Fascism Won’t Save Us

The Question: 

It is astounding to watch the decline within our borders. It’s unimaginable that Americans are destroying our cities and towns and take such pleasure in burning buildings, striking fear in their neighbors, and trampling over one another. It’s a testament that destruction of life doesn’t come by way of guns, but of wicked hearts, tongues, hands, and feet. Why do such people find pleasure in destroying one another?

The Answer:

Wow, that was quite a sermon. Or, more properly, that was quite a load of unsubstantiated, mostly untrue, suppositions and talking points lumped together as though they prove something. What they prove is, you spend too much time watching Fox News. The cure is the opposite of what you seem to be suggesting.

The “decline” within our borders is a pretty subjective issue, both as to whether it actually exists, and if it does who is responsible for it, as well as what it is that is actually declining. You focus on the riots which have occurred in some cities, principally Seattle, and before that Minneapolis and a few other places, while ignoring the underlying cause of this, which initially was the rekindling of the age-old problem of police treatment of black people versus how white people are treated, This predates Trump by centuries but has flared up again because of recent, highly-publicized cases that are particularly appalling, but were fanned by Trump’s embrace of white nationalism and right wing militancy and tepid to no response to these legitimate grievances that has left the black population, as well as people of all colors who are not white supremacists, feeling threatened and outraged because their lives are literally at risk. Riots are not widespread, even now; many states and cities have seen no violence whatsoever. A bigger source of “decline” is something you don’t mention at all,  the coronavirus, and the President’s half-assed response to it; you don’t mention the thousands of deaths, or the massive unemployment, and the loss of businesses and jobs while a few big companies have grown massively richer. That is quite obviously to me a much larger problem than riots, but I don’t know that I would call even that proof of our “decline”, as much as proof of Trump and Mitch McConnell and the Republican Party’s failure to lead. Again, Trump will blame it on everyone but himself, but he is the one chiefly responsible. 

Then you throw in that sentence about guns not being responsible, it’s the people…so don’t take away our guns? Somebody should have taken that gun away from the 17 year old pasty-faced jelly donut of a vigilante who killed two people; he wouldn’t have killed anybody with his bare hands, I’m pretty sure, unless it was a neighborhood bird. The right wing militias strutting around with their arsenals would go back to hiding in their basements and training camps if you took their guns away…and for my money they are more responsible for any potential decline within our borders than people seeking equal rights, fair treatment, and the upholding of our constitution are.

Here’s the bottom line: wicked hearts, tongues, hands, and feet are in the eye of the beholder. We might all agree they exist, but we don’t all agree on which people they are attached to. I believe in civil rights; you appear to believe in business as usual, with all of it’s built-in biases and injustices, where white people (such as you and myself) continue to enjoy unearned advantages over everyone else. We’re not declining from a perfect nation, where everything was fine and everybody was happy before; we’re trying to get closer to that place we have never been. It’s messy, chaotic, and unsettling to most of us when the old order and the familiar is rattled, or threatened; a lot of the activities associated will be wrong-headed, wrong-hearted, and condemned either at the time or later, often rightly and sometimes wrongly. But doing nothing is worse. If you want to watch the nation decline, insist that we never do anything to make it better or correct the mistakes of the past. We are a work in progress. As soon as we stop being a work in progress, as soon as we stop trying to evolve and adapt to clearer understandings of the injustice, immorality, and unethical behaviors that WE ALREADY HAVE and have had for centuries, THAT is when our decline will begin. The first step towards stopping any decline as I see is to get rid of Trump. By focusing on the riots that are a direct result of Trump’s divisiveness you are arguing for the opposite of that. If Trump is reelected, the decline is only just beginning.

Tongue Lashings

The Question: 

My wife is a good person but has a temper that flares often. She is always remorseful after speaking unkind thoughts and words and is as quick to apologize as she is to hurt others with a quick tongue. Am I wrong to insist that if she can’t speak with kindness, not to speak at all?

The Answer:

Yes. You are not the boss of her. She is responsible for her own acts, and also the consequences of her acts. You might suggest she temper her behavior from time to time, you might point out that it upsets you occasionally, and you might suggest she seek professional help if she has a desire to change, but we are well beyond the era when it was okay for men to “insist” women behave in accordance with their wishes. Try to see your wife as a person in her own right, rather than an appendage of you. I know that’s not what the Bible says; this is just another example of the Bible being dead wrong.

Your wife will bear the consequences of her actions more strongly than you, in the eventual loss of her more sensitive friends. If it offends you to the point you feel you can’t tolerate her behavior anymore, and your wife shows no desire or ability to change, consider divorce. If you aren’t at that point, consider accepting her as a human being with the right to behave however she behaves, or in other words with  the same rights and responsibilities for the consequences of her actions you expect yourself to enjoy, not as a man but as a human.

Benevolent Overlord?

The Question: 

Which is the worst sin in the eyes of God?

The Answer:

Whatever ones you didn’t repent before you died.

Otherwise, they’re all the same to him. No such thing as big and small. The punishment for murdering someone (that God didn’t instruct you to murder) is the same as the punishment for eating shellfish, cutting your beard, or disrespecting your parents.

The crime doesn’t matter, the important thing is whether or not you ask for forgiveness for having done it, or for even having thought about doing it. You’re going to either heaven or hell permanently, no take backs, no parole, no time off for good behavior, no appeal process. If you don’t cross your T’s and dot your I’s to God’s satisfaction, he gets to torture you forever in hell with fire and endless pain. Play your cards right and he gets to torture you forever in heaven with toil in his vineyards while you get to sing his praises and thank him over and over and over and over again for his benevolence. I’m not sure which would be worse, a billion years in, with no end to look forward to, being honestly tortured and allowed to scream or pretending you’re not being tortured, while being unable to complain about it. 

The worst sin in my eyes is humanity’s invention of God. 

The worst crime is murder. Sins are offenses against god, who doesn’t exist: crimes are offenses against humans, who do.

Different Strokes

The Question: 

Why do some people scoff at the prospect of the second coming of Christ?

The Answer:

Because it’s ludicrous.

People like me wouldn’t mind so much if people who believe in the second coming of Christ or any other religious doctrine would apply their craziest ideas only to themselves, but too many of them in all religions insist that their delusion and fantasy gives them the right to make the rules for the rest of us, replete with their ancient prejudices and false doctrines. Freedom of religion is only defensible when everyone has the same freedom, and that isn’t possible under any religious theocracy, or when one religion is favored over all others. Blasphemy should never be a crime, and criticism of any or all religions, including no religion, must be defended. The proper response to a cartoon is to make a cartoon or a counter argument of your own, or just to let it go as a difference of opinion, that we all have a right to. The proper response is not to chop the “offender’s” head off. If you can’t defend your beliefs with reason and argument, or learn to ignore opposing opinions without responding with violence, maybe you should realize there is nothing to your religion except your own ego and sense of entitlement. Let God chop heads off, if he’s so offended. It would be far more credible, coming from Him. When it comes from you, it only looks like you doing it…at the cost of your own humanity.

Try Swimming In The Deep End

The Question: 

Are we living in the end times? Is the Antichrist alive today and will Jesus return soon? 

The Answer:

No, no, and no.

The end times will be when the universe collapses back into itself, if it does; otherwise it will be when the last star goes dark. Either way, it’s billions of years from now and humans will undoubtedly be extinct billions of years before it happens, whether we choose to hasten the process of our own demise through stupidity or not. No heaven awaits us.

There is no Antichrist, although Donald Trump comes close. 

Jesus isn’t coming back.

It’s all fantasy, except for the part about the universe ending someday.

Tear Gassed For Pleasure

The Question: 

Is the business of rioting in the streets the outcome of preoccupation of “self,” an obsession with satisfying every whim that crosses a person’s mind?

The Answer:

The business of rioting in the streets is the outcome of greed, anger, and a disregard for human life and public and private property. People rioting don’t fit neatly into one category, though. You have alleged left wing “antifa” squads who hate fascists, and more prominently in reality right wing vigilantes and “miliitias” who want to start a race war or just have gun fetishes and military fantasies, and then of course you have opportunists associated with no political causes who just like to break and steal stuff. It’s not really much of a business, and I doubt if anyone rioting is “obsessed with satisfying every whim that crosses their mind.” It’s a dangerous business, for one thing; people get hurt, and people die. They’re either caught up in the passion of the moment, or they are there for very specific reasons, intending to advance or prevent the cause they think justifies violence as well as personal risk.

Rioting in the streets often accompanies peaceful protests, but it is not a reason to dismiss peaceful protests or peaceful protestors, since the organizers can’t control or prevent the people who are attracted to the scene and don’t share their methods or vision. Violence and riots often come out from peaceful protests and can be blamed not on the peaceful protestors but on brutal police responses when the police attack protestors rather than looters and people damaging property,  or on handfuls of agitators either aligned philosophically but not in spirit with the protestors or opposed to them, or the opportunistic thieves and psychos that live on the margins of society and don’t care what the protest is about.

None of this is a new phenomenon. Peaceful protests with violent consequences are older than the nation. What you should try to remember is that people don’t protest to satisfy their every whim; they protest in response to what they see as injustice, inequality, and abuses of either individuals or entire groups of human beings. A protest is seldom on behalf of the individual protesting; it is almost always on behalf of people or groups who are suffering. Protests tend to go up when the government is seen as particularly callous or indifferent to the people it is supposed to be serving, as is the case at present under President Trump, who only serves one segment of the population, at the expense of others. Selfish people are the ones not protesting or not in sympathy with the people who are being oppressed, and have been oppressed for centuries. Trump says we will have chaos under Biden, when in fact we have chaos now. Prognostication isn’t really my bag, but my guess is if we get rid of Trump, it will go a long way toward tamping down protests and the riots that grow out of them, because the perception of who the government stands for and who it protects will change back from some of the people as it is has been under Trump, back to ALL of the people, as the founding fathers intended and every other president in my lifetime, Republican or Democrat, has supported to a much greater degree than Trump is capable of. It will be a honeymoon period, of course, and if police reform and other issues aren’t addressed by the new administration, protests will continue, and violence is liable to be attached. But it won’t, for the most part be about “self”; it will be about all of us.

The Dog Ate My Homework

The Question: 

I know it is important to read the Bible and spend time praying, but it is hard to do when a person works and has a family to take care of. Does God understand that when a day ends people are too tired to do anything else?

The Answer:

Good one. You believe in a god that is supposed to be all-knowing and all-seeing, and you think he isn’t aware of a lame excuse when he hears one?

I don’t believe in that god, or any god for that matter, but if I did I sure wouldn’t put that weak shit out there. And if I did, I wouldn’t expect to enjoy the Day of Judgement much. The examiner could rewind the tape of my life and show all the times I could have been praying, or reading the Bible, and chose not to: like, lunch hour, commuting or doing housework with books on tape, including the kids in family activities like, Bible Stories at bedtime, prayers at bedtime, prayers thanking for food, another day, or whatever. Prayers can be done in minutes. Bible reading can happen whenever you are in the car or doing housework via the internet or podcasts, or in the place of television or reading those trashy novels you love. 

Let’s face it: if you truly believe in a god that is going to send you to heaven or hell, and he’s on the bottom of your priority list as to how you spend your time, where do think he’s likely to send you? He’s looking for worshippers, not slackers and excuse makers. And you don’t have to wait for the day to end before you turn to prayer or the Bible. You can integrate into your life.

But my actual advice isn’t to pray more, or to read the Bible; it’s to do neither. Both are monumental wastes of time, in my opinion, because neither heaven or hell awaits us, and no god cares one way or the other. What’s ahead for all of us, regardless of what we believe, is only death everlasting. But if you’re going to be a Christian, for fuck’s sake be a Christian. As it stands, if there was a heaven and I was in charge of the judging I’d send you to hell before I sent any atheist. At least an atheist is standing up for his convictions. What are you doing? Shit or get off the pot, as a minister friend of mine once colorfully put it.

Simple Explanations

The Question: 

The pandemic, riots and total unrest make me desperate for peace. I have missed the fellowship of other believers and am desperate to know why such suffering escalates. My neighbor keeps saying God is in control. How can that be?

The Answer(s):

God moves in mysterious ways.

Your concerns are not his concerns. He’ll explain it all to you when you get to heaven. Then it will make perfect sense. It’s all part of the plan.

It’s the fulfillment of prophecy, we have to go through some bad shit before Jesus floats down to save us. Maybe this is the End Times, hallelujah!. Or maybe it isn’t, stay tuned.

Operators are standing by to take your call. Stay on the line. Your call is important to us.

Satan goaded God into torturing another human like Job, to settle a bet. Or else he’s on an inspection tour somewhere else in the universe. He’ll be back soon.

There is not now, and never was, a God.

There is a God, but he’s a pyschopath.

Zeus is God, and he’s ticked that you don’t believe in him. Hence the wrath.

Everything is fine, but wait until Joe Biden gets in office.

Be

The Question: 

I am a person of faith, but after what we as a nation (and even the whole world) have experienced, I have become a person of fear. The Bible says, “Fear not, for I am with thee.” But the Bible also says, “Fear the Lord.” If God’s Word says, “Fear not,” and yet it also says, “Fear,” which does it mean?

The Answer:

You’re trying to catch the Bible in a contradiction? That’s not really hard, Bob, there are a lot of them. However, this is not one. Fear is a natural human emotion, and a useful one; it helps keep us alive. There are things you should fear, mainly things that can hurt or kill you. Examples, sharks in the ocean, bears, earthquakes, coronaviruses, running into traffic without looking, and voting Republican.

The Bible isn’t saying you shouldn’t fear, it’s just redirecting you as to what can actually hurt or kill you the most, and that would be God. According to Christians, this world is just a testing ground to see who is worthy of spending eternity buttering up God and singing his praises, and who gets to spend eternity wishing they had buttered up God more because he’s going to punish them forever in his Satanic playground of gloom and everlasting pain. Christianity, like most religions, tries to answer the question of why life is so filled with uncertainty, danger, and stuff that can hurt us or make us fearful; the answer is, none of this matters in the long run, because the real shit show, or the good stuff, comes after we die. What care I if I get crucified or burned alive or die from a horrible disease, which will be over in the blink of an eye, compared to the joy or horror waiting for me in the afterlife? Even months gasping on a ventilator will seem insignificant compared to billions and billions of years of torture…or, toiling in the vineyard of the Lord, while singing happy songs about what a swell guy he is, if you play your cards right.

So, basically, the Bible says God is saying, do as I say, or I’ll really give you something to cry about. Or, you can’t make an omelet if you don’t break a few eggs. You’re one of the eggs.

Being an atheist won’t help you directly with the fear. In fact, it might even make it a little worse, accepting that the bad things that happen on Earth actually matter and there won’t be any great balancing of the ledgers afterwards. But on the other hand, there’s some relief in knowing all of the pain and horror isn’t being orchestrated or allowed by some psychotic omnipotent being who pretends to love us but really only lives for himself. It’s just stuff that happens, and we can make some of it, the parts that are our fault at least, go away by being better people. And through science, we can protect ourselves better from natural disasters that aren’t our fault. In the long run, engaging with the real world is more empowering and satisfying than letting “god” handle it. God’s not handling it, and hiding behind a comforting but false belief keeps us from handling it as well as we could be.

Think

The Question: 

The political environment is about as bad as I’ve ever seen. Regardless of party, people promise good things if they are elected; yet hostility rages and grows more and more. How happy can political leaders be when they stay in a perpetual state of turmoil? 

The Answer:

You start out outlining the problems in the political system, and end up asking about how happy politicians are? My advice is don’t worry about them, as long as the power and the money keeps on rolling in, they’re fine. And if they’re not, they can always resign. Service in the government is voluntary.

You need to look a little closer. Politicians may alway be promising “good” things, but not everything they promise is “good”, and they’re not all promising the same things. As a voter you need to know their actual positions, as well as your own, and vote accordingly. Then you need to pay attention the whole time they are in office, to see if they are doing what they can to make their campaign positions a reality. Finally, you have to realize that the system was designed to give everyone a voice, and to be modified only when there is a majority in agreement, and yet at the same time to protect the minority from persecution or abuse or having their rights infringed. That makes the system awkward, unwieldy, slow, and guarantees most everyone will be unhappy about something in politics most of the time. But that’s how it’s supposed to work. It’s not a source of joy for anybody.

To sum up, know the issues, know the candidates, know the process, and calm down. Vote intelligently, and put your hopes for happiness in other things. Politics is a necessary evil, but if everyone does their part it can be less evil than it is. Vote the bastards out, keep the better people in.