Dear Fellow Humans: Can We All PLEASE Admit It — We’re Making It All Up As We Go Along

You know how kids learn not to trust adults because, kids quickly get, adults are lying pretty much most of the time about pretty much everything?

What we all experience as kids is a moment of absolute clarity — about adults and the world adults make for us all: it’s all bullshit. Kids realize that adults don’t actually know what they’re talking about; they’re falling back on “how it is” or “how it’s always been done” instead of really thinking about the questions they’ve been asked.

Take religion, for instance. Most religions frown on kids asking questions about the faith. Kids ask questions because all organized religions (religion and spirituality are not the same thing) rely on nonsense to justify themselves. Instead of simply saying “Hey, want to live a good life? Just do unto others, okay? Ya got that?” Christianity buries that simple directive that anyone can do (atheists included) inside great, massive heaps of fiction. “Doing unto others” quickly becomes irrelevant because the fiction requires so much pretzel logic in order to follow it. Instead, the church wants its followers to worry about heaven and hell and eternal punishments all caused by a fictional woman eating a symbolic piece of fruit offered up by a totally fictional snake.

Ask a Buddhist or a Taoist or an animist or a polytheist how they feel about that. Turns out? Their mythology doesn’t line up — at all.

Hmmmmmmmmm… could somebody be making stuff up here?

Hmmmmmmmmm… could it be EVERYONE?

That’s not a knock on us. Homo sapiens are damned clever. It’s the good news and the bad news about us. Granted, it took us hundreds of thousands of years to graduate from hunter gatherers to whatever the hell we are now, but once we figured out how to dominate our immediate environment — and the planet (so we thought), we became unstoppable. Unfortunately for us.

We’re curious. We want to know how things work — the Universe, for instance. In the absence of hard facts, we’ll imagine what the answers could be. In the absence of hard facts, we tend to get a lot of things wrong. If the men who wrote the OT (and the NT) had had access to the internet, if they’d had microscopes and telescopes and all our modern technology available to them, would they have written their texts — where they tried to imagine how the universe worked — the same way?

Of course not!

Their view of the universe would have been an informed view — and, with that knowledge in hand, they would have written their texts differently.

In other words — they would have made up what they made up differently. And they WOULD HAVE had to have made some things up because — fact — we don’t KNOW with certainty how the universe began. Or why (or if there even is a “why”). Religion fills in the gaps in our knowledge — for those who need it filled in.

The big difference between people of faith and atheists is that people of faith get triggered by uncertainty — of not knowing why we’re here, what it all means and (most important of all) what happens to us when we die. Atheists accept that there are things we don’t know yet. Rather than fill in the blank with an imaginary answer, atheists shrug and say “I accept the fact that we don’t actually KNOW this yet”.

The Rule Of Law is no different. As the Republican Party proves to us every day now, the Rule Of Law doesn’t exist if people don’t willingly follow it. Trump breaks it repeatedly every day. Nothing happens. Republicans like Bill Barr break it every day. Nothing happens. That kind of proves that the Rule Of Law is only as “real” as we make it — because, in truth, it ISN’T “real”. We made it up.

Human rights? Sorry to break everyone’s heart. There’s no such thing. We invented it. No one has any “rights”. We’re born, we live, we die. Life comes with one guarantee — that eventually (if not sooner) it will end. We’ve invented pretty much everything that happens to us while we’re here — religions, governments, neighborhoods.

We need all these things, of course. How would we live with each other without these fictions guiding us?

The point is, they ARE fictions — human inventions as malleable as our own DNA (and, as we keep learning, our DNA is plenty malleable).

We’re only as trapped by circumstances as we think we are. Donald Trump is a bully — but he’s not a bully capable of dominating us. THAT PART’S a total fiction.

At any moment, if just one brave journalist called Trump out for being a liar, a corrupt criminal & a traitor — to his face on live TV? The whole FICTION that is Donald Trump would start to crumble. Because Trump would crumble.

Trump is a fiction surrounded by fiction that’s all fed by fiction — that white people and their money are superior to everyone else.

Mmmmm — is that bullshit I smell?

Sounds like something only a white guy and his money could make up.

We Live Inside A Giant False Narrative — That Donald Trump Is “Legitimate POTUS”

False narratives — creating them, living them, suffering the consequences of living them — it seems to go with being human. So, I’ll cut us some slack.

The unfortunate humans who live inside North Korea’s borders live inside a false narrative that Kim Jong-On isn’t a sociopathic madman at the helm of a hermitic dictatorship with nuclear weapons at his disposal. They think he’s a kind of god — just like his father and grandfather — because that’s what they’ve been told.

North Koreans have been deliberately fed a false narrative about how life and politics are. The point wasn’t to liberate them. One never creates a false narrative to do good things for people — despite what one tells oneself. You’re turning away from empirical truth — and choosing to walk toward fiction. Every step toward fiction is a step away from actual truth.

There may be lashings of truth IN your fiction — but, whereas facts won’t let you do with them what you want, with fiction? You can spin a story however you like. You’re bound by story logic — but not logic logic.

The biggest false narrative going, of course, is religion. The people who write religious texts — the Old Testament for instance — start out from a genuine place: they want to answer the big questions — what is life? How did we get here? Why are we here and what is the point of it all? Unless they’re wearing lab coats — with strict protocols for managing their experimentation — they’re going to pull the answers to those questions from their own heads. Or their asses.

If the men who wrote Genesis had access to the internet — if they had microscopes and telescopes available — if they knew about germ theory and plate tectonics — if they knew even that there were continents other than the one they lived on (they didn’t!) — would they have written the texts they wrote the way they wrote them? Of course not! Their worldview — even the questions themselves — would have been informed by their knowledge. They wouldn’t have written a Noah’s flood story they way they wrote it because the facts on the ground — literally — would have made such a story preposterous.

Sometimes — as with religion — the intention of the false narrative is to explain the world from the religion’s viewpoint. But, what if the starting viewpoint is wrong — or distorted. Or misinformed. What if monotheists are wrong and polytheists are right — there’s not one good, there are dozens, thousands, kajillions?

Who’s really to say? Got proof there’s only one “God”? Remind the class — who wrote that story? Oh, right — people who were “divinely inspired”. Another false narrative begins.

Even before he was sworn in, Donald Trump began signaling to us that he was not the legitimate president — that his win wasn’t what we thought it was. Take yourself back to election night 2016. Remember how it felt as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin went red? The story was just believable enough — the press had taken the “But her emails” ball and run wild with it. Doubts about Clinton could have been the difference — 78,000 votes spread between three states. It was just plausible enough for us to allow “Well, maybe…”.

That’s all it took. The truth is, to this day, we don’t know what happened in those three states. We don’t. But the stone cold fact is Paul Manafort handed Oleg Deripaska PROPRIETARY POLLING DATA for four states (the three mentioned plus Minnesota). That’s not nothing. That’s very sensitive data about Americans, who they are and how they vote — being handed to a man with deep ties to Russian Military Intelligence.

Russian military intelligence (for those slow on the uptake) is especially good at creating, disseminating and benefiting from propaganda. They’ve gotten very good at using social media to — say it with me — create false narratives. In those three states — we know this happened — Democratic voters (African American voters especially) found their Facebook pages inundated with ads disparaging Hilary Clinton — accusing her of being a racist on the down low.

Sure, plenty of those African American voters ignored those ads. But — we also know — some stayed home. That’s no different from a stolen vote. It’s election fraud — PERIOD.

Also — no one in an official capacity has ever done any forensics on the voting machines in those three states. As we’re learning more and more — any voting machine hooked up to the internet in any way is hackable. Anyone who denies that fact wants machines that are hackable in our elections. WHY?

Any voting process that isn’t hand-marked with a complete paper trail is bullshit.

People who want free and fair elections have no problems with oversight. They welcome it because it guarantees free and fair elections. People who want shortcuts — who are willing to take what election machine vendors (almost all Republican owned companies by the way — yes, it matters) say at face value — aren’t interested in Democracy, they’re interested in undermining Democracy. Not the same thing.

If the Rule Of Law is alive and well, then you cannot cheat to become president of the United States. You cannot ASK a foreign country to help you and you cannot ACCEPT THEIR HELP when offered. But that’s exactly what Donald Trump did — repeatedly and out in the open. The Mueller Report did not exonerate Trump in any way. Quick Reminder — the Mueller Report was not the be-all & end-all of “Trump-Russia” involvements. It addressed ONE — the Trump campaign’s relationship with Wikileaks. And the report said that it couldn’t ANSWER whether or not the Trump campaign conspired with Russia because of (Mueller Report Part Two) ALL THE OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE the Trump campaign were perpetrating.

All those SDNY investigations that Bill Barr slowed or blocked or snuffed? They would have begun exploring all the other ways Donald Trump, his campaign — and the whole Republican Party ultimately — had fallen prey to Russian intelligence. Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate is a non-stop reminder of just how corrupt the Republican Party is. Their defense didn’t rise to the level of “silly” it was so bad.

They don’t want to hear Bolton or any other witnesses because they KNOW what those witnesses will say. They KNOW what the evidence says — they’ve already heard what lots of it says. This is about keeping the truth about what happened out of the public record. WHY?

Most Republicans assume that once a lifetime judge is in place, he or she stays in place forever. Keep in mind — part of the point of this coup d’etat started years before the election. It took the form of Mitch McConnell hijacking the judiciary. He refused to let Obama appoint judges that he quickly filled once Trump was sworn in. He refused to grant Merrick Garland so much as a hearing. Hello, Neil Gorsuch.

But all that assumes we continue to accept the product of the false narrative Republicans created.

Let’s put this in terms even Donald Trump would understand. Let’s say the presidency was a beauty pageant. The winner gets lots of good things. They get to live in the White House. They get to tell the military what to do. They get to suggest and change laws. They get to appoint judges including Supreme Court judges.

That’s if they win — and they’re the Beauty Pageant WINNER.

But let’s say we find ample evidence that the Beauty Pageant Winner cheated. Let’s say the bribed judges — or threatened them. Let’s say the Winner conspired with people outside the pageant to pick a winner (outside the pageant’s rules). And let’s say these people succeeded. The Pageant’s real judges wanted Contestant X to win. That contestant reflected the Pageant’s values and hopes for the Pageant’s future.

But some of the judges, it turns out, were corrupt. The whole voting process, it turns out, was corrupted. When the judges voted — one of their votes was tallied the wrong way. Another judge went home sick and didn’t vote at all (food poisoning they think). From the moment the Winner was announced, lots of the judges — people in the audience, too — they knew something was wrong.

Okay — so the wrong person now wears the crown. They have all the power that comes with it — all the rights & privileges. But none of it actually belongs to them.

Now the Winner starts giving paying jobs to her friends. She fudges the books so no one can tell where the Pageant’s money is going. The Pageant starts co-branding with mobsters and criminals and all sorts of unsavory people the Pageant’s judges would never have agreed to. The Winner starts changing everything about the Pageant — despite the fact that they WEREN’T the actual winner and everything they’re doing goes directly AGAINST everything the judges ACTUALLY wanted and — this being democratic in theory — voted for.

But then, the judges discover evidence that PROVES the Winner cheated. They show it to the public because the public needs to know (while the Winner is doing things that directly impact them) — there’s a very good reason why the judges will now take away the Winner’s crown: it never belonged to them. EVER.

So — the Winner loses his crown. He can no longer claim to be the Winner because 1) he no longer is and 2) he never ever was.

Ah, but what of his “winnings”? What of the now-ex-Winner’s spoils? What of the laws they changed — though they had no authority to change them (only REAL winners have the LEGAL right to do that)? What of the lifetime judges they nominated THAT THEY HAD NO LEGAL AUTHORITY TO NOMINATE?

Remember all the judges Al Gore nominated? Exactly — he didn’t nominate any because he didn’t win — and was never given the authority. If he had tried to, we’d have laughed at him — “Dude, what’re you doing? You LOST. Losers don’t get to nominate anything.”

A cheater who’s been caught stops being “the winner”. A car thief has to give back the car he stole (provided it hasn’t been chop shopped into pieces already). He may have the memories of driving around in your ride, but all rights of ownership return to YOU, the rightful OWNER.

We The People “own” the outcomes of our elections. That is, we expect that our choice — if we’re in the majority — to be the basis for how our government will act. Provided our candidate followed all the laws in order to win the election, his or her actions are truly sanctioned by the electorate.

But, Donald Trump can’t say that about his “win”. He wasn’t sanctioned by he electorate. The majority of us voted not just FOR Hillary but AGAINST Trump and everything he stood for and wanted to do. We voted AGAINST destroying the government, AGAINST destroying our relationships with the world, AGAINST cozying up to Russia, AGAINST corruption in the extreme, AGAINST destroying the environment, AGAINST racism & misogyny & bigotry and judges who are FOR all those things.

The only reason Trump’s potus at all is because he manipulated the Electoral College. By literally STEALING Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania (for starters — we don’t know how pervasive the theft was), Trump robbed the American People of their actual choice. The victim of this crime is us, the American People.

What are we — crime victims in this — to do once the full depth of Trump (and the Republican Party’s) deep criminality gets revealed. Are we to shrug off the crime — and especially the part where the criminal gets to keep what he stole? Those judges — those laws — the dismantling of our system of checks and balances — that’s all stolen property. It belongs to US. It doesn’t belong to Donald Trump or the Republican Party.

They’re the car thief sitting in OUR CAR — in OUR DRIVEWAY — honking the horn at us at three in the morning.

What makes matters worse? Turns out the car thief has pals in the police department. Fact is, the thief knows the “chief of police”. That’s going to make prosecuting the car thief — and getting our car back — hard. But that doesn’t mean we don’t do it.

There’s a big “Come To Jesus” moment coming us by-and-by. We’re going to have to reconcile the false narrative we’ve been living in — that Trump’s the legitimate potus and everything he’s done is legit and inviolable — with the facts: Trump’s a criminal. He stole the outcome of election 2016 — and everything that goes with it.

Are we REALLY going to let him — and the Republican Party who benefited from it (that was the point, right?) continue to benefit when the benefits were never theirs to begin with?

If we do that — if we let thieves keep what they’ve stolen — we will not solve our problem. The criminals will continue to own us. They’ll continue to have a say in how we live our lives — and even run the Rule Of Law. If don’t recognize how stupid that will be?

We’ll deserve every bit of the horribleness that follows.

It’ll be “Slavery: The Sequel”.

You remember slavery, right? That’s the abomination we created a false narrative around — that it was acceptable for a Democratic Republic to have slavery.

Every Evangelical Has A Deep, Dark, Dirty Secret — They All Think THEY Are “God”

Ask ten people what “god” is and you’ll get ten distinctly different answers. That’s not because “god” is such an expansive, all-encompassing concept. It’s because “god” is an “idea” you can alter on the fly. The magical power god has one moment, he doesn’t have the next. Or he chooses not to use them that time though the circumstances are exact.

You know how “god” is — he works in “mysterious ways”.

In fact, “god” is so mysterious that he regularly hires clowns like Kenneth Copeland to speak on his behalf. You remember Kenneth Copeland, don’t ya…?

I keep thumbing through my copy of the NT (I do have one and it is well thumbed through) but, for the life of me, I can’t see what chapter or verse Ken is using here as the basis for his Christian behavior.

I definitely can’t see what, if anything, Jesus said that Ken thinks he’s emulating.

Evangelicals like Ken (like most American Christians) are churchists, not followers of Jesus. They couldn’t pick Jesus out of a police line up — which is exactly where they’d expect to find him. They know for a fact that the LAST place Jesus would ever show up is at one of their mega-churches. Just as well — they’d never let him in.

Pick an evangelical. Listen to them speak. Watch them while they do it. Bore in on their eyes.

See Ken’s eyes? That’s not “madness” shining out of them. It’s the absolute belief that he is god and it is beyond his comprehension that the reporter isn’t bowing down to that fact.

Kenneth Copeland isn’t special. He’s just good at what he does — bamboozling the mooks, half-wits & ignoramuses who keep him well supplied with jet fuel. If any of those mooks, half-wits or ignoramuses could, they’d ask themselves: “How can a follower of Jesus explain the need for a private jet to begin with?”

But they can’t, so they don’t.

Instead, they comfort themselves with their own godliness.

Here’s What Happens When We “Pull Back The Lens” — And We NEED To Pull It Back NOW…

Lack of perspective kills.  A swimmer who sees only the immediate water around them – lovely and turquoise – but not the school of hungry sharks circling that lovely bit of turquoise?  That swimmer is chum. 

Religionistas will insist that their deity wants them to live according to the rules set down by ignorant (by our standards) iron age desert dwellers because everything anyone needed to know was “known” and set down in the texts those iron age desert dwellers produced.  But, what if those iron age desert dwellers, before they sat down to write, had had access to all the information we take for granted today? 

What if those scribes had known that microbes and pathogens cause most human diseases?  What if they knew what RNA and DNA are? What if they had a Hubble Space Telescope and every bit of its remarkable data flow to chew on?  Would they have written texts that killed people with magical plagues or put the earth at the center of everything?

If the men who wrote the OT had read Darwin or Stephen Hawking, if they had taken in a geology text book or a scientific paper on genetics, if they had ever gotten a chance to use the internet – would they have sat down and written the texts they wrote the exact same way?

Doubtful.

The people who wrote, edited and put together the canonical New Testament used significant portions of the old texts as the basis for their new texts.  The mythology Paul created leaned heavily on the Pentateuch.  The whole basis for original sin is Eve and the Garden of Eden.  If the men who wrote the originals never wrote those originals – because they were better informed about how the world really worked – the course of human history would have been radically different.

We may not have been any less self-destructive (homo sapiens are still homo sapiens) but at least we would have been denied that particular flavor of bullshit to use as an excuse. 

So – if the people who wrote the religious texts so many Americans say they rely on as the basis for their lives had been just a teensy bit more educated via access to modern technologies – had they been able to “pull the lens back” even a little — human history would have been spared the chaotic, illogical darkness that certain religions have repeatedly inflicted upon humanity.

By the same token — if our Main Stream News Media were able to find the widest possible lens they can find, they might finally be able to tell the story we’re all living through.  Nearly three years in to this nonsense, there are STILL reporters (like NBC News’ well-meaning but hopelessly feckless Kelly O’Donnell) who repeat back Donald Trump’s words as if he spoke gospel truth.  It never occurs to them to contextualize Trump by saying – before repeating his words – that nothing he says is reliable. 

They don’t.  They position their reporting lens inside Trump’s bubble – where bullshit is true just because Trump says so.  They report from inside the lie with the lie as their only apparent frame of reference.  Either they genuinely believe the lie is true or they lack the perspective to see and report the relationship between lie and truth.  Either way, they render themselves useless to We The People just when we need them most.

At the end of the day, when the smoke can finally clear and we see this story with whatever perspective we can before our generation literally dies off (and real perspective finally has a chance to flower), I bet we’ll post mortem the press this way: they failed on two major counts.  First – Lack Of Perspective. Too often, our press has turned a laser focus on a piece of the larger story.  While their focus was admirable, the fact that they lost perspective while focusing in so intently was not.  For all the detail a guy like NBC’s Steve Kornacki can tell you about how voters vote, he never places them in the context of their times.

We have never lived through what we’re living through now.  We have never had elections stolen by foreign countries before (at least not that we’re aware of).  We have never experienced one party tossing out the Rule Of Law in a desperate grab for permanent minority rule.  When these things happen, it kinda changes things.  It’s like someone shitting in the pool.  Is swimming in it – with turds bobbing around – the same experience?

No, Steve Kornacki, it is not.  Steve epitomizes this sort of “intense focus” journalism.  He can tell you everything you want to know about a particular grain of sand.  Ask him where the grain of sand IS – on a beach?  In the middle of the Sahara?  In some kid’s sand box in a suburb somewhere?

Steve has no idea.  That’s a problem where storytelling is concerned.

Second – Failure Of Imagination.  It’s directly related to the first problem – lack of perspective.  It’s kinda the “ouch” to lack of perspective’s “pinch”.  If you can’t really see what the problem (or the story) is, you can’t possibly solve it (or report it accurately). 

What happens when we pull back the lens on most of our Main Stream News Media is we see that they’re failing us – failing their Constitutionally mandated role as final check on power.  I suggest we keep the lens back here.  Their close up is really, really ugly.

Unchallenged Lies Become Truth – That’s Why EVERY TRUMPIAN LIE Has To be Called Out

No revelation here: It is way, WAY easier to sell Americans bullshit than it is to take that bullshit away from them once they’ve acquired a taste for it.

H L Mencken got it right: no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence or taste of the American public. Maybe our problem is Americans (conservative ones especially) have a religious bent that distorts their thinking right out of the gate.

For reference’s sake, consider how insidious religion is – and how (and when) the religious begin shoving their religion down young throats and into young minds. The point of the exercise is to undermine any capacity for analytical thought.  Accept what we tell you as truth.  Nothing else matters.

Did a sky god really have unprotected sex with a teenage human virgin to produce a hybrid man-god put here to die for human sins tracing back to a supposed first woman who ate a piece of forbidden fruit at the behest of a talking snake?  That’s a soupcon of the bullshit you have to accept to be a fully practicing Christian (in the eyes of fully practicing Christians).  Proof that you’re “faithful” is that you will willingly spit all this nonsense back as required – and then insist that you use it every day as the basis for ALL your “thinking”.

There are people among us who start their day accepting that great buckets of bullshit are true – and then they start making decisions based on it.  It’s not unlike being captain of the Titanic, seeing that you’ve hit an iceberg, but pressing on nonetheless for New York as if nothing had happened. Most bullshit is denial of what is.

These people accept lies as truth – as their starting point.

Selling more lies to people happy to buy lies is easy.  That is what Donald Trump & the Republican Party is really good at.  They know their base are rabid Magical Thinkers to whom Trump is a business genius simply because he says he is – and the word of a liar is good enough for them. 

We (our Main Stream News Media) began to normalize Trumpian bullshit in earnest the instant they stopped challenging Trump on his “Mexicans are rapists” pronouncement.  The instant that stopped, Trump succeeded in normalizing his racism.  “Mexicans are rapists” was no longer cause for his campaign to end.  Racism was now “just how Trump is”.

There is no safe amount of bullshit.  All bullshit has the potential to kill you – even the incidental bullshit we all live with every day (“Five more minutes of sleep won’t make me that late…”) can build up like plaque in a vein.

And just like plaque in a vein, that first bad cholesterol lipid that sticks to the vein wall is a problem – because a second bad cholesterol lipid will stick easily to the first lipid.  Blockage – and potential death –  is just a matter of time and more lipids.

Never mind the exhaustion.  Either we fight back or we start looking over out shoulders.  The end could come at any moment otherwise.  And that end does not have to be.

That end cannot be.  Let’s start fighting back one lie at a time. Let’s start by calling them all out – screw anyone who has a problem with it.  They’re gulag bound anyway.

There’s A Huge Honkin’ Difference Between Being “Spiritual” & Being “Religious”

Even a stone cold atheist can feel profound awe as he or she stares up at the stars. Atheists especially understand the scale — tiny human on a rock at the far edges of a galaxy in the middle of a billion galaxies feeling both his insignificance in the greater scheme of things while also being keenly aware that he “is” and therefore can “experience” this feeling of cosmic scale. That awe is spirituality. It’s abstract. It’s a riddle. It’s a quest.

But not everyone wants to go on a quest. They just want to live their lives and leave the heavy thinking to others: Just tell me what to believe and I’ll believe it. THAT is religion. It’s NOT about a journey or a search or an exploration. It’s about following rules. It’s about crowd control.

I grew up in a Conservative Jewish, deeply Humanist culture. That’s the middle ground between rule-following orthodoxy and total rule-rejecting reformed Judaism. In my house we rejected most of the rules. We didn’t keep kosher. Didn’t do any of that whatsoever. We went to shul on an occasional basis (for sure on the High Holidays). Though the ten commandments are a cornerstone of the faith, they’re not complicated. As rules go, they’re straightforward. Don’t do this, don’t do that. One thing we didn’t do — as a religion or culture — the institution (the synagogue) was not set up as your over-seer. Unlike the Catholic church, a synagogue never demanded that you confess every last bit of your dirt to it — so it could hold that dirt over your head in perpetuity.

THAT is how religion works.

Jesus was pretty clear in his message: Do unto others… suffer the little children unto me… the meek shall inherit the earth. He didn’t preach about how he wanted his church hierarchy to be structured because Jesus wasn’t about building churches. He was about teaching spirituality.

I mention this because Jesus is kinda the Poster Child for what happens when a spiritual message gets religion. Doing unto others requires a spiritual connection with the rest of humanity. Confession requires that you feel guilty mostly for just being human.

Isn’t that the whole point of “original sin”?

The Church’s genius — dark genius though it was — was to convince all those billions of people that being human wasn’t good enough. That instead of a spiritual journey, its followers needed to be locked in a box — like a veal being fattened up for slaughter without ever having seen the sun. The greatest threat overhanging any church member is expulsion from the group. Excommunication.

No one, it seems, gets excommunicated for diddling little boys. Question the church’s authority though and you’re gone.

A religious person looks up at the stars and wonders where their imaginary friend lives — and is that imaginary friend spying on them? A spiritual person sees a life-long journey of discovery, all to answer one question: how do I fit into that? How can I make my brief time as a sentient being more meaningful? How can I fill every moment with meaning? How can I…?

Spirituality is the freedom to explore. Religion is its diametric opposite.

Maya Angelou Had It SOOOOOO Right – When People Tell You Who They Are…

If you want me to be your friend — but, the fact is, you hate Jews on sight — I’m not seeing a future for our relationship regardless of how much you tell me MY being Jewish isn’t an issue for you. That’s not the point, right? You’re an anti-Semite. It’s who you are.

I feel the same way about Religionistas. If you tell me up front (and thanks for being honest) that the whole basis for your belief system — the foundational core of why you do what you do — is based on a fiction (in other words, you’ve bought into the story instead of its point) — then I’m not inclined to take ANYTHING you say seriously. Why would I?

If you honestly believe — and insist on its veracity — that a sky creature had reproductive sexual relations with a female “virgin” who then bore a man-god who, at the last second gets repurposed with dying for all of humanity’s sins (if that wasn’t his purpose from the start then what’s the issue with him dying — since that was his whole mission in the first place?) but rises from the dead to “prove” that by “following him” you, too, can live forever… see where I’m going? That’s a whole lot of preposterous to accept as real.

It’s Magical Thinking. Magical Thinking is great when you’re five and you’re trying to decide what soda to have with your hamburger. It doesn’t work as well when you’re an adult and you’re sending women to prison because you don’t understand even the basics of biology — because you prefer Magical Thinking to science.

When you turn around then and tell us that you don’t believe in climate change — we get the context.

The same applies to Trump supporters. Yeah, yeah — bamboozlement. Lots and lots of bamboozlement — Russian propaganda and Trumpian pomposity — gobbled up and shit back at us by our own News Media. But lots of people got it. Lots of people saw this from the outset for what it was — a treasonous coup d’etat.

Donald Trump has never been shy about telling us who he is. The onus is on us for refusing to listen to him. All those people who thought Trump would “pivot”? Magical Thinking. All those people who still think Trump is a great potus? The very worst kind of Magical Thinking — Authoritarian Magical Thinking.

Anyone still saying they’d vote for Trump? They’re telling us something. Anyone not disgusted to their neutrons & electrons by Trump? They’re telling us something, too.

Let’s do ourselves a kindness — and believe them.

HELP! We’re Trapped In A False Narrative & Can’t Get Out!

The most painful part of listening to or watching the news channels these days is the constant barrage of false narratives.

The biggest false narrative of all, of course, is that Donald Trump got elected. He may have been given the victory but he lost the popular vote by over 3 million votes (it would have been lots more if not for voter suppression); as for Trump’s EC victory, the Mueller Report hints at what became of the internal polling data Paul Manafort gave Oleg Deripaska in August 2016. Deripaska and the Russians weaponized it and turned it back on Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.

We don’t know empirically if Manafort giving Russia proprietary polling data resulted in any votes being changed. That is, we don’t know if we know. No one outside of Twitter, far as I can tell, has bothered to ask. No one’s done any official forensics on the machines in those states. We don’t know if they were hacked and their vote totals tweaked. We do know there are anomalies in several Pennsylvania counties (keeping in mind that between PA/WI/MI Trump eked the win by less than 70,000 votes combined!) There are counties in northern Pennsylvania apparently where the vote totals are suspiciously similar, defying mathematical probabilities.

If just ONE vote was changed because of this? That’s a crime same as if it were MILLIONS. The fact that we may not see it that way — it’s on us. You don’t get to a what we’re living through without the steady drip-drip-drip that starts with us shrugging off ONE vote being illegally denied.

“One altered vote doesn’t matter” is a false narrative. It does matter. Of course it matters!

Our problem is, we live in so many false narratives already that we’re inured to getting sucked into one more. Think about it — think about all the false narratives that we take for granted. The most obvious one is religion.

A person who earnestly believes that a sky deity had magical sex with a human female and produced a man-god whose job it was to “absorb” all the rest of the humans’ sins is living inside a false narrative. No such thing ever happened. To pretend that it did — and then live your life a certain way because you’re determined (lack of evidence be damned!) that this thing did happen — is living inside a false narrative.

If you make life choices based on that false narrative — you’re doing it for the wrong reasons and it could very easily bite you in the ass. Would you agree to let a surgeon work on you who’d never been to med school but knew his beatitudes almost by heart? Of course not — that surgeon’s living inside a false narrative — that he’s a surgeon.

A person unaware their spouse is cheating on them (they think their marriage is just fine) — false narrative.

Same goes for a guy who doesn’t know his business partners are cheating on him. False narrative.

The inhabitants of Pearl Harbor slept the morning of December 7, 1941 believing we were at peace with Japan. We weren’t. Japan had unofficially declared war on us. The fact that we didn’t know it didn’t mean it wasn’t so. We were living in a false narrative.

If you get right down to it, Christmas is a false narrative — the story it celebrates never happened. Ditto Easter. And Passover. The story the seder’s rituals tell never happened; Jews as slaves in Egypt, though it sounds good, simply doesn’t appear anywhere in the historical record. It’s a false narrative.

A lot of America’s history is false narrative. We tell ourselves we’re a bastion of freedom — but that’s only true if you’re a white, Christian man. For everyone else — that’s a false narrative. The Thanksgiving story? Mostly false narrative. The Salem Witch Trials? Extremely false narrative.

“All men are created equal”? Nice words but no one actually lives that way. Anyone who thinks they are? False narrative. How could that narrative NOT be false when our Constitution (written by the same clique of men) allowed for slavery? A slave isn’t a citizen’s equal — not in the citizen’s eyes.

Manifest Destiny? Rubbish. The White Man’s burden? Only in the White Man’s racist mind. Racism itself is a false narrative — racists think their race is better. No, it ain’t. But your narrative sure is false.

We’ve lived inside a false narrative from the instant Donald Trump was declared the “winner” of election 2016. We knew at the time that something smelled rotten — Trump winning felt like a false narrative. It’s never stopped feeling that way.

Mitch McConnell refusing to give Merrick Garland a hearing wasn’t a false narrative — though it was bullshit. The false narrative was every bit of McConnell’s determined lie that he was justified in doing it. It’s a false narrative that McConnell is any sort of patriot; he’s a traitor who sold out America for the benefit of the Koch Bros, his backers. Mitch hitched his wagon to Russia because the demographics spell certain doom for Republicans.

Every day, our news media act as if Donald Trump is a normal potus doing normal potus things. They continue to explain away this madness with a shrugged “but America voted for him”. Did we? I seem to recall it differently. The majority of Americans did NOT vote for Trump – or any of this bullshit.

The fact that Trump won the Electoral College (did he though — I believe that’s under investigation; it says as much in the Mueller Report?) points to the fact that our Electoral College, by its nature, tells a false narrative. By handing a presidential victory to Donald Trump, it seems to be saying that the majority of Americans chose him over Hillary. It’s not even remotely true — as we know.

The Electoral College creates a false narrative in our minds — that the Will Of The People is being done. it’s not true.

I genuinely believe we’re living inside the Giantest False Narrative of all that Donald Trump “won” the presidency. The publicly available evidence says Donald Trump conspired with Russia to steal the presidency. That means — per his own projecting — his presidency has been illegitimate from the get-go. That shouldn’t be a revelation.

The fact that we’ve so willfully refused to vacate this false narrative — that should be shocking to us.


An Atheist’s Easter Sermon: Why REALITY Matters More Than Ooga-Booga

Christmas is a pagan holiday redirected.  For all its “holiness”, all its fanciful storytelling about Wise Men from the East and stars that shine above spots on a planet light years away from them, Christmas still celebrates something; it’s a happy holiday.  Easter, on the other hand, is about Christianity’s core message: “Jesus died (but then rose from the dead – as YOU can, in essence, IF you agree to accept the story we’re pitching you as ‘gospel’ truth.”

Jesus being born and having a life is all well and good.  He can preach all he likes.  But it’s dying that gives the Jesus character purpose.  If Jesus never dies the way he dies (if, say, the NT celebrated his living a long life, dying in his bed surrounded by loved ones), there’s no Christianity.  It doesn’t happen.  But it wasn’t Jesus who told his own story.  Most of what we call “The New Testament” was written by Paul.  13 of the canonical texts are ascribed to Paul though only 8 can really be ascribed to him.

In 1985, the bible scholar Robert Funk created a group of 150 similar scholars.  The Jesus Seminar wanted to coax a historical Jesus from the NT texts.  They discerned a Jew whose core message (they found a dozen-and-a-half sayings that Jesus could have said — that weren’t clearly PUT IN HIS MOUTH BY OTHERS (like, say, PAUL).  What they also saw clearly — “According to the Seminar, Jesus was a mortal man born of two human parents, who did not perform nature miracles nor die as a substitute for sinners nor rise bodily from the dead.  Sightings of a risen Jesus represented the visionary experiences of some of his disciples rather than physical encounters.”

The historian A N Wilson wrote a biography of Paul that I highly recommend — if only to create the proper context in which to understand Christianity’s creation.  The bottom line is simply this: Jesus did not “invent” Christianity.  Paul did.

Paul took the notion of Jesus as a messiah — threw out Jesus’ core “Do Unto Others” message and focused his proselytizing instead on making Jesus The Messiah the basis for a whole new religion that he sold to non-Jews for whom Jewish tradition was meaningless.  But, to prove, HIS invention’s “truthfulness” (maybe “truthiness” is more warranted), Paul based his mythology on Jewish mythology.  Paul needed Jesus being prophesied as part of his branding.  To make the “prophecy” part of Jesus’ story stand up, Paul had invent a story for Jesus because Jesus’ actual story just didn’t fit.

Paul didn’t worry himself with his story’s lack of authenticity.  He wasn’t selling real.  He was selling magic.

But part of Paul’s mythology involved making Jesus’ death important — more important than his life, really.  Jesus needs to rise from the dead to garner the star power needed to front Paul’s new religion.  To rise from the dead, Jesus needs to die spectacularly — even more spectacularly than mere crucifixion. And, because Paul was now committed to selling his story to non-Jews, it mattered nothing to him if Jews became the villain in the STORY he was inventing.

The early church fathers who bought & then themselves began selling Paul’s story loved having a villain.

As a member of the “villain” tribe — I have issues with this.

Jesus preached a simple message.  Even a humble atheist can easily (and happily) “Do Unto Others”.  Most do, actually because, humans are social creatures.  We recognize that behaving one way versus the other makes your life better.  There’s no reason to muck that message up.  It doesn’t cry out for explanation.

It requires no magic.

It stands — resolutely — without any need for Ooga-Booga to justify it.

So here’s the deal.  Believe whatever you like, Christians — it’s your “god-given right”.  But what you do with that faith — how you manifest its teachings out here beyond the walls of your church — it matters.  When your pervert “Do Unto Others” into “Kill The Jews” — you’re doing it wrong.

The ‘Good News’ Is The Bad News: We’re ALL Making It Up As We Go Along…

What “is”?

Maybe the better question is: “What ISN’T?”

What isn’t TRUE?

Every single one of us faces that question multiple times every single day.  We base the success of a day on how well we navigate that question.  “What should I wear today?  The weather forecast said rain but they’re wrong so often…?”  In our home lives and our business lives, we need to feel as connected as possible to what we think is so — the concrete of existence: what “is”.  That leaves our “spiritual lives”.  How do we approach the question of “is” in this less certain realm?

Some of us go for all the information we can handle.  I’m a string theory guy myself — at least I think I am; I may not grasp its mathematical nuances and complexities but there’s something satisfying about its core logic — as I understand it.  It’s not necessarily a given that the Universe works in a way we can easily comprehend.  I guess that “mystery” becomes “God” in other peoples’ minds.

And that cuts right to the chase: how do you explain the nuts & bolts of the universe?  Do you choose astrophysics or faith?  Do you trust math or do you trust wonder?

Even the astrophysicist will get to a place where her equation doesn’t quite balance.  Something is missing.  Dark matter perhaps?  The astrophysicist will suggest one or two theories based on what she does know and then, if she’s any good as an astrophysicist, she’ll say: “I don’t know.  Yet.”  It’s the “yet” that really matters.  As an answer to a question, it’s a blank space.

The other path — faith — couldn’t care less about science.  It’s got its own story to tell.  A story that looks a lot like reality but isn’t bound by it.  To explain the “I don’t know yet’s” it doesn’t worry about proof or evidence, it’s perfectly happy to accept MAGIC as an explanation: “Let there be light”.

The biggest mystery that faith tries to answer — it’s the draw, really, for most people: what happens after we die?  Aside from physical rot, science offers nothing; not a jot of hope.  Faith offers nothing but HOPE.  Faith offers an “Afterlife” where you get to live a better version of your current life, surrounded by all your loved ones in a lovely place that you’ll get to be in forever!  Sounds awesome!  Sounds phony, too.

Faith can’t offer postcard views of this after life. The can’t point to all the great ratings on Yelp.  No one, as yet, has sent back any sort of verifiable communications from The Undiscovered Country.  It’s a head-scratcher, isn’t it?  But, in fairness, it’s the biggest “I don’t know” we have.  Well, it’s the one with the most emotional baggage.  It’s the one where the answer — the REAL answer — we’re not going to like it.  So we invent a better one — one that assuages the terror of knowing that the very fact of “being” is all any of us has.  When that’s taken from us — the fact of our “being” — we’re done.

Our terror is justified.  But the part where we make up a kinder, gentler story to make us feel better — that’s bullshit. We’re making it up.  Doesn’t matter why.  We’re MAKING IT UP.

Let’s zoom in a little closer to quotidian life.  Set aside, for a moment, what’s true and what isn’t.  We humans live in complex, stratified societies built on a myriad of rules, laws and habits.  Some things we’ve done a certain way for so long that we assume it’s as permanent a thing as a mountain.  A weekend, for instance.

We all look forward to our weekends, right?  We need them.  Without them, we’d go bonkers.  We’d work ourselves to death.  Good thing we invented weekends to solve that problem.  Weekends are a human fiction.  They don’t exist in time.  They’re an invention — that we made up to frame time off from work.

Work, too, is something we made up.  We do it, most of us, to afford living.  We work to get the money we need to pay rent or mortgage and all our other financial obligations (it’s complicated and expensive living in a complex society).  We need more money!  Money, of course, is a made-up thing.  Humans invented money because bartering in a complex society is hard.  How many unstopped toilets should the plumber charge to get a pound of ground meat?

Humans invented Democracy as a way for people to govern themselves (in theory) — without a king or ruler.  American humans invented a Constitution to guide that self-governance. They made it all up.  Before they did — it “wasn’t”.  Ever since this country’s founders did invent Democracy though — it’s fallen on those who’ve followed to maintain this invention — making it better (by amending it) as needed.

Law, too, is a fiction.  It’s a vital fiction — but it’s a fiction we all agree to go along with.

At least, that’s the theory — that we’ll all go along with the same fiction — follow the same rules — and agree to be constrained by the same laws.  Constrained from doing harm to other people, that is.  Experience continues to teach and re-teach us: a certain percentage of human beings are outright rat bastards.  They can’t be trusted to maintain the fiction. They think or act like the fiction doesn’t apply to them.

They’re criminals.

Right now, as we stand here today, the United States of America is in the hands of criminals.  For real.  Criminals have seized control of our Ship Of State.  But not just criminals — traitors.  The very worst kind of criminal.  Donald Trump and the Republican Party have placed themselves squarely outside the rules (made-up as they are) that the rest of us live by.

That has to stop.

But how?  How do you stop someone operating outside the rules while you’re constrained by them?

The quickest way — We admit to ourselves that we’re living inside made-up rules.  We agree that we want to continue living under these rules.  If that’s so then we agree to reconsider the rules in the context of criminal behavior bent on destroying those rules. We don’t have to be led to our own political slaughter just cos the rules we invented say we have to.

That is utter bullshit. And all we have to do is “confess”: we’re making it all up as we go along.