Thoughts of a Lost World Before 9/11

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15 yrs today since 9/11. 15 yrs since the world I remember swung right and there’s an entire generation of kids in Canada and America that can’t think of a time when we weren’t at war with someone in the Middle East. (And 25 yrs since the Desert Storm…)

I was filling out patient forms that morning, back in my early hospital days. Nothing got done that day. All the TV’s suddenly switched to the view of one of the Twin Towers burning. No one knew what was going on… And then saw the 2nd plane hit the 2nd. And then reports of the plane crashing into a field. And then… And then….

I miss those days of gentle innocence. I miss a time when a 10 yr old little boy like me got to visit the Captain and flight crew in the cockpit and talk to him about how awesome it was to fly. I miss being an 11 yr old boy bring able to visit a national monument and not be subjected to metal detectors. I miss a time when I could look at the faces of the people around me and not assume every person with the name Muhammed is possibly a terrorist. How I miss those times of given trust and simple joys.

I want to inspire hope. I want to inspire tolerance. I want to be a person who inspires compassion. I want our kids and the next generation to come to feel that simple innocence we all lost and surrendered in the name of fear, of security, of suspicion and racial / religious lines.

I don’t know if I am that person. I know I’m trying to be. In a world where terror seems to come from every corner, I don’t even know if it’s even possible.

But I’m trying. I’m trying so very very hard. And it’s my promise to keep it up to rebuild that lost innocence we all lost 15 yrs ago when the towers came crumbling down.

It’s a promise from a Dreamer… to all of you.

 

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A Statement Over Ric McIver, the Future of Alberta, and Gay Rights

As all readers know, I’m a new found father of sorts. The son of my heart, Terry, is a culinary student, presently doing a stage in a restaurant in the US. He is also gay. And it is for him as his father and as a supporter of gay rights, that I write this.

Statement of Dedication: I will do anything and everything in my personal name and reach to fight the PC leadership candidacy of Ric McIver (within legal means of course).

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On Father’s Day, the “March for Jesus” went through the streets of Calgary,  proudly heralded by PC Alberta leader hopeful Ric McIver. As an avowed Atheist, admittedly I find such events to be mildly annoying, but the beauty of Canada is that all opinions can be accepted, or at least tolerated in a live and let live situation. So long as the religious sensibilities of a group doesn’t impose or be used in an act of tyranny against a helpless populace, then why not celebrate their beliefs in a man who celebrated the cause of love for your fellow man.

But while I would normally prefer to stay quiet, the more I learn about this, the more I’m absolutely disgusted and furious. This so-called event, originally created by multi-denominational groups in the 80s as a celebration of Christianity, has continued on through the hard work of zealots who oppose all LGBT rights as it offends their religious sensibilities.

For anyone who represents himself as worthy of leadership of this province, or at one time, Mayor hopeful of Calgary, who not only advocates and supports all of these groups who through their misguided homophobic beliefs or even outright hatred and intolerance, has proven himself unworthy of any public office. To represent this province, a leader has to represent all members, not just the rancid dogma of right-wing religious extremists.

Most shocking of all are the claims by the right-wing Progressive Group for Independent Business (in their own site), which states that McIver had worked with them for years, had successfully managed to elect him as an alderman, and honoured him with an award for his work in city council. This is a group that all of the conservative parties, both PC and Wild Rose, had rejected for being too extremist.

If you are PC, regardless of the bread and butter issues, do you really want a possible bigot to represent you? And then when you do think of bread and butter issues, he claims he was responsible for killing the Redford penthouse, but then can’t show even the slightest bit of proof that he did. More importantly, while fiscal hawks may love him for being “Dr. No” (by opposing each and every project ever proposed by city hall), neither has he ever displayed any sort of vision on the future of our city, let alone the province. A leader inspires, gives direction and hopefully can see the potential of what can be. Has that ever been displayed?

And as for something more to think about, this statement comes directly from one of the groups that organized the March for Jesus:

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From the Web Site of March for Jesus 2014

“Last year alone, Calgary’s streets were flooded with people of wrong sexual preferences during a homosexual parade of over 30,000 attendees and none of them were embarrassed the slightest to publicly even present their nakedness in front of families and in front of future generations to openly proclaim and manifest that they are not ashamed to declare the name of their master (Satan) and in the same way not concerned with provoking greatly the wrath of the Living God.”

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If you believe that the next PC leader, and as such, the future premier of Alberta should be someone who’s guided by such thoughts, then by all means support Ric McIver. But it is my dearest hope that Alberta, land of hope, dreams and opportunity, composed of a people who believe in honor above all, can prove to Canada and the world that such men should be relegated to go rant on the lonely soapbox in the corner of the park, unwanted, unheeded and unheard.

Some more interesting light reading for thought:

Alberta PC Candidate Ric Mciver Needs to Explain his Connections

Ric McIver and the Lake of Fire Redux

PC Hopefuls Spar Over Parents Right to Pull Children over Classes

The Days Before Tomorrow: The 10th Anniversary of Her Passing

“Lost love is still love. It takes a different form, that’s all. You can’t see their smile or bring them food or tousle their hair or move them around a dance floor. But when those senses weaken another heightens. Memory. Memory becomes your partner. You nurture it. You hold it. You dance with it.” – Mitch Albom

“Though lovers be lost love shall not.” – Dylan Thomas

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Almost 30 years ago I met her. A bit over 20 years ago I broke both our hearts. 10 years and a few days, she broke mine, and those of “our” children one more time forever, when she was killed by a drunk driver.

The daughter of my heart, if not by genetics and marriage, my dear sweet Georgia will be coming to Calgary in a few days for a friend’s bachelorette party. I’ll see her for an evening, and then she’s back to Vancouver, all 3-4 months pregnant as well. But I know that while our reunion is in her mind, today of all days 10 years past is there as well, as in my son Terry’s too, as it was her death that profoundly changed things in all of our lives those days long ago.

As I think upon her, and of the path not taken, I still wonder what it would have been like to have had her in my life and to have raised the kids as my own. Would we have finally fit in the cosmic scheme of things? Would all doubts I had towards reconciliation broke us apart again? I really just don’t know.

But I do know this, and it’s something I’m simply so amazed by my wife, WK, is so understanding about. There will always be a part of me that was with her, despite the madness, the insanity of the situation and secret unspoken longings that we both shared yet never uttered to one another.

She was my muse of beauty and light, a mystery within, an enigma wrapped in a smile that could dazzle and warm the coldest of hearts. She was a lover of fine music and arts, curious of the glorious stars and galaxies above and a shield maiden to those who threatened her family. She hated high heels and the illusion of fashion, yet stood for all that was right in the world without, even if not satisfied personally within. She was that rare spirit that yearned to be free, yet was determined to be tied to the chains of love and memory. She was a warrior against fate, and saw that fate was in large part what we made of it, and fought for the chance for the both of us to reunite.

In the end…. she was as rare as lightning in a bottle and just as electric to the touch. The memory of her kiss, her skin, the deepness in her eyes, and the simple way … the way she embraced joy in the dance of thunder above still aches in me deep inside. She was my 1st love, and no matter how strange things came to be, I am thankful that she was a part of my life.

Good night my sweet these 10 years now past. While I may not believe in a heaven, if there is one, I hope you have found it and that you have found peace now and forever now that your… no… OUR children and I have been reunited after all this time.

Good night. I miss you. Terry, Georgia and I. We miss you.

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The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt 1 – An Introduction

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt 2 – Shattered

The Days Before Tomorrow, Interlude

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt 3 – Betrayal and Hurts

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt 4 – Those Left Behind

The Days Before Tomorrow, Epilogue and Answers

The Days Before Tomorrow, Afterword

Lesson Hopefully Finally Learned, Never Try To Bother Debating a Zealot

My Rant for This Month… feel free to ignore if you’re religious as I warrant you’ll be happier if you did.

Earlier this week, and admittedly a few times in recent years, I’ve gotten myself into debates with the extremely religious over my atheist based view (we just don’t know yet, but one day through scientific method we just might) to his absolutist view (it’s God that’s the way, the life, the truth and the source of everything and go to hell you stupid Atheists if you don’t agree with me). To him, he couldn’t understand why I would rather live with that answer (where did life come from, or what goes on after us) unanswered in my life time, as allow it to be a mystery to be one day solved, than a world where his i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed by the all ever enveloping umbrella of surety and faith that is “The Answer is Always God.”

There’s a bit of wisdom from other Atheists/Agnostics that I’ve failed to heed, “Don’t debate creationists.” Why I didn’t follow that, I hate people acting like bullies. Period. This latest fight came from a guy trashing others Atheists with no one responding with a counter-view and a simple explanation. All he kept coming at me was, “you’re wrong, I’m right” and it was pretty obvious quickly that I was wasting both our times and told him so. I just stopped responding, having given the view that atheists are simply asking for solid proof and evidence. And then he kept on going and going, and I just ignored him and shut myself off from that thread, as I should have from the start.

Why did I fight though, and do continue to be vocal in general about religion? Because I find it appalling that religion is encroaching on secular matters as day to day government in our lives. I am shocked by how a right wing extreme christian movement is lording over Congress, and while to a lesser extent, trying to change things from time to time in Canada. And I’m so glad that a show like Cosmos has returned, to give and inspire the next generation on proven scientific fact, theories and show how religion in the past has limited the imaginations of our best and brightest because the beliefs were based on dogma invented by a small group of people of various beliefs who are more interested in maintaining power and structure than bringing inspiration and wonder to the people.

The universe is vast, and so far beyond any explanation as of yet, or possibly ever. Isn’t that enough?

#MONDAYBLOGS – RANTS ON FAITH: WHAT WENT WRONG PT 4

So now you know the bits that knocked holes first in my trust in the church, and then in my sense of belief.  All faith really is in the end is a surety of belief combined with unbridled trust.  I disagreed with the Church in virtually all of the hot topics, couldn’t reconcile the comedy of errors that comprised the writing of the Bible, and found that the teachings spoon fed me through my life were at heart to me, violations to human rights and dignity… and that was just the start.

As the years went by, I honestly started to be truly embarrassed and ashamed to be Catholic. But I found that virtually any and all permutations and combinations of Christianity were no better as it was all founded on the same mistakes and philosophies that I was opposed to.  And as I thought about it, I realized that it really didn’t matter about the religion in question, as that while the rituals and names of the deity in question were different, they were all basically a variation of the same belief whether it be God, Allah, Yahweh, Kali, Zeus, Odin or even the Man in the Sky. Religion then and there ceased to mean anything to me.

What was I exactly? I ceased to believe in any spiritual being, and even found myself quite outraged to have ever been part of that mindset. Back in high school, a fellow classmate, Dave M, had described himself as a secular humanist and not a catholic. Those words echoed back to me in those days of revelation, and I decided to check deeper into this. And it was in that definition, I finally found a truth that rang true.

“[Secular Humanism] posits that human beings are capable of being ethical and moral without religion or a god. It does not, however, assume that humans are either inherently evil or innately good, nor does it present humans as being superior to nature. Rather, the humanist life stance emphasizes the unique responsibility facing humanity and the ethical consequences of human decisions. Fundamental to the concept of secular humanism is the strongly held viewpoint that ideology—be it religious or political—must be thoroughly examined by each individual and not simply accepted or rejected on faith. Along with this, an essential part of secular humanism is a continually adapting search for truth, primarily through science and philosophy. Many Humanists derive their moral codes from a philosophy of utilitarianismethical naturalism or evolutionary ethics, and some advocate a science of morality.”

In other words. we control our choices and define our humanity, good or bad. More importantly, it means that the decisions we make, the people we are, isn’t because some deity somewhere had defined us as such… it is because we are responsible for who we are and what we choose as our actions.

With this, I found that a great weight had lifted from me, and strangely enough a fair amount of self-hatred as well that I never realized I was burdened with.  I still didn’t quite understand it, but a chance viewing of this debate with Christopher Hitchens put it all into perspective:

There it was. Religion poisons everything. Sure, there are examples of non-religious violence and so on, but compared to the carnage through the millennia, it wasn’t even a close comparison. And with the old saying, the truth will set you free. And without the shadows of religion of any sort, I now found myself with a new feeling… anger and rage to all things religion. That was a new one.

End of Pt 4. To be completed.

#MondayBlogs – Rants on Faith: What Went Wrong Pt 3

So a few weeks back, I began my explanation on why I left faith and belief in a supernatural being altogether, and embraced what can be proven, explained but more importantly, what was right for me.

I was very much the Catholic zealot at one time. I envied those who gave more of themselves for the greater glory of God, was fearful of eternal flames and so on, I followed the lessons given me, and kept up with the schools of Christian thought. There was what was right and wrong, seen through the rose shaded glasses of the Vatican, and tried my best to follow the tenets. But there was always something that was dissonant between what was taught, and yet what was actually done and what I felt in my gut.

As the years past, there were little things here and there that changed my views ever so slightly. But what made me start on a new path were a few things here and there…

I’ve explained about how science fiction and how the concepts embodied within had put some nagging doubts I’ve had into some form of perspective. The story “Dead Run” especially resonated with me much later in life, that is the concept that I was taught, and the Vatican confirmed after the new Pope’s recent comments, that atheists are doomed to eternal damnation no matter what good they did in life. Add the fact that I had just started dating a non-believer herself, I was getting especially pissed if anything.

That thought stabbed deep in me, as I couldn’t believe a loving God would just gladly damn my then girlfriend to Hell, especially someone fundamentally good as she was.  Worse, there was the thought that at any time since the founding of the Catholic faith, something between 99.9999% (the beginning of Christianity) to 5/6 (modern days) of the world’s population has been doomed to Hell because they were not of the correct faith or by the simple fact that they would have never even had a chance to even hear of Him let alone convert. If God was all powerful, forgiving and loving, then what the HECK was casting the majority of the world’s population to Hell in the last 2000 years. That’s the act of a spiteful child, a cruel sadist and an outright sore loser.

Add my doubts in regards to abortion/women’s rights, women priests, the treatment of the LGBT community, the questionable politics, the ever expanding rape of thousands of children and women by priests and deacons the world over and the resulting deplorable actions and cover-ups by the so-called leadership in the Vatican… and I found that I was on the wrong side both as what I believe to be moral and as a simple human being.

As each scandal went by, each news headline, each action by a bishop, each reply from the Vatican and more, I found myself questioning why was I a Catholic? More so, I have always believed in a modern form of chivalry, whereas defending the right and the weak was what mattered.  This was my state of belief, one foot out, one foot in right into my early-30’s.

What tipped things over was the election of Pope Benedict, the former Nazi pope. With his election, and his dedication to bring the Church back to the 12th century, I found that my membership in the Catholic church completely untenable. I broke off completely, and started to look for a Protestant option. Yes, I still believed in God at that point, but just refused to have anything to do with His chosen agents.

And in this modern age of YouTube and the internet, I would be soon introduced to even more ideas that I never had access as a child, a teen or a college student, that shed more doubt about the Catholic faith, but this time from a roundabout way via the unlikely combination of minds, South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Monty Python’s John Cleese. A particular episode covered the origins of the Mormon faith, which was all founded upon the story of how Joseph Smith found these mystic plates telling of the New Adventure of Jesus in the New World and so on.

South Park – Joseph Smith and the Creation of Mormonism from swingitjack on Vimeo.

I won’t go into it, but it was so incredulous, that I just shook my head in puzzlement for the absurdity of the premise. But not long after, I caught a chance argument between John Cleese and the Catholic Church in an old documentary. In this, Cleese made a key comment about how ridiculous it was for the Catholic Church to follow the books of the Disciples, seeing as they were (go ahead and verify this… won’t take long):

1) Based on scrolls from various ages in various ancient languages, that contradict one another with translation problems galore;

2)  Based on INCOMPLETE knowledge as thousands of other scrolls were deliberately discounted and destroyed by the leaders of the Catholic faith in the 15th century

3) Many of the scrolls and books were written centuries after the original subjects lived, in an age where documentation and recorded history was spotty at best. Virtually all of these were written based on stories told time and time again each generation. Ever play the game Broken Telephone as a kid where the original sentence changes radically only 10-20 people down the line? Now imagine THOUSANDS of people down the line over hundreds of years. I would definitely say there’s some poetic licence involved here.

4) Most of the early scrolls were written by various factions, each who had their own version of the stories involved, and all around the 4th century. It was for this EXACT reason why Constantine convened the Nicean council to get everyone on the same page!

4) Books and scrolls were cherry-picked in the 17th century in what would become the King James Bible, of which the 49-54 or so writers apparently had very specific instructions to make it politically acceptable, and then was “Shakespeare-ized” by Sir Francis Bacon to make it more reader friendly.

So… the modern bible we all were taught with was a translated book, written under various political and personal rules dictated by King James to be acceptable, fluffed up to be easier to read, based on scrolls written in ancient languages in the 4th century, based on retelling of oral stories by hundreds to thousands of people over 400 years, all written by various competing factions with their own agendas, and still cherry picked for what was convenient by the (then) modern church.

This was totally and absolutely absurd. Now every lesson, parable and reading is now called into question, and Christianity as a whole is in some way centered around this??

This was a HUGE hole in my belief in Christianity. Corrupt and vile leadership was one thing, but to know that the documented heart of the religion was so fundamentally flawed was another. So now I was spiritually rudderless so to speak… or was I.  It was then I finally was introduced to Christopher Hitchens.

End of Pt 3

#MondayBlogs – Rants on Faith : What Went Wrong Pt 2

(This is a continuation of what I now believe will be a 5 part blog. To read part 1, click HERE.)

So last week, I touched upon a conversation I had with my mother on how they couldn’t understand how someone like me, with such an upbringing and record of service in the Catholic church, could have abandoned all such teachings and become an atheist.   Being staunch Catholics themselves, they asked themselves again and again, what went wrong with me?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And to ALL of my family, my path was no different than yours. Even as late as university and so on, I was still a true believer. I sang in the choir. I read the scripture before the crowds. I even mentored other youth in the faith at one time or another. My gal, WK, when talking about all of this, even told me that I was still a believer even 8-9 years ago.

But what made the difference that made me reject ALL religions, whether it be Christianity, Islam, Cthulhu, Buddhism, Taoism, Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, Elvis, Zeus, Odin and all the rest, was a triple knockout combo of logic, morality and ethics.

This week, I’m going to cover a bit about the logic part. That came through introduction to some ideas proposed by Robert Heinlein and of all things, an episode of the Twilight Zone and much later, to Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins.

Robert A. Heinlein is one of the grandfathers of Science Fiction, and a unabashedly unapologetic atheist. He was a war hero, a writer of worlds beyond measure, a believer in the evolution of society and more. His words through Stranger in a Strange Land, to Friday to the Lazarus Long tales, hit and resonated a chord inside me. Certain key words taken from the novel Friday had hit me hard, and put that first chink in my Armour of faith…

A religion is sometime a source of happiness, and I would not deprive anyone of happiness. But it is a comfort appropriate for the weak, not for the strong. The great trouble with religion – any religion – is that a religionist, having accepted certain propositions by faith, cannot thereafter judge those propositions by evidence. One may bask at the warm fire of faith or choose to live in the bleak certainty of reason- but one cannot have both.” [Robert A. Heinlein, from “Friday”]

These words had a ring of truth, and it resonated with somewhere deep inside me. But it had only dented my faith, it didn’t break it. It would take the words of another science fiction writer to do that, in an episode of the Twilight Zone, Dead Run.

In this tale, truckers were entrusted to bring the souls of the damned to Hell. But there was a problem, a rebellion in Hell had started, as one of the truckers had died in service to God and found himself among the damned. He would then discover that people were being sent to Hell for the wrong reasons, people who were good at heart yet had taken a stance on something that someone of faith might object to such as fighting to prevent a book burning of novels that might have sacrilegious text. And the souls of the damned would tell their tale, of those sent down because they were atheists, or because they overdosed on drugs but never hurt anyone else and so on.

That was the tale that knocked a hole into my sureness of faith.  The issue I had was with what I had been taught about religion as a child to adulthood, which is that basically all non-believers will pretty much go to hell regardless of the good they did in their life.  This wasn’t the act of a loving, forgiving God at all. Now having been introduced to the actual consequences in this tale, I suddenly I now saw this as an act of a malicious bastard, a cruel child who strikes out when he doesn’t get his way. It made me wonder how could anyone be good without the context of God, and the story of the damned atheist suddenly put things into a context I honestly never saw before. More importantly, when taking into the context that there are over 6 billion on the planet, of which only 1.2 billion are Catholics or Christians in one way or another, that means that just under 5 billion are going to go to hell just for the sin of being born in a country where “The Word” hasn’t even reached them. So, was God now allowing people to be born for kicks just so he can keep Hell pretty well full of people to toss into eternal fire? My instant reaction as a HUMAN BEING was… WTF?

I slowly started to look further into the texts and the dogma of the church. I would read the declarations of the Pope, and started to put some of that religious upbringing into focus through the eyes of an adult as opposed to an indoctrinated child. I would learn more about the causes the church had fought, such as women priests, abortion, and the treatment of gay people and the like. And with each page, I found myself having doubts about what the church taught me. These words, from the leadership going all the way to the Vatican, struck me as wrong. And the more I would look into it, I honestly started to be ashamed for what I was a part of.

Let’s take the topic of female priests for example. In the here and now, to even breach the possibility has gotten believers around the world excommunicated outright. Why? Mary Magdalene could easily be considered to be one of the apostles, She was recruited by Jesus, and was a recipient with the other 12 when the supposed miracle of tongues occurred. She went out into the world, and did her best to spread the word, just like the others.

So if Jesus didn’t care, why isn’t there any female priests? Why are nuns are at best second class citizens in service of Christ. And I read further. In the earliest days of Catholicism, there were female “priests” of sorts who would spread the Good News. There wasn’t any such separation, but all that changed when Emperor Constantine became the head of the church.

That hit me hard. It wasn’t some declaration by God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit that set the Church on this path. It was a declaration made by a man, based on the social conventions of his time. Yet, it was one that was readily approved of by the faithful, because said faithful believed that God spoke through this man.

But, I was raised and exposed to strong women in my life. My mother is and has always been the cornerstone of my family. One of the first women to graduate from Loyola College in finance, and later became the Director of Finance of a hospital. My grandmother on the Lo side, despite her many faults and my very personal misgivings about her, raised a small army of children through the ravages of World War II, the murder of her father by the Japanese invading forces, and still bring the family through the dark economic times that followed. She had to endure conditions that would break most people, man or woman, and I have to give credit where credit is due. Who’s to say she wouldn’t have made a hell of a priest? And as I look out now where women are leaders on the global stage, dreamers and thinkers throughout all walks of life, who says they can’t be effective priests? The answer is easy; a group of conservative men in their late 70’s to 80’s in a cloistered marble palace in Vatican City.

There are so many many more topics I’d love to hit on this, but that would have to be covered in some other blog entry. The treatment of the LBGT community. Birth control. Abortion. Divorce. This and so so many other topics I will write about one of these days.

So now through my own investigations and examination, my belief in the Church was thoroughly shaken. Then along came Christopher Hitchens…..

End of Part 2