If We’re Honest With Ourselves, We Suck At Being Honest With Ourselves

Americans love honesty. In the abstract, anyway. Young George Washington could not tell a lie about cutting down his father’s favorite cherry tree (“the story first appeared in an 1806 autobiography of Washington, whose writer admitted that he was just trying to show how our most beloved president’s “unparalleled rise and elevation were due to his Great Virtues.”). “Honest Abe Lincoln” was, well, “notoriously” honest in, well, everything. Americans really liked that about him then and we still do. “Honesty’s the best policy”, we insist. Tell the truth and it will set you free. Hey, even Shakespeare got it. Above all: “to thine own self be true”.

But, as much as Americans talk the talk about honesty, Americans collectively suck when it comes to actually walking honesty’s walk. Especially when we have to be truthful to ourselves. As we stand before the bathroom mirror each day — just us and, well, US — as we look into our own eyes and attempt to take stock of ourselves, that is when we need to be most honest about every last little thing that got us from wherever “there” is in our past to wherever “here” is. Forgetting vital details is one thing; sometimes memories need to be stoked to life like an old furnace. Deliberately refusing to confront them, regardless of why, that’s a sign something’s desperately wrong. America is staring itself in the bathroom mirror and if we can’t be absolutely honest with ourselves (on both sides of the looking glass), we will absolutely plunge off the precipice.

I’m just speaking from experience here. Very long story short: I kept a secret from myself for 45 years. What I mean is, as I stared at myself in every bathroom mirror I ever stood in front of for that whole time, I refused to acknowledge to myself (and for my own benefit!) that when I was 14, I was sexually molested twice by the religious director at the synagogue where my family belonged. Can I tell ya? Doing that made a mess inside my head that came within literal inches of killing me. Not to worry — I got better. Between a great therapist, the right mood stabilizer and copious amounts of smoked THC, I managed to put my darkness at arm’s length, admit to myself that I was the victim of an adult committing a crime against me, not the one responsible for it happening, and begin to create bonds with other people that I had been unable to beforehand because of the secret I was keeping (“if they didn’t know my secret, they couldn’t possibly know me” was how I saw it). Getting mentally healthy was life-changing. The process itself was hard. But worth it!

Something in the American character reflects Dana Carvey’s “Church Lady” —

Church Lady is very, very, VERY judgy. What makes her funny however is how bang-on right she is! We get the behaviors that disgust Church Lady. She sees on such a granular level though. And kind of obsessively, too. That’s what makes Church Lady really funny and a great character: she’s the guiltiest of “unchristian” behavior, really, and the least able to see it in herself. Church Lady, like that great swath of racist America, cannot to her own self be true.

If America was really and truly honest with itself, it would admit a few things to itself. For instance — we are not nor have we ever been a “Christian Nation” founded by Christians. Some of the men who took part in founding America were, indeed Christian. Plenty were deists however like Thomas Paine (they believed in a “Supreme Being” but not one defined by any institutional church. They saw “God” in nature and in logic and in democracy. We should also be honest about what the country’s founders did and didn’t do. They did have a great idea — self government where the rule of law dictated everything. However not all great ideas are executed the right way right out of the box. Some great ideas (human flight, for instance) take a long time for us to perfect enough to not die every time we try them. “All men are created equal” has a lot going for it — but it’s not perfect and never was.

For starters, the white, Christian, land-owning men who gathered together to articulate what they thought this new nation should be, started their work from a skewed position. They didn’t mean “all men” though they did mean “only men”. By “men”, the men who founded America meant them. Just them: men who looked, acted, sounded, spoke, prayed and thought just like them. But, at the same time, James Madison encapsulated the American ideal this way on our Great Seal: “E Pluribus Unum” — out of many, one. See how much cleaner that is? How much more inclusive? Nothing about E Pluribus Unum says “but give the white guys all the advantages they can possibly have because otherwise they can’t compete”.

Why did America cut a deal with slavery? Simple: money. Without stealing the labor of every slave who worked a cotton, tobacco or sugar cane plantation, none of those crops would have been nearly as profitable. To this day, you’ll hear arguments from serious people that this justified slavery — how else could the Confederacy have risen without all that free labor (minus the costs of housing, clothing and feeding one’s slaves)? I wonder, would any of those slavery apologists be apologizing for slavery’s “necessary evils” if their families had been in bondage or if their family’s wealth had been taken from them along with their freedom? Puh-leese! Ask a hard question!

It’s like asking a racist if they’re a racist. How the hell would they know? They’re a racist! Racism isn’t in the eye of the racist anyway — same as beauty. It’s in the eye of the beholder — more exactly, in the eye of the racist’s victim. If anyone sees racism in someone’s attack on them, it’s not for any of us to question them, NOT being subjected to the racism. Oh, yeah — this can be messy. But racism is way messier. To fix things of this nature, it doesn’t do to aim for the middle. You aim for the other extreme because it’s the only way you can possibly get tot he middle. We have to see and call out every bit of racism for the time being in order to assure ourselves collectively that we’ve really and truly leveled the playing field for everyone.

That is democracy’s true goal — to get the very best out of everyone by giving everyone the very same opportunities. Consider how much genius America has denied itself simply because our racism refused to educate or nurture certain people. Consider how fearful some Americans have always been about learning anything new! The “Know Nothings” were an actual political movement who were anti-Catholic, Anti-Irish, anti-immigration, populist and xenophobic. This, really, is pure conservatism. It wants to conserve what was — the imperfect version of America the founders put into practice. That is what originalism wants to enshrine in amber and call “America” — our first draft.

Well, fortunately for America, E Pluribus Unum finally overtook “All men are created equal” and that’s what triggered white rage — the fear of losing (or worse, having to share) political power with the rest of America’s citizens.

How do we fix it? Oh, it’s soooooooo simple (yet soooooooo complicated). We walk into a private bathroom. We lock the door. We go to the bathroom mirror and we look at ourselves in it.

And then we cut the shit.

Personally, I Blame Monotheism For This Freakin’ Mess We’re In

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A monotheist is someone who thinks his imaginary friend can beat the crap out of your imaginary friend. The problem is, the monotheist’s friend isn’t all that “imaginary”. This atheist absolutely accepts the sincerity of all his monotheistic friends (and he has many!) that they believe a creature far larger than themselves created everything. And I know that many of my monotheist friends imagine a God that really does represent love (or, at least, the possibility of love in a universal sense). Alas, as I look around at the world, I don’t see much evidence of theists following the teachings of a loving deity. Instead, I see and hear people who insist that they understand God and what he wants better than you — so you better get out of their way. I see people determined that they’re acting on God’s behalf. Are they? I have doubts…

It starts innocently enough on the believer’s part. They walk into a religious institution’s door filled with questions. It ain’t even remotely innocent on the religious institution’s part. Judaism doesn’t imagine the activist God that Christianity morphed Yahweh into. But, the Apostle Paul’s genius (and this atheist thinks he was a genius precisely because we’re still talking about his work product) was in refashioning Jewish mythology (going back a thousand years by the time Paul started refashioning it) into a whole different thing wherein God offered eternal life in exchange for devout belief. The institutional church also put it into everyone’s head (as part of its teaching) that every non-believer (everyone who doubted the absolute veracity of this mythology) threatened the entire belief structure — and therefore must be eliminated because they’re “heretics”.

Wait, what? How the hell did we get THERE from a loving “God”?

It takes zero dogma to “Do unto others”. To be a good, practicing Catholic? It’s nothing but dogma. That’s because the institutional church — regardless of denominational branding — has turned “Do unto others” into “Do what we say or else”.

This atheist — grateful to Hebrew School for making him the atheist he is today (well, it iced the cake on the atheism with which I dropped from the womb) — considers himself a “Fan O’ Jesus”. Jesus was born lived his whole life and died a Jew who preached only ever to other Jews about Jewish things and in a way that only other Jews understood. Paul (also a Jew) took his version of Jesus (and Paul never met Jesus or heard him teach) to the Gentiles where no one was going to check his work or point out how he was getting either the Jewish mythology or the Jesus mythology all wrong. Because the Gentiles knew nothing about Jewish mythology or Jesus that Paul didn’t tell them.

Thus Paul and the early church fathers began to construct a brand-spanking-new Christian mythology.

When Jews took to monotheism, they were relatively unique. Yahweh (which is really the Canaanite god “El” repurposed and still represented in place names like “Beth-EL” and “IsraEL”) represented a radical shift in how people thought about the divine. Polytheistic gods didn’t really bother themselves with humans or human concerns. Few polytheistic gods had any sort of “personal relationship” with humans in general. Why would they? What could humans do for them? What could they do for humans? Almost nothing.

Monotheism changes that dynamic. Right off the bat, Yahweh tells Abraham to move from Ur (modern day Southern Iraq, where he was from) to modern day Israel (Canaan then) with the promise that the Canaanite’s land was going to be theirs. Because Yahweh said so. Yahweh, unlike any god before, takes a very personal interest in Abraham but only so long as Abraham agrees to believe ONLY in Yahweh.

Think about it… When the Pentateuch’s authors finally wrote down the stories they’d been passing along orally for a thousand years, their monotheistic god didn’t say “Well, you can believe in other gods if you like but that’d be silly since they don’t exist!” Instead, Yahweh is petulant: “You better not believe in any other god!” That’s being competitive where, if Yahweh is the real deal, no competition ever existed; if no other gods made the world then they can’t exist (other than as characters in a story)! That makes Yahweh’s petulance even harder to comprehend. This mighty creature was powerful enough to create literally everything in existence — and out of nothing no less. He should be the epitome of confidence! Instead, like a whiney little bitch, he can’t bear it if his creations don’t toady to him! What kind of bullshit deity is this?

If Yahweh creating everything in existence is a fact of life from the outset, then where would any alternative way of thinking come from? It makes “free will” look like a design flaw since free will can invent bullshit out of nothing — just like Yahweh can. Or, it makes Yahweh look deranged, mercurial, bi-polar and off his meds. Only a human being could invent a deity as horribly neurotic as that.

Hey, this doesn’t mean “God” or god-like being doesn’t exist. Show me proof, I’m there! But, Yahweh (“god” is Yahweh’s job description, not his name) is a piss poor creation. Valdemort makes more sense FFS!

And while we’re on the subject, God — as imagined by way too many monotheists — and Valdemort — have way, way too much in common.

Put aside whether or not a “creator of everything” exists. What monotheism does is put “God” (a character it says is God and describes as God and quotes as God) inside its believers’ heads. “When you ‘pray to God’,” the institutional religion tells its followers, “Or talk to God or think about him and “another voice” answers you, trust that that voice IS “God”.

This is exactly the moment when trouble begins.

The believer now believes that this voice inside his head — the one speaking AS God — IS God. Except, it’s not God. It’s just a voice inside their head — it’s them talking to themselves. And if you can’t show the other side of the conversation in any way, shape or form? Then it’s a one-sided conversation. The other side is not going to reply because it can’t. So any “reply” you attribute to it is you replying and not it. The True Believer swaps themselves with the God character. Therefore, whatever thoughts occur to them are also occurring to God (especially since God, being omnipotent, sees and hears literally everything).

Now the True Believer is thinking like God and for God. Oh, come on already! Whether they know it or not, whether they accept it or not, they’ve made the leap. They may put it “God speaks through me” or “I understand God and what he wants” but the divine entity in their minds is none other than themselves cos-playing as Yahweh.

Think I’m nuts? Watch televangelist Kenneth Copeland explain how life works and tell me Kenny-Boy doesn’t think God’s divine light doesn’t shine from his anointed ass. “Anointed!” That’s code for “I made me God”.

Part of the institutional church’s genius (an extension of Paul’s) is their insistence that believers need the church in order to have a relationship with God. Unfortunately that contradicts one of Jesus’s core teachings — that no one needs a corrupt temple or its corrupt priests (even if they’re priests working for a corrupt church) in order to speak to “the father”. But, hey — that’s just Jesus talking and what does that effin’ hippie know, right?

Monotheism concentrates the power of the universe in one place and in one “brain” — “God’s”. That would be okay if everyone had a truly uniform idea of what “God” is. That’s a literal impossibility. Every human experiences Life in their own personal way as Life filters through their brain. Ask ten theists what God is and you will get ten different answers. That’s not because God can be “anything” (isn’t that a neat trick!), it’s because the idea of God can be anything.

Put that kind of “power” inside a flawed human mind and it’s a stone cold guarantee that only bad shit will ever happen. The history of human beings and their religious beliefs says so.

There’s No Such Thing As A “Fake Christian”; There Are Only “Christians”

Want to know what makes an atheist laugh? Hearing one Christian call another Christian “fake”. FFS, that’s what the whole Protestant Reformation was! One group of Christians calling the other group “fake“. From the vantage of point of non-Christendom? What are both groups talking about? Hey — ever Google “Protestantism sects”? There are more than you can count (if you count them all!) And then there’s Catholicism. And all the national churches and Eastern churches… And then there’s Mormonism — and its offshoots. From outside that tent, everyone INSIDE the tent is a Christian!

Look, I’m one of those Jews who’s always been fascinated by Christianity. Originally, I needed to know how and why tens of millions of people hated me and wanted me dead simply because I was Jewish.

Can we be honest? The answer you get back — why Christians hate Jews — it’s not especially satisfying.

Or logical.

Having grown up in the shadow of the Holocaust (I was born in 1959, fourteen years after the camps were liberated), I’m keenly aware where extreme anti-Semitism leads. That’s what the Holocaust was — Jew hatred taken to its most horrifying, industrial conclusion. This perverse, genocidal compulsion is based on a poorly thought-out story that was invented by Paul and the early church fathers. The former Saul of Tarsus never met Jesus. Never heard Jesus preach or teach. That’s why Paul’s version of Jesus didn’t play in Jerusalem or for anyone who knew Jesus or who actually did hear Jesus speak. That’s why Paul took his version of Jesus — and a thousand years of made-up Jewish messiah mythology — to the Gentiles (who had no background in it as Paul did and so accepted what the Jews in Jerusalem rejected).

It’s Paul — a real person — writing about Jesus — that makes me think someone “like” Jesus probably walked the earth. But, Paul revised Jesus to suit the needs of the newfangled offshoot-of-Judaism he was inventing on the fly. Paul was doing something else too — and this is where his real genius lies. The Roman world was polytheistic. Judaism was monotheistic; it rejected all of the Roman gods because, Judaism believed, only one god — Yahweh — existed. Roman gods, like most polytheistic gods, were very different in nature from the Jews’ Yahweh. They weren’t made of different material. Their lives only occasionally intersected with mortals’ lives. Though divine, polytheistic gods offered humans nothing of the divine.

Yahweh on the other hand was different. Not only was he divine, he (sometimes) liked humans (when he wasn’t flooding them out). He seemed to want to like us; we just kept disappointing him. Paul reinvents Yahweh by making Jesus Yahweh’s son. That’s not a big deal in and of itself. But then — here’s the genius part — Paul has Jesus rise from the dead, defeating death while also dying for humanity’s sins (the original sin being Eve’s)! Paul’s God (not entirely monotheistic since he can replicate by breeding with humans), unlike polytheistic gods, promises to actually DO something for humans other than just punish them. And that thing God will do for you is something only God can do — all you have to do is believe in Jesus exactly the way the Church (God’s now-infallible spokesman on earth) tells you to.

“Do unto others” has become “Do what we say — or else”. Not that the institutional church ever had the least interest in Jesus or any of his teachings. If Jesus were to return from the dead, the biggest enemies he’d have would be the institutional churches who’d race to the media to declare this “Jesus Guy” a total fraud. Oh, the irony — how it burns! Jesus taught that no one needs a corrupt temple or its correct priests in order to have a relationship with “the father”. “Talk directly to God,” Jesus taught. Anyone — atheists included — could “Do unto others” like a pro. And certainly better than any Christian.

There’s a clear distinction between “Christians” and “followers of Jesus”. My heart goes out to followers of Jesus because of what Christians have done to the brand.

Whoever Jesus really was, it’s simply a fact that he was born, lived his entire life and died a Jew. He preached Jewish thoughts to other Jews — even if Jesus’s version of those thoughts were somewhat “radical” (ignoring the Temple and its priests because they were corrupt). At the core of Jesus’s teaching — we all agree — is “Do unto others”. And “Do unto others” is a magnificent way to live Life. Imagine how much better the world would be if everyone lived that way — including (or especially) Christians. “Do unto others” is a very Jewish teaching. It’s a graceful distillation of a core Jewish concept: “Tikkun Olam”.

Every Jew (every person really) is obligated — according to Tikkun Olam — to make the world a better place for having been in it. One doesn’t have to accept this obligation (plenty of people don’t), but, if you want to live a good life, making the world better is how you’ll do it. Now, in all fairness to Christians, Christians don’t have a “culture” in the way Jews do where a way of life and a way of faith co-exist. While one absolutely can convert into the Jewish faith (a relatively rare things as Jews don’t proselytize), one can’t convert into the Jewish culture. Ashkenazis — European Jews — were excluded from European culture for 1500 years. They weren’t allowed to live with Christians. Weren’t allowed to marry them. Certainly weren’t allowed to make babies with them (though I’m sure babies made from male Christians raping Jewish women wasn’t a problem for them).

Consequently, Jews lived apart in their own villages or, as they first started to do in Venice in the early 1500’s — in “ghettos”. The word is Italian and first referred to the islands in the Venetian archipelago where the Jews were allowed to live. Living apart caused Jews to evolve a culture separate from white Europe’s. It caused Jews to evolve their own genetic disorder — Tay Sachs disease. Jews never set out to be “different”, that was something European Christianity made us.

Can we be just a little bit more honest? The way Christians have treated Jews across fifteen hundred years of history has not been especially “Christian”. Or maybe it has been — and every single person calling themselves “Christian” is, in fact, a “fake”.

“U” For “Unvaccinated” IS The New “Scarlet Letter”

In the month since I first published this post (then it was “Should Be The New Scarlet Letter” vs “IS”), the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant has become its own little pandemic here in America — among the belligerently unvaccinated.

Remember Hester Prynne? In Nathanial Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”, Hester is forced by her intensely religious Puritan community to wear a scarlet letter “A” as punishment for having committed adultery. To the sin-hating Puritans, adultery wasn’t just deeply sinful, it was virtually unforgivable.

Jump forward several hundred years to now. America has made peace with all sorts of sins. Even the Arthur Dimmesdale’s of the world — in the person of religionista, pastor, former Liberty University president and super proud cocksman Jerry Falwell, Jr — have come out from hiding. Jerry Junior isn’t just unashamed of his adultery, he’s openly boastful about it!

Jerry Falwell Jr., president of the Christian and conservative Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., posted this photo on social media Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020, with the caption: “More vacation shots. Lots of good friends visited us on the yacht. I promise that’s just black water in my glass. It was a prop only.”

That expression on Jerry-Junior’s face? It’s shouting “Hey, see the smile on this young lady’s face? I put it there!”

These days, we’re more likely to force someone to wear a scarlet “A” because they’re a raging Asshole. Which brings us to anti-vaxxers — another “scarlet A”. Were it not for anti-vaxxers and their relentless spew of bullshit into the info stream, America would have gotten atop the coronavirus already. We probably wouldn’t be talking about “booster shots” because we would have achieved herd immunity within our borders. All that excess production would have already gone into making vaccine for the rest of the world — and, perhaps, that would have spared us the Delta and Mu variants and everything before and in between. Our economy would be more settled, its improvements more sustainable and reliable. And, instead of still dying in droves, Americans would be helping to restore our image across the globe as the main engine of the world’s recovery.

Too bad about the “forces of darkness” within our midst.

Pathogens are by far the most potent weapon on the planet. Throughout human history, pathogens have relentlessly culled the human herd without us even fully understanding how they were doing it to us. The native population of North America wasn’t conquered by European guns or steal. European pathogens did all the hard work. The guns and steel were there for the mop up operation.

Let’s be crystal clear: anti-vaxx sentiment is based on zero science and a clear misunderstanding of how people need to approach science. Because anti-vaxx sentiment doesn’t need science to undergird its call to action, it can recommend anything. It can advocate for utter bullshit because nothing is there to check its work — and point to how bullshitty it is.

Hester Prynne’s community had nothing whatsoever to fear from Hester. Adultery was not going to spread like a virus (although, to be fair — though it wasn’t their intention — if adultery didn’t spread like a virus, venereal diseases, crabs and pubic lice sure did including syphilis — the one potent pathogen the New World sent back to the Old). Perhaps in the Puritans’ worst nightmares, adultery had the potential to do what pathogens can. There’s a big difference between nightmares and reality though. And Colonial Americans weren’t strangers to the harm pathogens could do. George Washington — following the science of the time — had the Continental Army vaccinated against smallpox. We’ve known what pathogens do and how and why for a couple hundred years now. We KNOW how to protect ourselves from them; that should be the basis for OUR “morality”. Sex as the basis is simply too complicated and hypocrites are everywhere.

Hester is a strange mix of sexually liberated woman and mousey good-girl gone wrong. Anti-vaxxers are zombies. The pathogen has already eaten their brains and now is using the anti-vaxxers as their ride while they come for the rest of us. That’s why we NEED to make every single anti-vaxxer wear that “U” they seem so proud of right there on their person. Let’s tattoo it across their foreheads — it won’t be the ugliest tat on any of their bodies.

President Biden led the way, making vaccinations mandatory for federal employees and the military. Even big corporations appreciated on a granular level how devastating the pandemic’s been to their bottom line. Our consumer economy depends almost entirely on people buying things. Poor people can’t buy anything and rich people — they pretty much have everything they need. They’re not the market products and their manufacturers rely on for long term health. That’d be the middle class. America succeeds best when its middle class is healthy and thriving. That, really, is the whole point of Joe Biden’s progressive agenda. It ain’t “socialism”, it’s a robust middle class driving a socialized capitalism that understands it MUST have limits because integrity matters. And so does having a habitable planet with a habitable environment.

It ain’t vaccinated people stalling the economy — preventing people from getting back to work and their lives back to normal — it’s the unvaccinated. Money is everyone’s bottom line. You threaten our wallets and pocketbooks long enough and you will get our attention. That is the massive pile of shit anti-vaxxers (and, in turn the Republican Party for thinking it could ride the anti-vaxx movement to permanent political power) stepped in. And, if your bullshit threatens our kids?

“U” for “Unvaccinated” IS our new Scarlet Letter.

I bet they’ll not only wear their Scarlet Letters, I bet they’ll compete with each other to make THEIR scarlet “U” bigger than everyone else’s. What point is there in being just “full of shit” when you can be the “fullest” of shit?

Just like Hester was stigmatized, so too should every “U” wearing anti-vaxxer. That U should be why they can’t get hired, get get loans, can’t get service at a restaurant and can’t get former (now vaccinated) friends to return their calls. Pariah-hood is almost too good form them.

I’m torn about what to think of the “former” anti-vaxxer putting his new-found faith in modern medicine on social media as he dies painfully from the very disease he boastfully claimed couldn’t hurt him. America has a strange history of willful ignorance. The “Know Nothings” were an actual political movement starting in the 1850’s. They were anti-Catholic, anti-Irish, anti-immigration, populist and xenophobic. They were neutral on slavery (which makes them pro-slavery by default). Their answer to any question was simply “I know nothing”. Though the movement died within a few years, the sentiment zombied on.

Maybe that’s what the Scarlet “U” actually signifies: the zombification of a third of America. They’re not just unvaccinated; some part of them is “undead”. Oh, great — another “U”.

Religion Has, At Best, A Dysfunctional Relationship With Reason

I’ll own the broad brush right up top. Not all religions struggle with reason. Some really do want to understand what makes us and the world tick (Buddhism focuses on human suffering and misery rather than getting its followers to behave themselves). How did the universe get here and what is the point of it all? That’s all we ask a religion to answer. Before we understood that science was a “thing” (more accurately, a way to think based on as much reality as we could discern), we thought religion was the only path to truth. Where did we come from? In 6th century BCE Persia, the Zoroastrian priest Zarathustra suggested it had something to do with the primeval clash between gods Ahura Mazdā and Angra Mainyu, the Destructive Spirit. Hinduism has multiple creation myths; in fact, it anticipates string theory — it believes our universe is one of many — except Hinduism theorizes that without math, a luxury string theory never gets. The Abrahamic faiths give all the credit to Yahweh, that angry Canaanite leftover (Yahweh’s origins as El are memorialized in Middle Eastern place names like Beth EL and IsraEL). Yahweh, for all his monotheistic confidence, still behaves like a bi-polar depressive who hasn’t the courage of his own convictions. The last word a reasonable person would use to describe the Yahweh character is “reasonable”.

In religion’s defense, it’s trying to answer those big questions armed only with the piss poor information on hand at the religion’s founding. I bet that if the men who wrote the Pentateuch had had access to microscopes and telescopes and the internet, they wouldn’t have written their origin stories the way they did. They would have known as they sat down to articulate the religious ideas in their head that whoever or whatever this Yahweh character was, he fit into a vast physical cosmos that adhered to reliably predictable physical properties. Their religious text would have reflected that real world knowledge — and, perhaps, their approach to spirituality would have been entirely different. Or, more likely, it would not ever have existed at all.

Religion and spirituality are not the same thing. Spirituality is the awe one feels while gazing up at the stars. It’s the awareness of existence itself and of the specific universe we live in. There are things far, far larger than us. They were here before we came, they’ll be here long after we’re gone. Spirituality is a nod to permanence by impermanent creatures. Religion, by contrast, is pure dogma. It’s an institutional attempt to codify spirituality. “To achieve this spiritual goal — beat death, for instance (Christianity’s sales pitch) — you have to follow these steps “religiously”. Fail to follow even one step — become a heretic — and the deal’s off.” That’s how Christianity got from “Do unto others” to “Do what we say or else”.

Of the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism is by far the least dogmatic. I’d even say that Judaism is relatively dogma free. That’s because Judaism is more a culture than a religion. That wasn’t by choice. For almost two thousand years, Jews were ostracized from white, Christian Europe. It wasn’t reason that motivated Jew hate, it was un-reason.

Jesus didn’t invent Christianity, Paul did. And, for that, Paul deserves our eternal respect. The majority of the NT is written by Paul or reflects the mythology Paul was creating out of whole cloth as he took HIS version of Jesus out to the Gentiles. Paul failed to sell his version of Jesus to people who actually knew Jesus (Jesus’ family, for example) or heard Jesus preach. So, Paul turned to the non-Jewish world. Aside from Jews and Zoroastrians, most of the world at that time was polytheistic. Polytheistic gods weren’t materially different from humans; we were all made of the same “stuff”. Polytheistic gods didn’t really care much about humans. Yahweh, on the other hand, cared deeply about humans. He even has a son whose purpose is to help cleanse humans of their most terrible sins (committed by Eve) that keep humans from happiness). Ah, but Yahweh promises even more than that!

If you believe in Jesus in the exact way the institution tell you to, the institution insists that, like Jesus did, you too will defeat death and get to live in a forever happy place with everyone you love.

Can I assure you of something? That’s not really going to happen. It’s never happened — ever. It’s a swell story — we can’t argue with its success, can we? But it’s a story, not reality. Wishful thinking instead of just “thinking”. It recognizes that reason tells a different story than it wants to tell. Good luck trying to apply reason (or basic story logic) to the Jesus-Judas-Crucifixion story. For starters — stone cold truth — whoever Jesus was, he was born, lived his entire life and died a Jew. He had only Jewish thoughts in his head which he preached and taught exclusively to Jews since only Jews would have gotten the context he was preaching — monotheism in a polytheistic world. Paul needed Jesus to BE an actual messiah, not just a maybe messiah.

Keep in mind: the “how to be a messiah” rules are a thousand years old before Jesus or Paul ever hear them. They’re part of a long oral tradition finally written down around the 6th century BCE. 600 years before Jesus shows up. The point: it’s not reality talking here, it’s mythology refracted through Paul’s imagination as he takes his version of Jesus — the son of God, defeater of death — to people with no knowledge or concern for Jewish mythology. Paul and the early church fathers invent censuses that did not happen in order to get Jesus born in Bethlehem — which has to happen if Jesus is to share a bloodline with King David (who’s dead a thousand years at least before Jesus). The whole point of Jesus being a messiah is that by following Jesus, his followers can overcome the weight of Eve’s original sin and live forever in the process. But, that means Jesus HAS TO DIE for the whole mythology machine to work correctly.

Thank about it: if Judas doesn’t betray Jesus (per the story) and Jesus never gets crucified — what does that do to the whole construct? Does it all still work the same if Jesus lives a long, happy life and dies an old man — surrounded by loved ones — in his bed? Doubt it. The Christian mythology Paul invented relied on Jesus dying — and dying by crucifixion was paramount! How else do we get a cross to symbolize the entire faith? Just wondering — if the Romans had imagined the guillotine before the French and used it instead of crucifixion to dispatch people they didn’t like, would Christians now walk around with little guillotines around their necks?

The world’s religions would all tell you that by following them, you’ll find peace. Maybe. The history of religion says not. The history of religion is not a history of peace. It’s not a history of “reason” either.

It’s not a coincidence.

Cannabis Culture V Alcohol Culture

A Shift in Cannabis Culture

All self-medication is not created equal.

Alcohol culture and cannabis culture come from two distinctly different places. Their hold on Americans are both distinctly different. One has always been incredibly unhealthy (fun as hell — make no mistake — but damned unhealthy). The other is cannabis culture. Both inspired prohibition but cannabis’ prohibition endured long beyond alcohol’s. That wasn’t a coincidence. It had to do with who, in the early days, was using cannabis — which was why the nascent Federal Bureau of Narcotics under its first Commissioner Harry Anslinger flip-flopped on “marihuana”; the FBN stopped seeing it as a very minor, innocuous Mexican habit brought across the border by Mexicans fleeing the Mexican Revolution and, instead (almost overnight, in fact) started seeing it as an invented crisis with racism at its core: “reefer madness”.

The very reason Harry Anslinger hated marijuana and declared war on it was because white people started to smoke it. The vector between Mexicans smoking it and white people smoking it was Black people smoking it. And the Black people who drove marijuana’s growing popularization — as it literally travelled up the Mississippi from New Orleans — were the musicians who’d invented jazz, many of them while smoking marijuana. Anslinger was both a die hard racist and a brilliant bureaucrat. Turns out, he also fancied himself a good pianist with a passion for European classical music. Jazz was anathema to Anslinger. He hated the musicians who created jazz. He hated the Blackness of their music. He hated the marijuana they smoked before and during their playing. But, he especially hated the fact that this Mexican and now Black habit was spreading from non-white usage to white usage.

Harry Anslinger personally invented “reefer madness” — that bizarre way of seeing and thinking about cannabis, divorced from any sort of practical cannabis experience. But Harry had a problem. He may have hated marijuana because of the people he saw smoking it in his mind’s eye, but no one else did. The law didn’t hate marijuana, quite the contrary. The law was rather pro-hemp. It didn’t care whether or not anyone smoked it. And the Constitution gave Harry no openings either. Nothing in our Constitution supports marijuana prohibition whatsoever.

That’s what everyone told Harry as he tried to formulate a law that would give him the power to arrest and prosecute people he hated because of racism.

But, as I said, Harry was also a great bureaucrat. Instead of quitting, he went bureaucratic. Our federal government didn’t nail Al Capone for being a gangster. It nailed Capone for being a tax cheat. That was Harry’s tack.

First, he seeded the ground with racist bullshit. Harry would go to the press and tell them — with all the gravity and authority of the Commissioner of the FBN — that Black men were smoking marijuana and then getting sexed up and raping white women. Or getting white women to smoke marijuana themselves — and then getting so sexed up that they’d give themselves to these Black men! Oh, the horror! The press — and in their defense, why would they doubt Harry? — printed Harry’s bullshit in their newspapers which Harry would then hold up as proof that what he was saying was absolutely true.

This collection of clippings grew quickly into what Harry called his “Gore files”. Slowly, but surely, Harry’s racist magic worked its way through Congress. Now, the law was still the law; no one was going to indulge Harry by writing law that would get them laughed at. But, being a clever bureaucrat who understood how to catch a mobster, Harry proposed a tax instead. Every time anyone bought or sold cannabis — and, just to be safe, Harry through hemp into the mix, too — they would have to pay a tax. In order to prove they’d both paid the tax, both would have to get a stamp designed just for this purpose. Here’s where it got complicated. No organ was set up to collect any such tax — and none was going to be created. And (the cherry on top), no actual stamp was ever created either. The stamp was literally unattainable.

Any time anyone bought or sold marijuana or hemp, they were going to violate the tax code. The Marijuana Tax Stamp Act of 1937 sailed through Congress (despite considerable opposition to it by organizations like the AMA who were keenly aware of marijuana’s considerable positives as a medication). Interesting story? Within twenty four hours, the Stamp Act had its first criminals. In Denver.

Samuel Caldwell got arrested on October 2, 1937 for possessing marijuana for which he could not provide the stamp as evidence that he’d paid the tax in order to possess that marijuana. Now, to be fair, Caldwell was no prince; he was a criminal with a fair-sized rap sheet. But that simply made it easier to prosecute Caldwell and establish a precedent.

For the record — a Mexican man named Moses Baca would have been the first arrestee except his arrest happened two weeks before the Tax Law was enacted. It was only after the law was enacted — and Baca couldn’t produce a stamp to prove he’d paid the tax — that he became a “drug criminal”.

Everything — literally everything — about cannabis prohibition was based on racist bullshit. For contrast, as stupid and doomed to failure as alcohol prohibition was, at least it was based on reality. While we think of the teetotalers and Temperance Society wackos who drove prohibition as old fashioned and repressive, in fact, they were being very progressive about a very real social problem: drinking. Then, as now, alcohol addiction ruined lives. Ruined whole families. Whole communities. Prohibition’s misguided aim was a better society. It used a sledge hammer when micro-surgery was in order.

When prohibition finally met its well-deserved end, America made damned sure such a thing could never, would n ever happen again. They put the liquor manufacturers in charge. And the distributors. They began the process of indoctrinating Americans from a very young age into thinking that alcohol is a right of passage. It’s the organizing principle around which most socializing revolves. A restaurant will almost never be profitable without alcohol sales to make it profitable. Bars are built on selling alcohol. The more, the better. Being big, corporate businesses now, alcohol manufacturers think globally. And they dutifully invest in keeping America’s youth fixated on that key rite of passage — legal drinking. That’s why alcohol manufacturers invest so much in creating products that make alcohol seem innocuous, fun, and candy-flavored.

No one reads a warning label on a beer bottle (or a packet of cigs) and thinks “Oh, wait — I hadn’t thought of that!” A better warning would be to point out something practical: “After consuming this alcoholic beverage, please wait at least twenty minutes before deciding you need another because you probably won’t”. It’s one of the weird things about alcohol and drinking. It’s like drinkers forget (after drinking) how alcohol works inside their own bodies. They drink — and keep drinking — like they’ve never had a drink before. Like they’re surprised to find themselves as over-the-limit as they are.

That’s a big part of our collective problem with alcohol: it screws with our memory. Screwing with our memory screws with our perspective. We keep forgetting all the dumb things we do when alcohol is inside us. We get it into our heads that they’re all isolated incidents rather than tiles in a mosaic that says: your relationship with alcohol isn’t what you think it is and alcohol’s the alpha.

I stopped drinking alcohol in early 2017. The mood stabilizer I started taking to deal with a decade long depression that was literally killing me gave alcohol a terrible, grapefruit skin-like aftertaste. That was heartbreaking at first. I loved the taste of a perfect gin martini (depending on the gin). I loved every aspect of a glass of big, dark, inky red — from first tentative sniff to last, satisfying swallow. An aversion to alcohol wasn’t one ofA the possible side effects the literature warned about. Lamotrigine was developed as an anti-seizure medication; its mood stabilizing effects were a ridealong. From the first moment that grapefruit skin aftertaste hit, I turned away from alcohol and never, really, looked back.

I’ve felt better since I stopped drinking. I sleep better. I work better. Let’s be clear however — alcohol was never my problem; I was. Now — to be fair — have I merely swapped one self-destructive bad habit for another? Isn’t cannabis just as bad in its way as alcohol is in its?

I’d answer it this way: there’s a very good reason we actually think of cannabis as a medicine while we only jokingly think of alcohol that way. It’s just a stone cold fact — alcohol and THC are entirely different chemicals that act in entirely different ways inside our bodies and especially our brains. Alcohol depresses our inhibitions by uniformly suppressing our motor skills and our ability to process information. Our reaction times slow and then our vague motor skills fudge the rest. THC, on the other hand, isn’t a depressant. Our thoughts are caused by electrical impulses flowing across our synapses. THC causes more of those synapses to be open (they’re a lot like digital circuits).

The reason everything seems a little more intense (colors, tastes, smells) is because our brains are literally processing more information than we’d be processing without the THC. That’s what some people experience as paranoia. They’re conflating that awareness of more information with someone outside of them. Because of cannabis’s bad boy past, that “someone” is inherently threatening because they “know”. That negative aside, for most cannabis users — especially those who recognize the difference between sativas, hybrids and indicas — the whole point of using cannabis is to achieve a particular effect. For instance, when I wake and bake every morning, I light up from a collection of sativas that I know will focus my brain and get it ready to write coherent thoughts. When I get to the end of my writing day and it’s time to chill, I’ll break out my hybrid collection (though some hybrids –Trainwreck especially — are excellent for work). When the evening is coming to its end and bedtime approaches, out come my indicas. I know that not only will indicas put me to sleep, they’ll give me a good, solid, restful night’s sleep from which I’ll awake the next day ready for battle.

Once I wake n bake, of course.

Alcohol culture isn’t going anywhere. There’s way too much money in it. And humans really like alcohol. But cannabis culture is on the come. The moment our government removes cannabis from schedule one — and the banks can finally invest their money in it? The cannabis business will boom like nothing before it. This is not a terrible thing except for the corruption that will ride shotgun alongside it. And it will suck when Big Cannabis becomes the power vortex and all the mom n pop operations get run out of business.

But, I believe, the culture cannabis will slowly impress upon us will be much more civilized than alcohol culture ever could be — because of alcohol’s nature. Think about it: if we stopped serving beer at sporting events and sold cannabis instead (hybrids, let’s say), violence would NEVER break out at sporting events ever again. Instead of screaming at each other at game’s end, opposing sides would be hugging, telling each other how well they played (regardless of the final score). Some fans might be dozing peacefully. No one would spill out into the streets ready to rumble.

People who smoke cannabis do not go home and beat their loved ones. They don’t get argumentative. They don’t get belligerent or combative. They do get funny though. And they do get the munchies.

Harry Anslinger hated jazz because Black people invented it. But — here’s the key — guys like Louis Armstrong and King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton all used cannabis as part of their creative process. These musicians were attempting to draw an abstract idea — jazz — out of their heads and into the air via their instruments. And they did this while ON CANNABIS. They knew from experience that no one can create music or play it well with a drink inside you. Heroin? Forget about it. Heroin turned the amazingly talented, handsome Chet Baker into a hollow shell of himself. It did not make him better at anything other than self-destruction. If only he’d been exclusively a dope fiend, he may have come to a happier ending.

Long before Big Alcohol turned to Big Advertising to improve its image, people had it in their heads that “in vino veritas” — that alcohol would lead to truth. I can only speak from personal experience. Alcohol, at best, leads to angry truthiness. That’s baked into its culture.

If I want real veritas? I’m tapping some Durban Poison into my Genius pipe and sparking it to life!

Let’s Talk About Dogma & American Journalism

On the “Faitheism Project Podcast” I do with my dear friend Randy Lovejoy — a Presbyterian Pastor — we draw a distinction between spirituality and religion. Everyone — atheist, theist or agnostic — experiences awe as we gaze up at the cosmos. We are all very much connected to this massively huge universe. That relationship between each of us and the universe — that’s our spirituality. Religion attempts to quantify and codify it: “Here’s how it’s done!” If you want to experience the promise the religion swears will be yours, first, you’re going to have to follow the rules. The religion’s rules. Want to be a good Catholic? Do these things we tell you to do — or we’ll adjudge you an apostate and deny you even exist. Dogma quickly overtakes the spirituality it’s supposed to service. The next thing you know, the dogma gets all the attention while the spiritual quest gets nada.

American journalism works the same way.

The Constitution mentions only one occupation that isn’t an employee of the US government: journalism. Journalists were imagined as the final check on power. The Peoples’ backstop. That’s the spiritual mandate journalism in America is supposed to follow. Occasionally, that dedication to the Truth produces transcendence like Woodward and Bernstein’s Watergate coverage or the 1619 Project. But, too often — way too often — American journalism surrenders its integrity in the name of “access”. That only happens during Republican admins by the way. The George W Bush White House got good at limiting access to “journalists” like the New York Times’ Judith Miller. Judith genuinely believed (still does) that she didn’t sell her soul to gain access to Dick Cheney. I’ve seen picture of Judith’s soul — sitting in solitary confinement. She sold it all right. Sold it all the way down the river.

Dogma naturally produces cynicism because it breaks the world down into them v us. Anyone not us — that’s a lot of people — is suspect. American politics are steeped in cynicism but not because “both sides do it”. Both sides are not cynical though Democrats should have been cynical about Republicans eons ago. That’s the Democrats’ recurring problem — like the news media, they keep giving the benefit of the doubt to a group of people not deserving it.

They do that because of the dogma that says “everyone’s opinion carries the same weight” or the one that says “the news media’s job is to remain eternally neutral”. Or the one that says “Republicans are better with money and the nation’s security”. Or “Republicans are the party of personal responsibility” or “The Party of Lincoln” or even just “honest actors”. Our news media has been telling us our story but through dogma’s lens. None of those dogmatic assumptions are even remotely true.

Donald Trump’s rise was entirely dogmatic. But then, everything the Republicans do is dogmatic because their end game demands it. You can’t get to permanent minority rule without rigidly adhering to a plan — and the state of permanent minority rule will be a whole rabbit hole of dogma. It became dogma that Trump’s hold on the GOP has everything to do with Trump’s base. It became dogma that a former Trump hater like Lindsey Graham “changed his mind about Trump more or less ‘just because’.” It became dogma that Trump was crafty — that’s how he avoided going to prison before this. That Trump was the “great businessman” and “negotiator” he said he was. That horse shit flavored dogma got invented by “The Apprentice”.

It became dogma that what Trump and the GOP were doing to America’s democracy was just their “opinion” being manifested as opposed to what it was and is: a criminal act being committed for a political purpose.

It became dogma that every time the Republicans did something for their political reason, the Democrats’ reaction was equally political. When Republicans suppressed Democratic voters, that was just Republicans “being political”. No. That’s them BEHAVING CRIMINALLY — denying other Americans their Constitutional right to vote.

It became dogma that we should stay in Afghanistan forever. That the lives we’d risk by staying there were just “the cost of doing business”. It became dogma that everything bad happening in and to Afghanistan more or less started the instant Joe Biden took the oath of office.

It remains dogma that Republicans are good actors — despite their relentless bad behavior. It remains dogma that “bi-partisanship” is a good thing and should be done at all costs. Just because it’s “bi-partisan”. It’s remains dogma therefore that making deals with the Devil are okie-dokie.

American journalism’s addiction to dogma over truth has brought us to this moment where we’re poised at the edge of a precipice. On one side is the very real promise of E Pluribus Unum — an America that lives up to both its potential and its true exceptionalism. On the other is the white people hell bent on destroying the greatest experiment ever in human self government because no one will vote for the America THEY want: the one back in 1850 where THEY had all the power.

Power creates dogma, too. It’s the hardest dogma to break. Imagine if our news media both understood and relished the job they committed themselves to do — BE the last check on power instead of the ones preaching power’s dogma.

As Texas’ New Abortion Ban Proves, Right Wing Religionistas Don’t Believe IN God, They Believe They ARE God

No words are more darkly ironic than “pro-life” when seen through the lens of American politics. It’s kinda like the southern states claiming — after the Civil War — that the whole thing was an argument over states’ rights rather than what it WAS an argument over, slavery. The Confederacy still lives, having lost the war but won the peace that followed. They literally rewrote history right in front of us. The most vehemently pro-life also are the most vehement when it comes to denying living, breathing people an iota of human sympathy. These institutionalist Christians have perverted “Do unto others” into “Do what I say — or else”. Not an ounce of Jesus in it. That’s because Jesus wouldn’t recognize the sentiments behind it. He was born a Jew, lived his whole life as a Jew and died a Jew, only ever preaching to other Jews about subjects Jews understood and non-Jews didn’t. His biggest teaching (aside from reminding his fellow Jews that they’re all obligated by “Tikkun Olam” — the responsibility to make the world a better place for having been in it; “Do unto others” is the genius ad slogan for that very human ideal — is anti-corruption. He taught that one doesn’t need a temple or its corrupt priests in order to talk to God. All one had to do is talk to him .

Jesus did not invent Christianity, Paul did — and Paul deserves most of the credit for modifying some old Jewish ideas into a new religion which offered its believers (gentiles with no knowledge of these old Jewish ideas) a way to beat death. If Jesus could do it, so could his followers. All one had to do, the early church said (as it slowly figured itself out) was believe in the Jesus story the way the church wanted you to — to the letter. Do that and, the church promised, just like Jesus, you would “rise from the dead” like Lazarus and live forever in a magical after-life filled with nothing but goodness and all your loved ones. To a world where polytheistic gods had little real impact on human lives — and really didn’t give a toss about humans — a monotheistic deity that cared about them personally was a revelation and a radical, new idea. That this deity could also give you immortality of a kind? It’s genius! But, that it’s still with us is, my opinion, more a testament to the underlying desire not to die than it is to the “truthfulness” of the dogma that gets a believer there.

Who gets to control life and death? Why, God does of course because that’s what God does. The fact that God — a being powerful enough to create literally everything — can’t put that simple idea into literally every human’s head (because aren’t facts facts?) gets tossed down the “free will” rabbit hole. The same institution that invented the idea of “free will” also insisted that the earth was the center of all creation until pretty much now. I’d stick a giant-sized pin in the institution’s hold on reality.

The history of the church itself — of any church — is a proof that the institution itself (and those running it) think THEY are God. Hey, why do you think God talks to them and not to regular people? Because they’re special, don’t ya know. They hear God better than the rest of us. They “understand” what he wants from all of us, but more specifically from them. God wants them to be the tip of his spear. His enforcer. His spokesperson. His raw intent.

Texas took a clever tack to get their law this far. They made all the peril civil. Now, literally ANYONE from anywhere in America can sue anyone they even suspect of helping a woman get an abortion in Texas. They’ve put a $10,000 bounty on literally everyone in Texas who doesn’t answer the accusation. Don’t appear for the shit show cos it’s a shit show? You lose. The fix is built right in. It’s a way for EVERYONE to play God with the bodies of any woman seeking or needing an abortion in Texas. And — count on this — the point of the exercise is to “lead the way” for other “pro-lifers” who think they’re God to force their Godness upon other people.

Personally, I blame monotheism. This kind of egomaniacal free association with the self as deity is baked right in to the architecture. Ask ten sincere theists what “God” is and you will get ten different answers. That’s not a function of the fluidity of God, that’s a function of the fluidity of the CONCEPT of God. It’s the “Get Out Of Logic Jail Free” card that religionistas always have up their sleeve. Magical thinking and their feelings will trump everything — especially facts.

Hey, when you’re God, you get to say what’s a fact and what isn’t. And, in Texas, you get to decide between life and death.

“U” For “Unvaccinated” Is About To Become The New “Scarlet Letter”

Remember Hester Prynne? In Nathanial Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”, Hester is forced by her intensely religious Puritan community to wear a scarlet letter “A” as punishment for having committed adultery. To the sin-hating Puritans, adultery wasn’t just deeply sinful , it was virtually unforgivable. Jump forward several hundred years to now. America has made peace with what we used to call “sin”. In fact, we’ve gotten damned good at “sinning”. Even the Arthur Dimmesdale’s (he’s the town preacher who’s knocked up Hester) have openly thrown in their lot with greed and lust and gluttony. What is a proud cocksman like Jerry Falwell, Jr if not a prideful version of Arthur Dimmesdale? Jerry Junior isn’t just unashamed of his adultery, he’s openly boastful about it!

Jerry Falwell Jr., president of the Christian and conservative Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., posted this photo on social media Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020, with the caption: “More vacation shots. Lots of good friends visited us on the yacht. I promise that’s just black water in my glass. It was a prop only.”

That expression on Jerry-Junior’s face? It’s shouting “Hey, see the smile on this young lady’s face? I put it there!”

These days, we’re more likely to force someone to wear a scarlet “A” because they’re a raging asshole. Which brings us to anti-vaxxers — another “scarlet A”. Were it not for anti-vaxxers and their relentless spew of bullshit into the info stream, America would have gotten atop the coronavirus already. Though it would still be raging in most of the rest of the world, we would have achieved the herd immunity needed to get our lives and our economy headed back to a new kind of normal. There would have been bumps along that road too. Witness Israel and New Zealand and Australia — places that have fought the coronavirus as intelligently as people can.

Pathogens are by far the most potent weapon on the planet. Throughout human history, pathogens have relentlessly culled the human herd without us even fully understanding how they were doing it to us. The native population of North America wasn’t conquered by European guns or steal. European pathogens did all the hard work. The guns and steel were there for the mop up operation.

Let’s be crystal clear: anti-vaxx sentiment is based on zero science and a clear misunderstanding of how people need to approach science. Because anti-vax sentiment doesn’t need science to undergird its call to action, it can recommend anything. It can advocate for utter bullshit because nothing is there to check its work — and point to how bullshitty it is.

Hester Prynne’s community had nothing whatsoever to fear from Hester. Adultery was not going to spread like a virus though, ironically, the madness behind such close-minded religious thinking did spread with viral intensity Perhaps in the Puritans’ worst nightmares, adultery had the potential to do what pathogens can. There’s a big difference between nightmares and reality though. And Colonial Americans weren’t strangers to the harm pathogens could do — even if they weren’t clear that the harm in question was being caused by such a thing as a “pathogen”. But, we, on the other hand, DO know that pathogens exist. We DO know what pathogens do and how and why. We KNOW how to protect ourselves from them; that should be the basis for OUR “morality”.

Hester is a strange mix of sexually liberated woman and mousey good-girl gone wrong. Anti-vaxxers are zombies. The pathogen has already eaten their brains and now is using the anti-vaxxers as their ride while they come for the rest of us. That’s why we NEED to make every single anti-vaxxer wear that “U” they seem so proud of right there on their person. “U” for “Unvaccinated” must become our new Scarlet Letter.

The good news? It’s already happening. France and Italy have already begun culling the unvaccinated from the rest of us. Can’t prove YOU were vaccinated? You can’t eat in restaurants or attend any group entertainments like soccer matches or concerts. In a way, an unvaccinated person’s LACK of a “V” (for “vaccinated”) is the new scarlet letter. But, hey — like I said — the unvaxxed don’t see their unvaccinated status the way Hester saw her adulteress status. I bet they’ll not only wear their Scarlet Letters, I bet they’ll compete with each other to make THEIR scarlet “U” bigger than everyone else’s.

What point is there in being just “full of shit” when you can be the “fullest” of shit?

Both France and Italy are, currently, facing pushback from the unvaxxed. Riots erupted in Paris yesterday. As the unvaccinated get sick and become a smaller and smaller minority, their ignorant way of thinking will achieve true pariah-hood. They will deserve it.

Pathogens really don’t care what magical thinking motivates any human to NOT protect themselves from the pathogen. Their existence is simple: they need us. Their entire purpose is to get inside us and reproduce. That it kills us is beside the point. Before we expire, the pathogen will have used us to infect countless other humans — replacing their silent scarlet “U” (for “unvaxxed”) with a whole other kind of marker: a headstone.

“U” For “Unvaccinated” Is About To Become The New “Scarlet Letter”

Remember Hester Prynne? In Nathanial Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”, Hester is forced by her intensely religious Puritan community to wear a scarlet letter “A” at all times as punishment for having committed adultery. To the sin-hating Puritans, adultery wasn’t just deeply sinful , it was virtually unforgivable. Jump forward several hundred years to now. America has made peace with what we used to call “sin”. Even the Arthur Dimmesdale’s (he’s the town preacher who knocked up Hester) have openly thrown in their lot with greed and lust. What is a proud cocksman like Jerry Falwell, Jr if not a prideful version of Arthur Dimmesdale, no longer ashamed of his adultery (takes two to tango, right?), but, rather, boastful about it —

Jerry Falwell Jr., president of the Christian and conservative Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., posted this photo on social media Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020, with the caption: “More vacation shots. Lots of good friends visited us on the yacht. I promise that’s just black water in my glass. It was a prop only.”

These days, we’re more inclined to force someone to wear a scarlet “A” because they’re a raging asshole. Which brings me to anti-vaxxers — another “scarlet A”. Were it not for anti-vaxxers and their relentless spew of out-and-out bullshit into the information stream, America would have gotten atop the coronavirus already. Though it would still be raging in most of the rest of the world, we’d have achieved the herd immunity needed to truly get our lives and our economy firmly headed back to a new kind of normal. Let’s be crystal clear here: anti-vaxx sentiment is based on zero science and a clear misunderstanding of how people need to approach science. Because it doesn’t need science to undergird its recommendations, it can recommend anything. It can say anything because nothing is there to check its work.

Hester Prynne’s community had nothing whatsoever to fear from Hester. Adultery was not going to spread like a virus — though, ironically, the madness behind such close-minded religious thinking did. Perhaps in their worst nightmares, adultery had the potential to do what a pathogen can. There’s a big difference between nightmares and reality though. And Colonial Americans weren’t strangers to the harm pathogens could do — even if they weren’t entirely clear that the harm in question was being caused by such a thing as a “pathogen”. But, we DO know pathogens exist. We DO know what pathogens do and how and why. We KNOW how to protect ourselves from them — that should be the basis for OUR “morality”. We KNOW how to keep our communities safe from things that we perceive would destroy them.

Hester is a strange mix of sexually liberated woman and mousey good-girl gone wrong. Anti-vaxxers are zombies. The pathogen has already eaten their brains and now is using the anti-vaxxers as their ride while they come for the rest of us. That’s why we NEED to make every single anti-vaxxer wear that “U” they seem so proud of right there on their person. “U” for “Unvaccinated” must become our new Scarlet Letter.

The good news? It’s already happening. France and Italy have already begun culling the unvaccinated from the rest of us. Can’t prove YOU were vaccinated? You can’t eat in restaurants or attend any group entertainments like soccer matches or concerts. In a way, an unvaccinated person’s LACK of a “V” (for “vaccinated”) is the new scarlet letter. But, hey — like I said — the unvaxxed don’t see their unvaccinated status the way Hester saw her adulteress status. I bet they’ll not only wear their Scarlet Letters, I bet they’ll compete with each other to make THEIR scarlet “U” bigger than everyone else’s.

What point is there in being just “full of shit” when you can be the “fullest” of shit?

Both France and Italy are, currently, facing pushback from the unvaxxed. Riots erupted in Paris yesterday. As the unvaccinated get sick and become a smaller and smaller minority, their ignorant way of thinking will achieve true pariah-hood. They will deserve it.

Pathogens really don’t care what magical thinking motivates any human to NOT protect themselves from the pathogen. Their existence is simple: they need us. Their entire purpose is to get inside us and reproduce. That it kills us is beside the point. Before we expire, we’ll likely infect countless other humans — exactly like the pathogen wants us to do. But then, if they had their way, in time every pathogen would replace the antivaxxers scarlet “U” with a headstone.