Are feelings subjective or objective? Can we pigeon hole our emotions? Do humans feel everything the same but we just think we experience them differently? These are the things I wonder.

   Love for instance. I was thinking about a friend of mine and her relationship with her boyfriend. She scolded him for swearing at our work while he was waiting for her shift to end. She left to finish up for the day and I jokingly brought up the fact that he was scolded. He said –not verbatimly, “so what? All she can do is yell at me.”

   I would never react that way to a scolding. It’s disrespectful and I think against the idea of love (because the two have to be intertwined). But is my concept of love the same? How can anyone but him know that he loves his girlfriend? Can actions actually speak for words?


I’m A Soul Man

   In my last post I mentioned that I had gone to a funeral that day (Tuesday) and I was inspired to write about two topics. Today I am going to talk briefly about the woman who died and what I think a funeral should be and not be about.

   Her name wasn’t Jeannie, but that’s what I called her. She reminded me, in a lot of ways, of my Grandma Anna. The way the human brain works, I sort of imprinted a bit of those feelings onto her.

   She could also be the biggest pain in the ass. I miss her for that.

   I first met her…well say, fourteen years ago. She and her husband were neighbors of ours. Almost fourteen years later, through the physics of the universe in general and small communities in particular (what a much better way to explain things, than “coincidence”), I helped take care of her for the last year of her life.

   I remember when I realized who she was. I read her full name on her door and I exclaimed to my co-worker, “hey! I know her!”. I re-introduced myself, having already met her a couple days previously. She told me she remembered me –though as the year went on, it became clear she had mixed me up with another kid from our town, but that’s irrelevant, I think.

   Oh what could have been. Several times through the past twelve months she told me that if she were only sixty-five years younger, she’d marry me. That makes me smile now.

   She wasn’t very active. Mostly she hermitted in her room and more often than not felt sorry for herself. She would ask questions like, “why do I have to hurt like this?” and because I firmly believe there are acceptable times to humor someone’s faith, I would tell her the most comforting Christian platitude they have: “God has a plan.” (An ironic idea if there ever was one, if you consider the implications and insist that you have free will.) This would make her feel better for the day. It would at least make her silent.

   Also she would pine for her husband who died a few years ago. She couldn’t wait to see him in Heaven. Her faith had interrupted the grieving process. She died with a broken heart.

   Jeannie is not in Heaven. Nor is she in Hell or Sheol or Dilmun. Her soul is not in an afterlife that depends on how good or bad she was or who or what she accepted as her savior. No. Jeannie is not Heaven and her soul died with her. I am of the opinion that a person’s soul, their spark, is their brain. Your conscious is what animates the meat machinery of your body. Without that you’re a living robot, rotting away.

   I learned about her life at her funeral. Things I didn’t know. She loved to dance! Even fourteen years ago her health was so bad that she couldn’t dance; I never knew her love for it, but it got a sad-laugh out of her family when the pastor mentioned it.

   The pastor pissed me off. It was a woman (and any woman who embraces a misogynistic religion like Christianity enough to want to “teach” it, is either a hypocrite or a fool). She used Jeannie’s death as a platform to proselytize to the choir! Even if there were confirmed unbelievers there, a person’s funeral is to remember them, not to fucking glorify your dogma. The pastor couldn’t end a sentence without talking about Christ and how Jeannie exemplified him.

   (An aside: My mother was with me, because she knew Jeannie also. Seemingly at random the pastor lead the attendees in Whatever Prayer It Is That They All Knew That Talks About God Giving His Only Begotten Son To Save The World. My mother, who hasn’t been to church in years (and the epitome of a Cafeteria Christian) recited along with the rest and didn’t miss a beat. This shocked me and creeped me out a little bit.)

   The soul is in the brain. Once there isn’t enough oxygen getting to it, your soul dies and you’re dead. They opened up her casket at the end of the service. One of the ushers lead us row by row to say goodbye to Jeannie’s body. I told my mother that I was going to say goodbye to her family –whom I had gotten to know through my time taking care of Jeannie. They were the ones suffering and in pain now. Jeannie gets my memories, but her family got my hugs and the reassurance that someone else cared about her too.

   I went to a funeral today. It was the first one since my deconversion (and, to my memory the second one period). It’s inspired two topics I want to discuss that I will make into two different posts. One on how religion taints the human experience and one on my thoughts about the person who died and what I think a funeral should really talk about.

   First the taint of religion.

   I noticed something about stained glass windows today. The church I was in had nothing but them. They weren’t fancy, just panes in the primary colors of the rainbow. Several picture windows were yellow and I thought of the phrase “a jaundiced eye”

   It is a given that religion Others everyone who is not of their faith. Humans naturally do this. We evolved to trust our neighbors but demonize everyone over the next hill. This is a problem we can overcome; we can override our evolution, but religion actively hinders our desire to do this. Religion depends on our Othering.

   It prevents us from being our full potential.

   I think humans are both the best and worst animal on this planet. Our ways of dealing with life have consequences few want to understand—though we are able to. I would wager that no other organism on this planet has changed the environment on the scale humans are capable, since the evolution of bacteria that make oxygen as a waste product.

   I used to be very conservative as well as Christian. The two are not necessarily related, but more often than not, they go together. In a lot of ways what I am saying about religion can be applied to conservative politics. Global warming can’t exist because God wouldn’t let the world burn. Or, it is happening and God is punishing us. Sometimes it’s both! And this kind of doublethink is possible through the jaundiced eye of religion. Christians will pray for your salvation while judging you to Hell.

   Many –too many!— subjects apply here but the end result is the same: religious people are Right and everyone else is Wrong. This is no way to evolve a species. It is almost (and others have said this) as if religion is a virus that affects us by making us happy being stupid. The only cure is education and religion knows this and tries to keep you from it. You shouldn’t look at anything that lays outside the authority of religion. Your yellow eyes have to see everything else as evil and corrupt.

   Religion might know that education is its enemy but it is not unstoppable. Because others (Others?) have come out of their stupor, you can too! It is a struggle. For a lot of us we have to overcome years of childhood indoctrination and conditioning. I have identified as a secular humanist for the past two years after a three year journey.

   I didn’t break the stained glass windows of my Christianity, I replaced them pane by pane.

I Believe In Demons

   I believe in demons.

   The human mind is full of paradoxes. From the time we attributed the blowing of a tree leaf to a god, we’ve made ourselves our own slaves and also striven for our own mastership.

   I believe in the demon of alcoholism.

   My father is sixty-two years old and recently lost his house to a fire. He and my mother have been living with me for the past couple months in my two bedroom apartment. My sister has been over almost every day. This has not been a reboot of the Brady Bunch.

   My mother called me close to the end of April; I was laying down for a nap. She told me the house had burned down. It took a moment to hit. She asked me if they could stay with me and I said yes, come right away. They did and they had in their possession the clothes on their backs, a package of hamburger and a twelve case of Keystone Light.

   I believe that demons love company. They thrive on it, grow like primordial chemical connections until they burst into life and devour you.

   I got drunk with my father for the first time ever that night. I figured a guy’s house burns down, alcoholic or not, it’s time for a beer. My mother was in my bedroom, taking a nap. My father and I talked about stuff. We were watching something on the Discovery Channel and he told me that he thinks, when you die, your Soul travels to “all those different Universes.” I thought that was very poetic.

   I believe demons are manipulative.

   Perspective changes when you’re drunk. I felt close to him. We were bonding, we were hanging out, commiserating over the loss of a cumulative one-hundred and twenty years of possessions with some beer; with the thing that used to make him abusive and mean.

   We were also very hungry. I made the best tacos ever, using the hamburger he had bought along with the alcohol. Together we split the twelve case.

   I believe in the demon of entropy. Without the energy of love and supportiveness we stagnate. The only power humans have in this universe is them. Humanity isn’t an island, it’s an archipelago; we’re all within swimming distance. But you have to keep fighting entropy or you drown.

   Two days ago, my father drank a bottle of wine in front of us. Yesterday we had an intervention. He took it as well as was expected. The sixty-two year old man turned, an instant after hearing me say that we love him and need to talk about his drinking, into a thirteen year old boy. His only response to the words I and my mother and sister said to him were, “yeah.” My mother brought up two things: going back to AA and looking up information about the VA’s Behavioral Health Center. He said, “I have one little glass of wine and you wanna send me to the crazy house?”

   He went through two more stages. He got up and walked out of the apartment, swearing. We didn’t go after him like he wanted. When that didn’t work, he came back and went straight to bed. We didn’t leave him alone like he wanted. We told him that we get that he’s feeling attacked but we weren’t attacking him. We asked him to please tell us how he feels, does he think he needs to change, does he want to? He just told us he would go to the VA “’cause that’s what you guys want.”

   This morning he said nothing. I came home from working a night shift at work and he was already up, sitting on the loveseat watching Fox News. I asked him how he was doing, he closed his eyes and was silent. I went to bed and was startled awake by my mother telling me that they were going to the Behavioral Center. This was at twelve-thirty. It’s now almost ten-thirty p.m. and he’s been waiting all day to get a room. He didn’t say good-bye to my mother when she dropped him off; wouldn’t let her go with him.

   I believe demons can be fought, and I hope my dad wins.