This was the title of one of my favorite essays by Lenin. The title itself is a powerful comment on the human condition. I can imagine early humans taking two steps forward as they left the canopy of the never-ending forest to see the clear blue sky overhead. Then they took one step back because the unfamiliar is frightening. Then they took two more steps forward. Then another step backwards. Eventually the bolder amongst them took three steps forward and one step back. Then four steps forward as the more timid fell behind. Soon the tribe broke up as the bolder went on to explore the savanna and the rest returned to the familiar gloom of the forests.
The more things change the more they stay the same. To this day we still have the explorers and the chickens. The explorers go forward into uncharted territory while the chickens huddle in the familiar as they are determined to fight change at any cost. The problem is that change is the only guarantee in life. The more the chickens fight change and huddle together for warmth and security, the more change happens. Back in the old days, the tribe that stayed in the forest was forced backwards as the forest receded to changing climate. The tribe that went forward founded the modern civilizations. The tribes who stayed in the forests tried to keep civilizations from happening.
Of course this is an oversimplification. Dynamics are rarely black and white. Absolutes do not occur in nature, but two steps forward and one step back describes life as we know it. Take Christianity for instance. I know Christians who are very progressive, yet Christianity as a whole is regressive institution. While Dr. King was leading the civil rights movement, Christianity as an institution was doing everything it could to hold him back. White preachers condemned him outright, or begged him to hold off until society was “ready” to accept African Americans as equals. There were many African American preachers who condemned him as a dangerous radical.
Today there are Christians who welcome gays into their congregations. There are Christians who will support a “separate but equal” condition for gays (“why do they have to call it marriage?”), and Christians who actively discriminate against gays. There are even Christians who will murder gays. Yet there are Christians who deny that there is any correlation between gay rights and Dr. King’s civil rights movement. Oh, how I remember the Southern Crackers who trotted out the Bible to tell us why civil rights were a sin! Gays are facing the same religious resistance today.
The few exceptions do not justify the whole. The fact that there are a few progressive Christians does not justify Christians resenting being classed together with other Christians. Very few progressive Christians do anything to protect their good names from being lumped together with Fred Phelps. Most progressive Christians are not doing anything to stop discrimination in the name of Christ. There are no Christians suing Pat Robertson for hate speech. At the very least I will say that progressive Christians are not active abusers. A very few are making a token attempt to improve their own ranks. The remainder are enablers who are allowing abuse to happen by trusting God to stop it rather than changing their lifestyles and stopping it itself.
Just so Christians don’t feel as if I am picking on them exclusively, I can toss in other religions as well. Walk through San Francisco’s Chinatown and you will see Buddhist Temples as ridiculous and bigoted as anything Pat Robertson could think up. The Islamic countries are famous for their discrimination against people outside of the tribe. Over the last twenty five years I have watched the Pagan movement become more and more like the Christians to the point where the Goddess looks like Jesus in drag (except in one notable instance where she was Joseph Smith in drag, but that’s another story.) My attempts to talk CAW into acknowledging the rapes and sexual assaults that happened amongst them have fallen on deaf ears. That’s the thing about religions, they think they can get away with anything because some make-believe higher power loves them.
I think that Starhawk made a huge mistake when she tried to graft anarchism onto religion. What she created was the social equivalent of a nuclear reactor. What is a nuke plant but a giant steam engine powered by the most unstable energy source on Earth? Religion is as reactionary as a steam engine, and anarchism is certainly a very unstable political system. The two have been in the middle of a meltdown where many branches of Paganism are taking on the most unsavory aspects of mainline religion: arrogance, intolerance, and the Protestant Work Ethic. Any religious movement, no matter how well meaning, eventually becomes a social anchor, and limits the believers to events that happened in the past rather than that which is to come. Be it Paganism or Christianity, religion is the force that makes us take one step backwards for every step forward.
I was not expecting to make any friends when I posted my series on libertarianism. I expected to make some enemies when I posted my opinions on libertarianism and the occult. The last thing that I expected was to find myself in an actual dialog with members of the Church of All Worlds. I spent this morning on the telephone with CAW’s communications officer. What can I say? The man is very good at his job. He managed to change some of my opinions of Church of All Worlds.
I am not going to retract my opinion of CAW as a political entity. I still believe that Church of All Worlds is part of the reactionary wave that hit the nation during the Reagan years and looks to seek answers in a past that never happened. This goes along with my opinion that religion and the concept of god/dess is a reactionary belief. I think the world would be a much better place without the concept of divinity. I would also be more receptive to the entire CAW concept if they would just cut the religious aspect out of it.
The founder of CAW sent me an email which denied that CAW was a libertarian church. The founder says one thing and followers say another. This is a basic problem with religion in America. The followers always take the ideas of the founders and “Americanize” them. The CAW I was introduced to was a bastion of American concepts like the Protestant Work Ethic, sin, and libertarianism.
I am not going to change my stand on polyamory. I feel strongly that HIV and STDs make polyamory a dangerous idea. I also think that polyamory is extremely sexist. It puts the weight of the risks on the women. The closest I will come to an agreement on polyamory is to agree to disagree.
I spent this morning speaking to the CAW Inc. communications officer. He explained that there is no copyright on the name Church of All Worlds. There are other entities calling themselves Church of All Worlds. From what I understand, they may be splinter groups of the original CAW. These splinter groups even share the same meeting grounds as CAW Traditions. There may even be a CAW or two which have nothing to do with the original CAW. The original CAW went out of existence some years ago. It is returning under the name CAW Inc. The original founders and many of the original members are involved in CAW Inc.
In my blog entry about Libertarianism and the Occult, I mentioned that I was in contact with people who had been sexually assaulted by members of CAW and on CAW meeting grounds. I have been assured by The information officer from CAW Inc. says that such behavior was never condoned by the original CAW. Such behavior will not be tolerated by by the board of directors of CAW Traditions Inc. He also stated that CAW Traditions Inc. will do their utmost to to prevent sexual abuse and to prosecute abusers if caught.
CAWInc. is in the process of recreating the CAW concept and correcting past mistakes. While some of the people I had bad experiences with were indeed members of the old CAW, they are not members of CAW Inc. The information officer doubts that they will ever become members of CAW Inc. The spokesman was very enthusiastic about how CAW Traditions Inc. is dedicated to creating a safe environment for everybody. I am happy that they are receptive to the idea of creating structures to protect people from abuse.
I hope that we can keep the lines of communications open. There are more things I would like to discuss with CAW Inc. We never touched on the subject of victim’s rights and the difficulty of intervening in child abuse. However, for the time being, I am willing to believe that the members and board of CAW Traditions Inc are innocent of sexual abuse, harassment, and molestation. My experiences with some of the past members of CAW were pretty ugly, and left a very bad taste in my mouth. I think that this colored my post about libertarianism and the occult.
I have taken my blog post about Libertarianism and the occult offline. I will be rewriting it soon. I also invite a representative of CAW Inc. to write an article on Positive Sexuality and to post it on my blog. I want them to include contact information so that interested parties will get in touch with the CAW Traditions Inc. I may not agree with CAW Traditions Inc. and all it stands for, but if people are going to get involved in polyamory, I would rather they get in touch with them instead some other people I could think of. There are many things that CAW and I are going to have to agree to disagree on, but fair is fair. After all the drama we went through, it is only right that I give CAW a chance to tell their side on my space.
I find myself coming back to this question over and over again. I think that this is because of the dialog I accidentally started with Church of All Worlds members. Maybe it’s because we are facing an even bigger financial meltdown than the crash of 1929. (How I regret some of my more optimistic posts.) Perhaps it is because I am reaching the age when I begin feeling the cold winds of my own mortality. It seems that the older I get the more I find myself agreeing with Richard Dawkins. Divinity is the biggest plague that humanity ever wished upon itself.
Well, maybe not the biggest plague. Maybe God is a gateway plague that leads to greater plagues. Belief in God leads to self -righteousness and morality. That leads to the greater plagues of bigotry and intolerance, and then before you know it you are invading Iraq and murdering gay college students. Of course, everybody has different tolerance levels. William S. Borroughs was a junkie all his life. He lived to be 79 and left a legacy of great literature. There are lots of people who are perfectly fine on God. God gives them a buzz that gets them through life. They go around doing good and smiling and bringing joy to people. These people can be seen as the happy hippies of religion. Then there are the Fred Phelps of the world. They can be seen as junkies who mug people for their fixes.
There are no clear boundaries between the good guys and the bad guys. The happy hippy could belong to the same sect, religion, or cult as the mugger. So when somebody says “It’s all the same God” it’s like saying “it’s all the same drug”. Like all drugs, people have different tolerances and different reactions to God. God makes some users violent and some users mellow. There is a school of thought that suggests that God’s gender makes a difference as to the effects. From my experience it makes no difference. I have met Pagans whose Goddess is Jesus in drag, and who are as crazy as any fundie I ever met.
At the risk of mixing even more metaphors, I suspect that belief in divinity is a social neurosis. God and invisible spirits were a good way to explain things that were not easily understandable. Babies came through sex, but nobody understood the unseen mechanism of sex. So when you had sex you made the invisible spirits happy too, and a baby came out of it. So when somebody dies, which is sad, the person comes back through the happy mechanics of sex. But over the centuries this coping mechanism changed to become the God of Fred Phelps and the lunatic pagan who screamed “monogamy is immoral” in my face.
Today we have the scientific method. We know the physics behind lightning and fire. We do not need God to explain the world to us. We have done a noble job on our own. We have outgrown divinity. Yet we do not abandon an outworn concept. Divinity remains a concept that guides our thoughts and actions. What really amazes me is how easily divinity can be used to manipulate the masses. Look at the support for the Iraq war. The Christianoid churches organized their brainwashed minions to wipe out the evil of Islam. Christians and Muslims are fighting each other over whose imaginary friend is greater.
As a nation, we have been way too tolerant of religions. We have allowed Christian religions to organize and take over our government and our military. It’s about time for us to take a stand against God. The Taney Decision of 1829 clearly gives us a right to curtail certain freedoms when such freedoms are proven to violate the common good. There is no doubt in my mind that the Christianoid right has definitely violated the common good. We have the right to stop them. In fact, not standing up to them only feeds into their delusions.
There are few things that will drive me into a rage faster than the able bodied discriminating against the disabled. I suppose that human rights are such a rare commodity that there isn’t enough of them for everybody. Those of us who cannot keep up with the young and healthy are just second class citizens. Maybe we are not even citizens at all. After all, many of us need reasonable accommodations. We need curb cuts, and beepers in the traffic lights to help us cross the streets. Some of us may even need help in crossing the street.
I have chronic pain issues which preclude me from driving. I have not been behind the wheel since I was sixteen years old. I hate it when people look at me like I was from Mars and ask “how can you survive without a car?” It certainly can be done. I’ve been doing it for 34 years. It takes ingenuity and persistence. I am more prepared for the coming oil crunch than most of you guys. I can just picture myself staring at you like you were from Mars and saying, “how could you survive this long without knowing the public transit schedules?”
One of the things that really pisses me off is when the able bodied compare disabilities. “There are people in wheelchairs who can drive,” I am told over and over again. I don’t know what keeps me from beating these idiots to death with a dead halibut. People in wheelchairs have special controls installed in their cars. There is no such accommodation for my disability. Also, not all wheelchair users are the same. Some wheelchair users are too weak in the arms to use hand controls. Others lack coordination. Disabilities are not a cookie-cutter situation. There are other people with chronic pain and weakness in the legs who can easily drive.
Of course, not all disabilities are visible. The able bodied can see if you are blind or in a wheelchair. That makes you an object of pity. You are somebody they can feel superior to while proving their compassion. There are many disabilities which are not visible, and that’s when the hard core bigotry comes out. I brought up an autistic son who did not match the able bodied “Rain Man” preconceptions of autism. “I don’t see anything wrong with him,” I heard over and over again. “He’s just spoiled,” said others. One real loser, the former head of CAW’s children’s ministry, had the nerve to lay hands on him.
Denial is not just a river in Egypt, it is also the basis of the able bodied prejudice against the disabled. It is so much easier for the able bodied to simply make believe that invisible disabilities don’t exist. If they don’t conform to Dustin Hoffman’s terrible rendition in “Rain Man,” then autistics don’t exist. If the blind do not wear dark glasses and carry canes, then they are not blind. If the disabled don’t conform to their preconceptions, then of course they are just making it up.
We have the ADA and the Californians with Disabilities Act, which is a start. These laws serve the same purpose as the Civil Rights Act. They are not there to destroy prejudice. That would be impossible. We are always going to have stupid people amongst us. The true purpose is to educate people that prejudice exists. This means we are going to need these laws for a long, long, time.