I am at a loss for words. Why are we dealing with these people?
I sometimes wonder what the world would be like if someone went back and time and shot Abraham before he started the madness that is Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Then again, time has shown if we aren't going to kill each other over religion, it'll be some other random ideology. It'd be nice if we were actually killing over something with substance though, and not which prophet was correct or what the best Holy book is/was.
Well, it's an interesting thing for me, leaving the cult, and trying to 'strike it out' on my own. It's nice to be able to manage my own time, make my own decisions, think for myself. No longer do I have to feel guilty about my research on Genetic Algorithms and their applications in computer science. No longer do I have to worry about converting people, or the amount of time I've spent out in the ministry. No longer do I have to feel guilty about watching R rated movies, drinking, or sexual behavior.
So, I have a lot more freedom.
Now, while I am not an 'atheist', at least as defined by the American Atheists (a definition, which I feel aids fundamentalist Christian arguments and damages other real atheists), I am also not religious. I do have faith in things 'more' out there, not material or physical. That said, I have little desire to join a religious group. I have even less desire to look at a group for an every Sunday type religious experience. Indeed, the whole idea leaves a bad taste in my mouth. But, part of me does miss the sense of community that I had when I was a member of a Church.
It seems that the skeptics community has given so much attention to arguing and fighting against the religious groups, that one of the major aspects of religion - the church - has gone unnoticed. Are regular group meetings good things? If not based on fluffy bunnies, faeries, and invisible men, what should communities be based on? Should their be ritual at these gatherings? What would the meeting be like? And, if you started doing this, what would keep it from being a religion, or would it be a religion just by virtue of doing it? After all, at it's most basic, religion doesn't require any supernatural belief.
In all honesty, I think most churches are so busy preaching various messages, that they forget one of the critical aspects that led to the importance of the church in a community in the first place - the town gathering.
I don't think there's any valid way to say that individuals have grown past the need for socialization. At our most basic roots, we are social beings. And, I feel, a culture that resists and suppresses desires for human interaction invites mental illness, education nightmares, and societal breakdown.
So right now, all I have is questions, hopefully time will give some answers.
Personally, I find the blatant commercialism around religious holidays somewhat disturbing. Not so much because of the commercialism, but because how much it reveals our consumerist nature. The old American Ideal of creativity and creation has been replaced with 'buy now, but more'. Now, if you pushed me to identify my religion, I'd say 'none' - and if you REALLY pressed for 'where I stand', I might tell you either Pagan or Humanist, depending on my mood.
On a basic level, I do think it's proper to at least respect other people's beliefs though.
And hence, as one of the non-Christian variety (well, maybe less Christian, depending on the time of day and phase of the moon), might I just say that I find the actions of stores like Lowe's, well, .... stupid?
What am I talking about? Take a look at lowes.com. Enter on the page "Christmas" for a product search... Now, see anything other than relatively decent priced items?
Wait for it...
You will discover, that the vast majority of items do not contain the word "Christmas". Now, to be fair to Lowes, I would wager that this very possibly is a reflection of the brand of trees/items they are selling and not of Lowes management (unless these are all House brands).
Even on days when I want to throw away all semblance of religion/faith in my life, I still find the idea of Holidays and celebrating past culture of inherent value. Christmas, if nothing else, can be a time of remembering the good of giving, the joy of family, the perils of overeating turkey, the annoyance of spoiled children, and the fact that family best belongs within at least a 2 hour driving distance...
At one point, my religious beliefs held that Christmas was not to be celebrated as it was an evil pagan holiday, which resulted in the deaths of many puppies and other small furry animals. I grimaced every time someone said Happy Christmas. I grew annoyed at the constant holiday songs and cheer.
Now, I welcome the Holiday, even if I am not a vanilla Christian. At what point do we stop asking for reason and become unreasonable ourselves? I'd argue it's the point at which we start trying to rewire culture for the sake of rewiring culture. I don't see people trying to rename the months of the year or the names of the planets to not reflect their cultural origins.
And, at this point, I really must ask, who exactly are retailers trying to cater to by calling it a "Holiday Tree"? What market share is gained? What stops me as a pagan, or follower of Cthulhu, or the flying spaghetti monster, from buying a Christmas tree and calling it what I want? Answer: nothing.
The real thing that's gained by calling it a "Holiday Tree"? Another cause for Christian idiots to point to about the 'War Against Christianity'. Not to overly cliched, but can't we all just get along?
Though, I will admit, part of me wants to put out an ad selling "Winter Solstice Trees", and see what type of replies I get...
Back in yonder days of lore, my father purchased for me, a chemistry set. These were strange things, sold way back when, that let you mix chemicals to see "nifty stuff". All kinds of prearranged experiments. With a chemistry set like mine, you could do "cool shit" like make gun powder.
Well, I recently read an article about the endangered chemistry set. Thinking about it, I haven't seen them in stores for a long while. Going to a high school science fair will tell you a lot about the status of our country. I recall (very vividly, I might add), being told that if I made one of the classic 'volcanos' that I would fail. Now, that's about the highest level you get.
Even worse, I have seen 'computer science' science fair projects, the sum total of which amounted to purchasing various hardware components and building a computer. I could respect that, if it weren't for the fact that these hardware components were designed to be put together with a minimum of effort. When did a department store bookshelf EVER count for a shop project?
But, it's not only the forces of consumerism damaging the chemistry set, it's the government as well. Why would the government not want people purchasing these things? Well, 2 reasons:
1. The War on Terror 2. The War on Drugs
Yes folks, the little $80 chemistry sets with small amounts of dangerous chemicals can be used to manufacture drugs and explosives! Nevermind, we are talking about the same amount as a single sparkler or maybe a single pill of drugs. Forget the fact that a drug dealer would have to purchase a shop full of these things to get quantity. And just think, we are saving lives (or at least injuries!!!!) to children.
To quote a John Stossel, give me a break.
An unrecognized casualty of the wars on terror and drugs, our repression of experimentation, curiosity, and ingenuity strikes at the heart of the forces that propelled America ahead during the 20th century. By not allowing a youth to experiment and 'be a nerd', we are relegating the future of this country to that of a third rate has-been. Intelligence and curiosity, like so many other things, has become a packaged commodity.
It's funny, to watch a movie like October Sky, or read Rocket Boys, and realize that the creative spirit and drive there exhibited is no longer tolerated in our country. Being out in the work force, for a different industry, I never saw the damage done to the home experimenter.