extravagance is not exceeded by anything that is to be found in the mythology of the ancients.

Ibid. Chapter IV – Of the Bases of Christianity.

Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon, than the Word of God. It is a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my own part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel.

Ibid. Chapter VII – Examination of the Old Testament.

RIP Marty

on Saturday, May 19, 2012

Marty Sundvall (12/12/1965 - 5/13/2012)

WARNING: Some of this post may be too graphic for some readers.


My friend Marty was looking pretty bad back in February. His legs and feet got so swollen he couldn't even tie his shoes and his skin and eyes were taking on a sickly yellow hue. In his words:
I had been feeling weird for a couple weeks. In that time my energy was zapped, I was very disoriented, my abdomen and feet started to swell and my eyes were an ugly shade of yellow.
Being a stoic Minnesotan, he ignored it and continued life as usual, teaching classes at SCSU and the Minnesota School of Business, and having a few cocktails at the White Horse. But his Saturday and Sunday sojourns to the bar left him feeling sick and he was in bed by early Sunday evening.

Monday morning he could barely walk.
I got up in time to catch the bus to St Cloud State and opted to tough it out. Well, the bus stop is probably 500 feet from my office and I had to stop 4 times to bend over a garbage can or retaining wall before stumbling into my office. My department chairman took a look at me and immediately drove me to the hospital. Once there the admitting nurse looked at me and said, "liver disease."
He was admitted to the hospital where they pumped him full of fluids, did ultrasounds of his innards and took a lot of blood samples. He didn't sleep at all that night.

On Tuesday he got a visit from a worker from the Chemical Dependency Department of the hospital who asked him when he'd had his last drink. He told her that it had been on Sunday. She told him that when he came in on Monday his blood-alcohol level was .22 -- almost three times the legal limit. Marty started to cry.

They stuck a tube into his belly and drained a liter and a half of liquid which they sent to the lab for analysis. Tuesday night he slept, but it was one of the longest nights of his life.
I just had no answers.
Wednesday: more ultrasounds, more IVs, more blood samples... then some good news: the fluid they took showed no signs of cancer, all his hepatitis tests came back negative, all the veins and arteries to his liver were open and flowing, and although his liver was inflamed, there were no clots and it showed no signs of cirrhosis. That was the best news he'd gotten in days.

Meanwhile, however, his blood refused to clot, his magnesium levels were low and a few other items, so they kept running IVs and testing his blood. His arms were black and blue from all the attention they'd been getting.

A couple of CAT scans showed no other damage. A scope down his stomach and a colonoscopy showed no signs of varicose veins, which sometimes occur with liver disease. The doctor said that with time, maybe 6 months or so, Marty's liver would regenerate itself.

The rest of the week was spent getting his hemoglobin count up so that his blood would begin to clot again. By Monday all his levels were in the green and he was discharged.

But...
Now the hard part starts. I cannot drink. Cannot. Cannot. Cannot. Cannot. I drink; I die. And I am limited to 2 grams of sodium a day. So a complete lifestyle change, and day one and two have been a success.
The next time I saw him he looked a little gaunt. He'd lost 70 lbs. off his 300 lb. frame and he looked like a man who had seen a ghost. But he improved, and those of us who know him would probably all agree that he kept improving and it looked like he was going to make a complete recovery.

He quit drinking completely, he cut sodium from his diet and actually started cooking for himself, rather than eating fast food, he started riding his bike again and his doctors said he was showing improvement. In fact, one day I saw him wearing a Buddha-like smile and he told me that his doctor had given him the okay to eat a Reuben sandwich, "It was delicious!"

That was that, Marty was supposed to make a full recovery in time. But that's not what happened.

The week before his death, Robert, his roommate, noticed that he was spending a lot of time lying down in his room, he was moaning to himself, which he would stop doing when he knew Robert was in earshot. He started doing little else than walking between the bathroom and his bedroom, a trip of around 10 feet. Robert had a few conversations with him through his bedroom door. On the Friday before his death, Robert asked him if he was okay and if he should call anyone, Marty replied through the closed door, "I'll be fine, I'm a hard-headed son of a bitch." As far as we know, those were the last words he spoke to anyone.

Several people tried calling him on Saturday, but got only his voice mail. More people tried texting him and received no reply. Robert was one of the ones who called. He tried again on Sunday, Mother's Day, still no answer.

Robert called Knuckles and asked if he could look in on Marty since he hadn't heard from him. Knuckles called me as I sat on my porch on a beautiful Sunday morning

"C'mon, man, it's Marty," I said, "he'll do what he always does on weekends: sleep until 2 PM. We'll see him at the White Horse tonight playing poker. Like always."

Then I got a call from Robert. Kate and I were out of the house and walking down the street to Marty's before we even hung up (their house is a block from ours).

When we got there we found Knuckles, a little frantic and very concerned. The house is a rambler that was built somewhere in the 60s, just like the house I grew up in, and they're not very difficult to break into if you have to. We found a basement window open with a loose screen and Kate, being the skinny one, was able to shimmy through and let us in the side door of the house.

All three of us approached Marty's bedroom door, I think we all expected what came next... we found Marty lying on the floor, face up, naked as the day he was born.

"Oh, my god! MARTY?!" Knuckled shouted.

I knelt down and was going to feel for a pulse in his neck. There was no need, he was cold.

We called 911 and waited for the police to show up. They took statements from each of us as we called person after person, friend after friend, to give them the bad news. Brad came over, as did Rebecca Rose, some other friends showed, too. We all stood there in shock and sadness.

A huge number of people gathered that night at the White Horse to remember our friend. We drank, we laughed, we cried, we stood in silent thought, we sang.

On Monday a group of us gathered to meet his mother and brother and to help them clean up his house.

On Thursday there was a memorial service, the best I've ever been to. People shared stories and memories of Marty. They spoke of friendship and kindness and told amazing and hilarious stories. He touched more lives than I'll bet he knew. Personally, I don't think I've ever met a kinder man.

At this point you may wish to stop reading as the following details may be too much.



...

I discovered that he died of a ruptured vein in his stomach. Judging by the position his body was in when we found him, I assume that he had gone to the bathroom and was on his way back to bed when the vein burst. He had an instant drop in blood pressure and passed out. He bled to death internally.

That's better than a lingering cancer, I guess, or a million other more nasty ways to die. He passed out and never woke up, and I suppose that's not so bad.

...




He's the first of my current circle of friends to die and that really puts my own mortality in a harsh light. I'll die, too, one day, but I'm trying my best to make that day be a long time off. I'll miss his laugh, I'll miss his jokes, I'll miss how he genuinely cared and how well he listened. And I'll miss hearing him say whenever he saw me, in his best Mel Blanc gangster voice, "Mugg-say!"

RIP, Martoon. You were truly on of a kind.