Fundamentalist Religion – A HUGE Worldwide Problem

fundamentalist religionI posted my thoughts on fundamentalist religion to Facebook and decided to share it here too… Glory!

I’m depressed. There is so much hatred in the world, and sadly, much of it stems from the fact that in the 21st Century, people are still killing each other over mythological religious bullshit that ignorant men dreamed up thousands of years ago. We are still killing each other over whose Imaginary Friend is better or more powerful! Here and now in the 21st Century! I would like to think that most of us know better than that now.

fundamentalist religionFundamentalist religion is a HUGE problem here in the US and throughout the world. Fundamentalist Christians routinely use their religion to hate on gays, transgender folks, and women. It is particularly nauseating to hear hatred against gays regularly preached from the pulpits, yet these hateful, bigoted religious assholes never say a word against eating shellfish or wearing clothes made of mixed fabrics, both of which are condemned by their ancient holy book.

fundamentalist religionChristianity has been anti-woman from the word “go”. According to the ridiculous creation myths in Genesis, it was the woman, Eve, who convinced Adam to eat the magic fruit from the magic tree after the talking snake convinced her to eat it. Eve was the bad gal! Women have been getting the short end of the stick ever since, though obviously, the ridiculous mythical story never actually happened. According to the same silly ancient myth, God in his infinite love, made childbirth extremely painful for all women because Eve made the mistake of listening to a lying talking snake and she ate the magic fruit from the magic tree that God had told them not to fuck with. Religion has been used for centuries to subjugate women and relegate women to the status of second-class citizens. For a very long time, women were little more than property. And according to the Apostle Paul, they should be silent in church and they should not have positions of authority. And in the here and now of the 21st Century, religious Republican politicians are continually trying to deny women the right to decide what they can do with their own bodies! In the minds of these women-hating religious assholes, it would be better for a woman who has a legitimate need for an abortion to get it in a dark alley with a coat hanger than in a much safer modern hospital setting. I’m a guy and I don’t have a vagina, but I am 100% with the women shouting at these assholes to stay out of their vaginas! Oh, and according to many of these religious assholes, rape is consensual or the woman asked for it by the way they dressed! Holy shit!

fundamentalist religionThe Christian religion has a very long and very sad history of suppressing social progress and scientific discovery. The Bible is a flat-earth, geocentric book from cover to cover, and for centuries people believed that the earth was flat and supported by pillars because the Bible says so. And it was believed that the flat earth was covered by a solid dome firmament with the stars stuck in it because the Bible says so! It took Copernicus and Galileo to move us away from this ridiculous primitive cosmology, and the Church resisted every step of the way!

Scientific discovery was flourishing in ancient Greece and in other places in the ancient world, but then Christianity came along and snuffed it out for centuries. The Christian religion is directly responsible for that awful time in history that we know today as the Dark Ages. The Church had tremendous political power, and religious ignorance reigned supreme for centuries. The only place that science had a chance is in the Islamic world, and we owe a debt to Islam today for preserving what scientific knowledge had been gained before the Christian Dark Ages snuffed out the proverbial candle.

The Bible quite clearly teaches that mental illness is caused by demons, and that belief was used to, well, demonize the mentally ill. We know today that mental illness has genetic and environmental causes, and obviously it has nothing to do with mythological evil spirits. But, of course, this same Book claims that the cure for leprosy is a magical incantation and the blood of a slain bird…

In the Islamic world today, fundamentalist religion is still used to marginalize women and to deny them even the most basic human rights. Women have to cover themselves completely, and they can’t vote and they can’t drive a car. I’m pretty sure that in countries such as Saudi Arabia, women are still little more than property… if they do enjoy status better than that, it’s not much…

And fundamentalist religion is being used right now to justify mass murder in the form of suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism.

Isn’t it time for the RELIGIOUS MADNESS TO STOP??

Isn’t it time for the voices of REASON and SANITY to be heard above the din of religious INSANITY and HATRED??

I realize that this post will be ignored by my religious friends and it’s gotten way beyond TL;DR status anyway for most folks… but that’s my 2 cents…

I am tired of the religious hatred and insanity that is tearing this world apart! It is PAST TIME for us to throw off the chains of fundamentalist religion and this ancient mythological religious bullshit that has NO DISCERNIBLE BASIS IN REALITY, and it is time now for us to work together to build a much better and much more peaceful world!!

Again, my 2 cents… Glory!

My Books

These are books that I have authored that I hope will be helpful to others.

This is my story of my struggles with bipolar disorder and bouts of extreme religious belief.

This is the story of my journey from devout Christian religious belief to atheism.

This is my tribute to my cat Tasha. I had her for 16 wonderful years, and I held her in my arms as she passed away at the vet’s office on February 5, 2015. Worst day of my life, and the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

There Is A Time And Place To Be A Hero

It seems my workplace has a never-ending fount of social no-no’s and religiously related eye rolling. This is something I kind of value about my job in a small Southern federal office in the Bible Belt. That attitude kind of bit me in the ass the other morning, and it took me a few days to process this because I was completely caught off guard by a supervisor’s audacity during a conversation. I really had to take time to reflect on his motives behind his words.

anotherheroA little background is in order, I guess. First of all, this supervisor is just temporarily wearing the big hat, but he takes the role seriously and is overall likable guy. Yes, he’s religious, and I would even say sometimes a bit pushy about it, but not in a proselytizing kind of way. It just shows through during general conversation sometimes, but he generally doesn’t push his beliefs at you, just shares them. And that is a difference I really appreciate him demonstrating. It’s hard to find folks like this fellow in my area of Kentucky.

So, let’s go back to Saturday morning. I was pretty miserable when I woke up, didn’t want to work, but I am responsible and know there are bills to be paid. I show up, start putting the onslaught of Good Housekeeping and Vogue magazines into their assigned case holders, and try to ignore the growing ache in my abdomen. I have uterine tumors, you see.  I can’t afford a hysterectomy right now, so am just miserably existing with good days and bad days when it comes to cramping, bleeding, and nasty medicinal side effects. I’ve been floating in between pain gauges for almost a year now, and that has obviously affected my depressive side a bit more than normal too.

And I have hay fever. I live in the Ohio Valley. You get the picture of me in Spring pretty clearly now, right?

Cramps, nausea from pills, and sneezing like crazy. This Saturday morning is a bad one, and I’m not really bantering back and forth that much with my case mates like I normally would. Finally, a particularly nasty round of sneezing hits, and a co-worker next to me asks if I’m going to make it. I offhandedly remark that I would gladly take a bullet at this point, he laughs telling me I am awfully dark that morning, and I join him in laughing, making it clear that some days a bullet isn’t so bad to what I have now. After all, a bullet means no more pain a split second after it scrambles my brain against a wall. I was immediately agreed with in my logic, and the two who were agreeing with me know how I am.

melancholyseasI do genuinely wake up hating life sometimes. I do contemplate finally being done. Like many in this world, I’ve lived way too much life for my own good in such a short span of time, and it can be overwhelming sometimes. My coworkers know my dark humor isn’t an attention tactic whatsoever. They know if I could guarantee no pain or hardship for my children, family, and friends, I’d already be gone from this world. There isn’t anything wrong with feeling like this. There isn’t anything wrong with acknowledging this kind of thinking. Obviously I have my priorities straight because I am still living and participating in life. I don’t sit at home and stare at bullets all night, and I most certainly am making the most of my life. I am not a danger to myself or anyone else, so leave my darkness to be what it is. A release of pain.

My supervisor doesn’t understand this about me though. While we’ve had some interesting conversations, they are shallow in nature. Typical discussions of the weather, the volume of magazines we have to deliver, or vacation plans. The big issues of politics, faith, and society rarely grace our talks because he’s a listener of sorts. He’s overheard me interact with others who pushed the lines with me, and I think he already knows what direction I lean if pushed on issues like sexuality, God in schools, and so on. He can’t handle that level of a discourse and doesn’t want to, because it’s work and he does know that work is my sanctuary from such things. Firsthand he has watched me run off Jehovah Witnesses that were harassing us in our vehicle lot. He has watched me step out of my case and identify myself as one of the government benefit receiving “moochers” that my coworkers would rant about being lazy, abusers of the system..

This Saturday morning though, he tried to step into my head, and I know he was oblivious to the fact he stepped into an ocean of melancholic whirlpools and not just a small puddle of humor because he proclaimed, quite loudly I might add,”Kate, if you ever feel that way, you call me.” He cocked his head slightly when he said that, his tone being like someone explaining how to properly slice a cake into eight pieces. An instructor’s voice.

“I mean it. Kate, you call me if you ever feel that way.”

My buddies next to me that were still dealing with their copies of Time magazine quit laughing. I think they realized how just utterly out-of-place our supervisor’s expressed concern was, let alone the manner in how he showed it. All I could do was just awkwardly laugh and shake my head, thanking him and mumbling,”You have no idea…” He immediately went back to his desk work, the incident two seconds in the past and out of sight.

silenceThe whole event struck me off guard. Not because someone disagreed with how I express my tired attitude with life, but the way in which this person displayed their disagreement. I couldn’t tell if he said it so loudly because that is what supervisor’s do when it comes to work matters, or because he was trying to exonerate himself of any responsibility. It’s in the book of wearing the big hat that if an employee shows signs of self harm, counsel them, and I can understand his feeling the need to do so. Generally though, these counseling attempts are privately done, and most certainly not in a teacher voice. The issue never came back up later after I returned from my delivery route either, so it made me question the whole situation even further.

That’s when it occurred to me what happened, and he’s done this in the past right under my nose. He was being a hero in the name of his own conscience. I see this a lot because it’s a typical human trait. We all do it. We see someone making a bad decision, and we just simply advise them not to without any deeper explanation or insistence not too, and wash our hands of the situation. We have absolved our personal responsibility in our own minds. The thing is, there are certain times and places for doing such a thing. On the main floor of your workplace in response to someone’s morbid humor about desiring death? That is not one of those appropriate situations of flippantly washing your hands of someone’s expression about life problems. Sometimes, keeping your mouth shut is the best tactic.

But much like feeling there is a need to express a belief in God when good things happen, or say “Bless you” after every sneeze, my supervisor went into auto pilot mode and responded in what he deemed socially necessary and appropriate to keep his inner voice at bay. He is wearing a big hat, so every situation must have a response, despite the reality this isn’t necessarily true. Keep this in mind before you insist on making yourself feel better about someone else’s situation. When you function in auto pilot, you lose depth, and there will be times you have zero clue how far down to Davie Jones’ locker you have plummeted, which can make a situation far worse than if you had just kept your heroics to yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

I Dream Of Mayberry

blog-0460848001427939459“I miss the good old days. You know, when things were simpler and more pure. Like Mayberry.”

This is probably one of the most absolutely ridiculous notions in America today. Seriously. What makes it worse would be the fact that everyone wants things to be like Mayberry. They wish for Mayberry whenever they hear news about legislation that favors quicker immigration is being considered. They cry for Mayberry’s Christian family values whenever they hear yet another state is willing to acknowledge and offer benefits to married gay couples.

Even politicians use the good ole times excuse when passing discriminating legislation. Take Asa Hutchinson, governor of Arkansas for example. He was just about to sign into law one of those Religious Restoration Acts, and after seeing the backlash in Indiana, has become nervous about what he is about to do, deciding to send the legislation back for revision instead. His public statement? “….in ordinary times this bill would not be controversial, but these are not ordinary times.”

Which basically is saying,”Why can’t we be in Mayberry again?”

I hate to break it to you, but the circumstances of Mayberry never existed in America. Never, ever. Never, ever, never, ever, ever, EVER. People see that 1960’s family show and treat it like an honest representation of the all American family. God, common sense, and small government. This governor I was mentioning grew up watching the show, and others with similar themes. He doesn’t understand that Mayberry, while set in the 60’s expanding economy, was based on the simpler times of the 1930’s. There was a desire for nostalgia to be brought into the show, and that is why folk music, church, and focus on family were incorporated.

So, what? Then let’s go back to the 30’s then. They were good times, right?

You tell me.

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The only thing good about the 1930’s was the increased desire for simple living, and that’s mostly because they didn’t have a choice back then. With the desire for simple living came an increased demand for folk music and art. Jobs were scarce thanks to the Depression. Add the agricultural disasters like the Dust Bowl on top of it? Food was scarce too. Tradition became king during that decade before WWII broke out, and so did a tough as nails attitude when faced with desperation to survive. Mayberry never bothered with any of that. It had the lush economy of the 1960’s story setting to keep the ugly struggles of the Depression away.

The Andy Griffith Show was brilliant in its almost seamless meshing of our cultural past with the modern reality of the 1960’s. Writers of the show used the traditions of the past and the modern conveniences of the future to show an ideal situation for us all to admire and look toward for our own lives. But in reality, it was an illusion. It was used to cushion the depressing news of Vietnam’s bloody loss of lives. It was an escape from the torrid television coverage of news coverage of the draft, desegregation, and outright riots in the streets at major university campuses.

Mayberry never truly existed in our history. The good ole days, depending on which generation you look to, never had it as good as Mayberry. The entire purpose of the Andy Griffith Show wasn’t to highlight reality. It hid the ugly racism that demanded blacks sit at the back of the bus. The show didn’t touch on sexual revolution that was occurring in America of the 60’s, preferring to focus on what would be seen as wholesome and Christian like in nature. And that is what a television show is supposed to do. Provide a feel good atmosphere to distract its viewers from the harsh reality of the world around them for a little while.

I doubt the writers ever intended for its young audience to actually twist their story into an unconscious remembrance of actual time and place though, but that is what has happened. Certainly the producers never intended for their little imagined town of impossibility to become an actual goal for modern society. It just won’t work.

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Yet, that is what many who long for the good ole days want. They want modern convenience, traditions of the past, and all the issues of the world to magically go away and just follow their desired story line. Keep things simple by making everyone follow the same structure of reality. If you don’t want to play along, go away and be quiet so everyone else can be comfortable. If you don’t be quiet, then they’ll legislate you away. These ultra conservatives refuse to accept Mayberry’s perfect store fronts, comical barber, and admired sheriff as the illusion they truly were. Much like their bibles, conservative Christians cling to the idea that simpler times are a panacea for all the sin in the world. That in a Mayberry setting, who can say no to God? After all, there is less temptation, less opportunity wander off the divine path to Heaven.

And if everyone is godly, then society will automatically improve. This is something that Mayberry never ever even remotely insisted upon.

Ironically, Mayberry has several characters that never quite fit in. Even more ironic is that, despite not fitting in, or even truly conforming, one character really did have a positive impact on the town. I think you all know who I am referring to in particular.

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Yes, Ernest T. Bass is who I’m talking about. Deputy Fife saw him as a nut. Myself? Ernest was an innovator. He showed ingenuity, determination, a knack for making people think outside their own interest. He even managed to garner support from Sheriff Taylor himself. All the while he completely clashed with the fundamental principles the town operated on. And he wasn’t the only one that showed doubt about the moral reasoning of his fellow townsfolk. I particularly enjoyed an episode where Barney and Andy get into a bit of a debate about psychic phenomena.

Again, there is wiggle room, and even a willingness to understand where the other is coming from, as you see Andy completely indulge Barney’s agnosticism about Aladdin’s Lamp. While this particular scene is meant to be humorous, it shows a willingness to meet in the middle, and at least discuss why a person feels a certain way. On top of that, you also see it is okay to just agree to disagree. This is how society has to work in order to succeed. How all these truly wonderful examples of functioning society have been blatantly ignored in favor of an impossible one size fits all lifestyle is beyond me.

Many evangelicals are simply banding together because they share a common belief structure, with little care of how crude and divisive their behavior is to the society around them. They are removed from the rest of America’s citizenry. Rather being pit against the entire world than be willing to compromise, this mentality will cost them dearly in the future. Someone needs to effectively demonstrate that strength isn’t necessarily in just numbers anymore, but in that of overall unity. Being contrary simply because of cultural differences is both foolish and costly for our future.

Will they ultimately decide to leave our shores and found their own country like the Pilgrims or Puritans? I hope not. The Pilgrims at first found England too corrupt, so they left to Holland. In Holland, their children were assimilating to Dutch culture, and they found that unacceptable and then left again, this time to America. The Puritans left England and started over in America later. What happened once in America? They started to divide against each other, and formed their own separate churches. You had witch trials. Heresy charges. Adultery? Capital charges that could get you jail time, public whipping and more.

The bottom line here is that Christianity has to quit running away from the world and consider picking up a few lessons from other cultures. This doctrine, and its leaders, obviously can’t handle it out there on their own, constantly running away from problems or insisting everyone else must conform to their standards. It’s time for them to make reasonable accommodation for the world around them, not the other way around.

There isn’t a land large enough or a television show’s interpretation well written enough to give these zealots the perfect Christian theocracy they desire. They are the authors of their own destruction, even when on their own with only the same ilk around them.

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Ending Biblical Brainwash

This glorious article appeared several years ago (circa 2002) on a now-defunct website.

Imagine that you’re a psychiatrist. A new patient comes to see you and says that he regularly talks to an invisible being who never responds, that he reads excerpts from one ancient book and that he believes wholeheartedly that its contents must be accepted implicitly, if not taken literally. The patient goes on to say that that the world is only 6,000 years old and that dinosaurs never existed. He brazenly rejects modern science’s observations and conclusions, and subscribes to the notion that after death he will live in eternal bliss in some alternate dimension. And throughout your meeting, he keeps handing you his book and urging you to join him, lest you end up after death in a far less desirable alternate dimension than him. Is this a mentally healthy person? If you were a responsible psychiatrist, how could you answer yes? These symptoms border on delusional schizophrenia, which the American Psychological Association’s DSM-IV describes as involving a profound disruption in cognition and emotion, assigning unusual significance or meaning to normal events and holding fixed false personal beliefs. So, should you insist on follow-up appointments along with some strong medication? Well, quite obviously, the patient is a religious fundamentalist. So he would most likely not be diagnosed with a psychological problem. In fact, such a diagnosis could land you in hot water; the patient’s religious beliefs are constitutionally protected. Yet, perhaps it’s time this changed, and that we made religious fundamentalism a mental and cultural health issue. People should be able to believe what they like, but only so long as their convictions don’t harm others or, arguably, themselves. Fundamentalism, however, breeds fanaticism and often leads to terrible violence, injustice and inequality. If society can force drug addicts into rehabilitation because they’re a danger to themselves and the public, then we should be able to compel religious fundamentalists to undergo treatment as well.

Religion as virus of the mind

The evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins considers religion an opportunistic and dangerous virus of the mind. Comments such as these have a long history, as religion has been a particularly popular target in the post-Enlightenment age. Marx claimed that religion was the opiate of the people. Freud claimed that it was an infantile need for protection in place of the parent. Ayn Rand thought that belief in God was demeaning to man. Nietzsche put it this way: “Is man one of God’s blunders, or is God one of man’s blunders?” Dawkins’ theory has much merit. He describes religion as a “meme,” an idea that gets passed from person to person and generation to generation like a virus that infects hosts to reproduce its genes. Under this view, religion is a potent memeplex that works at a cultural and psychological level. Some psychologists even believe that the human brain is hardwired for spirituality, perhaps to help rational and intelligent organisms remain sane and functional while dealing with the confusions of existence. Regardless, the human psyche has proven fertile ground for religious memes, which have evolved and withstood selective pressures over time and, as a result, now “organize” their hosts in such a way that institutions, including the legal system, have come to their protection. Evangelical memes — such as those of Jesuits and Jehovah’s Witnesses — are some of the best at reproducing.

When faith goes bad

Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this. Under memetic theory, any idea that gets reproduced is a meme. So when do religious memes go bad? What distinguishes fundamentalism from other types of religious belief systems? Philosopher Daniel Dennett, in an essay called “Protecting Public Health,” provides some guidance. “As science and technology eliminate the barriers and friction that have heretofore constrained our human powers and thereby limited the scope of our moral choice, mankind’s need for a reasoned, consensual, and open-minded ethics will become ever more pressing,” he writes. Dennett is concerned with the fallacies and misinformation that people cling to — including conspiracy theories, superstitions, mysticism, astrology and, especially, fundamentalism. He states, “Fanaticism of every sort, on every issue, is bound to compete for our attention…[and] unfortunately, many people cling to the simple wrong answers, and are even prepared to die — and kill — for them.” Intervening in people’s thinking, however, is a sensitive issue, as it touches upon freedom of speech and freedom of religious expression. People have the right to be foolish, naive or dogmatic, just as they have the right to smoke cigarettes and drink too much alcohol. So at what point do a person’s convictions become a health issue? In my opinion, the answer is this: A belief becomes cognitively unhealthy when the believer’s free will and normal critical processes have been damaged by the belief system’s dialectic. I argue that fundamentalist religions, insofar as they cripple a believer’s ability to have free will, exhibit rational choice and appropriately assess the nature of the physical environment, have already passed this threshold.

Danger to society

Moreover, the effect of fundamentalism on society is as detrimental as the effect of fundamentalism on believers. Fundamentalists are the ones who fly planes into skyscrapers and murder doctors that perform abortions. They are the ones who deny the existence of proven physical phenomena while rabidly insisting on the existence of clearly unsubstantiated marvels. They are also incapable of recognizing that they have a problem, and are often amongst the most intolerant people on this planet, commonly referring to non-believers as pagans, heathens, or infidels. And historically, underdeveloped sciences, mystically perpetuated pseudo sciences and false assumptions about the nature of reality have resulted in misery and countless social injustices. The more rational the understanding that humans have about their existence, the better off they are in dealing with the hazards of life and developing humane moral philosophies.

Acceptable belief systems Of course, some beliefs and worldviews are more debilitating than others (both to the believer and to the society around them). Orthodox and literalist theologians apply a very limited worldview to reality, often basing their perceptions of existence on ancient texts and mythologies. Fundamentalist Judeo-Christians are no exception, as many still believe in Creationism, a 6,000-year-old earth and Noah’s Ark. But what about more moderate beliefs? What about belief in an immaterial soul? Or that Jesus performed miracles? Is it mentally unhealthy to believe such things? When do we cross the line and infringe upon constitutional rights? Ultimately, belief in the soul or Jesus’s resurrection is not so unhealthy as to render believers dysfunctional. Some of the brightest and most creative contributors to society were (and are) staunch Christians. It was Bach, after all, who composed music for the glory of God. Furthermore, most people in the West rarely think about the deeper ramifications of their existence and humanity’s relationship with God. Sermons are no longer fire and brimstone threats but, instead, poignant stories about why we should love and help our neighbors — issues that I would categorize as self-evident truths, and hardly the monopoly of religious doctrine. Modern religions are useful in that they have taken on the character of moral philosophies which help followers with interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships. Religions form an important, if not essential, role in society. They offer community, existential explanations, compassionate and valuable moral codes and an outlet for the human need for spirituality. (Personally, I am agnostic, as I recognize just how sublime and mysterious the universe really is.) Also, neither modern scientism nor any other contemporary belief system is perfectly healthy. In fact, stubborn Western empiricists could learn a lot from Eastern philosophies. As Freud once said, “It is a mistake to believe that a science consists in nothing but conclusively proved propositions, and it is unjust to demand that it should. It is a demand only made by those who feel a craving for authority in some form and a need to replace the religious catechism by something else, even if it be a scientific one.” The differentiating factor must be this: A belief system is a mental disorder when it causes believers to deny the observations of empirical methodologies. With fundamentalists, this involves denying the nature of the physical world as it is being presented in favour of archaic and unyielding irrational orthodoxies; their brains have been infected and debilitated with unsubstantiated nonsense. Kill the meme, not the patient Since I’m arguing for categorizing something as a disease, it only makes sense for me to also propose a cure. And it is this: Engineer fundamentalist memes out of existence. Fundamentalists have been mobilized by an unconscious meme that seeks to protect and propagate itself at all costs, even at the expense of a host’s mental well-being. Viruses do exactly the same thing, often killing a host as they seek out transmission vectors. The best way to prevent a meme from gaining a stranglehold on a host is to prevent it from reproducing in the first place. With religious fundamentalism, I propose two key elements for memetic immunization. The first is responsible and accountable education and reporting of information to the public (including educational institutions, the media and the government). Children who are taught Creationism rather than natural selection, for example, are being primed for memetic infection. The second is raising the standard of living of all people. Assisting Third World nations would help alleviate problems of disenfranchised youths who become desperate and turn to religious fanaticism. As proof of this strategy, we need only look at how the Taliban recruited members: They attracted poor and uneducated boys who easily accepted radical Islam as an outlet for their frustrations. And without proper education they were unable to properly distinguish religious gibberish from fact. An important point needs to be made here, however: Killing a cultural artifact is not analogous to killing people. Culture is not self aware. Irrational fundamentalists should be treated as we treat others suffering from psychological ailments and offered immediate help. We should see them as suffering from a disease and help them to accept a more moderate religious stance and develop a more balanced life. Hopefully, this will return to them free will, rationality and self-respect. In my opinion, these are the elements that give human lives meaning and purpose.

Bipolar Disorder and My Religious Experience

I wrote a book last year about my struggles with bipolar disorder and my religious experience. I would like to offer it for free to my readers here on this glorious site. I have experienced several thankfully short-lived but very intense returns to religious belief during bipolar manic episodes, but other than those, I have been an atheist for 14 years now, and I plan on staying that way! Glory!

Bipolar Religiosity – Bipolar Disorder and My Religious Experience

http://alaskanatheist.me/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Bipolar-Religiosity-Bipolar-Disorder-and-My-Religious-Experience.pdf

My Thoughts on Robin William’s Death

This post has nothing to do with religion, but I thought it was worth sharing here…

I posted this to Facebook, but would like to share it here as well. I hope it helps someone in need. If you are suffering from depression, there is help available! The national suicide hotline number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Please seek help if you need it. There is no shame in depression, and it can be treated and recovery is possible!

I have always been very open and honest about my struggles with mental illness. I have never hidden the fact that I have bipolar disorder. My feeling is that the more mental illness is talked about and brought out into the open, the less stigma there will be because of it. I started having symptoms of mental illness after I had a serious seizure when I was ten years old. That was in 1976. The best anti-seizure medicine they had at the time was phenobarbital, and I was on it for six years. My mother’s opinion is that they took me off of it too quickly because I went straight for the alcohol, and so began many years of serious substance abuse. I was seriously bipolar by the time I was in high school, and most nights I was so manic I would have to drink myself to sleep. I would either hit the liquor cabinet, trying to be careful not to wake my mother up, or I would sneak out of the house late at night to go buy beer at a couple of convenience stores nearby that I knew would sell it to me, underage though I was. Back in those days there were not such strict laws for selling alcohol to minors like there are today. It was easy to get if you knew where to go… Anyway, school was not easy for me. I had few friends and I endured a lot of hell for being different. I know now that I was different because I was mentally ill. We all know how cruel kids can be if you don’t fit in… high school was a living hell except for band, a few true friends who accepted me as I was, and cool teachers who liked and cared about me. I have never had the opportunity to go to a high school reunion and I’m not sure I want to. It’s been thirty years, and most of those people back when we were in school wanted nothing to do with me. I participated in band and had great fun doing it, but I was left out of all the stuff the cool kids got to do. I never went to a beach party or hung out with friends at Dunbar Park (they were drinking or doing drugs anyway, so it’s just as well that I wasn’t there… I did plenty of that on my own or with the friends I did have…) or anything else the “normal” kids got to do. I didn’t even know most of this stuff went on until years later…

Anyway… while most of my peers were going to school and building their adult lives and careers, I was absolutely miserable with then undiagnosed bipolar disorder. I dealt with it either with extreme religious belief or with severe substance abuse. I spent many years trying to get through school and failing because I was so mentally ill and usually too drunk or too stoned to learn anything. I spent many years working many dead-end, low-wage jobs, barely managing to scrape by. I never had any extra money and at Christmas, my mother would loan me about $20 so I could go buy some cheap books and cassette tapes to give as gifts. There were many times that I would have been homeless on the streets of Houston, TX if my mother had not helped me out financially. She didn’t like doing it, but she loves me unconditionally and was always there for me.

I’m sharing all of this because of Robin William’s tragic death from suicide. He had money and fame and the adoration of millions, but none of that protects you from the ravages of mental illness. I know what it’s like to suffer from DEEP depression and to have no quality of life whatsoever. I can remember back around 2001, I was so miserable and so depressed that I slept almost all the time. Being awake HURT! My idea of getting out of the house was to go visit the apartment office and visit with the leasing agents. They knew that I was deeply troubled and they cared enough about me to try to help. But most of the time I was in my apartment asleep or wishing that I was asleep or wishing that I was dead so I didn’t have to hurt so bad. Sleep was the only escape I had from the unbearable pain of severe bipolar depression.

I have a great life now in Alaska and my mental health is so good now that I can’t tell most of the time that I even have bipolar disorder. I have finally completed school and I am looking forward to a rewarding career as a health coach. I get the incredible privilege of helping others live healthier and more fulfilling lives! I am looking forward to helping others who suffer from mental illness recover so that they too can truly enjoy living. I know what it is like for life to be a living hell of depression and failure after failure and having no money and feeling no hope that life can ever feel like it is worth living. I KNOW that I can help people who are suffering from mental illness feel better. I also know that many of them will not be able to pay me. But it’s not about the money. It’s about compassion and understanding and empathy and helping because now I can do it and I WANT to do it. If I can recover from years of severe mental illness, I know that I can help others to do the same. Just the other day at the NAMI meeting a woman shared how miserable and frequently suicidal she was. She has had struggles similar to my own. I reached out to her and offered to help and so far I have not heard from her, but at least I tried.

I understand why Robin Williams committed suicide. I understand the unbearable pain that deep depression must have been causing him. Money and fame and the adoration of millions cease to matter when life is nothing but unbearable pain. I wish he had not chosen such a tragic way to end his suffering and I wish he could have been helped. But I understand, and I’ll always remember him fondly as the hilarious Mork from Ork on the old “Mork & Mindy” TV show…

My life has been very different from that of most of my peers. It has not been “normal” by any means. But I’m not ashamed of it at all. Mental illness is not something to be ashamed of. The mentally ill should not have to endure the additional suffering that stigma causes on top of what they already suffer from their illness. The mentally ill deserve compassion, empathy, understanding, and all the help that they can get from those who care about them…