Increasing the Nones

Since I’ve been short on time and ideas and motivation to engage in the insanity of the world lately, I decided to peruse the drafts folder to see if there might be anything in there that could be polished enough that I’d be okay with it seeing the light of day.

In the course of my usual early morning reading (internet-driven though it may be) I kept coming back to articles about a white, American-born terrorist shooting up a women’s health clinic in which the media/government refused to use the appropriate terminology to describe the act- and the actor. Terror is terror is terror. And terrorists know no colour, nor any one specific, ridiculous and inhuman(e) ideology.

The fact that most of the candidates for the Republican nomination for President of those United States have been unwilling to remotely acknowledge their complicity in this act of terror- what with the recent Anti-Planned Parenthood propaganda campaigns that they have waged- makes me want to bite something. (If you haven’t seen it already, check out Valerie Tarico’s great post about stochastic terrorism).

And then it happened again, today. Another mass shooting in that place that insists on clinging to its might-as-well-be-religious fervor regarding its ‘right’ to have guns. And already we’re being hit with the early talk about ‘mental illness’ rather than acts of terror.

So when I came across this post in the folder, I figured what the hell. Let’s have another chat about putting away all the childish things that accompany blind adherence to misunderstood and misquoted Bronze Age stories and social pre/proscriptions for living. It mightn’t be the most festive of topics, but the irrationality of belief that too-often comes along with the season is sticking in my craw in a particularly offensive manner at the moment. The post’s original iteration dates waaaaaay back to June. Tellingly, I didn’t have to change it much to reflect my horror about the events of today.

Well over six months ago, while running out and about this town of mine (and that little town called Niagara-on-the-Lake- we had a visitor from across the Atlantic and a birthday being celebrated, so there has been much activity around these parts), I happened upon a street performer in the Distillery District. He was here as part of something called ‘Circus North’- and was one among a variety of performers who entertained the crowds on a lovely May day.

This is him: The Fireguy. In addition to the fire tossing and eating and that sort of stuff, he kept up a running dialogue with the crowd- largely tourists- and talked about his Circus-training days. One of his teachers, early on in his juggling career, advised him to choose one thing and learn to do it reallyreally well. Fireguy choose the Devil Sticks, and, after many years of honing his skills, counted himself a master.

The second element of the teaching came into play at that point. If you can learn to do one thing reallyreally well, then you can apply that same ability to learn to do things to other things you might like to get good at. Awesome, if simple, advice.

But it made me think. I’ve been suffering from a complete and total lack of focus lately. It’s been all but impossible to pick a subject and see it through to the end. Which means that my creativity has been somewhat stunted and that I’m not really being all that productive or progressive.

Which isn’t good.

In an attempt to re-focus, I’m going to try to shift things away from the one-note venting I’ve been stuck on in the recent past, and get back to my own, particular way of looking at the world and attempting to affect change through the application of those things I’ve learned reallyreally well.

Upon examination, I’ve realized that the main thing I know reallyreally well, is the thing I’ve spoken about least around here, lately. I’m talking about education the and effective and affective communication of the stories we tell ourselves and others. Caught up in that knowledge is my awareness of the insane level of  access to information that should lead us toward the path that will allow for complete and total secularization as we figure out that those human-constructed stories (and their starring characters) of division- religion, race, ethnicity- mean less-than-nothing when stacked up against our shared humanity and the answers we have figured out for ourselves.

Some of my more recently reblogged posts were prompted by the existence of something called ‘Openly Secular Day’- and were my reiterated shout-outs to the fact that I completely and absolutely KNOW that religion HAS to be removed from the business of politics and governance. The frequently-hypocritical double-speak of those who claim religiosity (of whatever stripe) as the only viable marker and maintainer of ‘ethical behaviour’ has to be shouted down once and for all.

It happened in Ireland in May. In the most wonderfully human way I have seen in a long time. Irish Ex-Pats (Ex-Padraigs?) flocked home to vote ‘yes’ to equality and fairness and the legal acknowledgement that everyone must be afforded the same rights and privileges in a fair and democratic society.

What a thing to behold.

Superstition and prejudice and spurious arguments in favour of ‘tradition’ and unchangeable ‘definitions’ were left in the dust of what is right and what is good. By the PEOPLE. Not as an act of government, but as an emphatic nod towards that which is undeniably the correct direction for the country and its citizens, by its citizens. Not its institutions- and certainly not that one that has held sway over too much policy-making in Ireland for far too long. There are still things that could do with some changing tout de suite, but wow. That was capital-C Cool.

You know what I know a whole lot about? I know that we need to enact similar scenarios whole-scale and worldwide. ASAP.

We need to update our stories and how we see our narratives. You know, those things that we tell ourselves to try to make sense of the often-inexplicable and -troublesome. It is happening- we saw that in Ireland- but those steps forward are also producing resulting inclinations toward extreme steps backward.

A while ago on q (note the move from the capitalized letter to the lower case- marking its new beginning with Shad taking the helm), Greg Proops was talking about his latest project, The Smartest Book in the World. An extension of his popular podcast, the book references all kinds of important information- and talks about why we so often take the easy way out and resort to believing/doing the stupid, rather than making the intelligent choices, or even acknowledging that there is better, more accurate information out there.

“Stupidity,” he says, “continues to be a big seller. It’s easy and it’s fun for people… We have people in this country who want to invade Iran- which is an extraordinary poor idea- and we’re mad at the President for making peace.”

He’s also vocally supportive of equality- and while some of the examples of the anti-women culture we take for granted might seem, to some (small) minds, innocuous, when he, with his comedic voice, points them out the inequity is made laughable in its extremity and has to be disconcerting to even the most delusional proponents of ‘men’s rights’. He believes that the lack of respect and equality afforded women around the world is the cause of all the world’s problems.

Cool. And hard to argue. In fact, one of my big heroes- there ARE still people worthy of the name- Jimmy Carter, has had a whole lot to say on this subject, himself. And he’s dedicating his remaining time to making sure that these issues get addressed.

Greg’s discussion of the Oxford comma? Not so much. I have to disagree with that bit.

Still. So very refreshing to hear any sort of encouragement of things that are smart.

Especially in light of nonsense like this. I know that there are bigger examples of cray-cray out there in this big ol’ world right now, but most of them are just too overwhelming for me to be wrapping my brain around addressing and/or I’m still trying to figure out a way to restructure my discussion of them (that whole C51 debacle, for example) so that I can aid in affecting a better overall outcome.

This one, I can handle. And it’s in keeping with my crusade to stop blaming the devil for all those things to which we refuse to accept our due culpability.

Seriously, Priest-dude? “There is no such thing as ‘innocently playing with demons’.” ?!?!?

Talk about playing to the stupid. And subscribing to the stupid. And demanding that others- over whom you hold some inexplicable influence- adhere to those same values of stupidity.

Fear-mongering. Again. It’s everywhere. If it’s not masses of ‘terrorists-disguised-as-refugees’ that should have us terrified, it’s supernatural beings that are waiting to pounce on unsuspecting children playing with pencils. (I do have to say that I was astonished to learn that any child might be able to access a pencil. I don’t think I’ve bought a pencil in years- and I still tend to write things in longhand- much to the dismay of those who have to decipher my handwriting).

Do I really need to re-rant about the absurdity of externalizing evil as a monster who has set himself against a deity that opts not to defeat said evil, but who would rather let the monster to continue to use his influence and god-given wiles to tempt the creation that the deity claims to love?

Do we really need to be reminded how ludicrous and repugnant it is to frighten children with stories about and threats of eternal damnation if they decide to play a game with pencils and paper? I, for one, am kind of nostalgically pleased to hear that children might be using something other than a tablet or an X-Box or a smartphone as a way to entertain themselves while learning how to play well with others.

Enough with the imaginary boogeymen. There are real ones to spare in this actual plane of existence (apparently in famous Quiverfull families who are given television shows, and people who shoot up concert halls, and women’s health centres, and places offering services to developmentally disabled children…). We needn’t be inventing non-human monsters as warnings. We can do enough damage without ascribed supernatural characteristics.

Propaganda trumping fact- its skillful employment is reaching ever more lofty and ever more dangerous heights.

No more hedging about- trying to sugar-coat reality and mollycoddle those who refuse to let go of the fictional stories that maintain a fictional status quo. It was never ‘better’ than now- unless, as Greg Proops noted, ‘you are a white guy named Gordon’.

I’m not ‘angry’. I’m not ‘militant’. I’m done being ‘reactionary’.

I am fed up, though. And I’m done with letting people get away with using ancient stories and supernatural characters to justify inequity and abuse, while attempting to control the bodies and minds of other people. I’m done up with politicians who uncreate the stories we are being told by those scientists who examine and seek to understand our world as they move forward with their own agendas as means of maintaining control over the credulous population.

I study people- and the stories we tell. There are narratives that should be expressed. Stories needing to be told. I’m not a politician (thank goodness). I’m not interested in the compromise of policy-making and bureaucratic maneouvering required to make things happen on an implementation level. Especially since that level rarely represents the best interests of the people, en masse, who will deal with the implementations once they are enacted.

Lawrence Krauss accepted the Humanist of the Year award earlier this year, and delivered this speech in response. It is one of the most important things I’ve read in a long time.

“I want to argue here that it is possible to imagine a future without the tyranny of religious myth and superstition, and its chokehold on supposed morality. And it is possible to imagine such a future soon. We are never more than a generation away from change. The key is reaching the next generation when they are young… The most important goal in educating our children should be to encourage them to question everything, to not be satisfied with unsubstantiated claims, and to be skeptical of a priori beliefs, either their own, their parents’, or their teachers’.  Encouraging skeptical thinking in this way, as well as directing a process by which questions may be answered—the process of empirical investigation followed by logical reasoning—helps create lifelong learners and citizens who can responsibly address the demands of a democratic society.”

Contrary to what some believers- of whatever stripe might say- us atheist-types do not lack meaning and purpose- and we certainly don’t want for moral centres and empathetic understanding of our fellow humans.

Gleb Tsipursky, PhD,  has made this reality a focus of his research- as both an historian and as part of his interest in modernity and popular culture.

“My research, and that of others, illustrates how secularly-oriented societies provide social institutions that offer a source of meaning and purpose. The focus on religion as the primary source of life purpose in the United States is a historical contingency, one that may shift over time. Indeed, there is a growing number of “nones,” people without any religious affiliation in American society, especially among younger adults. Many nones, and especially college aged youth, are seeking for answers to the question of life purpose that do not necessarily include a G/god as part of the equation. Likewise, there are growing numbers of secularly-oriented venues through which they might  find the answers to their questions.”

It’s important to remember that the reality that is the “contingency” of history is also, by definition, the opposite of “inevitability”. In addition to the faulty assertion that the US is a ‘Christian Nation’ (that is pretty clearly against the writings/purposes of the Founding Fathers, the way I read the history) the many contingencies of US history, thus far, have led to the belief that gun ownership is a ‘right’- and something that is to be held to with all the fastness of stubborn, deity-given ideals about freedom.

But the contingencies (those things that are liable to happen as results of what is happening/what has happened) of NOW, in almost-20-freakin-16– are things like education and rational thinking and the ability to collect and widely communicate statistics and other pertinent information and use them all together to further our understanding about things like an individual’s ‘right’ to possess firearms. One of the takeaways we need to absorb from the events of the last couple of weeks? The knowledge that historically out-of-context assertions should not cannot do not take priority over human lives. One person’s perceived right to own a gun is not more important than another person’s life.

We need to change the narratives. Which means knowing the past and seeing how it got us here- to the present- while letting the exigencies of our current societal and political and morally humanistic realities help us to determine appropriate future courses.

We are seeing some positive strides. As I write this, people across my City on the Lake- and across this country that I love- are getting ready to open their homes and hearts to other humans- in defiance of those who would rule by fear and have us continue to view them as ‘other’ and, therefore, dangerous.

The fact that people are collecting resources to help them transition, and planning committees to welcome them with open arms, is far more in keeping with my understanding of what this season is supposed to symbolize. A little different than fighting (literally) for a ‘great deal’ on a piece of merchandise that we’ve been told we HAVE to have. ‘Stupid’ isn’t the only thing we’re continuing to buy. And it’s A LOT different than watching yet another community picking up the pieces after yet another example of ideology-based violence run amok.

If we are going to tell ourselves stories, why can’t they be ones like the first example, rather than the other two?

Being an honest student of humanity, I’m not confident that we can do all that much to further expedite increasing the nones across the world. (Although I sososo sincerely wish that wasn’t the case. But we should, at the least, be leaving the outdated characters of the stories of yore back in the bad old days from whence they came. They have no place in our politics or our human dialectic. We will find answers- better answers- among ourselves, the real live people of this world, to help us respond to our contemporary contingencies and responsibly address the demands of our societies.

Money, power, holy roads
Freedom puts my faith in none of the above

If there’s a time, that we ever see
The nature of life in reality
‘Cause I want to be there
To kick at the answer 

27 comments on “Increasing the Nones

    • colemining says:

      He’s so right, Booksy (I quite like Bob Rae- he used to be my MP). No ‘god’ seems to be stepping forward to solve our human-made problems. Time to suck it up and take responsibility and progressive action. Prayer isn’t going to get us out of this quagmire. And until it does, as I posted on my fb page yesterday, ‘future travel plans confirmed: anywhere but the US.’ xo

  1. bethbyrnes says:

    Where do I begin? Shall I simplify and say YES, yes, y-e-s. Bill Maher said America is a stupid country. I know that sounds harsh, but I do think we are acting stupid when we continue to allow the inmates to run the asylum. I have already written about my commitment to the right to bare armsy. I don’t want to have to walk around with a longgun slung over my shoulder and sleep with one under my pillow to protect myself. Ridiculous. But that is what we are going to hear today. From the usual suspects manipulating the sheeple down here. My one happy thought is that now I am sure Ms. Clinton will win. At least that is some small comfort. These nuts are marching themselves off a cliff.

    • colemining says:

      Oh how I hope you’re right, Beth. The mess of Republican contenders have a whole lot to answer for, if you ask me. We may not have enough information to really know what happened yesterday, yet, but responsibility for the Planned Parenthood shooting can fairly be laid at the door of the propaganda machine that has been spitting lies into the ears of the stupid.

      I haven’t a clue what needs to happen to change the course of this idiocy- but Ms. Clinton as POTUS is at least a move in the right direction.

      Personally, I’ve drawn a pretty definitive line in the sand. As much as I loathe the rhetoric of many of the ‘New Atheists’, I won’t entertain any reference to fairy tale characters and their putative (in)actions in this REAL world of ours. I can no longer, in all conscience, handle people coming at me with their evocations of god(s). Nope. Not listening anymore. Done with that nonsense. Keep your imaginary friends out of the lives of the rest of us. Please and thank you.

      They can all march themselves off that there cliff. The sooner the better.

      Thank you for your visit- and comment. As always it’s good to be reminded that not all of the people south of that border are empty-headed sheeple 😉 xo

      • bethbyrnes says:

        Well, you would think that the contradiction would occur to these fantasists: if God is in control, why do you need guns?

        We won’t even discuss the idea that Jesus as he is depicted in the New Testament would never have condoned a gun, much less used one.

        Stupid people. It is embarrassing.

      • colemining says:

        I don’t think that anything like logic is remotely applicable when it comes to this sort of thinking. Which is why I refuse to even enter into dialogue with anyone who extends that sort of ‘argument’ any longer. Done.

        Ideas/ideals trumping actual human lives? Yeah. Zero justification there. I’m so glad it’s Friday… Have a good weekend, Beth. xo

  2. bethbyrnes says:

    “arms” not “armsy”. sheesh.

  3. So much to comment on here, Cole but I’m going with this, ‘He believes that the lack of respect and equality afforded women around the world is the cause of all the world’s problems.’
    I think he’s on to something way bigger than ‘merely’ the way women are treated around the world. I’m believing more and more that, unless there is some redress of the balance of power, nothing will change for the good.
    I’ve just deleted a rant and I’ll leave it at that. It’s well past time for a change in perception in so many areas.x

    • colemining says:

      How much do we love Jimmy? So much wisdom- and the courage to speak his realized truth and acknowledge that they contradict his long-held beliefs. Would that more people had the wit to examine their own beliefs and find them likewise lacking.

      I’ll never ever get the gun thing. Not in a million years. Having to avoid the ‘news’ stories out there today- the few bits I’ve seen in passing have left me enraged.

      Change is slow. And if we’re going to hasten it along we need to commit to ridding ourselves of destructive and divisive narratives once and for all. I just can’t stand it. xo

  4. So sad, I’m just shaking my head. You know my beliefs, but I also support PP because they offer free medical care to women. Having said that, for me it’s about the growing gun violence in American, and still, individuals insist on the right to bear arms but refuse to adopt gun control laws that wouldn’t affect those individual rights because they listen to the NRA lobby who instills fear in the minds of those same Americans.

    Everyone should have to go through a background check and waiting period in order to purchase a gun – everyone. No one should be allowed to purchase a second-hand gun – no one – without the same background check and waiting period.

    I just don’t get it.

    • colemining says:

      Hi Susan! There’s one of those meme-things floating around out there that recommends that the regulations for gun-purchase should look more like the regulations to which women must adhere in some places in the US before they can get an abortion. The juxtaposition of the two things is quite poignant in its stark irony. The ‘counselling’, invasive questioning and physical examinations, and waiting periods that women are forced to undergo when making a choice about their own bodies and health versus that which is required of people looking to purchase lethal weapons?!?! It makes me cry. Seriously.

      People often ask what differentiates Canadians from Americans. I never used to give all that much thought to the question- I’m not all that interested in labels that describe/define differences, and, to be honest, with our proximity, I grew thinking that we are pretty much the same sort of people. Lately I’m finding that less-and-less true. I will never understand some of the things to which some Americans choose to hold fast- in spite of information that demonstrates the danger/racist/sexist/ageist/humanly unacceptable nature of those ‘values’ and ‘traditions’. Never.


      Thanks for checking in- and for your thoughtful comment. Have a lovely weekend! xo

      • You, too. I truly wish Canada and Europe would get together to form some sort of pact to publicly censure America for its lack of gun control.

        And would love to find that meme. Gonna start researching now. 🙂

      • colemining says:

        As much as I tend to agree with you, the truth is that our government is (traditionally- that last guy was something of an anomaly) hesitant to impose our opinions on how other countries choose to self-govern (in contrast to many of the policies of your governments), so I doubt that there will be intervention/censure of any real import or impact forthcoming. Unfortunately.

        I can’t get the meme to paste in the comments, but here is the text:

        “How about we treat every young man who wants to buy a gun like every woman who wants to get an abortion – mandatory 48-hour waiting period, parental permission, a note from his doctor proving he understands what he’s about to do, a video he has to watch about the effects of gun violence, an ultrasound wand up the ass (just because). Let’s close down all but one gun shop in every state and make him travel hundreds of miles, take time off work, and stay overnight in a strange town to get a gun. Make him walk through a gauntlet of people holding photos of loved ones who were shot to death, people who call him a murderer and beg him not to buy a gun.

        It makes more sense to do this with young men and guns than with women and health care, right? I mean, no woman getting an abortion has ever killed a room full of people in seconds, right?”

        Certainly there are some rhetorical fallacies in that argument, but emotionally, I agree with every last bit of it. Especially given the fact that I just read that your Senate just voted to block gun control, defund Planned Parenthood, and repeal significant parts of your public health care initiative. As much as I know and love a whole bunch of individual US citizens (present company included) I just will not understand how that sort of thing is possible. In 2015. In a supposedly-civilized, allegedly-advanced and -educated country. Nevernevernever will I understand. xo

      • colemining says:

        And just saw this on the Onion…

        I feel like if I don’t laugh I won’t be able to stop crying…

      • Wow. Yep. And all I can say is, “Amen.”

  5. Ste J says:

    From this side of the pond, the Republicans are a comedy party, well they would be were they a satire and not a party that some people actually stand behind, espousing its values. If the rite to carry arms is in the constitution then fair enough but more regulation would go along way, some freedoms need to be restructured shall we say.

    • colemining says:

      Oh, how I wish they were satire, Steve. Too many people seem to be taking them far too seriously for anything like comfort, IMHO.

      I will never understand the need to cling to the right of gun ownership. Never. The Constitution has been amended before- it’s past time they do this same to that little part of it.

      Thanks for the visit- hope things are good with you!

      • Ste J says:

        Most of these people generally seem sane until politics becomes a subject then it all becomes a bit bewildering.

        Times change and we should be constantly reviewing laws and ideas and tailoring them to the society we live in, there is no progression and history will record this.

        Things aren’t too bad with me, I’ll just keep going until things calm down which should be January time, all being well!

      • colemining says:

        I admit I have to wonder about the putative sanity (see my comment to John)- and you’re absolutely right. If we can’t acknowledge the anachronism of some of our ways of thinking, then we are more than doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past- we remain stuck in its irrelevancies and inequities.

        I hear you- the holiday season is upon us, and I’m already feeling overwhelmed! All the best for the holidays, if we don’t chat before then. Oh- and as a follow-up to your post re. ghost stories and Xmas… my holiday leisure is including a re-read of the collected works of Robertson Davies (one of our great Canadian literary treasures). He has a volume of short stories- called High Spirits – ghostly tales set in Massey College (at the University of Toronto) and written, originally, to be told at the College’s annual Gaudy Night celebrations. Wonderful, fun (and sometimes spooky) ghost stories. Highly recommended- in case your reading list is looking anemic… 🙂

      • Ste J says:

        Christmas is busier than usual this year which is strange as it should be easier this year but that is always the way of things it seems.

        My Canadian literature knowledge is woefully scant, it is an excuse to add more to my wishlist which is never a bad thing. WordPress and you wonderful bloggers ensure my tbr is never even approaching anaemic!

        Have an awesome Christmas, no doubt I shall be saying that to you again before the big day is upon us.

      • colemining says:

        I think you’ll love Robertson. Revisiting him is such a treat.

        Indeed, I’m sure we will chat before the holiday, but on the off chance we don’t (it’s creeping up SO quickly!) Happy Xmas to you and yours! xo

      • Ste J says:

        And the very merry same to you as well!

  6. ChgoJohn says:

    We are in such agreement, Cole. Far too much to highlight in one comment. I will say that I am very distraught over the direction some of the political combatants have taken. Scapegoating, fear-mongering, and false representation of the facts — Hell! Let’s just call them outright lies — have become the ways to success. Where is the moral outrage? Shootings at Planned Parenthood offices or abortion clinics are nothing short of domestic terrorism and the perpetrators should be treated as such. Anti-Moslem statements — calling for a Moslem database? — should be countered by more than a few comedic lines on late night television. People who are buying into the rhetoric are either ignorant of mid-20th century history or, perhaps, know it all too well. There’s a price to pay for such talk and, unfortunately, there are many fine, innocent people being targeted. A blogging friend just shared a post meant to help Moslem women when out in public. I’ve a mosque that just opened at the end of my block. I cannot believe the statements I’ve heard about “them”. One woman whom I’ve never seen, much less met before, went out of her way to confront me and rant about them. The campaigning will end next year. How long will the damage last?

    Lincoln, himself a Republican, wrote of “the better angels of our nature.” It’s time for the frontrunners of the Grand Old Party to re-acquaint themselves with the man and his ideals.

    • colemining says:

      You’ve hit on my biggest (un-articulated) concern, John. Other than the late night comedians, where are all the naysayers? Where is the outrage when supposed contenders for the highest office in the land demonstrate views that are overtly ignorant, racist, and divisive? How is no one yelling about the ridiculousness of NOT calling the Planned Parenthood shooting the terrorist act that it was?

      A couple of my friends have been attacked, here (much as I’m ashamed to admit that such things happen in Toronto), for their perceived religious/cultural affiliations. The difference I can see is that they have been supported as they stand for their rights and their freedoms by our media outlets and political leaders. Thankfully, the days of our idiot mayor and his ilk, along with our former PM and his attempts to divide the country along racist lines, seem to be behind us as we return to a path of progressiveness and inclusion.

      I’m hoping against hope that the same will be said in a year or so down in your neck of the woods. But, again, you’re right. Even when/if the ignorance is defeated, the damage may well be irrevocable. There’s a whole lot of history that demonstrates how hard it is to root out and replace horrific ideologies with those that are more human and humane in origin. As a fan of some of your past leaders (Lincoln would be one, FDR another), I am completely at a loss to explain the fact that portions of the US population can even entertain the idea of some of the current candidates as successors to their examples.

      Many thanks for your visit- and the thoughtful comment. I’m not exactly sure what we should be working/hoping for any longer, but I’m quite clear as to the unacceptable options.

  7. […] equally-ridiculous co-assertions, and get on with the business of being human. Total and complete secularization is the only direction for us to be […]

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