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.
God knows that I am no fan of Obama. In my personal opinion, Barack Obama is simply another sleazy Chicago Machine politician, and his presidency is going to be as big a disaster for the country as eight long years of Baby-Doc Bush. This has everything to do with his policies and nothing to do with his funny name. When you stop and think about it, Obama’s name is common in Kenya. Here in the United States there is still an element that considers funny names to be frightening. Traditional British names such as Bush or Clinton are still considered to be “American” names. Once Irish names, like Reagan were considered to be foreign names. People forget that back in 1960 John F. Kennedy’s name was as scary as Barack Hussein Obama.
Kennedy was an Irish Catholic. Back in 1960 that was as scary as being a Muslim. There was a strong anti-Catholic element within the Democratic Party who opposed his nomination because they did not want the Pope ruling America through our president. Former President Harry S. Truman made a better assessment of a Kennedy presidency when he quipped “I’m not afraid of the Pope; I’m afraid of the Pop”. Truman was referring to the fact that Kennedy’s father was part of the very financial industry that is ruining this country today.
An honest assessment of the Kennedy presidency may never be written. He became a 20th Century martyr. Possibly because he was Catholic, and that revolting closet case, J. Edgar Hoover, was determined to hide his homosexuality by oppressing all minorities. We will not impartially study the Bay of Pigs outside of Kennedy’s Martyrdom, nor will we honestly asses his part in the Vietnam war. Conservatives certainly did blame Kennedy’s reluctant support of Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement to the fact of Kennedy being part of a religious minority. The fact was that Kennedy had no choice in the face of a massive uprising of oppressed citizens. v Nixon would have done the same had he been president.
Giving the devil his due, Richard M. Nixon was the last president to campaign on the issues. Kennedy avoided the issues entirely and answered with slogans and vague promises for a bright future. I do think that Kennedy was the better president for the times. Regardless of his motivation, Kennedy did the right thing when he supported civil rights. At the same time he supported big business’s priorities in technological and industrial advancement. Despite that there were still conservatives who claimed that Kennedy won because he was better looking than Nixon. I even had some teachers who credited Kennedy’s success to women’s suffrage.
Today we are looking at a revival of the original Kennedy campaign. We have a dark-skinned candidate with an African name, and we have idiots claiming that he is a Muslim. He is being linked to black radicals and to washed up, wannabe terrorists from the Sixties. Those who claim that he’s a Muslim forget that he used to go to a Christian church whose pastor told an uncomfortable truth, that racism is alive and well in the United States today. This is proved by the fact that Obama’s name and skin color are issues. If the Republicans were really serious about winning this election, they could do it on race alone.
The fact is that the Republicans don’t want the election. The next twenty years are going to be spent trying to get America out of the hole that the Neocons dropped us into. It would be more profitable for the Neocons to step aside and to blame the Democrats for all the misery we are going to be seeing for the next two decades. This has been the Republican strategy since Carter was president. The Neocon strategy has been to own both parties. Bill Clinton was just as much a Neocon as Ronald Reagan. Look at the way Clinton tore the social safety net to pieces and set things up for Baby-Doc Bush to take over. Bush would have had a hard time if Clinton hadn’t paved the way by signing NAFTA and McCain’s financial reform bills.
The fact that Obama went to Rev. Wright’s church and associated with Sixties radicals is the only hope I have for the next four years. When you look at Obama’s actual policies, they are almost identical to McCain’s. Obama has maintained the illusion of being a liberal by abstaining from voting on key bills and laws. Obama’s health care reform is worse than McCain’s. McCain is pretty much going to leave things as they are, while Obama is giving a massive cash giveaway to the health corporations. Obama is even going to expand Faith-Based Initiatives. I have absolutely no hope that Obama is going to end the wars. The differences between McCain and Obama are purely cosmetic. Yet there are those who insist on making race the issue.
There is nothing more frightening to a fascist regime than education. When the Nazis took over Germany, it was intellectuals and not Jews who were the first to go to the camps. The Hitler Youth was quickly established to kill any spark of intellectual honesty that threatened to spring up in the German school system. Once the intellectuals were all busy learning about the joy that came from hard work and short rations, the road was clear to go after the Jews.
The American government has seen the dangers that come from a truly educated public. An educated public can raise their collective fists and swat a politician like a fly. Richard M. Nixon was an example of that happening. An educated youth is going to hear the war propaganda and tell the powers that be to go piss up a rope. That’s certainly what happened with the Viet Nam war. I would have to say that the American anti-Communist propaganda came around and bit them in the collective butts. Communist Russia was a poor and technologically backwards country that was presented as the enemy. Popular literature, TV and movies portrayed Russia as a technologically advanced super-power that could easily conquer the United States if we did not stay ahead of them. The U.S started a huge push for education. Our public schools improved the quality of education. Scholarships and grants were created to bring more people to college. America became the best educated country in the world.
This brought a plethora of technological wonders for American corporations to exploit. We created the computer, the VCR, and dozens of other toys that the American economy grew fat on. The fact that the public became educated was an unexpected side effect from the economic boost. Not all Americans became scientists working to make more profits for American corporations. Some became clergy, some philosophers, some social scientists, and still others were everyday workers who had been given the tools to use their own intelligence. The results were unexpected. European Americans could see the justice of Martin Luther King’s cause. The American public could judge Malcolm X’s arguments on their own merit. Mohammad Ali (who will always be “The Greatest” in my heart) was a college-educated boxer that appealed to an educated America. He popularized the anti-war movement and gave us our first slogan. Hell no, we won’t go. The American government found themselves with a crop of young people who refused to serve in Viet Nam and actually saw the reality of the war. It all culminated with Nixon, when the American people demanded his impeachment and got it.
The people behind Nixon had their butts kicked, but returned with Ronald Reagan as their front man. This time they came back smarter. They had a brand new philosophy of smaller government to hide behind. The first thing they did to demonstrate their dedication to smaller government was attack education. Not only did they eliminate millions of dollars in college grants and scholarships, but they began underfunding public schools. By the Nineties, public schools were being bought up by multinational corporations like Lockheed. By the Twenty first century, there were high school students who had no idea what the Second World War was all about.
Not content with destroying the American education system, the Neocons have continued to destroy any attempt at education through their support of the Christianoid right. The U.S Park Service hands out creationist propaganda rather than actual science. California was once the best educated state in the Union. Today it has Proposition 8 on the ballot. How far we have fallen from the days when the public rallied around Dr. King? It breaks my heart. Proposition 8 is the culmination of a 28 year attack on education.
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.
I have been thinking about religion lately. With the current financial melt down and the bail-out, I imagine that religion is on a lot of people’s minds. How many people do you think are praying that Pelosi loses her seat in Congress? Right now, how many people are on their knees saying, “please, Jesus, may Obama keep just one campaign promise”? Maybe people are praying that their jobs are not outsourced to the mysterious East, or maybe they are praying for the safety of a loved one in Afghanistan or Iraq. The Almighty must hire a legion of angels simply to keep all the prayers organized.
What really puzzles me is how the Almighty decides which prayers to answer. For every person who prays that Pelosi loses her seat in Congress, there is at least one person who is praying that she keeps her seat for the sake of his mutual fund portfolio. For every Democrat who prays that Obama wins the election, there is somebody praying that the dark-skinned man with the funny name loses the election. For that matter, for every American praying for a serviceman, there is a very angry Iraqi or Afghani praying that God smites the invaders. So just who does God listen to? When there is a choice between two sides, does God flip a coin?
There are religions out there who think they are really slick and they try to bribe God. Pagans and Catholics will light candles and burn incense in order to entice God to see things their way. Voodun will sacrifice a chicken. For the life of me, I cannot imagine what God would do with a dead chicken. I suppose a chicken sacrifice is as good a way as any to make chicken soup. What I would like to know is if their prayers are answered more often than Protestant or Jewish prayers.
Another thing that really puzzles me is why people argue over God. I recently saw a quote on an Atheist website that said something about arguing over who’s make-believe friend is better. That’s what it comes down to. Muslims claim that Allah is supreme. If so, why are Christianoids rocking and rolling through Iraq and Iran? Christianoids claim that Jesus is Lord! In that case, how come a bunch of Arab hillbillies managed to utterly pants us and destroy the World Trade Center? If Jesus or Allah were actually the high poobahs, wouldn’t you think that one of them would put his divine foot down and say, “that’s a no-no”? More recently, there is a huge tempest in a teapot over which gender God is. Is God a woman?
Another mountain out of a molehill is the amount of Gods there are. God is one. God is a pantheon. God is male. God is returning and She is pissed. It amazes me to see what people can argue over. In the cosmic scheme of things, we have more important things to worry about than the existence or non-existence of somebody else’s make-believe friend. We have real life problems going on right now. Who cares if your make-believe friend is male or female? Who cares if you have one huge almighty make-believe friend, or a whole storybook full of them?
If we are going to spend all this energy over a being or beings who probably does not even exist, why don’t we agree on a nice make-believe friend. This is why I have decided that I am directing all my prayers to Hobbes the Stuffed Tiger. Could you think of a better make-believe friend? He’s loyal, he tells the truth, he is a comfort during the bad times, and a faithful troublemaker during the good times. Hobbes gives good advice, but he’s there with a warm hug when you ignore the good advice and Suzy gives you what you deserve. At the same time, Hobbes has never smitten anybody for his sins. He has never killed anybody’s firstborn kids, or commanded wars. (Well, maybe a snowball fight or two.) Best of all, he’s a stuffed tiger so he can just as easily be Hobbesette. Could you think of a better God than that? There is no God but Hobbes and Calvin is his prophet.
Screw you, Pat Robertson.
No doubt about it, we are a religion crazy country. Even our Communists worship at the altar of St. Karl. We scare gay politicians into the closet and then blame them for being in the closet when they get caught. Americans just can’t make up their minds. That is why we need a state religion. Our state religion must stress Jesus and Moses with a passing nod to Mohammad. Our clergy must fully embrace the Protestant Work Ethic and People Magazine can be our holy book. Our high priest can be an ex-president and our high priestess can be Oprah. After all, rich people are morally superior to all of us. Put that all together and we will have a religion we can all unite against. Maybe then we will come to our senses as a nation.
Paris Hilton does not work as a virgin priestess, which is why she had to go to jail. Britney Spears can be forgiven for being bipolar. This is why her father leaked her private psychiatric information to the press. It’s one thing to get drunk and dance around without your panties before you have kids. It’s another to do it after you have given birth twice. Moral America was about to put its collective foot down. That would have ended her record sales. Now that we all know that poor Britney is bipolar, Moral America can pity her. No doubt that saved her career and her cash value to her family. Public figures give up their privacy in return for publicity and suffer under the judgment of Moral America. Both celebrities and politicians are treated equally under the scrutiny of Moral America. I heard one old codger say he was voting for McCain because “Sarah Palin is hot.” There seems to be a major confusion between world leaders and band leaders in the United States.
Morality is always ordained by God and is therefore part and parcel of the Protestant Work Ethic. If you are God’s chosen you can do whatever you want; it’s moral. A woman can be raped at a Church of All Worlds event and it’s all her fault for being sexually repressed. (That is the greatest sin for CAW members.) Another part of the Protestant Work Ethic is that the holy writings are beyond question. If you are one of the elect, you never question the holy writings, and those who wrote them have to be prophets. This is why Libertarians revere Jefferson like Christians revere Jesus, and why there are American Marxists who treat Herr Karl like he walked on water and returned from death. It’s all part of the American Religion.
I learned about the American religion from Dr. Perry Troutman at Lebanon Valley College. His Religion in America course stayed with me all my life, and the most important thing I took out of it was the concept of the American religion. American Religion takes on certain characteristics which are as immutable as Confucianism in China. The first characteristic is that American religions are obsessed by morality. The second is that America has never grown out of the Puritan Work Ethic. We still somehow think that rich people are morally superior to the rest of us. The third is that we look at public figures as if they are somehow clergy. Especially, God save us all, the President.
I will never forget the time a Church of All Worlds priestess jumped up and down screaming, “monogamy is immoral!” I mention this to demonstrate that even the alternative religions in the United States have the same obsession with morality. This is why we have Libertarians and Communists at each other’s throats instead of sitting down and working things out. Of course each and every group in America, religious or otherwise, has different standards of morality. The sorriest thing is that so few of them incorporate “live and let live.” The Democrats are immoral because Bill Clinton had sex in the Oval Office or the Republicans are immoral because some of their members were forced out of the closet. Nobody ever stops to think that it is morality itself which is the problem. If America was not so morality happy, sex in the oval office would have remained the nonevent of the century. vIf the United States was not so obsessed with morality, the closeted gay Republicans would never get as far as they have by pandering to American morality.
It seems that the boundaries between church and state lack definition. America confuses religion with its politics as well as its entertainment. We find ourselves judging our fellow human beings by superhuman standards. So what if Bill Clinton fell of the fidelity wagon? So what if poor, crazy little Britney drank a little too much? When push comes to shove, it’s none of our business. I really don’t want to hear about what Larry Craig does in strange bathrooms. The fact of the matter is that politicians are human beings and they are going to do human things. The same with entertainers. There is something really creepy about Britney’s father telling the world that his little girl has a brain chemistry dysfunction. There is something really petty about making Paris Hilton stay in jail simply because she is a celebrity. Not only does America confuse religion in everything, but it brings the worst out of us.