The Convenience of Ambiguity: Is it Religion or Philosophy?  

The way I see it, religious belief is a get out of jail card when used to discriminate against people, and sadly religion depends on ambiguity in order to remain relevant in today’s world.  Ambiguity can also be an excuse to distance one self from something unattractive and questionable. To the Christian or Muslim, their religious beliefs are often fused with something positive yet we find these belief systems associated with negative acts over and over again and explains why we find religious apologists defending religion by offering this sentiment; “A true Christian/Muslim wouldn’t do that”.
Ok, first lets find out what a true Christian does.  The Christian Bible certainly seems like a reasonable place to find out.  But understanding the Bible has proven to be complicated process.  In 2000, The World Christian Encyclopedia asserted there were 33,820 Christian denominations.  Unsurprisingly, these sects are not reconcilable but yet how can that be if they come from the same book?
The same can be said about Islam.  ISIS, the Taliban, and Al Qaeda all proven to be a thorn for Muslims who are against the “misrepresentation” of a peaceful Islam.  What constitutes this huge discrepancy about something that is supposed to be an objective claim coming from one source called the Quran? 
It seems to me subjective interpretations are to be blamed for these “misinterpretations”.
Since there is no standard established to determine what a true Christian or Muslim is (considering the original context of these religious beliefs are now irrelevant to todays western world), why is the religious offering that sort of unsubstantiated claim?  Why defend the idea of religion at all?   More perplexing, knowing their religion is represented via different sects, why are religious people surprised when their respective religion is misunderstood? 'I am a X', is a chosen label one chooses to adopt, knowing their label is often misunderstood. 
The term cherry picker is often used to describe people who choose to ignore the sanctioning of very ugly behavior like slavery, misogyny, genocide, stoning people to death for being a non-virgin or homosexual by their chosen deity.  This sort of person often relies on apologetics as a disclaimer to smooth out the rough edges and replace it with the idea of appropriate  “context”.    Well I would argue the realistic context would involve the fact these traditions came from a time of ignorance, so again, why are these books regarded as divinely inspired?
If religion was recognized as a philosophy, it would give people the opportunity to see it as something that is not backed up by any divine supreme authority but rather identifying it as ones own personal view.
In fact, we are seeing religious ideology being formatted to fit our current understanding of the world play out already, dogma has and is continually becoming subject to ones personal moral compass.  So what is the point of holding onto an appeal to a higher power in spite of ones own ability to recognize what is right and wrong already without it?

Once a “God” is in the equation, the rules of engagement have been compromised therefore taking “God” out will level the playing field and we understand that our perspectives are not higher than anyone else’s but seen as a philosophical approach.
Why would anyone have a problem with that? I would imagine it would be a problem for the person who believes they are representing an all-encompassing authority and are attracted to the ideals of elitist tribalism, which has been proven to be problem of arrogance.
What seems to continue to function as a form of protection for religion is the appeal to an authority no one can prove they are appealing to and makes religious belief more than a philosophy or an opinion, when it really amounts to just that.  Why in the world would anyone who isn’t religious want to defend a methodology that serves to protect arrogance? I think it has to do with political correctness by not holding the religious responsible for choosing to associate with something that is all too often associated with unwarranted discrimination.   Maybe they never thought to think of it that way or maybe it’s a social taboo to redefine religion as a philosophy? Perhaps it’s a combination of the two.  Although we cannot ignore that it is not fitting with dogma when we see people are already editing the scriptures to fit their own ethical stance. 
Has religion been a source for good?  No it hasn’t.  I would argue the source for good would be humanity.  Is humanity also a source for evil, of course it is.  But the problem is this.  The entire premise of religion is to undermine humanity completely, as it implies only good can come from a particular deity and only evil can come from humanity, who’s naturally inclined to be persuaded by the enemy of good.  I find that to be odd being that there isn’t a moral act a nonbeliever cannot do that a believer can. I also find this to be dangerous.  Why?  Because religious ideology is the reason DOMA gained traction, why women’s reproductive rights are issues, and why those who are terminally ill cannot choose to die with dignity, all because of the unsubstantiated claim these human rights are in violation of a god’s will according to the representative of the supposed supreme being of the universe.  The self-entitled position of claiming to know the will of an authority over everyone is the height of undue importance.   We cannot continue to ignore the ruse of religion, which has been used as a means to protect one thing, the audacious idea one has a personal relationship with an authority over you.

What's the difference between religious belief and an opinion? 

I recently became aware of something very troubling about religious exemptions.  The following is true in Idaho; "According to state law, parents can substitute prayer as a form of treatment. The religious exemption covers manslaughter, capital murder and negligent homicide charges, but cannot be cited if a parent uses any other form of treatment on top of praying for the child."

In other words, parents have to commit to prayer 100% in order to be exempt from murder charges if their prayer didn't work.  

Consider this; "Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia have religious exemptions in their civil codes on child abuse or neglect, largely because of a federal government policy from 1974 to 1983 requiring states to pass such exemptions in order to get federal funding for child protection work"

"States with a religious defense to the most serious crimes against children include:
  • Idaho, Iowa, and Ohio with religious defenses to manslaughter
  • West Virginia with religious defenses to murder of a child and child neglect resulting in death
  • Arkansas with a religious defense to capital murder"
This is ridiculous, it is an outrage and I don't understand how people, our elected officials, let these sorts of laws pass.
What happened to the separation of church and state?  
Where did this protection of religious belief come from?

Now if I were the sort who claimed that my belief in my pet rock will heal my sick child, simply because I believed it to be true, will I still be exempt from child endangerment charges in these states?
Something tells me no.  Something tells me I would be held accountable, yet the very same method is protected because it is called a religious belief.

In my dictionary, opinion is defined as: a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge
So what is the difference between an opinion that my god will heal my child or a religious belief in my pet rock will heal my child?
I don't see any difference.  So why are religious beliefs protected again?

In my last blog I amended the 1st amendment, so hell, why not offer another idea...



Would you feel comfortable giving a drunk the keys to their car?  

If a religious institution requires it’s members to disregard or harass those who do not belong to that institution, wouldn’t that alone render this particular religious establishment discriminatory and or abusive by it’s very nature? 

It is He who sent His Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth to manifest it over all religion. And sufficient is Allah as Witness.
Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah; and those with him are forceful against the disbelievers, merciful among themselves.
Quran 48:28-29
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.”
2 Corinthians 5:16
If religious authoritative instructions like the ones I listed are no longer applicable, why not amend the scripture so as to stay clear away from having it give license to those already predisposed to bigotry?  By leaving scriptures unedited, wouldn’t that be like giving a drunk driver the keys to their car?  So why give this sort of behavior a sense of supreme leverage? 

According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:
“Religious discrimination involves treating a person (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs. The law protects not only people who belong to traditional, organized religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, but also others who have sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs.” 
So what we have here is a federal law that would prohibit a religious institution’s directive.   Meaning a secular humanist, for simplicity sake, cannot be legally discriminated against when applying for employment or functioning as an employee for any religious institution in spite of said religious instruction that would warrant the mistreatment of non-religious people.
Something isn't adding up.
The elephant in the room is pointing to the collective religious petition for double standards and has only brought a sense of ambiguity in regards to the ongoing discourse that would shed light in understanding of what freedom and equality means for US citizens.  So why are we as a nation putting up with this obvious predicament?  Our federal laws undermine unwarranted discrimination and harassment based on race, sex, sexual orientation, age and, religious affiliation.  This double standard has thus far only serve the religious and have cheapened the value of freedom and equality.  
Realistically, it doesn’t seem very likely that we will see scripture amended so I will offer an alternative.  I propose an outrageous idea; let me be so bold as to “amend” the 1st amendment in the direction I believe would be beneficial for all, save the criminally inclined.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof unless the establishment of said religion requires the disregard and harassment of non religious adherents; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Why would anyone want to protect the free exercise of a religious doctrine that sanctions the disregard and or harassment of non-religious adherents? 
If these edicts exist in scripture, where do we draw the line as a nation?  But we shouldn't rule out the possibility of amending religious doctrines, one can always hope.
Can something like this happen, do we want something like this to happen, or will we continue to put up with double standards that serves to protect unwarranted religious discrimination?
I know what you’re thinking, what I am asking for is for the abolishment of any organized dogmatic religion that sanctions discrimination against non-believers of that particular religious ideology; yes I am indeed.
I don’t feel comfortable giving a drunk the keys to their car for obvious reasons.


​Why I think religion is dangerously toxic.  

On November 9, 2014 Travis and Wenona Rossiter were convicted of manslaughter for not giving their 12 yr old daughter, Syble Rossiter, insulin in hopes that God would heal her.
They used a passage in the New Testament to justify their reasons, James 5:14

“Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.”

Sadly, arguments have been made in order to keep religious beliefs protected by claiming these people were misinformed and that God would never have wanted them to deny the medical attention required in order sustain their daughter's  life.
Ok, for the sake of argument, lets say this is true. 
How does that work with passages in the bible which says the only thing that pleases God is faith (Hebrews 11:6)? 
Even Jesus is credited for saying those who really believe will lay hands on the sick and they will be healed (Mark 16:17.18).
So I have to ask, did these people act in compliance with their religious beliefs?
It would appear they had a very deep sense of faith, which of course enabled them to risk their own daughter’s life.
How much more faith can one have?
It is inevitably dangerous when religious beliefs end up trespassing  onto other peoples personal rights only warranted by a claim of representing an all-encompassing authority without the objective evidence that is required to prove one is.  There is no way around it, so why are religious beliefs protected when they really only amount to opinions based on conjecture?
It is this sort of belief system that would actually justify the discrimination we see play out in Texas where the LGBT community would be treated as second class citizens.
So I ask of you who hold religious beliefs, by what authority does religious ideology stand on that would justify this sort of treatment on fellow human beings?
If it is the authority of God, what is the standard that establishes this authority?

Is the standard your faith, the same sort of faith that Travis and Wenona Rossiter has?

Free at last; My Journey... 

Free at Last is dedicated to those who find themselves locked by the chains of shame, guilt, fear and lies due to religious beliefs or societies unwarranted biases.  

As children we rely on our parents for guidance and unfortunately some of us were taught from a very young age to be ashamed of who we are because of unrealistic ideologies.  I grew up being taught that an all encompassing moral authority figure laid down specific rules as to what I was supposed to think and feel and if I were to deviate from those rules, I was guilty of committing a despicable sin.   Yet I found myself thinking and feeling a different way no matter how hard I tried not to.  So of course I internalized it as my shame and I found in the Bible that I needed to protect myself from those that would encourage me to be me since I was my own worst enemy. 

It’s been a long and difficult journey, but today I can say I have been set free from that awful dark and lonely cell my upbringing and society helped create, until relatively recently.  However my heart breaks for those who are still chained to this needless sense of shame and fear simply because they were taught to accept their low opinions of themselves as a way of living.

A few years ago my now sister in-law asked me to write a song for her and my brothers wedding.  I then found myself sussing out what marriage meant for me (being in a committed relationship for 18 yrs I took that meaning for granted). I realized a seminal element in marriage is a commitment two people make to one another who are open towards each others failures and successes, which led me to use my relationship with my life partner as the inspiration for this song. A few years after the wedding I revisited Free at Last and made it my own as I could no longer ignore I was trapped by my shame and fear, those three words needed to apply to me too.   Although it may seem counter intuitive, I was drawn to the idea of how relationships can bring a sense of freedom.  I've found when you have a partner that doesn't try to control you but encourages you to be free, your partner is closer to you in more ways you can imagine.  I am free to make mistakes and free to learn from them. My mistake was to not trust him with this truth about myself, which led me down a stifling and suffocating road, but not anymore.  I have risen higher then I could have ever dreamed.  Sadly, I am one of the few lucky ones. 

I am a bi-sexual woman, the B in the LGBT community, and I am no longer ashamed of it.  

It is my hope that one day my son will live in a world where saying one is a lesbian, gay, bi, or transexual would be as benign as saying, 'I'm left handed". 

What a wonderful world that would be.

If my story resonates with you, I welcome you to share it or share your own.