Religion, Love And Relationships

What seemed to happen is that I became…
Less interested in religion and more interested in life
Less interested in doctrine and more interested in truth
Less interested in piety and more interested in love
Less interested in heaven and more interested in peace
Less interested in hell and more interested in suffering
Less interested in church  and more interested in people

  • Jim Palmer

I’ve been experiencing growing discontent with “religion” in a general sense lately. A lot of this has come from engaging those of various religions. While I do get a lot of enjoyment from understanding other’s beliefs I also find a lot of judgement.

I don’t like it.

I don’t like when people imply that I might be going to hell for not believing exactly what they believe, regardless of the actual number of people they would be condemning by making those accusations. Usually it’s a LOT since there are so many different denominations.  No wonder people are sick of Christians. I was raised Christian (of the Catholic variety) and really didn’t know much else until late in my college career. Now the more Christians I talk to the more I find that they all think each other are completely wrong. Why would someone listen to any Christian when they’d have to pick from 30,000 different interpretations of the same story?

When I dug for an answer to the question “What do you have to do to go to heaven?” I received various responses, generally centered around “Believe in Jesus. Actions are useless.”

When I asked if you had to be baptized I got various answers ranging from yes to no. Same with receive the Eucharist/communion or going to reconciliation/confession. Prayer didn’t show up as a requirement to often either.

I also found that a lot of the above things weren’t bringing a ton of enjoyment to my life.

I was told by at least 3 followers of their respective (different) religions to “try it and see if it works for you”. If that’s the best you got I’m not buying! “If it works” is a very subjective measuring stick for anything. Kim Jung Un would say that his ruling of North Korea is working for him but few people would say it’s the right thing to do. I say few because there are some people that have argued with me that he’s doing a good thing, or at least that it’s not bad!

I looked around and found that what I was really missing was love. I didn’t truly love others. I knew others. I liked some people, but I didn’t really love them. I didn’t act like I loved them and I certainly didn’t think I loved them. I remembered the following quote that I read one time.

“When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” C.S. Lewis

Maybe “trying it” would work for this? It has! Now I’m not saying that I perfectly love everyone I meet, or even do it particularly well. What I am able to do is ask myself everyday why I didn’t love the people I encountered that day.

It is sort of difficult today to walk around loving others. Especially if you are a single guy. Depending on who you are talking to it can be seen as unwanted advances or perceived as an advance when it’s not meant to be. For people who the age gap is big enough, it can come off as you are trying to get something from them or take advantage in some other was.

What I’ve found is it’s difficult to love people if you don’t know them. To know people takes time, time most of us don’t think we have. I often ask myself how I am showing love to the people I already know. Often I find that I’m lacking in that area. If I don’t love people I already know how can I love people I don’t know? Seems like that’d be pretty difficult.

On getting to know people, that is another place where I see religion being misused. People will meet someone and assume they know them if they practice the same religion. They will feel safer around that person. I understand why. As I said above, we all think we don’t have any time to “waste” getting to know someone we aren’t sure about, if they do some of the same things we do certainly they are more like us than those who don’t go to the same church every week. This often leads to people only having a very small group of likeminded friends. This is a dangerous practice as pointed out in “Reasonable Atheism” by Scott F. Aikin & Robert. B Talisse

“Groups of like-minded people who discuss their common views tend to unwittingly radicalize – they cause each other to adopt more extreme beliefs.” P36

If that doesn’t describe many religions and denominations I don’t know what does. Here the thought of a radical belief doesn’t necessarily have to be that everyone else is the devil, but it often does manifest in “Everyone else is wrong and only we have the Truth.”

At one time, I would ask others what they believed so I could tell them the truth of what I believed. I am slowly working to break that habit. These days, if I ask what you believe it’s not because I want to convert you to what I believe. I legitimately just want to know what you believe and why. I can see why people would be suspicious though as many people  are still in the same mindset I was and ask only to share their own judgemental beliefs. Once you do share your beliefs with me I will ask some pointed questions that might offend you a little, depending on how thick your skin is. I will do that only to get you thinking though, not to be actually offensive. It is to really get to know you and perhaps to help you know yourself.

With that background laid, I ask you the following questions.

Have you really been living like Jesus (If you are a Christian and are telling others how they need to be living like Jesus.) To get thinking about this more I highly recommend the book “Being Jesus In Nashville” By Jim Palmer (quoted at the beginning of this article).As usual, if anyone actually reads this and wants me to buy the the book just let me know and I will! hooglandaxel@gmail.com

For those non-Christians (who likely don’t care about being like Jesus), I just ask you to recognize your group of friends. Are you unintentionally (or intentionally!) self-radicalizing? If so what? Is it a reasonable position? How can you find someone who holds differing views from you? What can you learn from them?

For everyone I ask, how are you maintaining the relationships you have? Are you truly sharing love? Who are you neglecting?

If we all took some time to think about these types of questions more I think the world would be a better place.

Elevate Your Thinking

“Jaime, we have half an hour now during this drive. What’s the most important thing we can be thinking about?”- Buckminster Fuller

The opening quote for this post was posed by Buckminster Fuller to his granddaughter, obviously during a car ride. I lifted it off of page 1 of “Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth” by Buckminster Fuller (actually it’s part of the foreward by his granddaughter), which I will buy and send to your house if you tell me you’ll read it! (email me at hooglandaxel@gmail.com). What a powerful question! How would you answer a question like that? Have you ever even been asked something like that?

I have been on a quest for truth since well before this blog was started but I feel the quest has been ever quickening as I try to write more and more opinionated pieces for this blog explaining the world as I know it to others. Trying to explain things is quite the humbling act as it really is true the more you learn, the more you learn how little you really know.

That is not to say that learning is a fruitless act, far from it!
Some of the mysteries I have been bumping into though get to sounding downright mystical. This has been a real challenge for my analytical mind.

What is Love?
What is Truth?
Why do some people turn into murders while some are artists and engineers? Why are some people both!
Is there a God? If so, is he the God that is preached by any of the hundreds of branches of each religion or have they all missed the mark in some aspects?
How do I most effectively move the world forward in a positive direction?
How do I even determine if my actions are actually positive or negative!?!?!
Why do I think negatively of X type of person. You can substitute just about anything for X. Tall, short, gay, straight, bros, hipsters, foreigners, other Americans, Republicans, Democrats. You name it, I’ve judged them.

One thing that has been wonderful for me has been visiting other churches or religious events. I have been visiting a different church each month sometime during the 2nd week of the month for almost a year now with a group from my church. At the start I had to ask “What is our goal here?” Were we on a mission to save souls from their wrong thinking? I feel this is often the attitude taken by, at least, many denominations of Christians towards other Christians, and certainly other religions. Or were we just trying to learn about others? See how the worship and try to BE with them. Luckily we had the presence of mind to choose the latter.

I have purposely tried to seek as varied services as possible. To date I have visited, Lutherans, Missionary Baptists, Southern Baptists, Mormons, Sunni Muslims, Seventh Day Adventists, Greek Orthodox Christians, Church of Christ – Scientists, Universal Unitarians and I’m sure some I have forgotten. I have only been met with welcome at every service I attended. People were happy to talk to me and those with me. They invited us in, ate with us and shared their stories and beliefs. Our group tried to be very respectful of each group we visited and they showed us each the same respect and, even better, hospitality, back. The responses I have gotten have really elevated my faith in humanity.

Incredibly when I have shared my visitation stories with friends and family often the first question I am asked is “Were you scared?” Now perhaps they are just joking and I am very oblivious but I believe that every joke has at a minimum a small amount of truth behind it. I have been a bit nervous walking into places I know no one but every time I have done it it becomes easier. I think what the people asking me those questions are really doing is voicing their own fears. Fears of the unknown, which we all have. My solution to the unknown is simply to make it known!

I believe that one solution to much of the violence and fear in the world these days is to simply expand our our circles of influence, or put in a gentler way, expand our neighborhood. Buckminster Fuller coined the term “Earthian” to help unify us. If we could brush away our differences and recognize that we are all in this together, expanding our circle of neighbors, I think we’d all become a lot more comfortable.

As you start a new day ask yourself a few questions.

How can I expand my neighborhood today?

What’s the most important thing I can be thinking about?

Don’t Kill Your Child! Please!

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” – Jeremiah 1:5

I recently was made aware of this website by The Friendly Atheist.

The basis of the story is there is a pregnant woman. She is 26. She has scheduled an abortion for July 10th and will have the abortion, unless pro-lifers send her $1 million, which she promises to put in a trust fund to give to her child, who she’ll not abort if the $1 million is raised. The child will be given up for adoption and the money will be transferred to the child at the age of 21.

The Pro-Lifers” who have apparently decided they speak for all pro-lifers, have said they will not pay anything towards this fund, and I agree with them, in principle. Their argument being “It’s a hostage situation and we don’t negotiate with terrorism.” Terrorism in this case being using terror to coerce someone into doing something, not the general thought of Middle eastern terrorists that is prevalent in people’s heads these days. That is a fair stance.
Here are a few ways this situation could play out.

  1. The money is not raised and she has an abortion. – This would be the worst outcome as a child would be murdered.
  2. The million, by some miracle (which I do believe in miracles), is raised. The child is put up for adoption, which the female who will birth the child, has vowed to do. The money is given to the child at the age of 21, which makes very little sense, why not 18 which is the age people are considered adults, at least in America. Now this child (adult by now) will have to ask why there is a million dollars given to them. This could go 2 ways.
    1. The child could become very depressed at the thought that his/her biological mother wanted to kill them which would make the child question his/her self worth. Eventually leading to a unfulfilled life and potentially self harm or harm of others out of frustration.
    2. Alternatively the child could become so empowered by the fact that so many people (except his/her own biological mother) loved him/her enough to donate money to save his/her life that that child (now adult)  will become a super advocate against abortion.
  3. Another alternative, is that the mother could raise the child herself after thinking some more and realizing the grave mistake she is making by committing murder. I would encourage her to contact this woman or any other who regrets their own abortion. You can find plenty by just googling “I regret my abortion”. The only unfortunate part about this is that likely sometime it will come out that the mother was considering aborting the child and made a very large fuss about it. Likely the child will be pretty put off by the thought that his/her mother had considered killing him/her. I would be also. Hopefully the mother would do this very gingerly and really explain how she was led astray by public opinion into believing that the child was not really a person.

That’s the attitude that I’m personally taking towards this woman. She’s 26. I will be in August. I’ve done some dumb things in my life. She has also. But she still has the opportunity to make the right choice. Don’t murder your child.This is me pleading with you. If I was a millionaire I’d give the million easily, but I’d also try to talk to you. I’d ask you how you got to this point. I’d try to share the beauty of your child with you. But I can’t do those things, because you are an anonymous person on the internet. That’s also why I can’t just go about giving money to every person who threatens to kill someone. Will you give it back if you murders her child? I wouldn’t even want it! At that point it’d be blood money. What I can tell you is that I do support children I know are in need now as much as I can. I support children through The Job Foundation and through Children International as well as all people who need water via Charity Water. The point of mentioning these is not to show to the world what a great guy I am. It is to show you that real people do support others in need, as we can. But the value in that support is that it is loving support, given freely. Those people don’t demand I give them money. I give it to them because I love them, even though I don’t personally know them. It’s given freely, not taken or demanded. What does it prove if something is taken? Nothing.

When would you be happy? After I cashed out all my retirement accounts and sold all my vehicles? No. None of that would make you happy, because you don’t care about me, or your child, or anyone else. You are, at this moment, a selfish person. Our current society teaches us that it’s good to be selfish. This is the sad state of affairs we are in.

I do agree with you. Christians could always give more and that’s certainly something we each need to work on, but please forgive us. We are not perfect either, we are just sinners, just like you, and we really are trying.

While I disagree with your desire to murder your child, I will pray for you. I pray that you don’t murder your child. When you become more selfless, you will find that you are enjoying life more. You don’t love every moment, but living in love is more fulfilling than living for yourself.

I have also not donated to your site and I likely won’t but it has helped me recognize that I can always give more and so I have pledged to donate monthly to a local pregnancy help center, Alternatives. I only hope that you can find a similar place near you.

And please, don’t kill your child! Please talk to someone. Call me (715-820-0377) or email me (hooglandaxel@gmail.com) or talk to someone more local (probably more helpful) but please just don’t kill the child. We really do care about you. But we can only help you if you ask for it, not demand it. Love can’t be demanded.

 

Thank you to Amy Entwistle at Flickr Creative Commons for the cover photo.

“Love, No Matter What” – A Rebuttal of Andrew Solomon’s TED talk

In this post I’d like to discuss the TED talk given by Andrew Solomon called Love, No Matter What. (See the link for the YouTube video). I enjoy TED talks very much because they offer a perspective on topics that you often haven’t thought about or if it is a topic you think about it could offer a different perspective. This talk titled “Love, No Matter What” seemed to have potential. I was hoping he’d talk about the good that can come from love. What I found was not exactly that. There were some good points, which I will let you listen to the talk to find, but one small point near the middle (11:56 minutes in the transcript) which caused me to seek the transcript, listen multiple times and finally rebuke Andrew’s comments with this post.

Here’s the YouTube description of the talk.

“What is it like to raise a child who’s different from you in some fundamental way (like a prodigy, or a differently abled kid, or a criminal)? In this quietly moving talk, writer Andrew Solomon shares what he learned from talking to dozens of parents — asking them: What’s the line between unconditional love and unconditional acceptance? – Youtube description TED talk “Love, No Matter What”

This talk was good in that it talks about how it can be hard for a parent to understand a child who is different from the parent. The examples Andrew uses are a child who is deaf, has dwarfism, is gay or has Down Syndrome. This group presents an interesting, and seemingly completely arbitrary smattering of different things that people can be identified as, which brings up an interesting thought on identity, that I have made a note to think of at a later date. But I digress,

Here is the point that confused me at starting at 11:56.

“We live at a point when social acceptance for these and many other conditions is on the up and up. And yet we also live at the moment when our ability to eliminate those conditions has reached a height we never imagined before. Most deaf infants born in the United States now will receive Cochlear implants, which are put into the brain and connected to a receiver, and which allow them to acquire a facsimile of hearing and to use oral speech. A compound that has been tested in mice, BMN-111, is useful in preventing the action of the achondroplasia gene. Achondroplasia is the most common form of dwarfism, and mice who have been given that substance and who have the achondroplasia gene, grow to full size. Testing in humans is around the corner. There are blood tests which are making progress that would pick up Down syndrome more clearly and earlier in pregnancies than ever before, making it easier and easier for people to eliminate those pregnancies, or to terminate them.” – Transcript.

Read the last line again or better yet watch the video.

“There are blood tests which are making progress that would pick up downs syndrome more clearly and earlier in pregnancies than ever before making it easier and easier for people to eliminate those pregnancies or to terminate them. So we have both social progress and medical progress.” – Andrew Solomon

This prompted my thought to change the title of the talk to “Love Your Child No Matter What, (Unless They Have Down Syndrome, Or Any Other Disease Or Deformity That I think Can’t Be Cured At This Time)”

Here are my thoughts and questions on this.

Later in the talk Andrew says

13:35 – “We have to think about how we feel about cures altogether. And a lot of the time the question of parenthood is, what do we validate in our children, and what do we cure in them?” – Andrew Solomon

Why is the only thing he mentioned that he’d validate in your child was homosexuality, although he didn’t actually say that, it was more implied. In fact, he didn’t mention homosexuality at all in the talk (at 11:56) about how he’d “fix” the issues that could be detected in a child.

He mentions BMN-111 treat dwarfs to make them “normal”.

He mentions hearing implants for deaf children to make the child “normal”.
And then his solution is to murder (abortion) a child who MAY have down syndrome. We can share numerous stories of people who were supposed to have been aborted, Tim Tebow for one, whose parents were brave enough to tell the doctor’s “Abortion is not an option.”

Andrew mentions a total of 0 “cures” for homosexuality. I’m not promoting that he should be or shouldn’t be promoting a “cure” for it, but when he goes through all the other situations he presented but doesn’t mention homosexuality that’s raises questions in my head of what his motives are for the talk. It seems his thoughts are 2 fold.

  1. Normalize homosexuality. I really think this is the underlying point of the whole talk, and if Andrew wanted to disagree with me on that point that’s ok.  (I am not trying to be biased for or against that, I have complex views on homosexuality and haven’t researched enough to form a complete arguing opinion. Look for future articles. This in not what I want to address in this post.)
  2. Promote abortion of children who could have developmental disorders. I honestly think this was not high in his mind at all while writing this talk. I think Andrew could have left this point out completely and he would have been just as happy. I think that he so nonchalantly mentions it, and then that people applaud him, show the state our society is in. I have researched a great deal on abortion and I am adamantly against abortion.

It seems Andrew is biased. I wonder what the Robart’s (the people he interviewed for his book who’s son has Down Syndrome) thought about that statement. Here’s what Tom Robart had to say.

“I think if we lost everyone with downs syndrome it would be a catastrophic loss.” – Tom Robart

So why then, is Andrew’s solution for children (who are people definitely by the time the fertilized egg has implanted in the uterus wall, and really in my mind likely at conception, but I’ll save that for a future post after more research), to abort them at the chance of an issue, when even the father of one of those children said that it would be a “catastrophic loss”? I have enjoyed many TED talks, but this one has caused concern for me. If you want more thoughts on abortion, please read and share my post related to the subject.

Thank you to Amy Entwistle at Flickr Creative Commons for the cover photo.