Every mother has a favorite story about their kids, each one of them. One of my mother’s favorite (and by favorite, she just loved telling it to women I dated) was about a time when I was still in diapers. I came downstairs, into the kitchen, my diaper so full it was ready to burst, and I’d have my hands up in the air, walking gingerly, repeating, “Ockie . . . crumbs . . . ockie.”
Of course, when she wanted to show how proud she was of me, she’d tell her story about a PTA meeting she went to where a bunch of parents came up to her saying, “Oh, so you’re David’s mother.”
She just had to tell all her friends about it; that the parents had all told her that their kids wanted to be just like David.
Well, I have to admit. I was a bit different. In fact, I was a recovering Catholic long before it was fashionable, and just shortly before my first communion.
I figured: what kind of an idiot would put nuns in charge of young children? They’ve never been married. They’ve raised no children on their own. Didn’t they go into the convent to avoid raising kids?
My third grade nun, Sister Mary Rip-Your-Nails-Out-By-The-Roots (who looked like a spooky version of Batman flying down the aisle, her cape flapping in the air behind her, just to take a swipe at kids talking in the back of the room), in her last years, was confined to a convent where she was forced to take a vow of silence. She’d bashed some kid’s head in.
There is a saying (I’m sure you’ve all heard), “There are no atheists in foxholes.”
It’s bullshit, of course. Foxholes are breeding grounds for atheists.
However, I tend to agree with Einstein, especially in his later years, that, in the end, we are all agnostic. “We just don’t know.”
I’ve had to block, unfriend, and castrate (my proofreader wanted this to be castigate, but I like to sterilize the people who get up your face over the most petty issues) friends in the past who did not like my line of thinking that goes like this: atheists and believers are just opposite sides of the same coin, in that they both “believe,” firmly, I might add, in the nonexistence/existence of a deity, without proof. And, of course, the atheist side of that coin tells us you can’t prove a negative (which, by the way, mathematicians and logicians call poppycock).
And then there’s the semantics argument, it’s almost tautological, that it isn’t that they believe there is no deity, they just don’t believe in a deity.
They love to emphasize their nonbelieving over their believing, which, again is poppycock.
I’m sticking with Einstein, “We just don’t know.”
However, in the mind of an astrophysicist, the concept of a Creator or Great Spirit is definitely about six magnitudes of conceptualization higher than the fairy tales we’ve been taught (and that many still cling to) about Adam and Eve, and Noah and his Ark.
Aside: did you know that in ancient writings there are some 400 flood stories? though not as many as there are creation stories.
I love a certain meme that was passed around the web years before Facebook existed (years before Mark Zuckerberg was in college trying to get laid), that went: Eighty percent of Americans believe in God. Share this if you are one of them!
The thing is, when you ask a believer, how many gods are there, they tell you there is only one God.
Then why do believers give their God different attributes; different and contradictory?
The answer is: we can classify the beliefs in God into four distinct groups; or Americans believe in four different Gods.
Paul Froese and Christopher Bader wrote a great book entitled America’s Four Gods, and the following is from their website, though rewritten so that we do not violate their copyright:
As you can see, it’s the first one that is most popular in America, probably because He fits into the boogieman type of God kids are taught young to keep them in line. However, scaring the shit out of youngsters does not create a healthy adult. They become resentful, rebellious, and self-righteous, but worst of all, they will argue for hours about how right they are and how wrong you are, ignoring facts because they were not raised on facts. They were raised on spooky fairy tales.
Oh, and it’s the believers in this God who also believe in the devil, and their belief in the devil is so powerful that in their minds, they’ve created another God. So they have a God of good and a God of evil, and there is this perpetual battle being played out in the universe, and especially on earth since the dawn of man (and woman).
And it’s this group who judges you, condemns you, and feels righteous about going to war, both metaphorical wars and real, bloody wars, with humans they perceive as evil.
There are two types of Christians in America.
The believers in the Authoritative God are, most often, this first type of Christian. And if you’ll recall that phrase, “on Earth as it is in Heaven,” you’ll realize that they lean toward authoritative political figures with authoritative policies and positions.
They are the Evangelicals of today.
And since they already worship two Gods, that first one and the devil, they are prone to create a holy trinity by substituting a false prophet for their Jesus, whom they recognize as their personal savior, while ignoring His teachings, His way.
They often substitute a religious leader, such as Pat Robertson, Oral Roberts, Joel Osteen, Tammy Faye, or Paula White. And at times they will look up to their political leaders as if he was the chosen one.
The false prophets upon whom they heap adoration, are rich and powerful, and these rich and powerful religious and political leaders preach to their flocks that they will be blessed if only they send them some of their hard earned money and pay a bit of obeisance. Their religious leaders tell their followers that they are actually paying both money and obeisance to Jesus. But Jesus doesn’t have a bank account.
Also, Jesus told his followers to sell everything and follow him. And like all of his teachings, they ignore this one too and preach the Gospel of Wealth, that greed is good and that they are all deserving, while the preachers have it all and their followers just give them more and have little. All in the name of Jesus. They don’t really follow him or his way, but they love saying His name a lot.
In the year 2000, I learned that 30% of Russians still thought Stalin was great for Russia. If you know anything about Russian history, you might question that assumption, especially when a major Soviet paper published that 20 million died as victims of Stalin’s repressions. [Ref]
There is just something about this One Third thing, or approximately 30%. It’s not magical, but you will notice that 31% of Americans are in that Authoritative God group.
Here are more interesting stats:
It’s not magical, just statistical.
Historians and pundits point out that, at any one time, 30% of a society are radical/extreme, hate filled, paranoid, and most important, tribal.
In fact, as I’m writing this, the image below holds a tweet that went viral talking bout this 30% or ⅓ of a population. Because we are a non-political organization, I will not post whether we agree or disagree with its message, but we will report it.
Tribal behavior explains why they ignore reality, ignore cognitive dissonance, and especially ignore the teachings of their chosen God.
And now you know where this was headed.
We cannot live healthy in a hate filled society. If you don’t know this, check your belief system. There have been so many studies on this I’m not even going to reference one. We know this, or we should know this.
We must know that hatred kills. It kills everything worth having in life. It is spiritual suicide.
Hatred is always self-hatred, and there is something suicidal about it.~ James A. Baldwin
Eckhart Tolle said that we define ourselves, our egos, by who we hate. And who we hate is our membership into the tribe of like haters (thinkers). This is the Us-Them mentality. [Ref]
In order to rally people, governments need enemies. They want us to be afraid, to hate, so we will rally behind them. And if they do not have a real enemy, they will invent one in order to mobilize us.~ Thich Nhat Hanh
After leaving Vietnam and getting perspective on what I and my country had accomplished, I wrote: The first casualty of war is the truth.
About 10 years later that ended up being the tag line to a movie.
One of the first truths murdered is that the enemy is not human; is less than human; is in fact the very incarnation of evil. We called them dinks, gooks, slopes in Vietnam. In Iraq we called them “towel-headed sand niggers.” Even black soldiers referred to them using the most hateful word in the English language.
I want you to remember this term: Language. It’s important.
Learning new things about the world we live in is really freaking healthy. They say when you stop learning, you stop living. And I am a grand student of life. I love the three “L’s,” Living, learning, and loving.
Learning wakes us up, opens the window, and lets in fresh air.
In college, I learned in my Women Studies class that “language is the furniture of the mind,” and if you refer to women as bitches, sluts, whores, etc, you’ve got some pretty old and ragged furniture up there.
Additionally, learning a foreign language puts brand new furniture up there and when you sit down, you get a new, amazing perspective on things.
For example: We all know that women are treated as second class citizens in the Middle East, and many of us freak out and we don’t understand why they don’t stand up for their rights. Why they don’t demand their rights?
We look at their society, while ignoring that in ours, sexism and misogyny are woven into its very fabric. Like racism, it’s been institutionalized and is so common that we fail to see it. Oh, but it’s there.
In the Middle East, however, sexism is even ingrained in their language. You don’t know this until you learn one of the Semitic languages.
Romance languages and Latinates assign sex to objects. We don’t in English, but we do often assign a sex to some inanimate objects. We seem to call boats “her.”
I found it weird that the word “children” in German is “neuter” or no sexual assignment; an it.
But in the Semitic languages, there is not only a sexual assignment, women must use different verbs from men, and when you speak to a woman, you must use different verbs than you would use speaking to a man. Even the word “you” is different depending on the sex of the person to whom you are speaking.
The Semitic languages are the only languages in the world (that I know of) in which you know the sex of the person on the other end of a phone conversation you are overhearing — immediately.
And then there’s this: adjectives mean different things depending on the sex of the person to whom you are applying them.
I learned this the hard way.
We made posters for the Humane Society in Ashkelon using my pup. We put a “balloon” pointing to her saying, “I used to be a stray.” But because we used the female form of the verb “stray”, it connoted “I used to be a streetwalker/hooker.”
So, yes, language counts.
Living in Israel was a powerful eye-opener filled with many discoveries, including the discovery that I’d had a knack for languages, and I also started picking up Arabic slang. I’ve even written this piece (warning: very crude language ahead) called “Cursing in Hebrew” that a friend, a Muslim comedian and writer found very funny, and posted at his blog. (I’ve posted “Cursing in Hebrew” in Language is the Furniture of the Mind. This article expands on my experience learning Hebrew.)
I took advantage of my time in Israel to read the Old Testament in Hebrew (with a rabbi), which was another real eye opener. There are words that cannot be translated, only guessed at. And I loved the Song of Solomon, but what most of you don’t know is that it is very erotic poetry. I’ve only recently discovered an English translation that hasn’t been censored.
And the Old Testament, the Jerusalem Bible, has vowels, which are called nekudote or niqqud .
In English and the languages English is derived from, we can learn the words phonetically, and when we find a new word, we sound it out. We can sound them out because our words have vowels.
In Hebrew vowels exist only in children’s books, newspapers made for new arrivals, and some religious texts. Other than that, you’re expected to read by word recognition. And even those born into the culture have difficulties when they run into words like BLGHA — after struggling for about ten minutes I realized it was “bee-o-lo-gia,” or biology.
Immersion into a foreign culture can be a bit shocking at first, but when the learning begins, it’s actually quite freeing. I was the only non-Jew (goy) in my ulpan (high intensity language school), and it was often embarrassing for them that I was the best student. I went out of my way to learn Hebrew as well as Hebrew slang. In fact, in my present-day library is the first Hebrew Slang Dictionary called The Brother of a Maniac Dictionary. In case you don’t know, “brother of a maniac,” translates to “fu**ing best!”
Now for a guy who graduated near the bottom of his class in high school to suddenly jump to the top if his class in Hebrew, you have to know it wasn’t all that sudden. I had to first survive Vietnam.
In fact, because of my love for travel, my love of languages, and my experience in Vietnam (being a hired killer), my mother sent me, during my five year stay in Israel, I think, three applications to the CIA. I guess she wanted her baby to be James Bond, or something.
Somewhere between high school and college, I learned to love learning.
My first days in Israel, when I discovered where to find published materials with the vowels, I got myself a library card and a newspaper subscription, and I read everything from comics, to recipes, to children’s stories. My favorite children’s story was There’s a Nightmare in My Closet. I learned the word l’hatzeets: “to peek.”
And from Charlie Brown (Peanuts) I learned the following.
And even today I have a children’s book of poems called, The Sixteenth Sheep. It was authored by Yonathan Geffen (Jonathan), whose name in Hebrew means: God has given us wool. Should you ever visit, I will read to you from it.
Management at the places I worked were often embarrassed by my language abilities. In a meeting once, I brought up the fact that we were in a formal meeting and yet we were speaking in slang. We were teachers and street gang workers, shouldn’t we be examples to the kids we work with? Yes, show them we can speak their language, but also lead by example.
They just knew that I had to be a Jew, so they did some ancestry work behind my back. One day one of my bosses called me into her office, closed the door, and told me: “You’re a Jew!” They’d found fourteen of my mother’s relatives had died in the Bergen Belson concentration camp. It wasn’t a death camp, but a lot of people died there, including Anne Frank and her sister.
And this brings me to my next point.
We learn things when we travel, though I doubt that we all learn we’re Jewish.
And when we visit and learn about people of other cultures, races, religions and become their friends, bigotry falls away.
You will find that among that 30% who believe in an Authoritative God, few travel. And the wealthy among them (who worship money), when they travel, hardly mix with the common folk.
But we have evidence, empirical evidence that has been up written in books, studied, etc, showing us that when we actually sit down and talk to people we’ve long considered our enemies, we realize their humanity, and the hatred begins to fall away.
But this takes an effort. It won’t happen on its own, especially when their leaders want them to live in fear and hatred. People who live in fear depend on authority to protect them, and this keeps politicians in office. It’s called “playing to your base.”
How many in America think they need a gun for protection, but don’t have health care? Are their families protected if they don’t have health care, nutritional food, and a decent education?
The odds of getting sick are magnitudes greater than the odds of having someone violently break into your home. And with an education, a person would learn that the odds of gun owners dying by their own guns are greater than their odds of dying by a violent intruder.
Hell, I once read a study that the better their mathematical education, the less people gambled.
If you realize, mathematically, that your odds of losing are so much greater than your odds of winning, your willingness to gamble drops to near nil.
And this is what I want to leave you with. (But first, a lot of people have asked me, “How did Trump get elected.” This is a fair question considering suddenly there is just so much hatred for everything and everyone. I did a little homework and I wrote this: How the Hell Did Trump Ever Get Elected, which touches on this idea that many people in America have never met the people they hate, as well as other psychological concepts I learned while researching.)
Hate is all over the internet, and in our communities. Everyone, progressives, conservatives, religious, non-religious, everyone is sending and receiving death threats.
They don’t even know each other, and yet they want to kill them.
They know a name, a statement, a political position, a perceived enemy.
America got to be the industrialized leader of the world by people working together. We won WWII by working together. Everyone made sacrifices. Sure, we’ve had problems. But we’ve learned in the past to work out our differences.
We were once the leader of the free world, but freedom isn’t free and democracy is not guaranteed. Hatred will tear us apart.
Our society is very ill right now, and just as you can’t grow healthy vegetables in unhealthy soil, you cannot live healthy in a sick society.
We’ve come back around to the beginning of this page.
I will leave you with a trailer to a video about a Muslim woman, feminist, who went out to meet the people who hated her. It’s is well worth the watch. The video used to be free on YouTube, but you’ll have to go search for it.
I wish everyone out there love and understanding, and the knowledge where we are doesn’t have to be where we are going, and that we can turn back only by supporting all of humanity, and doing as ישו מנצרת once said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
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