What are the pillars of our society?
Those who make decisions on our behalf, those who enforce those decisions and those who report them to us:
They are all institutions whose existences are based on beliefs they do not accept
any dissension from.
Government – we are legitimate and all of our actions are legitimate
Churches – our dogma is correct and you will be punished in the next life if you disobey
The military – our wars are justified and you are not patriotic if you say otherwise
The media – what we say is true, we hide nothing important and if you disagree, you are a nut.
The institutions control public discussion by labeling thoughts that would harm their existence. The following questions will never be answered by any of these pillars:
Government – What is national security and what types of information are really hidden to the public for this reason?
Churches – Can you prove that the leader of your religion really existed?
The military – How many soldiers would you recruit if you told them the truth about why we were sending them to war?
The media – How often are you pressured into dropping stories and who pressures you?
To get these questions answered, we need another actor to join the debate. Many fear the institutions and their enormous power and do not ask why our society functions as it does.
But we need the questions answered.
Almost every debate, whether about something like guns (especially in light of recent reported shootings in the national news) or butter (like the perpetual debate of how much money to devote to the military) starts off with at least one of the false beliefs stated above. In short, the debate gets it wrong IN THE FIRST PLACE.
Be a part of a public that reasonably questions what we hear. Disregard those who state beliefs but do not back them up or who refuse to answer your questions. This is how we collectively will get these questions answered. Then we can discuss the details.
Many people laugh when I suggest that people connected to the government lied to the public about the events of 9/11.
But when I say politicians lie, or members of the Supreme Court lie, or that public officials lie about other matters, the same people nod their heads and agree enthusiastically.
Why is that?
It has to do with needs. If one determines that they need something, they tend to hold on to it more tightly than something they could do without. This attitude is simple human nature.
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (see picture), a person’s first set of needs are the most basic: we all need to breathe, drink water, eat food, etc. If we are dependent (or believe we are dependent) upon someone else to provide these necessities, we would not likely question that person or antagonize them. We could be saying goodbye to our lives!
Once a person achieves this first set of needs, this theory tells us, they are able to handle the next set, which is about the security of: one’s person, employment, health, etc. If one does not feel secure about themselves and about their position in society, they will not be able to move up the “ladder” of the hierarchy and make friends or feel self-confidence.
“Rocking the boat” and questioning those who provide security, such as agents of our government, jeopardizes one’s ability to become a confident and social person. It may not be the same as being deprived of water, but one who openly doubts those charged with providing security risks social suicide!
No wonder a majority of people still trust our government with the responsibility of protecting us from attack, despite overwhelming evidence that the events of 9/11 were a hoax! It is far safer to “settle” for accusing politicians of lying and cheating because there is no fear of retaliation or alienation for espousing these views.
Yes, we all understand the advantage of safety: one does not have to lift a finger.
Imagine the possibility of afterlife. This idea goes beyond one’s security on the temporary home of Planet Earth. It goes to eternal life.
Imagine a deity who records your every thought and action. Imagine your destination after life going favorably in one direction and horribly in another direction. Imagine this deity having control over which way you go.
Many of those who are willing to speak out against the actions of those charged with running our government are unwilling to speak up about certain religions that threaten eternal insecurity to those that question the deity.
There is something missing in the Maslow’s theory. Somewhere after we get our water and our food, we need to grasp the right to ask questions and to obtain answers. The idea of either trusting our leaders blindly to protect us or to face alienation is not sufficient for any of us to function in a world of deception and lies.
That’s my theory. We need choices that reflect our needs, not our fears.
Some people belong to a religion and their beliefs give them all the answers they need. Good for them.
I do not have that kind of belief. With this book, I explore answers to many questions I have had, such as: Is there a God? Is there life after death? What is virtue and what does one do if they believe that a god does not show virtue?
The characters in my book cannot get any answers from the Christian God. So they ask a saint, instead.
St. Peter turns out to be a reasonable person who listens to and converses with non-believers. If he does not know the answer to a question, he says, "I don't know." He shows a willingness to change his mind even on deeply-held beliefs when shown valid evidence.
Believers in Christianity are not criticized in St. Peter's Choice. But believers and non-believers alike will see an articulate case against the supposed God of this religion.
Assertions by Christians:
There is a God.
He is my God.
There are no other Gods.
Those who believe as I do are rewarded after death.
Everyone else fails to get the reward.
I know people who believe in this manner. Many of them are, from my point of view, good people. Some are not.
The novel, St. Peter’s Choice, asks the reader to assume, for the sake of argument, the truth of this set of assertions. It then challenges the reader to decide if this is a God they would choose.
Through the novel, interesting questions come up:
Is God good?
Is heaven a desirable place?
Does hell exist?
Why does the Old Testament God have so many capital offenses?
What does one do if one’s reason leads them to disbelieve in God?
St. Peter’s Choice will be available on Amazon and other stores soon!
As a child, there was a phrase I had to say every day…
ONE NATION UNDER GOD
My kindergarten class says there is a God, but my parents don’t. Why should I recite this pledge?
BECAUSE I SAID SO
The principal says I must say it. Maybe he is wrong.
YOU’RE A LOSER* IF YOU BELIEVE THAT
I tried to trust God, but my friend died in a car accident.
GOD MUST HAVE HAD A PLAN
Then I do not care for God.
FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD…
Then why does he let innocent people die?
Faith in what? A God I cannot see? A Bible I read and do not believe?
ONE NATION UNDER GOD
My nation sends troops to fight wars that make no sense.
OUR GOVERNMENT WOULD NEVER DO THAT
Where are the weapons of mass destruction?
I CANNOT REVEAL MY SOURCES
SUPPORT THE TROOPS
I support the troops coming home and for all of them to stop supporting wars based on lies.
THE TERRORISTS DID IT
What terrorists are you talking about?
I CANNOT REVEAL MY SOURCES
Who can I trust?
FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD...
I give up. Is there something you can tell me not connected to God or country?
"RAYMOND SHAW IS THE KINDEST, BRAVEST, WARMEST, MOST WONDERFUL HUMAN BEING I'VE EVER KNOWN IN MY LIFE."**
*or a communist, a traitor, a conspiracy theorist, etc.
**from The Manchurian Candidate, a movie based on the novel by Richard Condon
This excerpt appears in Dean Hartwell's A Fan's Folklore: Six Seasons of Triumph, Tragedy and Tough Luck, available on Amazon
There was a time in my life I especially remember that in which I should have said something.
I was in high school and in my English class, one of my classmates (I will call him Tex) made comments about his Christian beliefs on an almost daily basis. We were in a public school and most of the students had the patience to listen to what came off as religious dogmatism.
Others in the class hounded him, told him to shut up and jeered whenever he would start to say something. I sat there in an emotional straightjacket until one day, after class, I started crying.
I felt bad for the fact he was being picked on but did not know quite what to say in class. It took me years, but now I have constructed an imaginary dialogue which I could have started to get the class to understand Tex’s background:
Me: Tex, where are you from?
Me: Are you Baptist or Methodist? (Sorry for the stereotype, but it is close to the truth)
Me: Did you attend church every Sunday?
Me: Did everyone else in your neighborhood go?
Me: Did anyone ever challenge the doctrines of the church?
Tex: I never heard of anyone doing that.
With my background of having spent several summers in Texas visiting my grandparents, I had an understanding of how most people raised in the South (and especially those who still live there) think about religious and political matters.
I could have told my classmates that people in the South devoutly believe as they do just as much as non-religious people believe. Attacking a person’s beliefs will get us nowhere. It is better to simply ask a few questions and create a dialogue. No one should be made to feel left out.
A man in Phoenix, Arizona has held weekly religious gatherings in his backyard with as many as forty people. The local government cited him for building and safety code violations that apply to churches. His appeals have been exhausted and he now faces sixty days in jail plus three years of probation.
The man complains that the government is taking away his “freedom of religion.”
Is it really?
What would he say if a fire erupts near the backyard and not all of his congregation can get out of there in time?
Read the full story here.
In Ramona E. Rees’ memoir, Miracle Baby, she frames her personal story with the background of a revival preacher for a father and a devout Seventh Day Adventist for a mother.
Her own character allows the reader to see a number of contradictions within the family that move the book along rapidly. The real miracle is not that of her birth, but rather how she remained sane and able to live a productive life of her own.
The preacher father, expected to speak the Adventist message to his audience, privately reveals his own disbelief with many parts of that message. Ramona observes her father’s kindness toward others and learns to evaluate the conduct of others in developing her own beliefs.
As Ramona goes to school and meets children of other backgrounds, she wants more and more to be a part of the “world” that her mother tells her to avoid, such as novel reading, watching movies and dancing. Every challenge by Ramona to her mother’s steadfast reliance upon the message of the religion’s Prophetess allows the reader to glimpse into the mind of a child wanting to affirm her own ideals.
Interestingly, Rees calls the memoir a novel. And it reads like one, as her stories build upon one another and develop conflicts between Ramona and each of her parents. How can her father continue to preach messages of which he doubts? How long will her mother attempt to control her life using religion as a cover? What will Ramona decide to do with her life and what if it does not square with what her mother wants?
Rees answers each of these questions with a conclusion that contains unexpected events. She finds the soul of her character in the process. Her difficult childhood has brought about character, which moves her towards her personal destiny.
I recommend this book to all, especially to those who are interested in studying character development and the ways in which religion can be misused to the detriment of children.