Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Merry Christmas!

There. I said it. No “Happy Holiday.” No “Wish you a Joyful Christmas.” No, “Enjoy HanChrisZaa.”

I grew up in a Baptist church. I’m so old, I remember celebrating Halloween in which we dressed up as ghosts, pirates and cowboys (pointedly no devils or witches, of course) and actually went to the church for a Halloween Party. Gasp!

Over time, as a Christian, I chuckled how we got caught up in the “evilness” of Halloween. How we should study its pagan origin, and learn that it started with Satan worshippers drinking the blood of Saints. How we were promoting Satan’s Kingdom by daring to put on a sheet and ask for a Hershey’s (c).

Halloween parties disappeared and “Harvest Parties” appeared. Dressing up faded with games and trampolines and gadgets coming into play. Gone were the scary movies, such as “Friday the 13th.” No, we watched “Left Behind” instead.

I thought, how funny it was as a Christian, that we were doing the same things, only with a “Christian” tint. Satan had so much power, that we had to concede the day to him, and hope our alternatives would draw in the few remaining hold-outs against this pernicious growing menace.

Now, I see the same thing happening with Christmas. Only in the reverse. Is the secular community becoming outraged at a greeter in a retail store daring to have the audacity to say “Merry Christmas.” Really? Are there people out there, crushing into Macy’s (c) in order to save $5 on some sweater who are aghast to hear “Merry Christmas”? Do they take their business to another store, in order that their ears will not be assaulted with a particular set of syllables?

Yes, I am fully aware that Christmas has a pagan origin. Yes, I understand that Christians have chosen that holiday to celebrate the birth of Christ. Ironically, the Birth of Jesus having far out-paced any celebration for the more important claim of Resurrection of Jesus. I understand the morphing and molding of the pagan with the holy. Christmas trees in churches. Gift-giving and stockings of more import than the Nativity scenes.

How many times have we heard the cry, “Put ‘Christ’ back in Christmas”? Because, Christians, too, understand the lessening acknowledgment of Jesus’ involvement, on the way to the movie theatre to watch “Santa Clause 4.”

Look at the Christmas specials we watch on T.V. in December. “Rudolph.” “Frosty.” “The Grinch.” “A Wonderful Life.” “A Christmas Carol.” About the closest Christian theme left is Linus’ speech in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

We now live in a world that intermingles Wise Men and Elves with little thought for the incongruity. Much of me…nuts…ALL of me says, “Deal with it.” Enjoy it! Christmas has become a holiday that has a little Jesus, a little Santa, a little family, a little friends, a little gifts, a lot of food, and a time in which people that cannot crack a smile for 11 months of the year actually place dollars in Red Buckets.

For Christians—say “Merry Christmas.” For others, say “Happy ______” whatever floats your boat. Does it really make a significance as to which phrase pops out?

Now—I am probably going to get into real trouble with this one. I know I am a secular humanist. I understand the implications and value of separation of Church and State. I get that I should be outraged at a Nativity Scene outside a City Hall.

I’m not.

It doesn’t bother me in the least.

Perhaps some atheist will appear and take me to task—changing my mind as to the depth and breadth of the violation a manger and a plastic baby have when sitting in front of a governmental building.

There are people that find a Nativity Scene as much a part of Christmas as twinkling lights, and sleighs. When we complain about it appearing on the courthouse steps, do we really think this causes people to pause and say, “Yeah, I could see how offensive a Crèche would be”? Or is it far more likely that they become enflamed—defending what to them is an important part of this holiday.

Has there been a single person who has their life changed by a Nativity Set? Seriously?

Thanks to the current rulings in the U.S. Supreme Court, many Governments are being advised that they can have religious displays, as long as they are parts of a larger, broader, display that is not solely for religious purposes. In addition to the Menorahs, there are Nativity Scenes, Christmas Trees, Snowpeople, Grinches and Santa Clauses being included.

Somehow, I find that more appropriate, anyway. Since Christmas has become far more and far less than a religious holiday. More people take their kids to see Santa than to the Christmas Cantata anymore.

So this is one atheist that still shouts out “Merry Christmas!” Hey, we got Halloween, it is only fair for them to have a part of another holiday.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I am not a Free-Thinker


I find titles amusing. I know women that insist invitations are address to “Dr. & Mrs. So-and-so” because they are so proud to have married a Doctor. Technically, as a lawyer, I can add “Esquire” after my name. Doesn’t that sound ridiculously pretentious? Admit it—you would laugh if you saw someone do that!

And at times we join a group with a label. When people first started fighting abortions, they were “anti-abortionists.” But they did not like that “anti-.” It sounded so…I don’t know…negative. They became “Pro-Life.” Isn’t that better?

Now, the Pro-abortionists can’t exactly change their name to “anti-life,” can they? They have to be something “Pro” too! Thus entering “Pro-Choice.”

We are not “anti-war” but “pro-peace.” We are not “anti-government” but “Pro-reform.” Everybody against something is titled as being for something.

I am an atheist. Apparently that is an unpleasant word which contrives images of pitch forked ceremonies and evil plots to take over the world! (or at least introduce the insidious fiction of “evilution” while conspiring to eliminate creationism by the use of fossils and evidence, and research.)

We have had a President of the United States actually question whether a person with the title of “atheist” is qualified to be a citizen!

So atheists create other titles that are supposed to be more politically correct. Friendlier. Nicer. I love the term “Bright.” Not! Have we ever thought what that implies to the theist?

“Hi, I am a Bright, because I do not believe there is a god.
“Well, I believe there is a God. That must make me a Dim. Or a Dumb. Or a Not-so-Bright.

I seriously cannot imagine a single theist getting warm fuzzy feelings over being juxtaposed to a “Bright” as compared to an “atheist.”

We try “non-believer.” Or “skeptic.” And one term that comes out is “free-thinker.”


A word made up of two words, “free” and “think.” Both very popular words.

Everyone likes “Free:”

“Live Free or Die.”
“Be Free.
“Buy one, get one Free.”

What a nice, pleasant word. And “think” is just as grand;

“After further thought…”
“Think before you speak.”
“I didn’t think this through.”

Who wouldn’t want to be a “Free-thinker”?

Again, though, what of those persons who dare to question a free-thinker? Clearly they must either be restricted, or not thinking or (gasp!) both! Because once a person is a free-thinker, anyone who dares question their position has obviously not got their stuff together.

Oh, I get what “free-thinking” is all about. Once we were restricted to a certain way of considering the world, and now we think differently. But are we any “freer”? Are we not just as restricted as before?

On one level, I could possibly be convinced there is a god of some sort. Perhaps I can claim a sense of more free thinking in that regard. On another, I could not ever be convinced the God proposed by Fundamentalist Christianity exists. In that regard I have become more restricted.

Look, here is the reality. We ALL think. Yes, it can seem at times we see some really REALLY stupid things, but for the most part people have even thought the stupid things through. It just didn’t turn out the way they planned.

We all have thoughts that are free. We all have thoughts that are restricted. There are things we accept, and things we reject. Those items may change over time, but in this moment, on this day—we are neither truly free, nor truly restricted.

Am I a free-thinker? Yep—but so are you.

I know people don’t always like titles. I know some titles have negative connotations. But all a title creates is a way for us to communicate more efficiently. If I say I am an “atheist,”—as horrible a title people may think that is—no further explanation is necessary. The other person is not left wondering how they ended up being dim, or a restricted non-thinker.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

No Regrets

Zoe, at “A complicated Salvation” wrote this and initially I was going to leave a comment. But I feared it would get extensive.

(Side question: Does one leave a long comment, or is that rude? Is it better to write it out, clogging up one’s own blog, or should one remotely stay with the topic and just comment? I go back and forth. Today I fall on blog.)

Are there regrets for not leaving sooner?

The story goes of a famous lawyer who was arguing a case before the Supreme Court. A person observed, “You must be quite prepared. You tried the case and you argued the case before the appellate court. You surely know it better than your opponent.”

To which the lawyer replied, “Sir, after I tried the case, I completely forgot everything about it. Before I could argue the appeal, I had to re-learn the entire thing. Now, I will have to learn it all over again. It is as if I never heard of the case before.”

That is amazingly true. We completely forget our own cases.

There have been times, where I have to pick up a case again, after a few years, either for an appeal, or a new trial, or some other reason and become familiar with it all over. (I am in the process of doing so now; the experience is fresh in my mind.)

We forget. We forget the names of the people. We forget the dates. At times I will read my own questioning and think, “Where the devil was I headed with that?” Or I will see pages and pages of testimony and 100’s of documents all necessary to prove what I thought was an important point, and turned out to be trivial at best.

We asked for documents we didn’t need. We questioned people that did not provide any useful information. We asked questions that were a complete waste of time.

Yet, at that moment, I did not know it. Rabbit trails HAVE led to valuable information. Documents requested CAN become key. Or can eventually mold in my storage—unneeded, unused, and forgotten.

With amazing 20-20 hindsight, I can review a file and clearly see that I did not need to perform this action, or did not need to pursue that matter. If I could do it all over again, would I do the same actions? Of course not. Do I regret doing them? Equally not. I worked with the material and thoughts I had at the moment.

A common question lawyers are asked, after we lose, is, “If you had to do it all over again, would you have done anything differently?”

“Of COURSE I would have done something differently. I lost, you ignorant dolt. I could have worn a clown outfit and not do any worse!” (Most times we would have picked a differently jury!)

If I had to live my life over, would I have done anything differently? Obviously! We all would say that. Do we have regrets? Absolutely. Even when realizing that we worked with the information we had, a part of our humanity cannot help but feel that we should have known better. Should have done better. Should have listened, looked and learned more.

Perhaps, even now I am doing things that in 10 months will look back with 20-20 hindsight and think I should have done something differently. Even have regret.

Because we cannot help but impute our current knowledge on our past situation. “Shoulda seen it coming.” How often do we think that?

I was raised in an evangelical, conservative family. Even as I type that, a small part of me is thinking, “Yeah, but isn’t that an excuse? Didn’t you really know better?”

We do, as Zoe points out admirably, believe and say things that in retrospect are incredible. Unthinkable. Yet at the time it seemed so natural. We pitied our fellow humans who were going to be eternally tortured, without even a passing thought as to the grave injustice of such a thing. We defended a God that could kill babies and take virgin females because…well…because that was how we were raised.

Our parents said it. Our friends said it. And, because we were told that even God said it. Look, it is right here in our book of “God’s Quotations.” Women in leadership roles? Fine if you are a government deciding the fate of millions, or running a mutli-billion dollar corporation—but sorry! God’s book says no women. You ladies go and run the nursery. Every May or so we will read Proverbs 31 and place you on a pedestal. Just high enough so the pastor can look up your skirt. (Joke! Just kidding!)

We hated homosexuals, bombed clinics, voted on one issue, and avoided science as if it was the plague. We nodded when people preached that AIDS was sent to kill the sexually deviant, when told that blood of the heathen would go six feet deep for 100 miles, when informed that some people were just not chosen to go to heaven and that was too bad.

We truly thought that “X-Mas” was a form of persecution, equivalent to the rack. “Happy Holidays”? Might as well shove bamboo sticks under our nails.

We all have situations in which we look back and think, “What was I thinking?” Perhaps a bad girlfriend/boyfriend. Or a bad friendship. Or, for many deconverts, a life in a religion that is a barbaric boiling pot of prejudice and fear.

I certainly have regrets. I certainly wish I would have gotten out sooner. Would I have done anything differently? Sure—knowing what I know now. Would I have then? Obviously not—because I didn’t.

All I can do is go back and attempt to correct all the wrongs I performed, and hope for forgiveness. If nothing else, because of my ignorance.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I wish Haggard was a Hypocrite

Yes, the current stir in all of blogsphere is Ted Haggard—conservative pastor who, as it turns out, was having a homosexual affair on the side. The irony, and hence the outrage and labeling of “Hypocrite” is that he was extremely outspoken against gay marriage. Against homosexuality, yet practicing it himself.

We think of a hypocrite as someone who says one thing, but lives another. But is that what Ted Haggard was doing?

Walk with me on this. We all have moral codes. Whether a fundamentalist, a Mormon, an agnostic or an atheist. And we all recognize that we will, at some point, breach that moral code. At that moment—are we a hypocrite? We said one thing and lived another.

Or, is there a larger picture that we recognize such a breach will happen, and we take whatever steps we can to resolve the problem. That part of what we say is that we will eventually break our own moral code and yet even in doing so not be a hypocrite because we are living what we say. We are human.

Ted Haggard thought homosexuality was a sin. He preached against it. He campaigned against it. He proclaimed it through every medium available to him. And when he engaged in it, he thought it was a sin, then, too. He recognized he was breaking his own moral code. He purposely did it secretly; he then tried to cover it up. He treated it as if it was a breach of his own moral code.

To Ted Haggard, a homosexual affair was just one of many sins that he will commit in his life. Part of being human. In his mind, he is not so much of a hypocrite as a man who sinned, and knew he was sinning.

And, he will continue to rail against homosexuality. He will say that what he did was wrong—sadly not as much as the adultery as much as the homosexuality. He will continue to say that other homosexuals, just like him, are wrong and sinful, and should be denied rights.

See, a hypocrite would be Haggard coming forward and saying, “You know what? I am a homosexual. All this time I have been saying to not do it, yet I believe it is acceptable to be gay. I am gay. I should not have said what I did, because what I said was wrong.”

No, Ted Haggard thinks what he said was still right. He still thinks homosexuality is a sin. He just thinks he got caught doing something he has always said, and will continue to always say is wrong.

At some point he will crawl out of this disaster and write a book. And in that book, (which will be dedicated to his loving wife who is going through the hell of a heterosexual married to a homosexual) he will recount how wrong homosexuality is. And how he overcame this horrid sin. And thousands of heterosexual Christians will buy this book and say, “See? See? Even the homosexual Ted Haggard knew it was a sin, and he became straight.”

Admittedly, some of me wants to join the bandwagon and call out “Hypocrite.” But the more I reflect on it, the less I see him as such. And the more I wish he was.

Rather than a homosexual basher who had a homosexual affair, I wish his hypocrisy would be a homosexual that bashed other homosexuals. But I don’t think that is where he will land…