Friday, December 30, 2005 

Joseph Ratzinger participated in the cover-up

The AP headline: Judge Dismisses Pope From Sex-Abuse Suit.

When Pope John Paul II died last year, I read every news story I could find, to see if there was more information on how much he did or didn't know about the extent his priests were molesting little children or the equally horrific cover up (like transferring pedophile priests around to 'solve' the problem). The best I could find was a wimpy "well, he was pretty sickly towards the end, y'know?" even though I knew he friggin' promoted Cardinal Law to a spot conveniently far away from the Massachusetts AG reach.

But, back to the new pope, Benedict XVI. He's not named in the above suit, not because he wasn't helping with the cover-up, but because he's "head of a foreign state." How nice for him.


Modern day Three Kings

Three Mormons visited yesterday. In winter, our front walk has a skinny little platform over the rocks up to the front door, so when I saw three nicely dressed women perching on it, balancing in an earnest little row, I was prepared.

"I would be happy to read your literature if you would read this," handing over my copy of Under the Banner of Heaven. "I know this is mostly concerned with the fundamentalist Mormons, but it also lays out the history of the beginnings of Mormonism. Pass it on when you're done."

Actually, I thought of that later; Jason Bourne I am not. I just stopped her before she got far with a "sorry, we aren't Mormon. Thanks anyway!" I'm too cheap to give away a book to be trashed, anyway.

I'm guessing they wanted to cluster at the door, but didn't have the option due to the slushy snow. The platform was designed to help with shovelling and to be used one at a time. These three looked truly hilarious as they had to carefully turn around to walk away.

Thursday, December 22, 2005 

The ultimate right brain activity: going to church

We've all read them, the testimonials of people who talk about the love of their god that they really feel while in church. To nonreligious folks, it can be hard sometimes to not roll your eyes.

When I was in college (>decade ago), I read some great research that gives me a context to understand this. I've been searching the web for articles, but it's surprisingly hard to finding articles on brain research that doesn't involve paying $19.99 for a CD, book, or "course."

I learned that here in the west, we live almost constantly in our left brain, the logical / language side: driving cars, grocery shopping, talking on the phone at work, etc. We, people here in general, rarely get a chance to use the right brain, the home of the artistic and emotional side of things. According to said misplaced article, hyper-left-focused Westerners should be on the lookout for activating those elusive right brain waves by doing things like burning incense & meditating, or maybe watching TV. (Because of this research, I did t'ai chi for many years and received many benefits from this "meditation in motion".)

It is the long waves in the right brain that make someone feel good & at peace.

In a completely different context, I leaned that when you hear the same exact words over and over, you don't "hear" it with your left brain any more, but your right. It becomes like a meditation, and scientists can measure the calming, long-wave brain activity.

Imagine one sitting in a religious service for the umpteenth time. Their brain long ago stopped interpreting the liturgy with the logical, "what is the meaning behind the words" side; instead the right side kicks in with what has become a meditation. Add to that the incense, music, beautiful windows, and surrounded by friends and you can see why someone would feel very calm and peaceful in this setting. And, as the link above about the TV mentions, at this state, they might be more receptive to ideas while in the throes of this right brain activity. Throw in a good speaker with an instinctive flair for emotional language, and suddenly you can grok how mega-churches have appeared.

I wish more people had this kind of information, because once it is understood, it loses its power of subconscious control.

After reading many articles, I suspect some people, stanch church-goers that won't examine their beliefs in the light of reason, can't imagine a life without what might be their only right-brain wave activity that they have.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005 

Religiosity Common Among Mothers Who Kill Children

Thanks to The Atheologist for having a link to last year's news story. The study was pointing out what is happening, more research is needed to understand why:

"What isn't clear is what's causing what," she said. "Is the church causing people to develop these feelings or are people with these feelings more likely to gravitate toward a fundamentalist church?"

In either case, I can hardly imagine the pain of the mother a she recovers from such a horrific act.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005 

When does the soul arrive?

You know how you get bored some times watching a new movie, because you'd already seen certain parts from the trailer, or recognize a scene as leading up to that part?

I was lucky enough to have never heard about The Island (2005) when we rented it the other night. Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson & Steve Buscemi (the creepy looking guy from Fargo) among others make this a good sci fi film. Great premise, great sets! but lots of gratuitous Hollywood style "death" like in True Lies, meaningless dying that isn't supposed to bother you.

I think an interesting discussion with your favorite theist could be had from the movie, especially after you've read this essay. Don't let the title put you off, Mr. Morgan wrote this and others for another purpose, but I find this piece brilliant for thinking about the concept of a soul.

And for sci-fi fans out there, check out this Alonzo Fyfe piece written last summer.

tags: , ,

Monday, December 19, 2005 

A difficult question for Mr. Robertson?

In response to I'm the Mama's post about the latest from Mr. Roberston, let's pose a question to the 700 Club ("Bring It On"):
On the Dec 15 edition of The 700 Club, Mr. Robertson stated that "evolutionists worship atheism", a statement that makes me scratch my head.

Worship means "to honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power" and atheism is "a disbelief in the existence of deity", so the image of a worshipping atheist is pretty hilarious.

Could Mr. Robertson state his position without resorting to inflammatory rhetoric about a group he seemingly doesn't understand very well?
Obviously I'm not holding my breath for a response, I'm actually posting this to try out the technorati tag below.

Thanks, Cassandra!


o'reilly's warriors: any way to give them a clue?

I was volunteering at a holiday light park recently (a school fundraiser), directing traffic with a battery powered torch. As a group walked past me to get to their cars, they started talking really loudly about how disappointed they were that there was no manger, Jesus and Mary, how disappointing "because that's what Christmas is all about." Pause. I ignore them. So, they kept whining, gnashing teeth and moaning like Jacob Marley's ghost. Whatever. Santa Claus and Rudolph, candy canes and winter scenes were not good enough for them.

A few minutes later, obviously I recognized the obnoxious woman as she leaned out of her car to ask if there was a restaurant nearby. "Yeah, that way," I said, not very excitedly. "Well, is it any good?" "Yeah, it'll be fine for you," I replied. She must have thought I was weird.

It was the best I could manage because I was calculating pros & cons of saying what I was really thinking, "Would you be disappointed if they don't serve you Christian food?"

I didn't say it. I'm a wimp, yup, but I also didn't think that would unlock & release the mean thoughts bill planted in their heads.

Technorati tags:

Sunday, December 18, 2005 

Why are churches tax exempt?

Why are churches tax exempt again? Every church in my town means no property taxes are paid on that property, which increases the tax rate on everyone else. I financially support institutions that:
1) molest children and don't seem to care
2) sexually mutilate children and defend their 'right' to do so
3) practice mind control & marry off child brides (LDS and FLDS)
4) destroy the environment (fundies)
5) etc etc!

A group called the Christian Law Association has its Top Ten list of why churches should remain exempt. Actually, I don't know about the first issue (the historical reason why churches aren't taxed), but the rest are hysterical, like #2: help people 'make sense of life', for example, by telling people that if they don't do as they say, they are going to burn in hell! Another group at has a picture of a gagged priest because he can't 'advance the cause of one candidate.' OHHHHHH boy.

During the runoff presidential election (early 2003), there were news articles about churches promoting the God Warrior himself, George W. As far as I can determine, there was no backlash against this. And now recent news articles have been coming out showing how the IRS is going after churches for saying things like 'war is not good.'

This is the kind of country we live in now, and I don't understand how it could have come to this.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005 

Polygamy in theory and practice

I tend to err on the side of civil liberties, that is, the personal freedom to do as you wish, as long as you aren't hurting others. From this perspective, on the issue of polygamy, I would think, "hey, if everyone was happy, fine." That's theory. Let's look at it in practice.

There is a huge backstory to the recent AP article Woman Sues Fugitive Polygamist Leader that maybe not obvious from that headline. The Mormons, aka the Latter Day Saints famously disassociated themselves with the practice of polygamy about a hundred years ago. The fundamentalist sect, however, practices polygamy like so:

  • make sure the women aren't educated.
  • "marry" them off when they are young. Make sure they have lots of kids.
  • prevent them from talking to non-Mormons and use other methods of mind control.
  • preach hate about the government (part of mind control again, "you can only trust us") while these child brides are put on welfare as single mothers.
  • since you only have a small pool to draw from, sons are competition for brides, so kill sons or drive them off.
  • make sure the local government is corrupt.

These points are quickly summarized from my memory of Jon Krakauer's excellent book Under the Banner of Heaven. According to Krakauer, Warren Jeffs, current leader of the Mormon fundies, is one pretty scary dude. I applaud the woman suing Jeffs, because I'm guessing she has travelled a long, hard road to get to this position.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005 

The Avalanche

We pick up one year later.

I had spent that year, ever busy, musing on idea that the Christmas Story could never have happened. As the holiday season rolled around again, I found myself back in front of the computer, excited to write my story again, focusing on what Jesus had said that made him special. I had thought of a new angle to the story.

Remember seeing the movie Gandhi when it first came out? I remember the crick in my neck from straining from the second row of the movie theater with my best friend. Anyway, I thought about how Gandhi was a product of his environment. If the British hadn't been exploiting the poorest of poor Indians, would Mahatma Gandhi have had the platform to talk about nonviolent protest? At least in the Hollywood version, he practically single-handedly threw the British out of the country! So my theory was that during Jesus' time, a war or oppression was going on. Off I went in search of his historic context.

I looked and looked and looked. I couldn't find it. I couldn't even find a "just the facts, ma'am" view of history in the Middle East around 1 A.D. What was the relationship between the Jewish people and the Romans? Were there burdensome taxes, oppressed peoples, social inequities, anything? Even the PBS history site called that timeframe "The Beginnings of Christianity" or some such without the details needed to set the stage.

I finally found Earl Doherty's Jesus Puzzle. The Preamble lists the authors who over the past two hundred years have doubted that Jesus ever existed. That rekindled a memory from CCD, being told that some people believe that Jesus never existed, and I remember feeling sorry for them. (By the way, I also remember a time when I felt sorry for people who ate sushi, I couldn't understand why someone would choose to eat raw fish!)

I could go on and on and might in other posts about what I learned once I had Earl Doherty's writing to work from. In a nutshell, he proposes that if one wants to find out about Jesus, your ONLY source is the bible, the problems with using the bible as a reference source, then uses said bible to chase the ghost. He can't find a real person, son of a god or not, in it.

I can't tell you how shocked I was. Incredulous, I researched his theories and read like a maniac.

Jesus was a mythos.

The pebble that fell a year earlier started an avalanche in my mind. I had to go back and reconsider from this new perspective.

Imagine the silence after an avalanche has completed its thundering, the rubble being the framework I had used to understand the world.

Now I feel the cool breeze on my cheek, my eyes are clear and I can see for a hundred miles.

Where I sit now, it might seem a bit lonely, but it's sure peaceful.

Continued a bit more here

Saturday, December 10, 2005 

Who's got morality?

When it looked like the Roman Catholic Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston was going to be prosecuted for his part in covering up sexual abuse among his priests, Pope John Paul II gave him a promotion, in effect getting him out of the county. Even though the Catholic Church continues to act as though the sexual abuse problems aren't really a big deal, I'm glad Pat Oliphant doesn't seem to agree.

As far as I can tell, the only change the church has done since the story broke in a big way three years ago is to put in place a review board. It tries to settle cases and has had to close up some churches.

To hurt ANY child is unacceptable, the institutional-wide cover-up and denial despicable.

I'm trying to understand how the church can hang onto its 'moral' hat here. Child abuse isn't prohibited by the Ten Commandments, as an example of a moral code, so does that mean you can allow abuse of children and still be 'moral'?

Friday, December 09, 2005 

Bullies affect us all

One of my favorite books is Barbara Coloroso's book kids are worth it! She also has a book specifically about bullying called the bully, the bullied, and the bystander. I picked it up at the library to learn about the topic, and I'm so glad I did. The bystander that looks away is actually helping the bully achieve their twisted power goals, and any of us could be a bystander at any time. I highly recommend a trip to your library, or buying it and passing it on.

Ms. Coloroso has a handout on her site from the book:

You never know where you might run into a bully, even a pastor can be one.


so long Judith

I used to read every month or so for a few years. I love Judith Hayes' writing, it really clarifies what it means to be atheist, and she has a humorous writing style. I had happened to come across her site around the time I was "researching" my Christmas story by typing 'happy' into Google. Unfortunately, Ms. Hayes has taken down her site earlier this year. It's too bad, because I use to go back and re-read old articles of hers, it was like pulling on an old comfy sweater. I'm going to miss having her around!

Thursday, December 08, 2005 

Lippy kids don't deserve respect?

One thing important to me as a mother is giving my children an environment where thinking is permitted. I value free thought and free expression.

My children can say whatever they want to me, safely. By safe, I mean they do not need to fear a punishment.

If I am told, "you are mean, you big ninny!" then I say, "you have some strong feelings!"

They are, after all, only feelings.

I can't control another person's feelings. I can't even control my feelings! All I can control is my reaction to my feelings.

I don't feel my self worth is on the line with a taunt like above, so I don't feel the impulse to make someone 'pay' for their thoughts or feelings.

If I can stand back and recognize what is driving those strong emotions, I can try to get that root cause. After the strong emotions have run their course, I can talk about a better way to communicate than calling names.

I'm not perfect but when I realize that, I fix it. I apologize. I try again.

I've been reading commentary on the TV show "Wife Swap", an episode where a Christian and an Atheist household switches mothers. From a commentary on the atheist family's web site comes this description. []

Sounds like the show used some editing tricks, but this part of the commentary struck me. 'Jeff' is the Rev. Jeff Stonerock, see him here:
Jeff explains that one of his 6 kids actually "got a little lippy" with him, then laughs about how he washed the kid's mouth out with soap. He laughs more about how the kid kept saying "I don't care, I don't care, I don't care" while Poppa Jeff amped up the mouth soap punishment "worse and worse and worse" until the kid couldn't take it anymore and gave in.

I couldn't confirm anywhere else that he said this, but I did find on the ABC site his wife describing the soap punishment.

Based on this description:

Would you feel safe in speaking your mind in Jeff's house? Or do you think he treats non-family better than his children? (i.e., do you think if you got 'lippy' with him he would treat you that way, too?)

Would you want someone to do this to you? If not, is it OK to do it to someone else? What if they are younger than you, like a child?

What does Jeff think he is teaching his children?

What do you think about Jeff's congregation? What do you think Jeff preaches to them about? Would you take your child to his church?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005 

Corporate Interests Dumbing Down Elementary Students

I just heard a disturbing story from a friend. Her fifth grade daughter in public school is really upset by a PowerPoint presentation due soon.

I'm guessing that my job choice of software engineering has meant more hours than the average person banging my head trying to get the *#&%!! computer to do what it is supposed to, I mean, what I want it to do. But this happened much later than childhood for me.

When I look back to fifth grade, I think of playing dominoes and Spades. I remember building tent cities and swimming and riding my bike really fast down the street. This poor girl is going to remember hours spent frustrated by PowerPoint. What a waste!

I want my children to be creative, caring, responsible, rational & intelligent. I want them to be good communicators and problem solvers, courageous enough to speak their minds, and well grounded. None of these goals would be furthered by learning how to manipulate PowerPoint.

For anyone interested in computers and childhood, here is an excellent report from a group called the Alliance for Childhood:

Sunday, December 04, 2005 

The Pebble

Ooh, she was a snot, that little girl, a real Veruca Salt. "Christmas is to celebrate the birth of baby Jesus" a busy body informed me. "Oh," I replied, thinking of the Little Golden Book that we had growing up with the pictures of the manger and Mary. That book was long gone, and I knew I wouldn't be replacing it. No problem, I thought, I'll research it and I'll write a version of the Christmas story. We can read it every year; it'll become a family tradition. You have to understand, with a preschooler around, I was trying to look ahead.

Now, how does the Christmas story go? I think they were in Bethlehem. Was that in Nazareth, like Nazareth County, or was Nazareth another town? I never had a clear sense of it from growing up, so, here's my chance!

First off, thank goodness for Religious The first sentence on that site at the time said "This is a large religious web site which promotes religious freedom, tolerance and diversity as positive cultural values." It's a great resource for research no matter what you believe, putting aside the 'positive cultural values' part.

What comes to mind when you think of Christianity? Jesus in robes, and Christmas. Maybe Easter, too. So why hadn't this story been fixed in my mind?

Well, go check out:

It is the opinion of the essayist that the Christmas story as described in the two Scriptures of Matthew and Luke could never have happened.

I was so shocked to read this. Shocked! I did more research, found I agreed with it, and let the implications settle in.

Brought up Catholic, I had stopped going to church once I was allowed to stop. I was pretty sure there was neither god nor heaven, and bold enough not to baptize my daughter. But yet I hadn't taken a critical look at that old belief system. Kids do wonderful things for you, they make you grow in improbable ways.

Well, to finish, at that time I thought I could salvage my Christmas Story. From my notes:
"Although the story of Jesus' birth has been lost, we still celebrate his birth because of some of the things he said at that time that were pretty radical, like 'treat others the way you want them to treat you' [next year, find more things he said]"
A few days later, I broke the third metacarpal in my hand, so I put it away. When I finally got back to it, an even larger surprise awaited me.

Continued here

minor edits (spelling, add link) 12jan2006

Friday, December 02, 2005 


A family member told me that in her opinion, mother's voices aren't heard in our culture. As the mom of a young family, I have a theory as to why this is so.

I can tell you that before having children, I was able to concentrate for hours at a time. Hours! The luxury of that now seems so far away. When my little one toddles up with Moo, Baa, La La La! clutched in a chubby fist, I cannot just turn away, which means I am interrupted approximately every three minutes. Same with nighttime. I used to sleep, usually all night! And I could sleep in on the weekend if I wanted to! Even when no one is offering to "help" pound the keyboard, the daily work of a mother does not do wonders for turning thoughts into prose.

But even with my time constraints, I feel I can't keep quiet.

So if my writing is a bit uneven, quickly composed and absent a final polish, you, dear reader, have an inkling why.

This blog is my feeble attempt to shine a light on the scary as I see it. Hope you enjoy.

About me

  • I'm the freethoughtmom from New England. Welcome!
  • The word rational means having the ability to reason. Reasoning takes time. Giving yourself the space to think is practically a luxury in our society.

    My father is a logical engineer, my mother a caring nurturer. My handwriting with my dominate hand resembles that of my father, the other, my mother. I feel lucky to have both sides to draw from.
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