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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Debunking Religious Experiences

Reading an old post from my friend Matt over at http://www.ragingrev.com got me thinking about my own religious experiences from back in my Christian days. I used to absolutely love Charismatic praise and worship services! I spent hours daily praying and worshiping god. Seeking god was my very favorite thing to do! The emotional highs I experienced were intense and convincing at the time. I really thought that I was experiencing the presence of a very real and good and loving and holy god. But now that I have been out of religious belief for as long as I was in it (15 years), I can look back on it all and see that the incredible emotional highs were driven by the equally incredible power of belief. And now that the belief is gone, so are the emotional experiences. I no longer believe in or experience god, and I am perfectly happy and okay with that, though getting to that place took a while and it took a lot of work. Here is an excerpt from Matt’s blog post:

These experiences, for many many years, solidified my belief in god – they were physical evidences of spiritual truths that my god had gifted me with the ability to experience. I still remember them strongly and I still feel that immense “heart tug” when I hear the sort of worship music that was present during those times…if ever an atmosphere was ripe for manipulation of young minds it was this one and I was it’s victim.

Today I’m not really writing to tell my story – I’m writing to try to explain the dangers of experiences like these pose to young people and how some of these youth will ultimately be let down by these experiences and why they, as great as they may seem, are the result of psychosomatic responses to emotional over-stimulation.

At this point in our understanding of human psychology and development we know that young people are more susceptible to manipulation of all sorts, more often that not those that remain in charismatic churches and uphold charismatic beliefs are those that are either born into the movement or are young when they get into it….it appeals to that lack of emotional maturity that so many young people have as well as the overwhelming lack of critical thinking skill that make them the perfect candidates for this newly emergent version of Christianity.

For me, these experiences eventually turned into a pursuit for more of god…almost like a better fix on your drug of choice, it becomes insatiable. This pursuit consumed me and had me on my face seeking “him” often – this pursuit and the eventual let down it became made me into the the atheist I am today. Yes, seeking god’s presence ultimately brought me to this place the moment I realized just how easily my emotions and emotional ineptitude could have lead up to the experiences I had already had and brought me ultimately to question the weight of experiences in determining truth. I had to reject those experiences, something many can never do because of the crippling fear instilled in them from an early age, in order to reject the god I had. That fear, coupled with this incredibly emotionally subjective experience are a cruel way of gaining converts.

So why do these experiences seem so very real?

The answer is quite simple, but somewhat complex to truly understand – the art of Hypnosis and Suggestion as originally coined by Franz Mesmer, is the ability to suggest to an individual or group under the right conditions as to what will occur and to have that prophecy of sorts come true. It can be complex or simple, intentional and completely accidental, but it is very very possible.

You can read Matt’s full post here:

http://ragingrev.com/2011/08/the-new-charismatics-debunking-experiences-with-god/

One thing he wrote that stands out to me is this:

These experiences, for many many years, solidified my belief in god – they were physical evidences of spiritual truths that my god had gifted me with the ability to experience. I still remember them strongly and I still feel that immense “heart tug” when I hear the sort of worship music that was present during those times…if ever an atmosphere was ripe for manipulation of young minds it was this one and I was it’s victim.

I have been free from religion for 15 years, but I still feel an emotional pull when I hear the old worship music or old Christian Rock music that I loved back in the day, such as Mylon LeFevre & Broken Heart. I understand that the emotional pull is not god or the holy spirit, but simply a reminder of emotional highs from the past and of beliefs once held sacred. I can look back to my days of drinking and using drugs too in the same way. Sometimes I feel an emotional pull to drink or to get high on pot and/or cocaine again, but that doesn’t mean that I go do it. When those thoughts come up, I recognize them as reminders of a past long gone now and of choices that I no longer make. I can’t drink right now because of medications I am on and I choose not to use drugs. I’m a bit old for that lifestyle now, anyway. My almost 49-year old body won’t take the abuse anymore even if I wanted to go there…

Another man I know of who has written similarly on the issues of conversion, brainwashing, and religious indoctrination is Dick Sutphen. He is a popular New Age author and teacher, and a while back he wrote a piece called The Battle for Your Mind. You can read it here:

http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/Secrets/TR/sutphen.html

I realize now that all those years ago back when I was 19 years old and I experienced a dramatic religious conversion and change of lifestyles (from a typical teenage party animal to a fundamentalist religious believer), I was the victim of religion-based emotional manipulation and abuse and the victim of tried and true religious conversion and brainwashing and indoctrination techniques.

Part of the journey from religious belief back to the real world is realizing what has been done to us and why. And then, we can begin to heal the damage that has been done to our minds and to our emotions.

You can and you should be FREE. You deserve to be FREE and to live this life FREE from the emotional manipulation and abuse of religious belief. Glory!