The rumor was that I wanted to kill my ex-wife, as I am certain that many in such a position stand accused. This was not true. My fantasies were much more complicated. Daydreams involved coming home to an empty house and waiting for a telephone call. It would be the police department calling, and they would advise me to sit down, and proceed to explain that my wife had met with a horrible accident and, unfortunately, would not be coming home.

My crocodile tears, over the telephone, would not have given me away.

After all, I had a son and a daughter and I did not want them to be without a mother. This is why, upon my divorce, it never occurred to me to kidnap them and take them so far deep into Mexico as to never be heard from until they were old enough to hate me anew. Instead, I divorced my ex-wife nicely, if there is such a thing. She could keep everything, even my sanity. I would save and buy new building blocks for my brain and move on. That would take a couple of years.

This dystopian life is exaggerated. Not that the very minute I got off of the train that led me to Baja ever solved a damned thing, it has instead forced me to reconcile a dualistic philosophy and simply choose one damned thing over another. I choose tacos. I choose Español. I choose to submit to this cultural shift in order to come to terms with many broken promises from the culture I was born into. After all, they promised us nuclear war. They promised us all lung cancer. We were supposed to have flying cars by now.

This is what happens.

* *

My life is simple at this point, fry up two corn tortillas and then two eggs over-easy and then diced onion and tomato with some salt and pepper and a dab of salsa. I eat this every day and continue to poop and get hungry again; it works wonders. Meanwhile, my wife is upstairs asleep and my daughter is in Playas with her niece and another daughter is married and living in Los Pinos and my son is somewhere in San Diego with my grandson. I have another son living in the middle of the desert and another daughter somewhere in Arizona. Not a single one of them will be eating huevos rancheros anytime soon. They don’t know what they are missing.

On Sunday mornings sometimes I wake up very early and I have no idea why. This morning I awoke at three o’clock and fixed myself some coffee. I listened to the radio and a show came on, it was about Jesus. Jesus has his own radio show. It was only a matter of time. I have to wonder what ratings Jesus can brag about. I imagine it is a syndicated show, what with Jesus being omnipotent and all. I reckon that Jesus is syndicated on Clear Channel Communications because that’s where all of the right-wing nut-jobs hang out.

If I were Jesus, that’s where I would stake out my studios.

So, while eating my huevos rancheros I listen to the Jesus show, and I whole-heartedly recommend it to everyone. Sometimes people call Jesus and complain about their sad, sad lives. As anyone could imagine, Jesus is very sympathetic. Sometimes he tells people this: There, there, now, now. And then he asks them if the life they are leading is the life they really want to lead. Of course it isn’t, or they wouldn’t be calling Jesus up to talk to him on the radio. But the thing I like most about radio Jesus is that he isn’t condescending, nor does he patronize anyone.

The big draw, the reason that people should tune into the Jesus radio show, is the same reason that people tune into Dr. Laura Schlessinger. She is also syndicated on Clear Channel Communications, by the way, apparently they have the market cornered. See, people need to know about someone else’s misery. If someone on this planet is more miserable than someone else, then that’s a ratings bonanza. This is why you should listen to the Jesus radio show. This is why you should listen to Dr. Laura. Someone else’s train wreck is your ticket to spiritual freedom.

Seriously.

* *

I remember getting into an argument many several years ago (perhaps over two decades) with the televangelist-chasing relatives on my mother’s side of the family. I mostly keep quiet when they talk about religion, but there are times I can’t help myself. The smug, contemptuous, unholy righteousness of their attitude brings out the worst in me. I continue to hold that most folks who attend church tend to hate human beings. Folks that go beyond tossing a couple of dollars into the collection plate might be even worse.

I remember them talking about the end times, when God would make the world into a hell. They went on and on about how horrible it would be, about how many sinners wouldn’t be redeemed and so on. Something about Jesus leading an army and destroying the evil here. A lot about things they couldn’t possibly know.

“I hope I’m there for it,” I said.

I got the distinct feeling that they expected the Earth to open up and swallow me whole for saying that. But it was an honest thing to say. I stand by that statement now. But holy cow, back then, I thought people were going to order an exorcism. Someone finally asked me to explain myself.

I figured then - as I do now - that if such an event were to happen, that I couldn’t imagine that anyone lifted up to heaven could possibly make any difference up there, because after all, they’re already in heaven, right? But maybe if some people stayed behind, just maybe, someone could make a difference down here. Maybe you get to save a soul. I’d give mine up in heartbeat to save someone else’s.

Maybe I don’t have a firm grip on what humanity is supposed to be all about, but I’d go to hell to save someone else’s soul. I reckon that’ll keep me out of most churches for the rest of my life. It’s kept me out of all of them up to this point. Between that and American Football. Amen.

* *

So, with all of these things I’ve been promised – from nuclear war to lung cancer to flying cars to robot maids – I’ve never asked for much from a God. I asked for health when my children were born, in fact I prayed for it, the only honest prayer I can remember muttering while not on the tile floor of a bathroom in my youth with a belly full of bad liquor. And it wouldn’t be fair of me to ask that human kind would give up their souls to save another soul. But I hope this, and will continue to hope it even though I suspect I am hoping in vain, I will hope that at some point before I die – irrespective of the possibility of afterlife or a God or Goddess – I hope that at least one person on this ever-dying planet understands why I have absolutely no choice but to want more for you than I want for myself.

That isn’t religion talking; it’s part of being a human on this planet. At least, that’s what it means to me. I think back about my first marriage, about the sadness and void, about the unhealthy existence, I can't imagine anyone in that situation. Maybe that's what molds us, turns us into something we can't help but to become. From misery comes compassion. Maybe that's it.

Comments

antigeekess Nov. 21, 2010 @ 6:51 p.m.

Sadly, most humans seem to require Big Sky Daddy standing over them with the big stick in order to motivate them towards decent behavior.

The best ones don't.

:)

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David Dodd Nov. 21, 2010 @ 6:55 p.m.

I've always had a big problem with heaven as a reward. I don't want a reward. I just want to be human, and part of me being human is being willing to get snuffed out in place for the good of someone else. I'd trade that everlasting life away with no regrets if it meant something good for someone else.

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David Dodd Nov. 21, 2010 @ 8:21 p.m.

Religion is how people define it, I wouldn't know any different. I've been to a boatload of churches, none of them harmed me in any way, but I can't say that any of them enlightened me either. Ive been to Kingdom Hall's, Catholic masses, Assemblies of God, you name it, I've been there, even to Mormon churches. I have no complaints about any of them, so long as people are happy attending.

It won't be me in any case.

So far as the father of your kids, I can't tell you how to feel about that, but as much of an a-hole as my ex-wife is, my kids need a mother and I never said a bad word against her until they hit 18 and asked me why I wasn't around when they grew up. I still don't think they believe me when I told them about the ex sending Child Protective Services out to take away my youngest daughter. This is what happens.

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antigeekess Nov. 21, 2010 @ 8:29 p.m.

"Kingdom Hall's, Catholic masses, Assemblies of God, you name it, I've been there, even to Mormon churches."

How about Unitarian Universalist, Unity, or Baha'i?

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David Dodd Nov. 21, 2010 @ 8:45 p.m.

Nope, although I am familiar with them. My attendance was mostly in my youth. Since I've grown into adulthood, I've not strayed far from my living room. I'm pretty good pals with a pair of Baha'i faithful, she's Mexican he's American. Very balanced folks, I appreciate the ease and patience in which they communicate. I enjoy people of faith that seem to have no driving need to ramrod their beliefs down my throat, and the Baha'i folk seem to fill that bill quite swimmingly.

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antigeekess Nov. 21, 2010 @ 8:56 p.m.

The Baha'i are my second favorite, next to UU. It's the one I most identify with. Very similar in attitude.

Unity is my 3rd choice; very progressive, positive Christianity that focuses only on Jesus & the New Testament. Unity churches typically have a bookstore that sells a lot of books you might call "New Age." Deepak Chopra & the like.

Those are really the only 3 I have any use for, personally. Of the mainstream, Lutherans and Methodists are the easiest to get along with.

But I haven't been to any church in years, myself. Might hook back up with the UUs sometime. Atheists are welcome there, BTW. :)

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David Dodd Nov. 21, 2010 @ 9:02 p.m.

Oh man, one of these days I'm going to write about the very last time I was cast out of Lutheran Sunday School :)

Seriously, they got a big giant hard-on and tossed me. It was AWESOME! And I was innocent! I dared to bring up to very turning point of Jesus' baptism, and they went nuts. The singular pivot-point of the entire biblical experience, and they wouldn't even entertain the notion that once Jesus was baptized in water, humanity was then destined to be baptized in his SPIRIT! Epic kick-out. I was so proud, my mother so embarrassed.

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antigeekess Nov. 22, 2010 @ 8:48 p.m.

Heehee. Yeah, folks can get a little miffed when you read things in terms of allegory that they take to be literal, historical fact. Joseph Campbell would have been proud of ya, even if your parents weren't.

As I understand it, BTW, that whole "died for our sins" thing is a fairly modern interpretation that really hasn't been around all that long at all. Started with an east coast pastor, I think. 1800s. I could be wrong.

You could look it up & stuff. If ya wanna. I ain't gonna. Mostly 'cuz I don't care. :)

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MsGrant Nov. 22, 2010 @ 9:26 a.m.

Religion is salve for the human condition. There is a lot of arrogance in assuming you will be granted eternal life and salvation in exchange for your attendance and financial contributions to "insert church of choice here". I am consistently shocked at how gullible human beings are and how easily flattered. Having been raised Catholic, I NEVER felt the hand of God. I felt the fear. Why would I want to live in eternity with THAT? I want the keys to the Universe when I die. That is my wish. To discover the secrets of space.

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David Dodd Nov. 22, 2010 @ 9:44 a.m.

Guilt. Guilt has always been the feeling I've associated with Catholicism. The first thing you notice is Christ nailed to a cross, and he died for YOUR sins. That's some pretty tough love for a nine-year-old kid to have to endure. They tried to make up for it by serving cookies and punch after catechism, but all I could imagine was that Jesus was very disappointed with me every time I touched myself inappropriately. It's pretty easy to screw a kid up with religion. I've always tried to make certain that my kids were completely free to decide for themselves what was comfortable and what they wanted from any belief in a higher power.

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MsGrant Nov. 22, 2010 @ 10:23 a.m.

No doubt, guilt is HUGE in the Catholic faith. He died for our sins? What did WE do?!?! The church always made us feel just a bit "dirty", you know? I guess it was that "original sin" thing.

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Altius Nov. 22, 2010 @ 11:08 a.m.

First of all... what's wrong with guilt? Gringo, you've got kids. Don't you want them to feel it when they've done something wrong? Or would you rather they go through life committing wrong and feeling no responsibility for it.

Both you and Ms. Grant are dealing in tired 1970s psyche-cliches that say the secret to happiness is to dump your guilt. In reality, it's a recipe for unhappiness to live in a way which is incongruous with what you know in your heart to be right and wrong.. The secret to happiness is to live a principled life, acknowledge when you go astray, repair any damage done, receive forgiveness, and forgive others when they go astray. All of which the Catholic church Professes.

Religion is among the most natural things on earth. Every culture that ever existed developed a system of beliefs about powers higher than themselves. To write all of that off as "Big Sky Daddy" stuff is, to paraphrase RFGringo, smug, contemptuous, unholy self-righteousness.

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MsGrant Nov. 22, 2010 @ 11:24 a.m.

Altius, I do experience guilt when I have truly done (or not done) something for which to feel guilty of. I don't need anyone making things up for me. Organized religion was and always will be a means to control the masses. Any intelligent person will live a life with principles. We just don't need someone telling us how.

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David Dodd Nov. 22, 2010 @ 11:43 a.m.

Guilt is - or at least should be - based on experience. I would not have crucified a Christ, I wouldn't do it now, that if someone wandered up to me and told me that He was the Son of God I would have no choice but to accept his statement at face value. Believing in such a statement is an entirely different matter. Having faith in such a belief is the cornerstone of Christianity. God killed his own son. Hell of a story, eh? It is easy to say that God's act mandates humanity's culpability. It is much more difficult to rationalize that statement, and I can't speak for everyone but it's certainly above my pay grade.

My children do not deserve the guilt of original sin. They have been taught about it, the three that I've had control of have been to church, baptized and confirmed and so on. I think it was important for them to learn about religion, and had no qualms with the Catholic lessons. As for myself, I've never been baptized by water. I have no plans to do so in the future. According to many versions of Christianity, this condemns me to a life non-eternal.

I could care less about that, Altius. The great-big giant awesome message inside of the New Testament is completely lost if I need to have some holy man sprinkle water on my head so that I am somehow absolved in the murder of the Son of God. For my children, I only want their guilt borne of a crime they've committed, not one that society decides to dump onto them. I'd rather see them run in the sprinklers because it's fun, not because they owe their God an offering. But I will defend the rights of those people who believe that guilt is an integral part of their eventual salvation. Should they want even more guilt, they can have mine. I hammered no nails into that cross, I have nothing to be guilty of and neither do my children.

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nan shartel Nov. 22, 2010 @ 12:22 p.m.

"Religion is the opiate of the masses" (Karl Marx) has been a truism in many ways...Religiousity is a mind killer...with GUILT as one of it's personal servants

When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow. Anais Nin ...is the signature on my e-mail

i was raised Catholic 2 Refried...and fell away from the church as a teenager because of all the reasons u've brought forward here and many others

i don't think being a member of any religion is a prerequisite to having a more happy and secure life or afterlife

and Tacos sounds good to me homey!!!

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David Dodd Nov. 22, 2010 @ 1:39 p.m.

Mormons tend to bang big giant screws into doctrine and tie themselves to those footholds. They make it sound as though they have all of the answers, but really, I've found it to be a grand creation of what they want religion to be. I grew up understanding that Christianity was faith-based, so I always found it odd the the Book of Mormon recommended that the reader sit in a room and ask God for guidance as to whether or not the book was true. Anti-faith, much?

Still, I think they are mostly very nice people and they are willing to listen even though I think that their minds are closed for the most part. I grew up a few houses down from a couple of Mormon families, they were great kids to pal around with, I went to church with them many times. More Mormons wouldn't make for a bad planet.

I equate them in an odd way with the Witnesses, except that the Witnesses seem to be stuck on numbers. One hundred and forty-four thousand, imagine that. Every time I hear that I can only think of the late Carl Sagan saying, "Billions!" Try telling a Witness that the use of numbers in literature in ancient Greek was entirely symbolic. Good luck convincing them otherwise.

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antigeekess Nov. 22, 2010 @ 8:39 p.m.

"Any intelligent person will live a life with principles."

Ooooh nooooooo. You did 'not' just equate intelligence with virtue, did you Grantie?

http://dead-silence.org/?p=260

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David Dodd Nov. 22, 2010 @ 9:11 p.m.

That's a pretty awesome premise into an entirely other story, isn't it? Intelligence vs. principles. I'm not certain that they could possibly equate, but I bet we could draw a line from one to the other in some way. At least, I wouldn't mind attempting it. I've always felt that every disaster in life is directly related to another one, why not human intelligence and human principles? Sort of like justifiable warfare. I still can't wrap my head around that concept. Doesn't stop me from trying to reconcile it. Maybe I'm a masochist at heart ;)

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MsGrant Nov. 23, 2010 @ 7:40 a.m.

True, sociopaths are typically intelligent. I guess what I mean is anyone that is not devoid of empathy and is a rational thinker.

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David Dodd Nov. 23, 2010 @ 10:50 p.m.

Unless you live in Baja. According to the latest Cover Story in the Reader, we all have lice and have to wade through she-male prostitutes in order to buy our groceries. Us Tijuanenses are a bunch of evil bastards, best no one listens to us. Anyone who lives here is a Goddamn lunatic.

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