22 July 2014

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

There's no question that Christianity (some brands more than others) use fear tactics to get people to believe, follow, and obey blindly.

This is summed up perfectly in a quote from Dawkins's God Delusion in an argument I've heard many times from friends and family members.
The great French mathematician Blase Pascal reckoned that, however long the odds against God's existence might be, there is an even larger asymmetry in the penalty for guessing wrong. You'd better believe in God, because if you are right you stand to gain eternal bliss and if you are wrong it won't make any difference anyway. On the other hand, if you don't believe in God and you turn out to be wrong you get eternal damnation, whereas if you are right it makes no difference. On the face of it the decision is a no-brainer. Believe in God. (Dawkins,  p. 130)
You better believe in god because if you don't and there is a god, you'll be damned for all eternity for your disbelief.

I remember when I was younger and active in my dad's FIB church. Fear of hell was used so frequently that most people didn't even realize they were doing it. You ask a question that starts with "why," and the answer usually conveys something along the lines of "So you don't go to hell." The bigger the "why," the bigger the damnation. After all, if you're questioning the Bible and the will of god, you must not have a right relationship with him. You must not be a real Christian. You have to have faith and believe everything that comes from the mouth of the pastor, or else your soul will burn for all eternity.

It's precisely these kinds of fear tactics that work so well at turning me away from belief in god. If the Christian god is truly a loving and benevolent god who only wants people to love him in return, why the threat of damnation? And why eternal? Wouldn't a forgiving god be, you know....forgiving?

It's an idle threat meant to distract people (through fear) of the implausibility of believe in an all-knowing, all-powerful creator being. When people start to question, they are told to just believe, to ignore their questions and doubts, and remember that if they don't believe--and believe the right way--they will burn for all eternity.

Sound familiar?



And when you pull back the curtain--finally--and see the overwhelmed old white guy (no offense intended) scrambling to try and maintain his intimidation over others, everything changes.

The fear of hell doesn't hold quite the same intimidation when you realize it's an empty threat.

I much preferred the Scarecrow. At least you knew he was only faking being scary.






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Dawkins, Richard. (2006). The God Delusion. Boston: Mariner Books.

20 July 2014

Renew Your Spirit Sunday with art

Bo and I had a wonderful day. After breakfast at a nice little diner (where our server tried to ignore us and the other diners stared unapologetically*) we went to the Orlando Museum of Art.

It was quiet and peaceful and I loved the contemporary art exhibit. As always, wandering around looking at other people's creativity made me want to explore my own creativity in new ways.

We took our time and wandered, so we ended up going backwards through a few of the rooms. (Is there a backwards in an art museum or gallery?) We saw everything, then took a quick walk through the gift shop on the way out (I love a little shop), and decided we will likely be back. The contemporary art exhibit runs through September 7th, and when the next exhibit is installed, I'll be ready for my next reflective walk through the museum.

In the meantime, I'll have to do some searching to find out what other galleries are in Orlando that I might want to wander through. You can never have enough art.






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*More on that in an upcoming post.

19 July 2014

Preparing for a change

I've been living in my current apartment for almost a year. It's a nice little apartment in a pretty good location. But I always knew it would be temporary. I just needed a place to be until I got settled in Florida and worked a bit more toward my long-term goals.

Originally I planned to be in this apartment for at least two years, but there have been some happy changes in my life, so I'm taking the next 53 days to pack and organize and move.

The move is a good thing. It's progress toward goals and an exciting new chapter in life.

There's a lot to do in the next six weeks or so. I kind of hate packing and moving, but I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I haven't felt settled in a long time.

This move will be different.

Once we're moved in and unpacked, I'll be able to settle. Not because it will be our forever home, but because of the comfort and security that comes with this move. Our little family will be in a better place, and headed in a better direction.

So I'll put toys and clothes and dishes into boxes, I'll set aside items that won't be needed for a while, and by mid-September, we'll be on to our next adventure.

18 July 2014

Born to go to hell?

Image source
When I spoke with my dad earlier this year about being in a relationship with Bo, I asked him point-blank what his feelings were about me being gay and in a relationship. The comment he kept making over and over was "Biblically, it's wrong." It was as if his personal feelings didn't matter, and he was focusing on what he has been taught that the Bible and his religion say about the matter.

His final conclusion was that he considered my sexuality to be something that I have chosen that he doesn't agree with, and compared it to one of my siblings living with a significant other out of wedlock.

The comparison irritated me. I told him not to compare me to my siblings on this matter because I did not choose to be gay, while my siblings did choose their lifestyles (living with the people they're dating, smoking, tattoos, etc.*). He believes in a creator god, so he believes that god created all people. Following that logic, his god made me this way.

That concept was a big struggle for me in speaking with my dad. He goes to a FIB** church, so homosexuality is condemned, hands down. There is no gray area on that. And yet, science proves that it's not a choice, which means god made me that way. And if I'm going to hell for being gay, does that mean god made me to go to hell, and that despite any free will I might have, I'm going to go to hell?***

These are the kinds of questions I once asked and was told that I had to have faith. Or that I had the questions because I didn't have a right relationship with god. Or that "some things are just mysteries."

Of course, I suppose my error is in the "science proves it's not a choice" part. Because the Bible. After all, who is science to say that my lifestyle is not a choice when Pastor Bible-Scholar says it is, in fact, a choice and the result of my sinful, sinful nature. Those of the FIB (and other denominations) say that I don't have to go to hell if I just change who I am. Because science doesn't stand up to the Bible.

And this all assumes that an eternity of damnation is actually a viable threat of punishment.

Which assumes that I have the desire to believe out of fear of eternal damnation.

Then again, why would I believe in a god that created me in a way that condemns me to hell?






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*I know. But this is from my dad's perspective, okay?

**Fundamental, independent Baptist

***I know not all brands of Christianity condemn gays to hell. Some are indifferent, and many are non-judgmental and accepting. This post is speaking specifically to FIB.

14 July 2014

While the kids are away....

Puck and Tink are with Monty for the next three weeks for their summer vacation with him.

Yes. Three whole weeks without the munchkins. I know it's going to be a difficult three weeks, but I'm trying to stay positive knowing that I can use this time to sort of recover from the busyness of the summer and get ready for fall, especially with the minor major change that's coming in the next couple of months.*

I had a wonderful few weeks with my munchkins. We had adventures and made memories. They stayed up late and ate too much junk food.

We went to the beach. The beach is so much more fun with kids who build pools in the sand and run from the waves.

We went bowling. Bowling is so much more fun with kids who forget they get two turns in a row.

It was wonderful.

But now it's Monty's turn, so I'm faced with how to spend the next three weeks without them. And what to do to make these three weeks wonderful with Clara and Bo.**

Of course, there will be the obligatory working and cleaning and getting ready for Puck's kindergarten adventures. But there will also be movies and uninterrupted (hot) dinners with adult conversation and R-rated movies.

And it will be wonderful, too, in a different way.






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*It's not really a big deal, but I can't talk about it yet. Sorry.

**Last reminder: Bo used to be called Yvaine on this blog. Now she's Bo. Everyone should have a Bo.

10 July 2014

"I identify as...."

Puck went through a phase over the last year when he was very aware of the differences between male and female. He would often see someone and ask me "Is that person a girl or a boy?"

When he asks, I usually say, "That person identifies as..." and then answer (if I'm able). If the person is androgynous or I'm not sure follows binary genders, I give an answer like, "It doesn't matter because boys and girls can wear dresses."

It's important for me to teach Puck and Tink that gender is not always as simple as "That's a girl" or "That's a boy." Some people choose to identify as male or female, but do not appear stereotypically male or female. And I want the munchkins to know there's more to a person's gender than the way they appear or their physical anatomy. And that's okay.

I hope our society gets to a point where it's more socially acceptable to openly discuss personal gender publicly. I would like my kids to be comfortable asking someone, "What pronouns do you use?" and it be okay to both ask and get an answer.

Until then, we'll keep working where we are.

09 July 2014

On vacation

After a glorious three weeks with Puck and Tink, they'll be headed to Monty for their three-week summer vacation with him. So we're ending our summer vacation with a trip to Mimi and Papa G's* house. It's just a long weekend, but we're all excited for the things we have planned, the surprises in store for Puck and Tink, and the time away from everything that wears on us day by day.

We've had a wonderful three weeks. We've gone to the beach, played outside, watched fireworks, eaten lots of delicious food, made crafts, watched movies, and enjoyed spending time together.

I think a mini-vacation is the perfect way to end these three weeks. After all the wonderful memories we made, we get to make more with Bo's family. And I can hold onto those memories while Puck and Tink are with Monty.

Of course, because of the time of year, I'll be taking my work files with me. I won't be working during our whole trip, but I will have to steal some time here and there to get some writing done.

And then when we come back, I'll have time to finish getting ready for the fall. Because this year is going by much more quickly than it should be.






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*Bo's parents

08 July 2014

Disconnecting

I've been finding less and less interest in social media lately. I rarely update Twitter and the only reason I really have Facebook is to stay connected with my friends and family in other states.

But as I'm making the effort to be more present, I'm finding the desire to sort of ignore Facebook and Twitter more. As it is, I've stripped my newsfeed to only a few things that show up, most of which is shared links and articles.

I won't delete my Facebook account because, as I said, I use it to stay connected with friends and family. But I'm not going to use it nearly as much. I may check it once a day or post occasionally, and I'll likely still use it to send some pictures to friends and family, but largely, I'll just keep it active to keep it active.

The thing is, I sometimes get caught up in what my friends and family are doing and being unable to be involved in their lives since I live so far away. It makes me feel even more disconnected from them, and makes me miss living in Illinois.

And there have been many times I've seen people's posts and I just shake my head at the frustration. I'm tired of seeing the same kinds of posts from people who aren't doing what they need to do to make their lives better. I'm tired of seeing posts that attempt to make me feel guilty for being who I am (gay or atheist or a single mom) from people who supposedly love and support me.

I'm just tired of it all.

So I will continue to use Twitter occasionally and use the Facebook page I have for work, but beyond that, people who want to know all the intimate details of my life will have to do it the old-fashioned way.

And meanwhile, I'll be living my life instead of posting about living my life.

07 July 2014

You forget how to breathe....

I have a cousin who was born very prematurely. When he was born, my aunt and uncle were told that my cousin would likely not live through the night. He spent quite a bit of time in the NICU, and even after he went home, he had to be fed through a tube in his stomach, and was on oxygen.

As he grew, he had limitations, due in large part to the "button" in his stomach (which is what he called it), and his oxygen cord. My grandmother once told me that when he was about three or four, his two older brothers were riding their bikes in the front yard, going back and forth, and even doing simple tricks on a ramp they made. My cousin sat on the porch steps watching them, unable to participate. He didn't complain about not being able to play with them. My grandmother said she thinks it's because he never knew any different. That was how his life was, so he didn't feel he was missing anything. It was what it was.

That was kind of how my life until very recently. I was in a difficult situation, and it simply was what it was. In the moment I didn't realize how difficult it was because it was just the way my life was. I didn't know any different.

Because I couldn't take a breath, I forgot how to breathe. And I didn't realize how damaging it was to me that I wasn't breathing until I took a breath again.

Since coming out, since the divorce, and (most importantly) since Bo*, my whole life has been better. My overall health is better, my mental and emotional health is better, and even my career is better. I am at peace in my life. I have a direction and I'm moving toward it.

Life is good.

Because I didn't know any differently, I didn't realize just how bad things were for me until they started getting better. Now, looking back, I think, "How could I have let [fill in example here] get that bad? Why didn't I do something sooner?"

I didn't because I just didn't realize that it needed done. This was how my life was, and that was all there was to it. And it's only looking back that I see it.

It's similar to having chronic pain. If you've ever struggled with chronic pain due to an illness or injury, you likely know what I'm talking about. After a while, the pain is there so much that you learn to live with it, you adapt, and you really don't notice it unless it gets worse. Then, you find that one medication that works, or that physical therapist who helps, and the pain eases. And you didn't realize how much pain you were in until it subsides.

That's how my life has been. And no amount of praying or church or counseling or talking to friends and family helped until I fixed the root of the problems.

I'm not saying that now everything is perfect. It's not. But it's a helluva lot better than it was, and I'm on track to reach my personal and professional goals. And, as if that weren't enough, I have an amazing woman in my life.

I've taken a breath. And I'm not going back.






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*I used to refer to Bo as Yvaine on this blog. However, Puck and Tink have started calling her Bo, so I decided it would be appropriate to use that nickname here.

06 July 2014

Renew Your Spirit Sunday

I used to post Renew Your Spirit Sunday with some regularity. I got away from it, but I think it would be good for me to return to it, not from a religious point of view, but from a mental/emotional spiritual point of view. So it's back.

This week I want to talk about incorporating meditation into my life. While I'm by no means hardcore at meditating, I've been trying to incorporate it into my lifestyle more and more.

I've found that, in the instances in which I do meditate, I feel better and more present in my life. I'm able to let go of the stresses and obstacles that make me clench my jaw throughout the day.

I don't feel quite ready to sit and not think for twenty or thirty minutes at a time, so I'm beginning by doing yoga, and trying to concentrate on my movements and breathing during the yoga sessions. (Plus, I can use yoga to be working toward my health goals.) This will, essentially, be an introduction to meditation for me.

I think once I feel more comfortable with the meditative aspects of yoga, I will continue by doing more traditional meditation (at least when the munchkins are asleep or with Monty). I would like very much to be able to simply sit and be still, and I think meditation will be one path toward that goal.

Hopefully, the yoga, along with other positive steps I'm taking in my life, will help me be much more at peace.