Shimoniac Jones

I didn't lose my mind – it fled in terror.

Archive for the tag “live and let live”

Jihad This…

So the big international news story this week concerns `Al Qaeda in Yemen’, invading a stronghold of the great enemy of Islam and killing a score of unbelievers who were armed with that most devastating weapon… A pen.

I’m talking of course about a bunch of terrorists killing cartoonists who worked at Charlie Hebdo, a French satiric magazine that uses cartoons to lampoon politicians, celebrities, and others who find themselves in the crosshairs.  The so-called reason for this unreasonable attack was that the magazine had published cartoons that were deemed by these skid marks of humanity to be `insulting to Islam’ and `disrespectful of The Prophet Mohammed’, or maybe that was vice versa.

As sad as it sounds, the attack, per se, did not surprise me.  These scum have shown, again and again and again, that they are ready, willing, and able to commit any atrocity, for any reason, real or imagined.  What does it say about your, for want of a better word, movement, that what you’re best known for is blowing up innocent bystanders, kidnapping unarmed schoolgirls, and beheading journalists?

Of course, the blood hadn’t even dried yet, before the usual suspects were bleating in front of the cameras about how `this isn’t true Islam’ and `moderate Muslims deplore these activities’.

Seems to me, I’ve this before; many times.

I live in Canada, and back on October 20, 2014, a Canadian soldier, Patrice Vincent, and an unnamed comrade were run down by a man who then called 911 to dedicate his atrocity to Allah.  The Parliament Hill shootings two days later, which killed another Canadian soldier, Nathan Cirillo, was committed by a man who professed the Muslim faith, and who left a video explaining his motives, which included a reference to his religious persuasion.

So, as much as they would have you believe that they don’t support this aberrant behaviour, the fact is that it continues.  The very fact that these butt nuggets are somehow able to acquire weapons, ammunition, computer up-links, and the like shows that they are funded by someone.  Somebody has to know who they are and where they are.  Maybe it’s time for the moderates to put their money where their mouth is and start pressuring their friends, family, and other contacts to give the radicals up.

If they don’t… Well, then they’re just like other politicians, all sizzle and no bacon.

(N)O Canada

A group of “Prominent Canadian Women” have crawled out of the woodwork to float the idea of changing Canada’s national anthem.  Apparently the line “in all our sons command”, is insufficiently feminist-friendly.

As a son, I acknowledge that the lyrics, as currently exist, do not tend toward the gender-neutral and a small tweak to “in all of us command”, or similar, might be justified.  What asses me up at the moment is the other nuts, wrapping themselves in the national flag, falling out of their trees.

Militant atheists demand that God be removed from the anthem, reactionaries thunder, “but it’s always been that way”, pacifists quibble at the concept of guarding, Feminists cry that it’s male-chauvinist, and Aboriginals…  Well “native land” and all that.

I did some research on the English language version of O Canada.  Trying to find the ‘true’ version is like trying to find the original lineage of a mutt puppy.  I count four distinct versions, not including the one officially adopted in 1980 on the centenary of the original. The original version was a hymn written in 1880, in French.  The first English version wasn’t until about 1906, translated, loosely, from the French by a doctor from Toronto.

It is telling, though, that the French-language version of O Canada has remained unaltered from the original.

Previous to O Canada the de facto national anthem was The Maple Leaf Forever, but it got beat out in the popularity contest, so it sank.  Prior to even that Canadians sang God Save the King/Queen; but only in English Canada, I have no idea what, if anything, Québécois sang.

Given the controversy surrounding this tempest in a teapot, I opined that perhaps we should follow Spain’s example and have an instrumental only anthem with no official lyrics.  I got no takers.

A point here, if there is a point, is that living things change, grow and adapt.  Only the dead are unchanging.

Another point is that if you do somehow have a legitimate beef, express it calmly and rationally.  Do not wrap yourself in the flag and shrilly proclaim that you’re protecting your patriotic rights.

Donor Fatigue

I’m tired of natural and man-made disasters happening and someone coming on the radio, television, or whatever begging, pleading, or trying to guilt me out of my money. If that makes me sound uncaring, so be it. My sympathy gland has dried up.

What sparks this particular tirade is a local event that probably didn’t make the papers outside the area, but encapsulates the whole situation. A local family was burned out of their house, they had no content insurance on the house, and they are now being housed in a motel by a local charity until more permanent quarters can be arranged. They might be able to move back into their house, depends on what the fire investigators and the building inspector find. Hurry up and wait; now you’re in limbo.

The fact that they had no content insurance is only one of the things that stick in my throat. My mother, bless her, has always been a fanatic about making sure that you have insurance. She gave my sister a hard time until my sister got content insurance for her apartment. In fact, as I recall, my parents paid her first few premiums. My mother said, “Budget the insurance with the necessities, because insurance is a necessity.” Later Mom was proved correct as sis was burgled and had insurance to help replace the pilfered items.

A closer look at the family shows that the family doesn’t bear closer examination. It’s a single mother family; I read that with absolute neutrality, I’ve known single mothers where that’s the best choice. Mom is 34 years old, and her three sons are 17, 15, and 13; I raised an eyebrow at this. Of the four people living in that house, no two shared a last name. That final fact turned me off. I’m sorry, as shallow as that makes me, this woman’s lifestyle choices have succeeded in alienating me. The mother works part-time, as does her oldest; kudos to her and him, but too little, too late.

The kicker is that the embers from the fire were barely cool when some local philanthropist-type was bleating about helping this poor underprivileged, deserving woman. To that end he/she/it had already opened a trust account to defray expenses and pay for moving, cleaning, or whatever. I hardly dare to think of what ‘whatever’ might encompass.

All of this is in microcosm, what I rail against in macrocosm.

When I was younger, I was the most credulous kid you could imagine as far as helping the `less fortunate’. It was about the first time the Ethiopian famine got world-wide airplay and we had celebrities flogging their particular pet charities. I collected my pennies and believed with all my heart that I was making a difference, after all adults were telling me so; and adults would never lie to a child.

Then, two years later, there was another famine in Africa and I gave again with my whole heart remembering the warm satisfied feeling I had gotten before. By the time the fourth famine came around, I was older and jaded; I felt guilty and bigoted for wondering if famines were some sort of African tribal ritual. I later found out that mockery aside, it is. Famines, plagues, earthquakes, civil wars, and inter tribal rivalries decimate and devastate populations and the usual suspects come out crying for aid, for assistance, for more and more money to solve the problem. The peoples of Africa seem determined to follow the same path as their ancestors, no matter that the path leads right over a cliff to extinction. All they seem to know about is handouts, shifting for themselves is something they’ve apparently become unfamiliar with.

This is actually the West’s fault. For decades, the rich West has felt vaguely guilty over its wealth as compared to other parts of the world. Especially a part they exploited vigorously and with great abandon; read `slavery’ and `colonialism’. So, what do you do about that vague feeling of guilt? Simple; throw money at it, get a warm satisfied feeling and go on with your life uninterrupted.

What we have forgotten is that money is not wealth. Money is a concept inherited from the ancients as a method of disposing of a surplus now and gaining a want or need later. Wealth is potable water, food, and shelter. By throwing money at the problem, we’re actually making the problem worse because when more money is available for the same limited amount of goods, the price of those goods goes up. This is called inflation. When you print more and more money to chase the same limited amount of goods because the price has gone up, this is called hyper-inflation. See Zimbabwe as a recent example.

By forcing our solutions onto other peoples’ problems, we make the situation worse and the people we’re trying to help either helpless, or resentful, or both. How do we address the problem? We do that by acknowledging that there is a problem. How do we fix the problem? Can the problem even be fixed? I don’t know, but I do know that you can’t just keep on doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. That’s the classic definition of insanity.

When you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always got.

Atheist Churches

That’s right friends and neighbours. You read correctly. There is a small but growing movement afoot world-wide to create churches, or something, free from the tyranny of religion.

When I first heard about this brand spanking new phenomenon, all I could think was `everything old is new again’. Back in the nineteenth century there was a movement called the `Rationalist Church’, where atheist ‘preachers’ went from gathering to gathering denouncing God. It died out early in the twentieth century as atheism itself waned in Western society. This new movement seems to be a kinder, gentler version. Those involved simply gather together and socialize with those of their kind.

Humans are social animals. Atheists, denied the community of faith-based churches, need feedback and approval from those like themselves; so they have chosen to recreate a familiar and even comforting experience. Also, since life in heavily urbanized areas tends to be isolating, these gatherings provide what could be called face time with people who acknowledge your existence.

Proving the social nature of humans, many of these `churches’ have reached out to others like themselves, some have reached out to the broader ecumenical community, and a few have begun stirring the pot to see what kind of shit they can disturb.

They may be social clubs, but they’re not merely social clubs. Most examples that I’ve been able to research have a charitable and philanthropic bent. Some raise money for local charities, some for a national or international charity. They have speakers who talk about living ethically without religion, being kind to your neighbour, and that sort of thing.

There’s another fact about humans, we don’t like change. We prefer things to stay familiar. It’s all about evoking the familiar and comforting rhythm of ritual. The ritual, for want of a better word, of most of these groups seems to follow that of religious churches with a lecture, discussion, singing, and donating.

What I find highly amusing is the fact that these gatherings, which are for all intents and purposes social clubs, call themselves churches. It’s either an ironic misappropriation of nomenclature, a cynical thumb in the eye of the religionists, or an oblivious Pavlovian response; the last being that they call it a church because that’s what they’ve always called it.

To see some of these atheist churches in action, I have a couple of links to follow: here and here. I’m especially impressed by the fact that the Secular Church has Ten Commandments, just like the Christian Bible. On the other hand the Satanic Church managed to codify eleven.

So, since the motto of the militant agnostic is, “I don’t know, and neither do you.”, I’ll leave these fellow travellers to their mumbo jumbo and just wish them all the very best.

Tell me what you think.  Is this a good thing?  Is it a bad thing?  Or is it just some passing fad?

Religious vs. Spiritual

Ever since I was a young iconoclast, I’ve been thinking about this topic and pondering over it. I vacillated between the tags of religious and pious before settling on pious because pious has a certain feel. Piousness seems more extreme than mere religiousness. Piety, in fact, suggests, at least to me, zealotry; a definition of which is: fanatical partisanship. I’ve always been a little cautious of zealots, they’ll do anything they think they have to do to achieve their aims.

Case in point, a couple of weeks ago my mother and father went to a doctor’s appointment. In the lobby of the office building that held this doctor there were a random selection of magazines and other reading materials; Dad said that it looked as though most of them were forgotten by previous visitors.

One of the magazines that was there was an Evangelical Christian example. It was a slim publication, a medium grade periodical. Inside were a series of articles aimed at helping the reader live their life the way the authors thought they should. I managed to read less than a quarter of it before the cognitive dissonance almost ruptured my skull. The two main thoughts running through my head, chasing each other in circles, were: “How stupid are they?” and “How stupid do they think I am?”

There wasn’t a topic that was safe from their rigid, blinkered, dogmatic approach. I saw articles denouncing evolution, linking secularism with social and financial ruin in Europe, and one comparing the Titanic disaster with not believing sufficiently in God. There were ten articles in it but I could only stomach three before my personal limit for intolerance was reached. My father, Archon’s Den, actually managed to get all the way through it without having a stroke or killing anyone.

Clearly the writers, editors, and publisher are very religious people. Perhaps it’s unfair, but personally I can see some of them presiding at a witch hunt or book burning; the remainder would just watch.

There was a local man of God, now deceased, who wrote a weekly column in the local paper about a variety of topics usually based on some happening in a local church or in the wider religious communities. He was broad-minded and attended services for other denominations and even other faiths. He also studied them and applied lessons learned from them into his own life and sermons.

Now, being militant agnostic, I read his columns religiously. I think it’s always a good thing to know what they’re up to; it’s like with children, when they get real quiet, you know they’re doing something they shouldn’t be.

The topic of one of his columns was about how religion could be a force both for great good and for great evil. The column was, as they almost always were, intelligent, well thought out, and insightful.

He wanted to find a way to encourage the good and negate the bad. The problem of course was that he was inside the very box he was trying to examine the outside of. I wrote him a letter after reading the column. I was disappointed, but not surprised, when I didn’t get a reply. For a supposedly retired minister he was a busy man and surely received dozens of pieces of mail each week as a result of his columns, his ongoing activities, etc.

This is a letter I wrote him; it’s from about eight years ago.

Dear Sir: I am a regular reader of your weekly column and I always have to admire your self-honesty and your struggle to find greater truths in the familiar. This past Saturday’s column was a prime example of both and I would like to share with you an insight I had several years ago on this subject.

Please pardon any apparent errors in word usage that you may find. I have found that certain words mean different things to different people, and the words that I use have a particular meaning to me. So, to you these words may not mean the same as they do to me, but I think that you will be able to determine what I mean by context, if not by denotation.

I have found that there is a difference between being “pious” and being “spiritual”. It may sound self-contradictory, or even counter-intuitive, but I have perceived a difference.

Pious people burn books, and people, because they are closed-minded and afraid of any idea that hasn’t been given them by a religious leader. A spiritual person reads those books and listens to those people because there might be truth to learn from them.

Pious people have and will commit the most heinous atrocities because `those people’ don’t believe what we do and are therefore, by definition, evil and beyond the pale. Spiritual people will only try to persuade and teach by example the correct path.

Pious people are certain that since `unbelievers’ are evil, they will go straight to Hell to suffer all the pain and torment; the pious even experience a certain malicious pleasure in the thought of the “heathens’” suffering. Spiritual people believe in their hearts that people of good intent, whatever their religion, will go to Heaven, Paradise, Nirvana, or whatever, and that people of evil intent…, well the Spiritual hopes they get better soon so that they can join the party.

Pious people blow things up and kill people to make their point. A spiritual person will, at the most, lecture in a firm voice, or set themselves on fire to make their point, making sure that the flames won’t spread.

Pat Robertson and Osama Bin Laden are both, to my way of thinking, Pious people. Mother Teresa and Mohandas Gandhi are both, also to my way of thinking, Spiritual people. Therein lies the difference. Pious people believe that people serve the church. Spiritual people believe that the church serves the people.

Perhaps that is all that needs to be said, all the rest is window dressing.

Yours etc.

Shimoniac

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