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Thursday, January 05, 2012

Musings of a closeted atheist

I've given a lot of thought to matters of faith lately. I still love the people I grew up with in my church and other people of faith I have known. Many were great examples of how to be a decent human being. I remember countless Sundays spent singing in the pew, and I still have my favorite hymns. This is who I am, and even if I could deny these influences, I wouldn't want to.

All of this makes it that much harder to tell my family that I no longer believe in a higher power. I think I started to lose my faith over 20 years ago for reasons I won't address here. I still believe in the basic decency of most people, and I think people form communities based on common interests and goals. I also think this basic decency is often perverted by others in the name of their "god". If I find anything holy, it is humanity, and more specifically, humanity when it is at its most noble and intelligent. That which I find evil is humanity at its most venal, hate-filled, and delusional. In this sense, Christopher Hitchens was a holier person than Mother Theresa, and Albert Einstein more holy than Pat Robertson. The remnants of my last trip to Taco Bell are more holy and pure than Rick Santorum, Michelle Bachmann, and the rest of the lunatic GOP field, including Huntsman.

To keep the peace, I don't share this with my family. It feels like I lie to them a little every day, even though matters of faith never come up in conversation. Still, there's this part of me that feels like telling people what this atheist with socialist tendencies really believes. I believe the rich should pay more taxes since they get more benefit from society. I believe the poor and working class should have a realistic chance at an affordable (or better yet, free) education and free health care. I believe the infrastructure that is in such a horrible state of disrepair should be a top priority, and that nation building should occur here. I hate war, and feel it should be the absolutely last option. I think our police forces should be demilitarized, and the TSA should be disbanded. I think government should assume adults are smart enough to know which substances they want to put in their bodies. That said, I think government should play an active role in the safety of food and drugs. Finally, I think what we are not doing for our veterans is perhaps our greatest national shame.

I just had to get all of this off my chest.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

I'm sorry for the very long absence.

The last two and a half years have been... interesting, and they promise to stay that way for the foreseeable future. I still think about you, my blogging friends.

I've looked at America, and I truly don't recognize it anymore. I love the America I grew up in, where you didn't have to fear the Blackwater-ized cops, where you didn't get irradiated, sexually assaulted, or strip-searched as part and parcel of getting on an airplane, and where corporations didn't transparently own the electoral process. I miss the America that had a respect for the basic rights of people to peaceably assemble, say unpopular but nonviolent things without fearing that knock on the door, and where corporations who send jobs overseas didn't get rewarded with a $0 income tax bill. I miss the middle class. When America had one, it was great, and we experienced unmatched levels of prosperity. I miss having a world-class education system, which was largely responsible for the creation of the aforementioned middle class. In short, I see America, and I see very few signs worthy of optimism.

I'm very glad DADT got repealed, and that the PPACA was passed. As you know, that's Obamacare, but I can never remember the long version of the name. Still, I call it Obamacare with gratitude and pride. These are very good things, and yet, the main reason Obama will get my vote in November is because the GOP is too damned crazy. I know the President has wanted to do more, yet he has been stopped at every turn by a grossly obstructionist GOP House and a truly activist Supreme Court that overturned decades of precedent in the Citizens United case and others for the benefit of their corporate buddies. Even now, the GOP and right-wing media spread lies about Obamacare and what it means for seniors, and when you confront someone who is already inclined to believe the worst of Obama with the facts, it means nothing. Obamacare is not rationing, it isn't taking away the rights of seniors to choose their medical options, and it's not death panels. Obamacare has already saved lives as the provisions extending medical coverage of people until the age of 26 under their parents' insurance, and it will continue to do so as more provisions become active, such as basic medical exams and other important and routine things will be covered without a deductible in accordance with this law. I only hope the Supreme Court rules the whole thing is constitutional in accordance with decades of precedent, though the Roberts court has shown it feels far from beholden to the most noble parts of our past jurisprudence.

These small glimmers of hope notwithstanding, I open this year with a moment of silence in memory of America. I'm in my 30s, and now, I just hope I live long enough to see her return, because I think fixing this in 45 years might be an optimistic goal. I don't have children, but I constantly worry about what kind of nation we're leaving for the generations to come. What few answers I have, I don't like, and as I look to our north, I see Canada going down our same self-destructive path. William Butler Yeats said it best in "The Second Coming."

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?