Friday, December 30, 2011

"White Wine in the Sun"; It's Sentimental, I Know

I just can’t let this season pass by, without doing a “White Wine in the Sun” post. This post won’t be about anything UU per say, just some brief thoughts about family, which is the essence of this song, and what Christmas means to me. I really love this song. It is probably my favorite song ever. This is my favorite version of this song:

Of course there are some amazing UU- applicable concepts there, like “I don't believe just cos ideas are tenacious it means they are worthy”. That is basically the essence of our worldview in that simple line, isn’t it? I do also kind of have an uber-fangirl fantasy, in which Tim Minchin comes to our church and plays this song on our beautiful piano (and then sings non-dodgy hymns, like “Here We Have Gathered”, and he holds my hand during closing words and comes to coffee hour and has deep discussions with the youth). I’m sure this is completely normal, and I never indulge in said fantasy while actually sitting in church.

UU Church of Peoria Piano by Lynnda White

This song evokes strong emotions in regards to two different aspects of my family relationships. I feel immense gratitude and love and protectiveness when I think of my children. I feel a sense of loneliness, grief, and separation when I think of my parents. Both bring tears to my eyes. Even though my boys are grown, I remember well holding them as infants and wanting them to know I will always love them, and always be there for them, no matter where they are or who they become. I will support them in whatever they face. Always.

socks, jocks, and chocolates

I have had a couple instances this year which have caused my heart to skip a beat being worried about Eli’s health and safety, even though he is now 18 and an independent adult. One was when he was in a car accident, and that was quickly resolved as soon as I heard he was fine and no one was hurt (even though the car was totaled). In that instant of NOT KNOWING, it felt as though 18 years simply disappeared and I was holding him as a baby wanting to protect him.

I am now facing a longer “not knowing” situation, in which Eli has a lump on his neck that after an MRI is still a cause for concern. It could be a virus, or according to my research, something like “cat scratch disease”, and may be nothing to worry about. While we are waiting to learn what it is, I want him to know that I just want for his happiness. I may be guilty of occasionally being overbearing and even judgmental. I think I need to lighten up and not be harsh on his teenage choices and let him learn from his own mistakes. Facing something potentially serious, and listening to this lovely song, help remind me of these ways to be a better mother.

In regards to my own mother, I sometimes feel 9,000 miles from home. I would have loved to have known, at 21 or 31, that she would be there whatever comes. I hate not knowing that. I hate that she sees me through the eyes of her definitively overbearing husband and they are always disappointed in what I’ve become (atheist). Maybe by the time I am 41, I will be able to know that she wants to be the person who makes me feel safe in this world. Until then, I will keep waiting for her, drinking white wine in the sun. I should probably grow up and get over it. It's sentimental, I know.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas- A New Song

This is a blog about Tim Minchin...and religion...and it is Christmas Eve eve. I have been thinking about the almost obligatory Christmas "White Wine in the Sun" blog post since the day I started this blog. This is the song that introduced me to Tim Minchin. This is the song that melts my heart with images of loving families sharing a joyous holiday together, regardless of their religious beliefs or lack thereof. It is a song about Christmas traditions and meaningful memories. The day after Thanksgiving felt like crunch time for me. Time to get started on that perfect sentimental blog post about that perfect sentimental song. Unfortunately, because of stupid wacko religious strife in my own family, I have not been able to write about “White Wine in the Sun” without my post turning into a bitter rant about personal family problems.

Luckily for me, Tim Minchin just delivered an early Christmas present- a NEW Christmas song- available to the world to view and write about even before Christmas Eve, when it was originally scheduled to air on the Jonathan Ross Show. And wow. The world has been writing about it. It got cut from the Jonathan Ross show, after being approved by their people and after being taped. You can read all about this on Tim Minchin’s blog (and in various newspapers and blogs and all over the internet).

The song is called “Woody Allen Jesus”. I really like it. People seem to think it is a song about Jesus and therefore mocking (grrr, that word again) Jesus. I know this is just my interpretation, but I think this is a song, not so much about Jesus, but about all of the supernatural, magical attributes people have used to shape a superhuman-to-the-point-of-no-longer-being-human image of Jesus. What enamors me about Jesus is his humanity. I don’t care about stories about loaves and fishes or walking on water or magical, healing touches. Those are lovely metaphors. The things that I have found the most meaningful about Jesus are the stories about his real compassion, and sense of justice and equality, and his humble nature, his ability to speak his mind and challenge the status quo, and his sense of integrity and conviction under even the most extreme persecution. Those are the aspects of his humanity that inspire me. Yes, even me, the non-Christian. Stories of this human Jesus helped shaped my moral conscience and are meaningful to who I am. I easily acknowledge that and am grateful to have learned them. Jesus stories about miracles and supernatural powers are even fine with me as they are presented in the Bible. They are intriguing myths that I’m sure have deep meanings which could enrich my life, if I took the time to ponder them. It is supernatural Jesus stories that I hear today that I cannot understand at all, stories about Jesus reaching down from heaven and healing an illness, or changing the outcome of a game. When people make fantastical claims about Jesus’ presence in their lives today, I can respect their beliefs, but those beliefs just don’t have meaning for me. I feel no connection with a supernatural Jesus. I prefer the human version. I think this song is about people making Jesus less human. It is funny. I am going to write Comedy Central. I would love to see Tim perform this on The Daily Show or The Colbert Report. Also, if you purchase "White Wine in the Sun" from iTunes or Amazon before Feb. 1st 2012, all proceeds go to the National Autism Society UK.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

"If I Didn't Have You", I would probably...have depression and maybe be a slut

This will be a weird post...

A couple weeks ago, I celebrated my 21st wedding anniversary with my husband. I’m 39. I have been married twenty-one years. Over half my life. We were just kids when we started dating. We have both grown and changed into essentially different people. Luckily, the person I’ve become still likes the person he’s become and vice-versa. I think that is pretty amazing and we are quite lucky. Love also has a lot to do with it. Marriage is often trying, and we often disagree, but we really love each other and want for the other's happiness, and that gets us through a lot.

Tim starts out in this clip saying that he lost his virginity to the girl he married and how that is uncommon. It is pretty uncommon, and I’m not sure it is always wise, but that is my situation as well. I’m going to post some personal details about my sex life. Not like, details about SEX, but just about what it has been like for me to have only had sex with one man, and some of the goods and bads about that for me. If that is TMI, just watch the video and move on. If you want to read some mixed up, but very honest feelings about monogamy, or lack thereof, see you on the other side.

Ah, so, “If I Didn’t Have You”. Tim implies that it is not a song about love or relationships, but rather a song about maths. This may be true, (I guess he did write the song and would know what it is about), but it does have some amazing insights about relationships. Of course, it makes the point that the idea of “soul mates” is a myth. I think it is a myth that there is someone out there specifically designed for someone else. I do think I am now with my soul mate, but he wasn’t my soul mate when I met him. We’ve become best friends who have been through so many joys and sorrows and passions and pains, that now, after all these years, he is part of my “soul”. As the song says,

“And if I may conjecture a further objection
Love is nothing to do with destined perfection
The connection is strengthened; the affection simply grows over time
Like a flower or a mushroom or a guinea pig or a vine
Or a sponge or bigotry or a banana
And love is made more powerful by the ongoing drama of shared experience
And the synergy of a kind of symbiotic empathy or something...”

So funny, but so true, and our “ongoing drama of shared experience” really has been dramatic. I’m not proud of this, (but I try not to be ashamed of it either), but I went through several periods in my young adulthood of mental instability and was not the most pleasant person to be married to. In fact, I was fucking batshit crazy. I was already prone to depression and had jumped right from a pretty fucked up childhood into marriage at eighteen with a lot of baggage and issues and was pretty immature. (Of course I was immature. I was 18. Right?) After the birth of my children I suffered severe postpartum depression. Finally, when my youngest was about 6 months old, my husband convinced me to seek some help. He probably saved my life. It definitely saved our marriage.

After spending several years on anti-depressants, and after growing up a bit, I finally became a normalish person, more like who I am today. Mentally ill Me was extremely needy, ultra possessive, terribly jealous, over emotional, painfully shy, and basically all around psychotic. Normal me was happy, independent, confident, able to think clearly, and starting to experience the hindsight that comes several years into adulthood. I always try to be honest with myself and with my husband. I believe honesty really is what has helped our relationship last. I realized a couple things about myself and had to be honest about them. First, I had this curiosity about what it would be like to be sexual with other men. Second, I fall in love with people. Rather than, "If I didn't Have You",I began to consider the possibility, "Even though I have you, someone else will do too."

There are a couple types of non-monogamous relationships. Swinging is focused on sex, having another sex partner, but (from my understanding) it is usually about recreational sex. Polyamory is about love, or being in a relationship with more than one partner. We started to kind of explore these concepts. I'm actually NOT going to go into a lot of details, but I'll say we went through some amazing and amazingly trying times as we bared our souls and feelings to one another and asked ourselves many questions about love, commitment, jealousy, possessiveness, freedom, control, autonomy, and sacrifice. This was a process that lasted a couple of years. There are still lingering and unanswered questions which may surface again someday.

We learned some important things. I know I can say anything to Lee and he will listen and try to understand. That's an amazing feeling and an amazing trust to have in someone. I learned I need to be true to myself, and I don't want to be loved for pretending to be someone I'm not. I learned monogamy is right for me, for right now. I read a Tim interview, in which he said he is a "philosophical vegetarian". I feel like I am a philosophical polyamorist. I think it is a beautiful concept, the idea that the heart has the capacity to love more than one, that loving one person does not diminish your love for someone else, but I don't have the fortitude or for the energy for it. I am content. I am in love. Still. Probably forever. Probably.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tim for YoUUth? Pope Song, yes. Jesus song, no.

At the youth CON, last weekend in Wausau, I was privileged to be able to present a Tim Minchin workshop. I had a small group of youth and a couple adults who came to watch and discuss some Tim videos. On the sign-up sheet, I advertised, "If you like piano, comedy, and critical thinking, sign up here. If you do not like profanity, do not sign up here." My workshop filled up immediately. My co-advisor, who was leading a workshop on science and spirituality, said he will include profanity in his workshop description next time, to draw a bigger crowd.

It was hard to decide what songs to play, and in which order to introduce the songs, to this audience who mostly had never heard of Tim Minchin before. "White Wine in the Sun" was a given, and will probably soon become the official winter holiday song for UU churches everywhere. I put it at the closing, like Tim does with his shows. I decided "Peace Anthem for Palestine" would be a good start. It is simple, relatively short, has awesome piano playing, and is pretty representative of what Tim's work is like. I also played, "Take My Wife", "Thank You God", "Tony the Fish", "Storm", "The Pope Song", "The Good Book", "Prejudice", and "The Fence". I will include most of the videos at the bottom of this post, in case you want to pretend you were in my workshop and play them through.

Some of the songs are so lyrically dense, I also printed out lyrics for youth, so they could follow along and catch the words, and also look back and re-read later. I gave them lyrics for "Thank You God", "The Good Book", and "The Pope Song". For some reason, I debated whether or not to include "The Pope Song". I tried looking up what, if any, the UUA's response to that scandal was, but didn't find much. Tim has said this song is "morally airtight", and I think I agree. It's criticism is very specific and very justified.

Another song I debated about was "I Love Jesus". I decided against it for a couple reasons. It is a satirical song about churches and homophobia. Discussion about it would be akin to mental masturbation. We UU's like to make ourselves feel good about being welcoming. I might actually do a bit of that in this blog post to get it out of my system.

With a lot of Tim's work, I think you need to learn to trust him, as he builds up for the joke. That's why, of course, it is so much better to see a live show, where he is in control of the order and flow, and builds the trust he needs to. To see his songs out of context, and sometimes even in context in a show, you often sit there for a long time, thinking, "Oh no. Where is this going? This is quite uncomfortable." Then there is a big payoff, as you realize he has tricked you or led you toward an assumption you then laugh at yourself for making. Knowing I would likely have gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered/questioning people in my workshop, I didn't trust myself, or out-of-context-Tim, to be able to build that trust. I think even if they found it funny, most of my audience would have been a bit indignant about "I Love Jesus".

If I was at a show where this was performed, I don't think I could bring myself to sing along. I have this big fantasy that Tim Minchin will come do a gig at my church, or at a youth CON. (Yeah, so what? There's nothing wrong with that!) In my fantasy, I can imagine the congregation singing "fuck the motherfucker", and joyous laughter for "Thank You God", and thunderous applause for "The Good Book", but I can't imagine the response at all to "I Love Jesus". I really can't. Would we sing? Would we laugh? Would we clap? Or would someone raise their hand and stop the show and tell him about all the social justice work we do, as a church, fighting for the rights of GLBT people all over the world? I love it that my local congregation was, for years, performing civil union ceremonies before they were legally recognized here. I am proud that our churches are part of the national "Standing on the Side of Love" campaign, promoting fully inclusive marriage throughout the country. In our service this morning, I was amazed to learn from our guest speaker, a UU minister in Uganda, that UUs there are fighting immense discrimination against LGBT citizens, and have successfully opposed legislation that would criminalize homosexuality and make it punishable with consequences as severe as life imprisonment and death. Although Tim's message is important, I hope he also knows that some churches are working, using religion to end oppression against GLBT people. We are proud to be among them.

Ultimately, I think a lot of the discussion from the workshop was ego-stroking. Most of the participants were in agreement with Tim's views,which was not by any means a a guarantee, going in. I had hoped we might have some lively debate, but patting ourselves on the back and enjoying a good laugh isn't bad either.

I cannot link to "Thank You God" or "The Fence" because they are on the newly released DVD, Tim Minchin and the Heritage Orchestra. It won't play on most DVD players here, but you can order the CD of it from Amazon.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Understand It

I made a video of UniCON, Fall Con 2011 at First UU Wausau. This was such an incredible weekend. Being in the presence of so many beautiful, articulate, creative, intelligent, compassionate teenagers inspires my faith in humanity.

Oh, the music is by Tim Minchin in his band, Rosencrantz. Such a perfect song for an event like this.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Disagreeing About Church, Tim Minchin, kids

Edit: After much consideration, I regret posting my friend's message to me word for word. While I didn't use her name or think that she or anyone in our community would be seeing this blog, it has hurt her that I did this, and she is probably right, that it was not very ethical to do.

This post and this issue are still meaningful and important to me, and my feelings are still the same or even stronger now, after being called a a passive-aggressive bully and being accused of mocking her and every other Christian. It was not my intention to mock or hurt anyone, but since I have, I will remove her message, and paraphrase it.

Oh, my Tim blog. How I've missed you. I've been working and so busy, I have neglected you. But look, this does prove I am normalish, right? I'm not SOOOO obsessed that I would neglect work to blog, or neglect taking care of my needs for sleep and such to blog. Yep. I'm totally normal, just not a good blogger.

So aside from working, I have done some pretty exciting things, especially in the last few days. So I'll start with a post related to recent Tim events, and get back to blogging more regularly now that my teaching assignment is coming to an end.

I went to see Tim Minchin in Chicago again Thursday night. The show was so good, and talking to him afterward was wonderful too. I asked him some important (to me) question (not very articulately, due to nervousness), and he responded with a long attentive answer, which I kind of forgot a lot of due to nervousness. I remember a part about a Unicorn named Sven, but I'll save it for another day because I'm sleep deprived and tired. The Unicorn part is ironic because the reason I'm sleep deprived is because I took my youth group to a UU CON called "Unicon", with a unicorn theme.

So, in case you don't know, a CON is a convention of UU youth from the (Midwest, in this case) area, and we get together and learn and worship and connect and do a lot of amazing things, (but not a lot of sleeping). I led a workshop about Tim Minchin which I will also write more about soon.

This post is about a facebook friend questioning my exposing teens to Tim and questioning our religion. Basic backstory:
- Christian friend who knows I'm an atheist asked me about Tim a few months ago and I warned her, she would not like him.
- She goes and looks up the lyrics to "Thank You God" because of some facebook comment by me at a later date.
- She tells me she is speechless and offended. I told her I warned her.
- Thursday night, after Tim concert, I posted pics of myself and kid with Tim Minchin.
- Friday, I take my youth group to CON. Made Facebook status update at 10:41 pm, "Made it to snowy Wausau, Wisconsin. The fun is just getting started. First worship service at midnight. Sleep shmeep."
- Saturday night, I posted status update, "What's more fun than being at a Tim Minchin concert? Being in a church with 200 amazing teenagers (as THEY are singing Tim Minchin songs). Sorry parents if they come home singing a bit a foul language. They have gained some valuable critical thinking skills."
- FB friend posts frowny face, then sends me this lengthy private message:

Edit: She questioned how I could expose teenagers to Tim Minchin and how my church is even a church because Christian and church are synonymous. She asked how I would feel if a Christian was going around mocking atheists. She said I mock and insult her and every other Christian on Facebook when I post things about Tim Minchin.

Ugh. So I penned a lengthier response. And I just thought I'd post it here. Because I'm apparently too tired to even do a properly entertaining ranty rant. I'll just post my response. Thanks for reading. Comments welcome!!!

Hi, Friend. Thanks for expressing your opinions in a caring and civil manner. I hear your confusion and want to respond. I know sometimes when we disagree, we just want to vent and be heard and understood, and if that was all I thought you were wanting, I might just let you know you’ve been heard and not continue the conversation. I think though, that you are genuinely confused by my beliefs and my church and the joy I derive from Tim Minchin, so I would like to address your questions.

First, when you say, “ religion is something that should be the last things a Christian & atheist should discuss”, I disagree. I enjoy talking about religion and embrace differences of belief. I think you and I respect each other enough to have a kind, intelligent discourse. You and I both know we won’t change the other’s mind, and I don’t think we have that goal. If our goal is understanding, and preventing resentments between us, I welcome the conversation.

Regarding the words “church” and “worship”, I understand your confusion of my use of the word worship and will try to clarify in a moment. I disagree though with your assertion that the words “Christian” and “church” are synonymous. I’m not sure where you got the definitions you listed which ALL have as a requirement Christianity, ecclesiastical authority, or Christian God. I could rebut with alternative definitions which do not have those requirements, but I don’t want to turn this into a forensics competition. Surely you aren’t claiming that Christians have exclusive rights on the word “church”, discounting numerous world religions, are you? My church does have its roots in Christianity, but has since grown to include people of various faiths or no faith, so that is how we are not a “Christian church” (although we do have some Christians). I think you know I belong to the Universalist Unitarian Church. We are a church because we have a common creed of promoting religious freedom, individual expression and social justice. I won’t go into details about our principals and practices unless you want me to, but we are a valid religion! My particular congregation is one of the oldest churches in Peoria.

I am not actually a fan of the word worship, because it does have a Christian connotation. I personally feel uncomfortable using it to describe our church services, but I am in the minority in that. Some UU churches don’t use it, and those who do, use it because it originates from the Old English word weorthscipe, meaning “to ascribe worth to something, or to shape things of worth”. To us, “worship” is to give shape to, or articulate that which is meaningful to us (freedom, dignity, justice, compassion, etc.). Again, this is not a debate round. Good question. I hope that helps you understand why I said “worship” to describe the church service I was at Saturday night.

Regarding Tim Minchin, you’re right that I don’t see his message as hateful. I see him as intelligent and compassionate, speaking up for people who have suffered injustices at the hands of the church. I don’t think he hates God or Christians. He picks very specific issues with religions and speaks up about them. Christians discriminating against gays? Yes, someone should speak up about it, especially when Christians promote actual violence against gay people and promote such hostility that kids are killing themselves (or others) because of this rhetoric. I know this is not YOU, but it is fine with me that he sings about the bigots who do. The Pope allowing priests to get away with sexual abuse? Of course I am glad that someone will speak up against a person who millions believe is beyond reproach, even if it means innocent children are being raped. A song questioning the infallibility of the Bible? Yes, when people try to use this one book written thousands of years ago to restrict freedom and oppress people? Yes, I’m glad he questions why people ignore science and reason and empathy in favor of the Bible. And the song you are probably upset about, (I know you looked up the lyrics to “Thank You God”, and I don’t know what else of his you know.)? I too am baffled as to how someone could really believe that a god of the whole universe really could or would cure one person of an ailment, while NOT helping masses of starving children and suffering people everywhere. Am I mocking you? No, it is just such an improbable belief it is extremely baffling to me that someone could believe that. I wouldn’t want to believe that. It sounds sick and cruel to me.

When you say that I am mocking and insulting you and all the Christians on my friends list, I feel disappointed. Please don’t say, “- because then you feel that way about me & every other Christian that is on your friends list- but it's your right”. Please don’t make assumptions about what I think or feel. I care about you, and although we disagree, I try not to take it personally. Do you think I am going to hell? Do you think I’m a sinner? Do you think I’m bad for enjoying this music and exposing teenagers to it? If so, OK. I can accept that without it affecting my feelings of you or my relationship with you. Sometimes you do things that I disapprove of. If it doesn’t affect me or other people, I just shrug it off as none of my business. (Example, although I think it is morally reprehensible to eat meat, I would never ever say anything to you about your choice.) If what you do does affect me or people, I might speak up and express my opinion. (Example, when you posted a pic of the stamped dollar bill saying that “Allah was god” and you commented something about it being wrong, and I commented about there being freedom of religion here and wanting people of all faiths to be respected.)

I expose my kids (and kids at my church) to Tim Minchin because my religion promotes critical thinking. We encourage our kids to question everything, to think for themselves, to pursue their own religious path. How would I feel if people mocked my beliefs? People like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Glenn Beck, Rush Linbaugh, Newt Gingrich, the 50% of Americans who wouldn’t vote for an atheist president and say atheists can’t be trusted? I feel irritated sometimes, but I actually try to laugh. And I laugh at Minchin’s 10 minute rant about exactly the kind of new-agey, hippyish people that make up a good portion of my church. I don’t want us all to be alike. I want someone to point out to me if they think I’m being ridiculous. I want the questions. I want the conversation. So, thank you for that. I DO respect your faith and especially your freedom to choose it. I hope you will respect mine.

Monday, August 29, 2011

"Hallelujah"; A Beautiful Version of a Beautiful Song, and Religious Language

The song I’m writing about today isn’t a Tim Minchin original. It’s been done many times by many people. This recording of this version was taken, it looks like, by some amateur audience member, of what appears to be a somewhat impromptu performance (they are holding printed lyrics) of “Hallelujah”, by Tim Minchin and Geraldine Quinn. In addition to the poor video, and sound quality, and people crossing in front of the camera, and an audible rude comment from the audience, Tim and Gerry seem a bit intoxicated. In spite of all this, I absolutely LOVE this video.

It looks like they are having a blast. I realize they’re a bit drunk, but their felicity just makes me smile. I also think it's cute when he says, "shush now" after she says, "I love you", at the beginning. I think her singing voice is really powerful and beautiful. Maybe it's just me, but this performance almost seems ...erotic. When he sings, "remember when I moved in you, and the holy dove was moving too, and every…breath…we drew…was hallelujah", his voice is so passionate, and they are both, kind of rocking, rhythmically. I think it's downright sexy, and probably evokes the sensual emotions those lyrics were meant to, more than any other version I've heard, including him singing it live. Both times I have heard him sing it live, it was amazing in a different way. It was serious, and almost reverent. Can something be reverent and ironic at the same time? I think he likes the dichotomy, and has said, “I love getting a crowd of 95% atheists to sing ‘hallelujah’.”

I won’t drone on about the lyrics or meaning of the song. It would just be my interpretation of the song, anyway, as I’ve never researched it or anything. To me, it is a song about the passions and sorrows of a relationship, couched in religious language. I often like religious language, and don’t mind describing experiences as spiritual, even though I’m not sure what “spirit” means. I don’t believe in a “soul”, but sometimes feel I’ve been affected there. I like going to a “church”. However, I usually replace “prayer” with “good thoughts”, and I’ve recently been thinking a lot about the word “worship”.

I’ve gone to a UU church for many years and we have Sunday Worship Services. Not all UU churches call their services “worship”. I don’t have much experience outside my own church, so I’m not sure what the discourse about this has been in other congregations. I’m sure there has been a lot of it. I’ve always kind of bristled at the term, but have never really asked anyone about it. I still have lots of questions and things I’m learning, and just haven’t gotten to that one yet.

The issue is addressed in a curriculum I am looking at, to possibly use this fall with our youth group. It says the word “worship” comes from the Old English “weorscipe.” That is a combination of two words, which mean worth and -ship or shape. Hence, the English term worship as a title of respect. As a verb, the word meant to ascribe worth to – or to give shape to that which we find worthy.

I can interpret this as “to articulate what is meaningful”, and maybe see some value in using this term. But it is a stretch. I think most of us think of worship with the common dictionary meaning:
–verb (used with object)
to render religious reverence and homage to.
to feel an adoring reverence or regard for (any person or thing).
–verb (used without object)
to render religious reverence and homage, as to a deity.
to attend services of divine worship.
to feel an adoring reverence or regard.

For many UU’s, these definitions don’t fit. Maybe the last one, “to feel an adoring reverence or regard”, but only on certain occasions (like while watching Tim Minchin’s “Hallelujah”). It’s not for everyday Sunday services, at least not for me. There’s a time and a place to use religious language to powerful effect, but I prefer not to “worship” in church. I guess with our churchy definition of worship, to give shape to what we find worthy, this blog is my worship.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Not Perfect

Sometimes it’s hard to be an atheist here. By here, I guess I mean in this country, but more specifically, I mean in my little town, or in my school I work in, or around my Facebook friends who are so Christian, or around my friends and family who are Christian. Aside from dealing with the idea that atheists are “bad” or “untrustworthy”, it’s more of my conflict that stems from being a people pleaser, knowing I am disappointing people. Some of my friends just think that everyone should be Christian, and some really fear for my soul and mourn the fact that I will be spending eternity in hell. I really hate to disappoint people.

I love the lines in Tim Minchin’s Not Perfect, “This is my brain, and I live in it. It’s made of love and bad song lyrics. It’s tucked away behind my eyes where all my fucked up thoughts can hide, cause god forbid I hurt somebody.” I often have to remind myself to not try to take responsibility for other people’s feelings. My job is to be genuine and to be myself. If that makes someone sad, it’s really not something I should worry about.

I do sometimes worry about it though, especially when I care about the people very much, like a couple of my closest friends or family members. My Grandma has Alzheimer’s and she lives with me and I take care of her. She’s a lifelong Catholic and I think it would break her heart to know I’m not even Christian. Luckily, it’s easy to hide my non-belief from her, and if she hears me say something blasphemous, it’s quickly forgotten.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the nature of “belief” lately, and how that relates to my loved ones. Some people say that belief in anything supernatural is delusional, and therefore akin to mental illness. Tim has said as much, in saying he didn’t Christen his children because he doesn’t want the mentally ill handling them, but this could have been purely a joke (or not), I don’t know. I can’t really accept that religious beliefs are a symptom of mental illness though, when I think, again, of those I love.

I had dinner this week with a high school friend I hadn’t seen in many years and his partner. They are Methodist ministers and are gay. They are lovely, god-believing men who are trying to make a difference within their religion regarding how the church treats homosexuals. I think that is admirable. They didn’t seem to care that my beliefs about god were different than theirs. They just wanted to reconnect with me and learn the joys and sorrows of my life, and I felt the same toward them. There’s no way I could view them as mentally deficient in any way. And at night, when I hear my grandma, in the room next to me, talking out loud to her god, starting with “our Father who art in heaven”, and five minutes later ending with “and please bless Mary Sue and thank you for allowing her to take care of me, day and night”, I feel like I would be the mentally ill one if I thought less of her for her devotion.

Maybe, someday, if I get to talk to Tim Minchin again, instead of being a starstruck fangirl, I’ll actually ask him something of importance, like if has people in his life who are religious. People he loves? People he respects? Can he genuinely care for them while disagreeing with them?

I’m glad that in our church we have such a wide variety of belief systems and we are all respected and treated with worth and dignity. I LOVE the words in our hymn, Here We Have Gathered, "May all who seek here find a kindly word. May all who speak here feel they have been heard." I love coming to this place where I am loved and accepted for who I am, and where I love and respect people who I may disagree with. I try to carry that out of the church doors into the rest of my life as well.

If I added a verse to “Not Perfect”, it would be about “My Church”. Lyrics below.

This is my church, and I live in it.
It’s made of stained glass, and people of different faiths.
The weird thing is we don’t see eye to eye,
But we see heart to heart and that is why
We support each others’ search for meaning.
This is my church, and it’s fine.
It’s where I spend the vast majority of my time.
It’s not perfect, but it’s mine.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Altruism- Guilt and Obligation, or Compassion and Contribution?

This post will be very eclectic, a bit of another UU Blog, a bit of Tim Minchin, with some Marshall Rosenberg thrown in for good measure. The general theme is 'altruism, motivation and guilt'. I really enjoyed reading an article posted this week on UU World Online, “Stopping For Everyone; How Responding to Panhandlers Has Become One of the Most Delightful Spiritual Disciplines”. I hope you’ll read it, but to summarize: The author, Victoria Weinsten, writes about how several years ago she made a policy that when someone asks her a question, she will give her full attention and a response. This frequently has come to include “street people” who ask if she has any change. Not only does she often stop to give them money, she engages them in conversation and has found that many “street people” say most people do not even stop to look at them. After talking to a man who thanked her for looking at him, and after her feeling outraged on his behalf, she writes, “What we determined that day, my friend and I, is that it is exhausting and depressing and lonely to be on the street asking for money, and that it is also exhausting, depressing, and lonely to be the one who walks by averting her eyes, feeling guilty for ignoring the human being asking for help and angry for being confronted and discomfited by such need.”

I admit I felt a twinge of guilt after reading this. Although I have given to people on the street in the past, more recently I’ve become one who walks by without looking. I’ve thought about, (and probably have, to be honest), saying, “No, I’m sorry. I don’t have any”. This is often a lie. I’ve thought about stopping to explain that while I wish I could help, I’m really short on money myself and my family is here in this big city as our vacation and we really looked forward to hot chocolate from that famous chef’s Mexican street food restaurant and I wouldn’t have the money if I gave it to him. This is where the truth does hurt. After reading Weinstein’s article, I realize that I need to find a balance, in which I may choose to not give to someone on the street, but I may choose to still look them in the eye, and give them an answer (much shorter than babbling about hot chocolate). I would like to treat all people with respect and value their inherent worth and dignity!

The Tim Minchin song that popped in my head while pondering this (because Tim Minchin songs pop into my head whenever I ponder anything) was “The Guilt Song (Fuck the Poor)".

So, simply, this song questions our motives of why we help people. Is it only to assuage our guilt? Here is a quote from Tim Minchin, on altruism, from 2009:

“In its pure sense, I don't really believe in it because I think people only act altruistically to make them feel better about themselves, thus rendering the act selfish. But I still think it's much better to make yourself feel good by giving away your toys to poor kiddies than to make yourself feel good by sniffing cocaine off the back of a dead albino dolphin.”
“The Good, Bad & Ugly; Tim Minchin, Entertainer” The West Magazine, April 25th, 2009 (still searching for electronic link)

I’m not big on guilt. I try to practice Non-violent Communication, which is really more of a credo of peacefulness in all thoughts and actions, than specifically about communication. Non-violent Communication (NVC) asserts that we choose our actions based on trying to meet our needs. Further, we will be happiest if we do things with the intent of bringing joy into our lives, and not out of a sense of obligation. In my house, we have a magnet on our refrigerator, with a quote from Marshall Rosenberg (founder of NVC). It reads, “Please do as I requested, ONLY if you can do so with the joy of a small child feeding a hungry duck. Please do not do as I request if there is any fear of punishment motivating you, out of hope for a reward, out of guilt, shame, duty, or obligation.” When I ask my kid to clean the litter box, I hope that he does it, not to prevent my anger, but because he loves our cats and wants them to be happy, with clean litter boxes. He then cleans the littler box with a sense of contributing to our cats’ well being, rather than grudgingly out of an obligation to do a chore. The task is more pleasant that way.

This is how I think of altruism as well. When I give (money or time) to charities, it usually meets my need to contribute something positive to a child’s life, or to help promote justice, or to simply be compassionate. So is this still “selfish”? Maybe, but it feels different, and more affirming, than to do something out of a sense of obligation, or to avoid guilt. By the same token, I then am free to NOT give to charities, when I find that doing so would hinder my own need for safety, or security, or connection with my family, or any number of needs I may not be able to meet if I took the time or money to give, in that particular instance.

That is my balance and I hope I can just try to be honest with myself, and with people making requests from me, about why I choose to help or not to help in any situation.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Cognitive Dissonance? Honoring Religious Freedom, Rejecting Extremism?

I should start by saying, this isn’t my favorite Tim Minchin song, but I thought I’d get it over with early on. I’d also like to point out that I said at the end of my post on July 20th, that my next post was going to be about this song. That was two days before an anti-Islamic fundamentalist enacted heinous terrorist attacks in Norway.

My lack of enthusiasm for this song stems from my cognitive dissonance regarding our UU principles of acceptance and respect for religions, while enjoying the critique of extremist ideas that seem crazy. Of course, it is easier to talk about “crazy” in vague terms of not making sense to those who don’t practice said religion, than it is to talk about literally “crazy”, shooting teenagers at a camp.

I *know* this song is criticizing extremists, not criticizing these faiths (Right? Am I right?). That, of course, is what I intended to say, even before the tragedy in Norway. Now, it seems more pertinent though that this song is criticizing EXTREMISTS, and maybe as UUs we need to criticize extremists.

My friend, Roger, a UU Minister, wrote as a facebook comment, “‎’The suspect was cooperating with police, making it clear he wanted to explain himself.’ Definition of terrorism, Christian style. We need to learn that just because they are talking hate and murder in religious language and symbolism we are taught to revere, does not mean that they in fact deserve our reverence. Do not give moral authority to religion.”

When I asked if I could quote him, and showed him the draft for this post, he replied, "I am not at all sure that it is in anyone's best interests, especially not ours as UUs, to smile at beliefs that are demonstrably false or patently ridiculous. Unless it is because Tim is making fun of them, of course ;->"

Thanks for basically writing this post for me, Roger. Well put.

“Ten Foot Cock and a Few Hundred Virgins” Lyrics-

So you're gonna live in paradise
With a ten-foot cock and a few hundred virgins
So you're gonna sacrifice your life
For a ride on a UFO
And when the Lord comes down with his shimmering chariot of salvation
Your gonna be the first to know

So if
God was there from the very beginning
He invented men and women
Then He also invented wanking
Then He said wanking was sinning
So now if I'm feeling randy
I'm not allowed a hand shandy
But having sex with my family
That is just fucking great
It's all there in Ezekiel 8
Just before he opens up His big pearly gates
And says that it's a sin
To take it up the date
Even if it's great
Even with your mate

So you're gonna live in paradise
With a ten-foot cock and a few hundred virgins
So you're gonna sacrifice your life
For a shot at the greener grass
And when the Lord comes down with his shiny rod of judgement
He's gonna kick my heathen ass

So if you
Cover the bodies of your women
Everybody is grinning
Because black is so slimming
Though it's not great for swimming
But it gives you an erection
With the increased sexual tension
What with the UV protection
That is second to none
You'll find it all in the Koran
Just next to the bit that justifies guns
And says that it's a sin
To take it up the bum
Even if it's fun
Even with permission from your mum

So you're gonna live in paradise
With a ten-foot cock and a few hundred virgins
So you're gonna sacrifice your life
For a shot at eternity
And when the Lord comes down and I haven't done my penance
He's gonna disembowel me

You say that
If I
Stumbled on a watch I'd assume it had a watchmaker
That a muffin presupposes a baker
So we must agree sooner or later
This proves there's a creator
So if I put your foot in a stinker
You'd assume the existence of a sphincter
Thus you don't need to be a great thinker
To conclude that God's a bum
Which negates the words of Genesis 1
Which make him out to be so much fun
Until Adam succumbed
To temptation
And then his only son
Got nailed to a gum

Or the Middle East equivalent
Which suggest that God's omniscience
Is nullified by his ambivalence
Unless it turns out that he's impotent
And if God can't get a boner
I guess that explains the plethora
Of huge erections in His honour
Cos we all know a steeple is just a subconscious, compensatory manifestation of a huge, stiff penis
And still He tell us that it's heinous
To stick a penis up your anus
Even if you're famous
Even if you like tennis

So you're gonna live in paradise
With a ten-foot cock and a few hundred virgins
So you're gonna sacrifice your life
For a ride on a UFO
And when the Lord comes down with his big, stiff, slimy rod of judgement
I'm gonna be the first to go
He's gonna send me down below
He's gonna whip me like a ho
D'you really think so?
I'm gonna be the first to go

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Atheism in America; slow development of my integrity

So, after seeing Tim Minchin perform twice this summer, and reading or watching interviews while he is on tour, I wonder how he perceives us Americans. I sometimes wonder if he had any preconceptions that have turned out to be wrong, or that he has reexamined. I wonder if there are any preconceptions that have been confirmed or are worse than he thought. I’ve heard him on a couple occasions say that he knows he’s “preaching to the choir”. He knows there are a number of godless people in America, but suspects that number is actually higher than reported. I suspect that too, and suspect that number is growing.

One of the things I am really enjoying about being a little Tim-obsessed right now, is that I am finding I am feeling more comfortable being open about my religious views in other places besides church, and even more open at church as well. I’ve always felt a bit guarded and worried about being judged. I’m now asking myself why that is, and why it is OK for teachers at the school I work at to have Christian plaques on their desks, and give assignments like “What is God’s Big Plan For You?”, and for the school to have a fundie Christian group come in to teach abstinence education, while I feel too shy to be open about my atheism. (Have you ever felt relieved when you say something about your “church” to a conservative Christian, knowing they assume you mean a Christian church, and not corrected them? I have and I’m starting to feel like I can and should be more explicit that while I may go to church, I’m not Christian.)

He is touring at a time here in America, when I think there is a growing atheist movement even. I’ve seen him on video interviews and podcasts for several different atheists and skeptic groups, who may want to claim him as their new spokesperson. I doubt Tim Minchin wants to be in that role. I think a lot of us have experienced the feeling, though, that he surely articulates ideas we have wanted to express, and after hearing his songs, we feel more free to express them.

On his Fan Forum, someone asked him in 2008, about atheists in America. I am going to paste that question and response:

Forum Question- My question is about the atheist or, dare i assume, anti-theist themes in some of you songs and how they go with an American audiance. With the religious climate in the State, and atheists being generally regarded and the sporn of satan in most places there, do you change your act to accomodate these attitudes or have you had any trouble with psyco fundies?

Tim’s response- Oo. Now this one I could obviously spend hours on.

But I won't.

I'm in the US now (love the time-lapse) and it's kind of interesting. I do think there is a general feeling that Atheists Are Bad over here... and you can imagine how much that freaks me out. However I'm certainly not going to alter my material. If there is anything worthy about my show beyond pure entertainment value, I think it is in its attempt to encourage critical thought. I hope that doesn't sound condescending to anyone... but that's really what my show is about in my head.

I went out last night after the show with a couple of very smart New Yorkers... and they didn't know (for example) that the "under God" bit of their Pledge of Allegiance was added in 1951. It's not that they are not extremely well educated - they were smarter than me - it's just that critical analysis of their society's religiosity is not the norm. They even posed the question, "How do you comfort yourself in grief if you don't believe in God?", which barely makes sense as a sentence. (Not only can I list the ways one may try to comfort oneself in grief, but I don't understand how one can claim a "belief" by citing the benefits of that belief. It's like Pascal's Wager - it's useless. Just because the belief that tomorrow I will wake up with a perfect body and loads of money and a wife who likes threesomes makes me happy... it doesn't mean I can believe it. My rational mind prohibits it.)

It is obvious to me that Atheism - for all it's negative connotations - is the only possible position one can take on religion without completely discarding rational thought. And I am going to continue to treat my audiences with respect - by which I mean, I will continue giving them the benefit of the doubt and assuming they are clear-thinkers.

ps - I have dropped "10 Foot Cock" over here... but only because of time-constraints. I don't want half my show to be about rationalism. 1/3 is about right!

So, for next time- Let's Discuss "Ten Foot Cock and a Few Hundred Virgins". I'll post the video and we can discuss some more, the balancing of respecting one's freedom of religion and criticizing when people use religion to act in ways that are disrespectful, at best, violent at worst.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Just this beautiful, complex, wonderfully unfathomable world?

I haven't made a new post recently for a couple reasons. I've been thinking a lot about the song, "The Fence" and wanting to post about it. However, it is no longer available on YouTube. I understand this is because he is trying to sell it on iTunes, but unfortunately it is not available to us here in the States. So, I'm going to hold off on "The Fence", which is just as well, because I need to do some research on the Dalai Lama, before we discuss "The Fence" anyway.

Oh, and I took a little road trip to see Tim Minchin in St. Louis.

The show was phenomenal. It was at The Sheldon Theater, which has AMAZING acoustics and beautiful stained glass windows.

The show was just brilliant and I loved every second. Then, he did two encores. First encore, “White Wine”. When the first few notes were played, a woman put a bottle of wine on the stage, and I think started to give him a wine key, but he had his own. So, for the first verse of the song, he SANG. Solo, acapella, clear, perfect, mellifluous, hands opening a wine bottle, instead of playing piano, perfect. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever heard. He popped the cork, took a drink, and hit the keys, for the rest of the song. Amazing.

The he did “Hallelujah”. Dark theater, full moon shining through stained glass, chorus of voices joining in. Every breath we drew was hallelujah.

My friends and I got to meet him afterward, and it was so fun. He is so gracious with his time and attention. I loved watching all his interactions with people. We had also been a few seats away from him in a diner before the show and had sent him a drink (instead of interrupting him), and he came over to our table to thank us, like a half hour before his show was starting. The whole time he was there, people kept approaching him, and he really seemed to not mind, and took time away form eating to turn around and visit with people. I'm just amazed by how kind he is.

Back to my busy life- Today I took my son to UU Midwest Leadership School for Youth. He took my Tim Minchin T-shirt and intends on reciting "Storm" for a coffee house. So, that'll be today's video. Too tired to discuss now, but I do suspect we UUs have some Storms among us, but I love this poem, and I do love most Storms I meet too.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Last night, I went to our church's newly formed Anthropology Group, where we watched "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial". It was really fascinating and I learned more about evolution. It is interesting that much new knowledge about evolutionary science has been obtained since I graduated high school, and even since I graduated college. I'd really like to continue learning about evolution and am going to check into taking a class at our local community college this fall.


The whole video can be watched here:

Of course, Tim Minchin has a lot to say on evolution. Here is a clip of him talking about us Americans and our beliefs:

And of course, here is one of my favorites, "Tony The Fish":

"Imagine what Tony would think, standing there on his brand new feet,on the brink of the beginnings of mankind as we know it, if he could look forward just a few short hundreds of millions of years, to see one of his descendants, a Palestinian Jew by the name of Jesus, having a nail hammered through his feet, the very feet our Tony provided him with, as like, a punishment for having a sort of schizophrenic discourse with a god who was created by man to explain the existence of feet, in the absence of the knowledge of the existence of Tony."

After watching "Judgement Day", I can see why Tim Minchin may think that we Americans are a bit crazy, in that so many reject evolution. I hope he doesn't see this:

Miss USA Contestants answer, "Should evolution be taught in schools?"

To be honest, I haven't even watched the whole 15 minutes of it yet. It was really too painful. I hope that as Tim Minchin continues to tour America, he is meeting hundreds of thousands of us who do embrace science. I hope he is meeting people like the science teachers of Dover high school who refused to compromise their integrity or to falsify science.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Freedom of Speech and Taking Responsibilty

Today, I just want to appreciate Tim Minchin’s willingness to consider the impact of his lyrics. This interview with Tim Minchin, by Dan Savage, was posted a couple weeks ago, but I have been thinking about it, and decided to highlight it for today’s post. I will post the parts of the interview I found to be the most compelling, then post a couple of the songs mentioned. (Saving “The Pope Song” for another day, because that one is so penetrating, there is much to be considered.)

Here is the address for the whole interview:

This excerpt is what I’d like to focus on for this post:
DS: There was a shitstorm at my paper when I posted—and this is really reaching back to some of your early stuff—"Fat Children" on our blog.

TM: Oh, yeah, Jesus! I didn't know that caused a shitstorm at your paper, but I did drop that song and stop performing it because, well, I'll tell you why after you tell me what happened.

DS: Some folks thought it was bullying. I thought it was tough. But the shitstorm left me wondering how you, as an artist and a satirist, balance your clearly empathetic, humanistic side, you know, the part of you that writes passionate and funny songs about the Palestinians ("Peace Anthem for Palestine"), about women's rights ("Confessions"), and gay rights ("I Love Jesus"), with your role as a satirist? Being a satirist requires taking the piss out of people. But being a humanist can get you boxed into this corner where you're not allowed to be "mean." How do you balance that? And now that I know you're not performing "Fat Children" anymore, I have to ask why.

TM: Fuck, I love talking to you. I stopped performing that straight after the first tour because I didn't want everyone to look at the fat people in the room and think, they must be hating life. It was the same reason I dropped the word "nigger" from my song, "If You Really Loved Me." To be fair to myself, I understand the history of that word, but I didn't understand it quite deeply enough, but I wasn't unaware at all of the history of that word in all its power. You don't hear that word in Australia outside of hiphop. It's not like anyone calls a black person that word here. It's just sort of a hiphop gangster word. There's lots of highly offensive lyrics in that song, and so I wrote this lyric, "We go together like a cracker and brie, like racism and ignorance, like niggers and R&B."

DS: Oh my god.

TM: You can imagine how that went down. My point, which is clear when that lyric is taken in context with the rest of the song, was that racism is the result of ignorance, and yet the R&B industry promotes the use of this word. It doesn't matter. It wasn't good enough. I got in trouble and dropped it because the people who got cross at me were right. As an empiricist and rationalist, it's incredibly important to be able to learn, to admit when you're wrong.

DS: And so what about "Fat Children," then?

TM: I don't mind offending people if I know how to defend my song, you know? I've got a case brought against me by some idiot with the Australian Human Rights Commission for religious prejudice because "Pope Song" was played on TV in Australia. And I would go to the highest court in the land to defend that song—not that I'll need to, because it defends itself, because it's very well thought-out and clear. Everything that I could possibly say about that song is in the song. It's got its defense built in. "Fat Children" is a funny song about not overfeeding your children. It's not a song about fat people. It's a song about people who are abusing their kids by forcing a choice on them and not helping their kids make the right choices. But, fuck, I just didn't feel comfortable doing it. I just didn't care enough about the issue to sit in a room knowing I was making the overweight people feel sad.

DS: How do you pick and choose whom to make feel bad? I mean, clearly you're willing to really scald people of faith, as we call them here in America.

TM: [Laughs] But I don't, actually. I mean, "Ten Foot Cock and a Few Hundred Virgins" was pretty mean, and that again was early on, but if you think about all my songs I've written about religion since "Ten Foot Cock," they're all specifically addressing the place where erroneous belief meets discrimination and prejudice. When I'm being mean about religion, I'm being mean about where religion goes wrong. I'm not just being mean to people for having faith. I think about this shit a lot. But to bring it back to what you were saying, I do want to be a humanist, and I do want to point out to people that beauty is in the real world and not in the fake one, and how the language of spirituality is empty. I mean, I'm not on a mission. I'm on a mission to just play fun gigs and make people have a fucking riot of a time. But the bigger my audience gets, the more I have to take responsibility for what I'm saying. And I guess that's the short answer. At some point I have to decide whether I'm going to be one of these comedians that says the unsayable for shock, or whether I'm going to be a comedian who says stuff he can back up intellectually in an interview with someone on the phone five years later. What do you think about "Fat Children"?

DS: Some parts of it made me go, "Whoa." Some of the lyrics—"Your 6-year-old miniature Jabba the Hut, eating half-melted Mars bars from the folds of his gut..." Ouch.

TM:[Laughs] That bit's funny.

DS: And, "Diet Coke is not the way back." Smart, true, you can't say that here. But I've watched people feed doughnuts to their obese children and felt myself getting angry—as a parent, as a human. I travel a lot for work, and I go through airports and see parents feeding their overweight kids Cinnabons that are bigger than their heads, and I think, "What are you doing?"

TM: I know. And I did write that song from an honest place of horror. And also because I get it. I don't suppose anyone would look at me and think I'm fat. But I've got my own issues with my body, and I've spent my whole life finding it difficult not to eat too much. And I work, and work, and work, and work, and run, and run, and run, and all this and I'm still a pretty chunky guy. And I was trying to write a song that was like, no excuses, no excuses, no excuses. If you put in more calories than you put out, you get fat. But you don't want to bully your own audience. And a satirist's job should be to pull down the people who are pulling down others. You pull down the church for fiddling with kids. And you pull down the church for discriminating against gays. You've got to decide where you're going to use your poison pen, and I decided pretty soon after I started performing that song that I didn't want to bully fat people, because most fat people are sad.

DS: It's still up online, still on YouTube.

TM: Ah, yeah. Look, I'm not trying to pretend it didn't exist. I just stopped performing it. And some people like that song. And some people are upset by it. And people can listen to it if they want. You're not putting people in a room and then trapping them there while you abuse them.

Today is the 4th of July, when we in America celebrate our many freedoms, one of our favorites being freedom of speech. I find if refreshing to hear an performer say, "it's incredibly important to be able to learn, to admit when you're wrong." Most of us are so defensive when we know we are right, and by god, we will NOT be censored. I liked reading about how Tim Minchin chooses when it is worth it to be offensive, and when it is worth it to make a change.

Fat Children:

If You Really Loved Me: (self-censored)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Discussion for "The Good Book"

I think it will take me a little while to get the hang of finding a balance of how much to post, in a post. I may have overdone it a bit in my first post? I think there are too many ideas there to just "discuss". So, for my second post, I am going to include a short video, which I don't think requires much discussion. It's just pretty self explanatory and somewhat relates to the general idea of religion and beliefs. So I think I will just include it here, then add some thoughts and questions about "The Good Book" post.

Just to be clear, I hope that, eventually, at least a couple people will comment and have a discussion with me. However, I'm prepared to accept that most people may not have the time or the interest to delve into the work of one artist with this much depth. In which case, I will still post about all the things I want to post about, then maybe someday the world will realize how fucking brilliant Tim Minchin is and there will be college level courses for this type of discussion I will use this material to do a Tim Minchin workshop at a UU CON for teenagers.

Moving on. Short video for today- "Take My Wife"

Discussion topics/questions for my first post, "The Good Book".

1) Did you like the song?

2)According to the song, The Bible paints morality in black and white, when life is more varied and colorful. Some people (fundamentalists) think it is the authoritative and definitive source for all life's questions and problems. I don't even know how to phrase a question here. This is just strange to me. What do you think?

3) I love the line, "I feel sorry for you heathens, got to think about all that". But, that is because I believe now that we "think about all that" we have achieved a higher morality in regard to some of the issues mentioned toward the end of the song, such as stem cell research, terminating pregnancy, easing suffering and the right to die with dignity, etc. Do we all think that our own morality is the right morality? I guess we do.

4) The reference to Genesis 6:5-7, I thought was going to be the bit in Genesis about humans having dominion over animals, but it is actually the bit about God regretting making humans and animals and wanting to wipe them all out. So, like the references to sacrificing children and stoning raped women, it speaks to the notion of whether a Christian god is a loving god. Something I don't understand, so I won't go on about it. Feel free, if you like.

5) So, The Bible. What do you think of it? As UUs, we quote it sometimes. Many of us claim to find value in it, when viewed as a myth. What value do you find in it?

Tim's comments on morality-

6) Do you think morality is a selected trait? What are some possible examples of this? How could this work like a biological variance being selected? (Trying to wrap my head around this concept.)

7) Tim says, "apparently we need to 'respect' the choices of radical Islamists (freedom of religion and all that), but that means accepting the abuse of women." Do you think this is true?

One more...

8) "If you accept Faith as a basis for morality then you MUST logically accept that other people are going to use THEIR faith as a moral base. You cannot believe in God and Jesus and the idea that your morality comes from a 2000 yr-old book and then go whingeing if people fly planes into your buildings. They're only playing by the rules you condone: the eschewal of reason and the adherence to mythology that is both extremely powerful and massively open to interpretation." Discuss??

I spattered my opinions throughout this a bit. depending on how any discussion goes, I may add more. I'd really love to hear other thoughts or opinions on any of these ideas or anything else "The Good Book" brought to mind.

Friday, June 24, 2011

"The Good Book"

Where to start? First blog post. Let's jump right in to The Bible and consider where our morals and ethics come from. Do people learn morals and ethics from The Bible? What morals are they learning? If you don't read "The Good Book" can you be good?

I am going to post the video (Which is from the 2009 DVD, Ready For This?). Then I will post the lyrics. If anyone is still reading after this, I will post some comments from Tim Minchin that he wrote on a message board in response to the question, "Where do morals and ethics come from?". Discuss.

Lyrics: Life is like an ocean voyage and our bodies are the ships
And without a moral compass we would all be cast adrift
So to keep us on our bearings the lord gave us a gift
And like most gifts ya get it was a book.

I only read one book but it's a Good Book don't you know
I act the way I act because the Good Book tells me so
If I want to know how to be good it's to the Good Book that I go,
Cos the Good Book is a book and it is good and it's a book.

I know the Good Book's good because the Good Book says it's good
I know the Good Book knows it's good cos a really Good Book would
You couldn't cook without a cookbook and I think it's understood
You can't be good without a Good Book cos it is good and it's a book and it is good for cooking chook

I tried to read some other books but I soon gave up on that
The paragraphs ain't numbered and they complicate the facts
I can't read Harry Potter cos they're worshipping false gods and that
And Dumbledore's a poofter and that's bad cos it's not good.

Morality is written there in simple white and black
I feel sorry for you heathens got to think about all that
Good is good and Evil's bad and goats are good and pigs are crap
You'll find which one is which in the Good Book cos it's good and it's a book and it's a book.

I had a cat she gave birth to a litter
The kittens were adorable and they made my family laugh
But as they grew they started misbehaving
So I drowned the little fuckers in the bath
When the creatures in your care start being menaces
The answers can be found right there in Genesis
(Chapter six, verses five to seven).

Swing your partner by the hand
Have a baby if you can
But if the voices in your head
Say to sacrifice your kid
To satiate your loving God's
Fetish for dead baby blood
It's simple faith the book demands
So raise that knife up in your hands.

Before the Good Book made us good there was no good way to know
If a thing was good or not that good or kind of touch and go
So God decided he'd give writing allegoric prose a go
And so he wrote a book and it was generally well-received.

The Telegraph said, "This God is reminiscent of the Norse"
The Times said, "Kind of turgid, but I liked the bits with horses"
The Mail said "Lots of massacres – a violent tour de force
"If you only read one book this year, then this one is a book and it is good and it's a book."

Swing your daughter by the hand
But if she gets raped by a man
And refuses then to marry him
Stone her to death.

If you just close your eyes and block your ears
To the accumulated knowledge of the last 2000 years
Then morally, guess what, you're off the hook
And thank Christ you only have to read one book.

Just because the book's contents
Was written generations hence
By hairy desert-dwelling gents
Squatting in their dusty tents
Just because what heaven said
Was said before they'd leavened bread
Just cos Jesus couldn't read
Doesn't mean that we should need
When manipulating human genes
To alleviate pain or fight disease
When deciding whether it's wrong or right
To help the dying let go of life
Or to stop a pregnancy when it's
Just a tiny blastocyst
There's no reason that we should take a look
At any other book but the Good Book cos it is good and it's a book
And it's a book and it's quite good.

Good is good and evil's bad and kids get killed when God gets mad
You'd better take a good look at the Good Book.

Now if you really want to dig into Tim Minchin's mind and heart, read his response when asked, "Where do you think human morals and ethics come from?".

"As we all know (or should), the tendency of religion to lay claim to morality is ridiculous. The Ancient Greeks - for example - were much more advanced in their contemplation of morality (and, arguably, just plain more moral) than the writers of the Bible. And they were cruising around 300 - 750 years pre-Josh.

I have no doubt that morality is a selected trait. ie - somewhere along the line, members of our species who failed to act in the best interests of their entire group failed to survive.*

But it's so complex, because specific ethical standards and moral norms change quite rapidly and at different rates in different places. In fact, one of the great challenges humans face is in trying to balance the need for understanding of others and the need to protect the rights of our fellow humans. For example, apparently we need to "respect" the choices of radical Islamists (freedom of religion and all that), but that means accepting the abuse of women.

This is why I am so passionate (at least intellectually and comedically) about Atheism. I know that we aint going to win the battle in my lifetime nor in the ten generations to come. But this I think is true:

If you accept Faith as a basis for morality then you MUST logically accept that other people are going to use THEIR faith as a moral base. You cannot believe in God and Jesus and the idea that your morality comes from a 2000 yr-old book and then go whingeing if people fly planes into your buildings. They're only playing by the rules you condone: the eschewal of reason and the adherence to mythology that is both extremely powerful and massively open to interpretation.

Hopefully, one day, we will grow up and realize that morality should not be treated relativistically - I think it needs to be treated as an ongoing human discussion, the goal of which is global concurrence. Obviously that goal will forever elude us, but maybe that's how it should be approached. And as times change, we need to be able to adjust. (Of course moderate Christians are the greatest adjusters of all. They just keep reinterpreting the text as morality moves forward. "Oh yes, Jesus would have been cool with woman priests and gay adoption". Fuck off. Jesus would've looked at you like you'd just asked him if he'd like his kebab microwaved.)

Sorry, that's some pretty open-ended and wildly idealistic thoughts."

Edit: When I first posted this, I forgot to include the asterisked footnote: *A really nice discussion on Altruism can be found on the last documentary made by Rhian Skirving (who is also making "Rock n Roll Nerd"!) It's called "The Kindness of Strangers" and apart from the lovely soundtrack (cough), it has interviews with all sorts of amazing people. One of whom Dawkins, who of course came to fame on the back of his book, "The Selfish Gene". hmm. Interesting. I'm not sure how one would find this doco. ABC stores?