Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Problem With Religion: No Absolution

I lay tossing on my bed unable to sleep. Insomnia has been a common theme throughout my life with only a few years patch worked together where it didn't suck huge portions of my energy, ambition and sleep from my daily productivity and enjoyment.

Typically, the abatement of the usual stressors result in peaceful sleep. This amounts to my having adequate income (at least enough to confidently pay my bills every month), some level of job security/ satisfaction, being pleased with my level of physical activity/ fitness and having a significant other. At least some combination of those four and I can manage to get four hours of sleep together on the same side of the clock. 

For the past few months, all four have been tremulous at best. Despite sleep being exactly what I need to combat those concerns, they also certainly band together to keep me awake at night. And as I yank at my sheets and push around my pillows, I wrestle with a thought.

Thanks to a few notes of a song, I suddenly remember one year where sleep came readily and blissfully and I wasn't in a relationship, my job satisfaction wasn't great, money was only okay, and my fitness level was not quite unprecedented, but definitely at the top of the curve.

But there was one thing that was primarily different, a totally different factor. It is something that I haven't thought much of in a while. 

Some time around 5 this morning as a last ditch attempt to get peaceful enough to sleep I put my Ipad on sleep timer softly playing piano based New Age music. This first song ends and I start to relax. But then the next tune plays.

Only a few notes in and I recognize it immediately. It nearly brings tears to my eyes. Despite the fact that the song is played entirely instrumental, I know the words. I grew up singing them and I'm surprised at my reaction.

The song is "I know that my Redeemer lives". It's one of the few tributes that most Christian churches recognize as a Hymn.

While I had been raised in a deeply religious family and embraced it into my mid twenties, around that time world religion studies, conversations with enlightened and non-religious people and some serious thinking from the stand point of logic and common sense had collectively and finally broken me free.

Powerful books like Good Without God, The End of Faith, God is Not Great, The Evolution of God and Breaking the Spell are honest and analytical looks at how we got to this point in society where science and reason have replaced dangerous superstitions and fear based myths/ fallacies, yet people continue to believe in religious ideas that have no basis for credibility. 

The year I divorced I also came to terms with my lack of acceptance of Mormonism, Christianity, Organized Religion and even Spirituality. In that order. For about a calendar year I gingerly adjusted to the idea that as long as I was doing what I thought made me a good person, no one else could or would dictate my actions. It was beyond liberating.

I worked with enthusiasm, played hard and perhaps most importantly, slept like a rock as soon as my head hit the pillow.

For the first time all care had flown. I no longer had to worry about whether I was living church teachings properly, whether I was part of "the correct" church, if I was interpreting the scriptures properly, whether someone in the congregation was holier than I was and was judging me for it, or if when I died I would be welcomed to heaven or plunged down to hell. As far as I was concerned the entirety of "religion" and everything it encompassed no longer existed for me. It was no longer part of my life to put me at war with myself and anyone who chose a different god. It was sudden amnesty from a long and terrible prison sentence.

No wonder I slept so well.

Some people take reassurance in having a religious belief system. I was raised on that shit and all it did was stress me out. I now took reassurance in NOT having one.

But shortly after the year mark, as religion phased out my interest in politics phased in. This is a natural extension of realizing that if there is no God to keep the justice scale tipped in the favor of righteousness, and there is no punishment in the hereafter for the wicked actions of people while they're alive, it's up to the living occupants of earth to see to justice and met out punishments and rewards.

It turns out that by releasing religion and turning to politics I was merely exchanging one brand of hellish conflict for another.

Politics which should be about the governing of the people in a given society, is more about greed, power grabbing, securing politician jobs and world resources and mishandling the citizen's rights, personal property and bank accounts. 

And searching for the truth brings you up close and personal with terrible concepts that after the religious nonsense I'd just catapulted out of my brain, left a lot of room for "what if" involving political craziness. I am of course talking about conspiracy theories and how many of them are not in fact theories, but actual fact based truths. It turns out that is far more terrifying than the abstract concept of hell that might take place after you die. 

At that point, it might actually be better to try to convince myself that god is real and that Jesus will make everything okay as long as I read his "holy book", obey a LOT of rules surrounding sex and pay a church money every Sunday after a colorful and imaginative propaganda speech.

But I just can't get myself to.

For the simple reason that: if it doesn't make sense I won't want to try to make myself believe it anymore than I want to swallow alcohol which smells so repugnant to me that I actually gag and want to vomit even before taking a sip. Why torture myself??

It's just not for me. Most people who enjoy alcohol tell me that "it's an acquired taste". I believe a belief in religion is like that. Other people may warm up to it. Learn to crave it even. Relish it in spite of all the chaos it invites into their lives. But not me.

I think one of my big issues with "the god story" is that it's full of such gaping holes it doesn't provide much of a safety net. Whether you believe in Jesus, Allah, Jehovah, Zeus or any of other names that people have given the life force they credit with their existence and rely upon for their salvation, much of the general concept is the same.

Most of the world religions (both ancient and modern) agree on few key facts:
1.) A supreme being created this planet, the solar system and all living things on it.
2.) Humans are "different" from the other earth's inhabitants because our god definitely gave us a very important "soul", while all the other living things may or may not be worthy of saving past a short earthly existance.
3.) Humans are given a list of specific ways they are supposed to live and worship their creator or else they'll make that creator mad.
4.) That is also the only way to ensure that when you die you don't suffer forever and get nothing for trying to be a good person. Because getting a reward is important and being good isn't reward enough.
5.) IF you do exactly what you're told by other people who somehow have obtained the knowledge of how to live and worship in order to get rewarded and avoid suffering for the rest of your existence, you can expect go to a paradise upon death and be endlessly happy forevermore.
6.) Once you get to heaven everything will be perfect.

Considering what anyone who's lived on this planet around other actual humans for enough years to develop lanauge can tell you...human nature doesn't abruptly change. 

How can just dying and your spirit leaving your body suddenly make you lose all your humanly errant tendencies? How can you suddenly no longer exhibit any of the natural cravings or behaviors such a dishonesty, jealousy, anger, frustration or laziness?

Some religious people try to say that by being in the presence of our "Lord and Redeemer" we will just "not" feel that way anymore. I'm calling their bluff.

I don't think that it's a light switch we turn on and off: That as long as a person maintains a B average in our Life class on earth that when we all get to heaven (even those with a poor C average who squeaked by at the last minute with a deathbed confessional) that upon being spirited away to the castle in the sky everyone will suddenly be just like the 100% A+ students.

Sorry, but I think that's dumb. Farfetched. You can call it Utopian. I call it surprisingly communistic.  And 100% wishful thinking.
As much as I wish in those things (and hey let's throw in the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Santa Clause and honest politicians while we're at it!) I am too much of realist to believe anymore crap just because it makes me feel good.

It's looking like I will continue to not sleep. But at the very least I can enjoy the idea that I am free to think and do as I want. That I am not locked into thinking a certain way, strung along by someone who's selling me emotional snake oil and psychological band-aids.

If I toss and turn at night, I can at least imagine that when I die there will be an alternative to the fairytales I grew up with. And as a realist, I recognize that it might not be a single thing like the milk and honey concept of golden cities and beautiful white mansions and endless happiness for everyone who managed to NOT kill their neighbors or sleep in every holy day while on earth.

It might in fact be more like endless nothingness. Quiet. Formless. Lacking self awareness.

But you know what? It's nearly 8 in the morning and once again, having slept not at all, day after day, week after week, for several months at a time, stressed to the max about the questions of life and death, justice and mercy, right and wrong, evil and righteous, while trying to get by on a shoestring budget on my own, worrying about increasing political tension, and hoping to figure out something resembling retirement before I die... 

Right about now, all that endless nothingness sounds pretty damn restful.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Ties That Bind: Sharing Genetic Material With Friends

So it turns out that people often have more in common with their close friends than just their common interests.
And while this video touches a bit on that and explains things a little, I have a theory on the WHY behind that.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Letter to Neutrogena

I found this letter I wrote to the company almost a year ago. 
Just thought it would be fun to include here. 

Dear Neutrogena, 

I cannot express how disappointed and frustrated I was (and still am!!) to discover your Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash (dry) Cleansing Clothes in the distinct peachy orange colored container are now no longer available in stores or online!
As someone plagued with acne, black heads and white heads since I was a pre-teen, I have struggled over the years to find products that do the job of cleaning oil, dirt and make-up but aren’t too harsh to my combination oily and dry/flaky skin. About 8 years ago I found your wonderful cloths and have been a loyal buyer of them ever since. I love the rough side that helps exfoliate and get rid of the dry peeling skin I get in certain areas and the smooth side to use on areas that don’t need as much exfoliating.

I take them everywhere, including on the airplane trips because they can be “activated” in the bathroom or in my seat with a dab of water but don’t actually contain water so they don’t leak. I keep them in my car and since there is no moisture in them, they are unaffected by heat or freezing temperatures. I also used the rough side to rub off temporary tattoos, Band-Aid sticky, tree sap from gardening and car grease while doing oil changes on my car. I take them back packing, on road trips, and until you discontinued them, was using them twice a day…EVERY DAY.  In short, they were a staple product in my household.

Since I typically buy them in bulk, I didn’t realize they were no longer being sold until about a week ago. I figured the store I typically buy them from was just back ordering, but after being unable to find them in any other store or online, I have finally come to realize with great dread that they are simply not available anymore.

Not only do I use them, but my three children, my boyfriend, his daughter and scores of my friend and family for several YEARS now, after I sold them on how great they are. And now… none of us can use them anymore.

As much as I loved the dry fabric-like clothes that were perfect for cleaning both my smoother skin areas and the deeper pours that collect dirt and makeup, I absolutely HATE the new “wipes” that have replaced them. Not only do they stink, they feel oily on my skin and hands and have a weird slimy texture that feels like I’m rubbing a rotting cabbage leaf on my face! I threw the whole package away after the first try! I will NOT use them!

I’ve started getting more breakout just in the last week since I ran out of the dry cloths. I’m a bit panicked over this since part of my job is to have clear, healthy looking skin.

I am writing to BEG you to bring the cleansing cloths back. I am desperate to have back the homeostasis I finally found when using your wonderful product! What can I say or do to compel you to bring them back to stores or at least make them available online??? I want my cleansing cloth feel-fresh mornings and nights back!!!!!!!