Monday, November 21, 2016

A Prayer to You

I have a friend who calls himself a non-theist. I think that means the same as what I am, an atheist, but without the baggage that atheism has picked up over the years. In some circles atheism is a kissing cousin of Satanism. Certainly we atheists are utterly lacking in morality.

After hearing my friend's views on how we should be treating one another in a pluralistic world where cultures and religions constantly collide, I pronounced him a humanist. He seemed to like that. What he is worried about is not an afterlife, but this life. Not an ideal of virtue, but tolerance of imperfection. Not a Pontiff’s golden robes, but Mother Theresa’s mud spattered hem.

The problem with being a humanist is that we’re not very organized. There are no churches where we meet regularly and talk about things that concern us. Atheists have been organizing recently, but our main concern at this point seems to be to be permitted to emerge from the shadows of opprobrium, to convince theists that we are not the devil offering them apples of hedonistic shame.

We can do better.

There is a humanist church to be formed: The Church of You and Me. You pray to me, I’ll pray to you.

Now, hard as it is for me to admit it, I’m not omnipotent, so you may wonder what good praying to me might do. My first response would have to be: what good has praying to The Big Guy ever done? That’s a little snarky, so let’s put that aside and see if we have common ground.

It’s not omniscience we will be hoping for when we pray to one another, it’s an open mind. We will pray that we do the things we think must be done. We will encourage one another. We will reassure each other that we are listening. 

Instead of praying to a deity to hold back the flood, we can organize relief efforts on Facebook. Instead of praying for our daughters to be cured of mortal diseases, we can ask each other to donate to research for cures. Instead of thanking god for “these thy gifts we are about to receive,” we can talk about where our bounty really comes from and what part we might play in sharing its with others.

Thank you my friends who will be seated around my Thanksgiving table. Thank you for blessing me with your love (or, in some cases, at least your patience). I pray you show that same kindness to those among your family and friends who have become estranged. I pray you show that kindness to strangers. I pray you bless them with your love.

Monday, November 14, 2016

I'm Sorry, America

You’re making bad choices, my peeps. I’ve seen it before. Running away from home. Sleeping through classes. Depressed. Trying a little weed. Maybe something stronger. Living on the street. Paranoid. Angry. Self-righteous. Delusional.

And those were just family members.

Now the sickness has spread to the point that we have elected our drug dealer, our enabler, our pimp, as President.

Every time someone close to me starts making terrible choices, I try to steer them in a better direction. It never seems to work. Sometimes they get better and say that I should keep trying, that those voices of encouragement stay in their heads, even though it may not seem like it, that they hear those voices even as they make more bad choices.

They also tell me that there is basically nothing I can do. That they have to figure it out themselves. That change has to come from within them. I usually keep trying. I do it for me as much as for them. It’s hard to stand by and do nothing while someone destroys his life.

Sometimes they change, many times not. When they do change, it is usually long after I have given up. Not on them, exactly, but on convincing them. They change because they convince themselves. They hit bottom, as they like to say. Sometimes hitting bottom kills them, but sometimes it is the painful catalyst for rebirth.

And so it is with my country now. We are making bad choices. It started with the Tea Party. I thought we went to rehab for that, but it seems we have relapsed.

At each mile on the road, I have talked myself blue. If my voice is being heard at all, it’s not influencing behavior. I’m talked out now.

Like any addict, we have excuses and rationalizations for our bad choices. Blame the enablers. Blame the technocrats, the bureaucratic overlords. Blame the snobby elites. The drug dealer is the only one who understands us.

I would blame myself, but I reserve that special hell for bad things that happen to my children. I don’t feel responsible for the bad choices we are making now. Over and over, I’ve warned that we should not do what we are doing. Now I guess I’m going to have to do what I inevitably end up doing when someone I love goes down this rabbit hole despite everything I’ve tried to prevent it: cross my fingers and hope they figure it out before they do too much permanent damage.