Can’t we all just get along?

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Mornin’ all.

I’m in a weird mood this week.

Maybe it’s the weather. We finally got a couple autumny days, real pot roast and crochet-project stuff. I was just getting to enjoy fall when it done went an turned hot again. I’m sure I’ll look back on this in a few months when I’m shivering under four sweaters and two pairs of socks while the winter wind howls against my uninsulated walls and think myself foolish for actually wanting cooler weather. But right now, it’s very weird to be looking at the pretty foliage in a t-shirt and shorts.

Maybe it’s the week I just had at work that’s got me in a bizarre frame of mind. It wasn’t particularly trying or hard, but there was definitely an insidious vibe that has carried over. Yesterday I had to write “Jazzy-Wazzy” on a cake.

*decorator’s note: If you happen to be the person that ordered that particular cake, thanks for the business and I hope you liked it! *insert required corporate thumbs up and shiny toothed smile*

I just don’t know what caused the funky mood. But, I’mma run with it. Something happened this week that I hope flew under the radar. Now that it’s passed, I don’t risk accidentally making it a bigger thing by discussing it.

Did you know that on October 5, the “activist” group Focus on the Family promoted a national event? “Bring Your Bible To School Day.”

What an infuriating idea on every conceivable level.

Now, as you all know, I am not religious. I was as a child, then took a long journey of investigation and discovery as an adult until I felt comfortable admitting that I’m not religious. I’ll go one step further and say it so there’s zero ambiguity: I’m an atheist. I love studying religions, and have not found a single one that’s shown me evidence that it is correct and that any particular god exists.

That doesn’t mean I’m angry at any concept of god. That doesn’t mean I secretly work for satan…I don’t hold any belief that he’s real, either. I have read the Bible and Quran, looked at Greek and Roman mythologies, and am currently admittedly struggling to get a real understanding of the Bhagavad Gita (so far, this one’s the most difficult for me to understand…not the translation, but the actual MEANING. I think it’s either because it’s so old, or simply that it’s based in such a different culture and I’m just not picking up the proper context…still a neat read, though, even if I feel like I’m pinballing my way through it. Its garden of Eden story is so much more badass than the Christian version I’ve known since early childhood.). I’ve looked at the core tenets of the LDS, Watchtower, scientology, and many fascinating cults.

I mean it when I say I love studying religions.

I love the tales, but I don’t believe them. I haven’t found anything that provides actual provable facts. A book cannot prove itself. The words inside are not true simply because the book tells you they are. And real truth is evident and demonstrable regardless of feelings.

Does that mean I think there absolutely is no god?

No. Of course not. There very well could be a god. Or gods. Or a collective consciousness. Or a prime mover from another universe who sneezed and kicked off the big bang. Or any number of possibilities.

“Then you’re an agnostic, Bethie, not an atheist.”

All agnostics ARE atheists. The waters get muddied when you try and differentiate to save hurt feelings. An agnostic does not hold a belief in a god or gods. An atheist does not hold a belief in a god or gods. All “agnostics” are atheists.

“No, and atheist is against god.”

No. You’re wrong. An ANTItheist is against the concept of a god or gods. They assert that not only is there absolutely no god or gods, but the very idea that there could be is harmful and should be abolished.

IMO, it’s an equally wrong position to hold. An antitheist is also claiming to know something for certain that they cannot demonstrate or prove.

How did we get here? I don’t know. And I’m okay admitting that.

What I’m not comfortable saying is that because I don’t know, because I lack the knowledge and ability to sort through the evidence and come up with the right answer, it must have been a god. It would be dishonest of me to say, “I can’t think of the solution personally, so it MUST be something or someone supernatural.”

I don’t know. Not knowing leads to a desire TO know, a drive to continue to gather evidence and sort it out in the hopes that maybe one day, there will be a concrete answer. To investigate all possibilities instead of shutting the door before you even start. If that leads to a god in any sense of the word, awesome! We’ve got our answer and can proceed to figure out the next great question. If that leads to more natural origins, awesome! We’ve got our answer and can proceed to figure out the next great question.

Here’s the thing, guys: It’s okay to not know something.

I know it goes against our nature. We’re curious critters. It’s why we’re so advanced on the evolutionary path. The discomfort we feel at not knowing something is what drives us as a species to make ourselves better.

But it really is okay to admit when you don’t know something. I promise. In fact, that’s often the only honest answer. I don’t know. Feels icky at first, but not as icky as pretending to know and not actually working towards finding the real answer to the question.

Now that the scene has been set for ya, back to Bring Your Bible to School Day.

I heard about it in a YouTube ad, and was like, “No way that’s real.” I clicked the link knowing full well I’d be bombarded by targeted religious ads. I took the hit, folks. I did it for you.

The link brought me to a very professional website explaining all the ins and outs of the event. To be clear, Focus on the Family was not promoting kids who attend religious schools or private schools to bring their bibles into school. They were saying that ALL kids should bring their bibles to ALL schools, religious and secular alike. They encouraged the children to share their bibles during recess and before and after school. They had downloadable signs the kids could put up, promotional flyers they could fill in with details on where to meet that the children were encouraged to hang around the school. There were ideas for conversation starters that kids of all ages could use for their age group, all the way down to kindergarten. And since they know the line of legality in this situation is very thin, they also included the limit for children, teachers, and parents…what they can and cannot do by law.

I’m less concerned with “can and can’t” than I am with “should and shouldn’t.”

Look. I get that if you’re religious, if you truly hold your beliefs dear, you have a desire to share those beliefs with everyone. I get that you feel like you’ve got the answers, and you want everyone else to have the same answer. But public schools have been set up as secular institutions for a reason.

I flirted with the idea of changing the story slightly to highlight my point. I was going to say that Family First promoted a Bring Your Quran to School Day. But, I really do think more of you all than that. If you haven’t already drawn the lines between the two concepts, then this is probably not the blog for you.

I don’t want ANYONE pushing their religion on my child when I send him off to school. I want him to learn math and reading. I want him to learn about science, and the scientific method. I want him to learn to play his saxophone and have fun on the playground at recess.

If I wanted my child to learn about religion, I’d send him to a religious school. That’s my choice as his parent. Just as it may be your choice as a parent to teach Christianity to your child instead of the tenants of Islam. Or Buddhism. Or Hinduism. Or any of the other hundreds of religions that are currently practiced.

Or atheism.

I pay taxes. My neighbor pays taxes. We send our kids to the same public school. I know for a fact our religious beliefs are incredibly different. Do you think she wants my kid to say to hers that there is no proof for god?

We have a great public school system. Yes, it’s flawed. But it’s still great. And the thing that makes it great is that it’s a melting pot that is set up to respect a differentiation between secular learning and personal beliefs. It’s designed to allow everyone to have the opportunity to the same basic education regardless of their religion. Even in this tiny town of mine, children from at least four major religions attend the same elementary school; more if you actually break down the general label of Christianity to all the different sects represented by the student body. Why should the tax dollars of a Christian mean more than the tax dollars of a Jew?

I’m not even talking about the horror I personally feel at the thought of having a five year old child proselytize to other five year old children, as if any of them can actually know what they’re saying and the meaning behind the words they’ve been taught at that age. For me, on a personal level, that idea is repugnant. That’s the very foundation of indoctrination.

But even if you’re okay with talking your child into trying to convince other children your religion is correct, I know for a fact you’re NOT okay with the other children doing the same to yours. And that’s the line, folks. That line should be clear to everyone.

We send our kids to public school to learn secular subjects. We send our kids to the church of our choice, or, in my case, no church at all, to learn any spiritual subjects. And the moment you confuse the two, you’re in the wrong. If you don’t want a child trying to indoctrinate your kid into their “wrong” religion, then you can’t be okay with your child doing the same, no matter how right you feel your answers are.

Thus concludes a Musing for what was supposed to be a lovely day but has turned into a humid, cloudy, windstorm, October 8, 2017. I think I’ll take this odd mood around town and try to get pics of foliage before it all blows away.

If anything, Fred sat on a mammoth to mine the quarry.

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Mornin’ all.

I just read a statistic that makes me sad.

41% of adults in America believe human beings probably coexisted with dinosaurs.

“Um, Bethie? Are we just going to pretend it hasn’t been forever since you’ve posted?”

…is there a problem with that plan?

“I’d kind of like to know where you’ve been.”

Life was shit for awhile. I had my hands full. It’s hard to type when you’re sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for the other shoe to drop while simultaneously ducking a falling piano. But it’s getting better. I can juggle a few things at a time again. Eye of the storm and silver lining and yada yada…

FORGET THE CLICHES!!! DIDN’T YOU HEAR WHAT I JUST SAID!? How can you possibly sit there so calm and collected when 41% of Americans believe human beings roamed the earth with dinosaurs? Nearly half! 14% believe we “definitely” did, while 27% think it was “probable.”

Nearly half of the adults in this country think the Flintstones was a history lesson .

I’m weeping into my coffee, folks, and not just because the miasma wafting off the top of this nasty brew makes it burn every time I inhale.

“Made your own coffee this morning, did you?”

Yep. If I go into convulsions, send help.

Gawd that stat is depressing. And I don’t just mean in a general “I fear for the future” kind of way. It’s a huge step backwards, and while there have been other leaps back in recent years, this one cuts deep.

As a kid, I loved dinosaurs. LOVED them. I had dino books, knew the stats of all the cool ones, had several dinosaur figurine sets. I had this really cool set of glow in the dark ones that I used to put under my sister’s blanket to scare her at night. They were pretty bitchin’.

You know what I never learned as a child of the 1980’s, with no access to the internet and the world of knowledge it could provide? I never once learned that dinosaurs roamed the earth with people. Didn’t happen. Not a single dino set came with cavemen. There were precisely zero cavemen pictured in the dinosaur books I read, and if you went to school and talked about dinosaurs, you were encouraged, not hushed up.

41%. Damn.

I was very lucky as a child to have academically-minded parents. Frequent readers of this blog might remember me mentioning a time or dozen that my mum was a librarian for most of my childhood. My dad was an engineer, but his degree was in geology with a side passion for paleontology. We grew up hearing about the geological history of the earth and what the changes did to the various incarnations of dominant organisms through the eras, and were always encouraged to learn more on our own.

I still have some of my dad’s fossils. There’s a huge one he chipped out himself when he was a young adult that he was so proud of. Wide and flat and kind of shaped like Kentucky, it was a section of a lake bottom that had fossilized through the eons, locking in dozens of small plants and animals that had settled into the mud upon death. I take that one out and look at it a lot. I rub my fingers over the biggest trilobite, the one that has some very inept chip marks from his untrained chisel in the rock around its base.

I can remember sitting with him at the dining room table before bed in my Underoos and robe listening to him point out the different species. I was probably six at the time. He had a magnifying glass and was carefully inspecting every inch of his prized treasure, even though he knew each millimeter of that chunk of geological history by heart. I remember it clear as day, the look on his face, his excitement at having that slice of the earth as fresh and sharp then as it was the day he found it.

And even then, I knew without question that humans didn’t live with any goddamn dinosaurs.

What happened, America? When did we get to this point where 41% of you refuse to grasp what a 6 year old with the attention of a tse tse fly knew to be fact?

You know the answer. I know the answer. Everyone knows the answer, even if they won’t say it. Religion. We’re in the grip of a blind religious fervor at the moment and people are froggy to get all het up about anything.

I never understood why science and religion can’t coexist, at least on some level. Take whatever religion you follow, whichever deity. Now, think of every new scientific discovery as proof that your Creator is even more clever than you imagined. Voila. Easy.

“That’s not how it works, Bethie.”

Why not?

No, I mean it. This is a serious question. Why doesn’t it work that way? Why is a new scientific discovery scary? Or a lie of the devil? Or inherently discordant with a singular creator?

The plain truth is that it’s not. Or, at the very least, it doesn’t have to be.

Is it a matter of fear? The discomfort the unknown brings? Or is it simply easier for people to cover their ears instead of learn, absorb, and adapt new information into their ethos?

Damned if I know. I’m just a blogger hopped up on too much caffeine trying to type through the spasms and twitches.

41%. *heavy sigh*

I suppose I should take comfort in that number. Could be worse, right? 41 is still less than half. And it’s bound to improve now that the dinosaur-denying Canadian has zero chance of being our next president. At least we won’t be led by someone whose father pretty much spearheaded the “dinosaurs are lies of Communists” movement. There is that.

Other odd beliefs that fly in the face of proven science are already waning in popularity. Less than a decade ago, 80% of Americans didn’t believe in global warming or climate change, even though it was demonstrably proven in their own lifetime. Now that number is only about 38%. That’s a huge shift in thinking in just a ten years.

Maybe in another ten years, we’ll be back to understanding that there’s no way Fred rode a diplodocus to mine in the quarry.

Imagine the progress we’ll be able to resume making then.

Thus concludes a quick Musing for Wednesday, May 4, 2016. I just want to take this opportunity to extend my sincere gratitude to Ted Cruz. By dropping out, he’s pretty much assured the nation of another 4 years with a democrat in office unless the Republicans have a magic rabbit in the hat. Thanks, Ted! I know you get a lot of heat for being the Zodiac killer with a face like a squished depressed muppet, but in my book right now, you’re okay.

I’ve never heard of a contract law case getting so much press before…

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Mornin’ all.

Today I’m cutting my usual preamble short because I have a serious question to ask.

Why in the hell are people being so stupid?

…follow up:

Why are so many of these stupid people running for president?

I’m talking, of course, about the reactions to the Supreme Court FINALLY declaring that it is unconstitutional for states to ban gay marriage.

Now wait a sec. Hang on before you click away. People have been (and still are) making many debates against the governmental approval of gay marriage. However, those arguments are all fundamentally flawed, no matter how many famous people repeat them. I just want to look at the most prevalent arguments with a logical eye. If I can change your mind, cool. But even if I can’t, perhaps I can at least give you something to mull over.

Let’s look at the actual ruling. The supreme court did not say that all people have to be gay, marry a gay person, join a gay cult. They didn’t even say that people have to believe in gay marriage or support it personally. What they ruled was that marriage in the United States is a contract which binds two adult human beings in the eyes of the law.

One person decides to legally tie their life to another in terms of assets. They are each declaring the other person to be their choice for legal decisions made on their behalf should they become incapacitated. Should they die, the contractual binding means they have made a choice where all the worldly possessions would go, and also who would then step up and be responsible for debt they left.

As far as the government is concerned, that’s it. That’s all a marriage is. It’s all it ever has been, all it ever will be. It is a legal contract between two people that binds their lives together.

Now, that seems awful cold, doesn’t it? Well, it is. And it should be. See, what a lot of folks aren’t understanding is that this new ruling does NOT “support” gay marriage. It doesn’t go against “traditional” marriage. What it supports is the concept that two consenting adults have the right to legally bind themselves together. It supports the idea that ANY two consenting adults can do this, no matter race, creed, sexual orientation, height, weight, personal preference…

ANY TWO CONSENTING ADULTS CAN LEGALLY WED.

That’s all we’re talking about. THAT’S what’s got people in such an uproar. The government does not care about your squishy feelings when you look at someone. They don’t give a rat’s ass about your religious ideals. They couldn’t care less if you start to drool when you see a man, or when you see a woman, or even when you see either. They don’t care because that is NOT what this law is about. It’s not a law about love. It’s not a law saying you need to accept other peoples’ choices.

Now, let’s get into the arguments.

1) A marriage is between one man and one woman.

No. Not in the eyes of the law. Take all of your religious and emotional thoughts away, and you simply have the legal binding of two people. It’s a business partnership whose sole purpose in the eyes of the law is to join finances and assets, and the responsibilities of having (or owing) both.

2) …but it’s not. Marriage is so much more than that. Why can’t gays just have civil unions?

You’re not listening. ALL marriages ARE “civil unions” in the eyes of the law. Always have been. Always will be. That’s what this new ruling is pointing out. If you grant the same rights, privileges, responsibilities, tax credits, and legal protections for “civil unions” as you do for “marriages”, then THEY ARE THE SAME THING. The ONLY purpose calling the two unions something different serves is to create a caste system. It is saying that one is still more favorable in the eyes of the law than the other, which it’s not. By this popular argument, logically every “marriage” should actually be called a “civil union” since that term is far more accurate. They are the same thing in the eyes of the law.

3) But God says…

Nope. You can’t make a national law based on what you believe your God said.

4) But the Founding fathers…

Founded this country to do the exact opposite of what you’re trying to do. Many of them were atheist. ALL of them were firm in the belief that EVERY SINGLE PERSON should get to decide what they do or do not believe in terms of religion. That means that the government cannot make a law governing religions, nor can one religion dictate the laws that govern the nation. They can’t force you to believe anything, but YOU can’t make a law based on YOUR religion that forces ME to believe anything, either.

5) This country has a proud history of Christian values.

This country has a LOUD history of Christian values, I’ll grant you that. Has religion influenced the running of this nation? Yes. Is that how it’s supposed to work? No. And it’s not “attacking” your religion to realize we’re screwing up and try to set things right. We should never, ever have let religious beliefs influence our laws. Keeping the two separate is one of the founding principles of this nation.

6) But this law will force my church to perform gay marriages.

What? Have you been listening at all? No, it will not. This law has NOTHING to do with churches whatsoever. This law says that no federal, state, county, or town office can deny any two consenting adults the legal process of marriage. It says that if Bob and Phil, or Linda and Sue, go to a court house to get hitched, the clerk has to hitch ’em, the paperwork has to be stamped, the county has to adjust their census, and the IRS has to audit them if they don’t file as “married”. Your church plays no part in this process. A civil marriage is different from a religious union.

7) Then why is a church wedding considered a legally binding ceremony?

Well, it’s not. Not in and of itself, anyway. The pastor/priest/imam/rabbi/etc. has agreed to act as a certified witness in the ceremony. They have agreed to oversee the union on behalf of the local government and then certify that the two people involved went into the contract willingly and knowingly. That’s all they do in terms of the law. They then submit their paperwork, which has been signed by other witnesses, and the town clerk (or other government official) is the one to actually decide the legal validity of the marriage. The person doing the service is essentially just an overseer that has promised the government to tell the truth on whether or not these two crazy kids wanted to be married. The actual approval is up to a governmental official, and the marriage is NOT recognized until this crucial step happens.

8) Okay, so if that’s the case, then this law WILL force my minister to perform ceremonies.

Nope. Your minister is a governmentally approved overseer, but NOT the elected official that a town/city/county has tasked with the job of officially declaring two people married. That’s why religious people need to submit paperwork to the town/city/county. Your minister is the one who gets to decide if two people are married in the eyes of the church. But that’s where his or her authority ends. The ceremony your minister performs is ONLY for the church. The elected official in your town/city/county is the one who makes the marriage a legally binding contract. Your minister has NEVER decided the legal status of those who wished to wed, and NEVER will. He or she can’t…they are not a governmental agent, and thus will NEVER be held to the same legal standards as a US official. This gives your minister the right to decide which weddings to perform in their church.

9) You say that now, but I bet there will be lawsuits if my minister denies weddings.

Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe it’s time for the country to follow the lead of most of Europe and make a clear line in the sand between legal marriage and religious rites. Many nations have handled this slippery slope by saying that people who want their marriages to be legally binding must have a civil ceremony in front of an elected official. In other words, those governments don’t just take the religious leader’s word for it and must oversee the actual legal union themselves. This does not mean that religious ceremonies are in any way banned. It just means it’s not enough. If you get married in a church ceremony, you need to then (or before…it’s often before) make your desire to wed official with a quick contract signing with a sworn government agent. Many people pay a representative to be at their religious ceremony to save time and hassle. I think this is the way we’re heading, and we should. Until then, though, while your minister might get push back from the community and heat on social media, or be threatened with a lawsuit, he or she is NOT a government official, and has the law on their side if they want to deny performing gay weddings. It is still your minister’s right to perform the religious ceremonies that your religion supports, and refuse any it doesn’t.

10) I don’t believe you. Mike Huckabee said, “The Supreme Court can no more repeal the laws of nature and nature’s God on marriage than it can the laws of gravity.”

First, why are you listening to Mike Huckabee? The man’s shoe size is higher than his IQ, as evidenced in that statement which makes no sense whatsoever.

Second, I worry that picking apart his statement will lend any credence to it…but it’s a common sentiment, so I suppose we must.

The laws of nature. Mike Huckabee, and those who echo this argument, are not actually talking about the “laws of nature”. Why? Because nature has always, ALWAYS supported all types of sexuality. Gay pairings have been observed in nearly every animal group, from other intelligent primates down to not very intelligent at all critters like mice and birds. And it’s not just animals taking what they can get when they’ve got an urge. In many animal species that mate for life, including chimps, orangutans, otters, penguins, beavers, elephants, whales, etc., longterm homosexual couples have been observed so often that science has fully accepted that the “laws of nature” absolutely include homosexuality. It has been accepted by the scientific community for decades. If Mr. Hucakabee wasn’t so afraid of the demon science, he’d know this. His entire argument is based on emotion, not science, no matter how much he’d like you to believe he was viewing this “logically”.

11) Well Jeb Bush said, “It is now crucial that as a country we protect religious freedom.”

I hate this argument. I hate it over any of the other nonsensical arguments as to why we can’t just call marriage marriage and be done with this idiotic “debate”. The people saying this are not actually worried about religious freedom. If they were worried about religious freedom, they would not place their religious views above anyone else’s. The people like Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee do not care a whit if you’ve got religious freedom. They want laws that support THEIR religious ideals. That’s not exactly freedom now, is it?

This ruling is not attacking freedom. This ruling is protecting it. FOR EVERYONE. Period. It is NOT impugning your right to live your life according to the rules of your God. It is simply saying that you can’t make laws that force OTHERS to live under those rules, too.

You can’t use your religion, your idea of God, to start drawing lines for other people. You just can’t. That’s not how this country is supposed to work. If you start drawing the line, where do you stop? Some religions can’t eat pork. Should we outlaw bacon? How about the religions that believe in arranged marriages? What if those religions began making federal laws that say we can only have arranged marriages? Or working on the Sabbath? In some religions, that’s a mega no no. Would you like that law to be in place and have your work grind to a halt?

“But those aren’t the religions we’re talking about. We’re talking about MY religion.”

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but your beliefs are wrong. To many folks in this country, your beliefs, whatever they are, are completely and utterly wrong. And so are mine. And so are his, or hers, or theirs over there. So who should get to choose? Who should get to make laws based on their religion? Why would that be right or just or fair?

That’s exactly why we cannot make laws that support one religion over another. That is why we need our government to look at people as people and marriage- at ANY marriage- as nothing more than a contract between two citizens.

One consenting adult legally binding his or her self to another consenting adult. No religion. No emotion. Just straight up law.

The rest? That’s up to you and your beliefs. No one is making you choose. They are just saying you don’t have the right to choose for anyone else.

Thus concludes a charged up Musing for Saturday, June 27, 2015. Sorry there were no jokes today. I’ll be back to my flippant self next time. I promise. Just sometimes, things need sayin’.