Random quote of the day:

“It’s those people who have so little, and who suffer so much, who need at least for religion to comfort them. Nothing else is. Once you grow past Mommy and Daddy coming running when you’re hurt, you’re really on your own. You’re alone, and there’s no one to help you.”

—Octavia Butler, quoted in Religion in Science Fiction by Steven Hrotic

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Desus and Mero, Beyoncé, or the Marine Corps Marching Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“The Gospels actually taught this:

Before you kill somebody, make absolutely sure he isn’t well connected. So it goes.

The flaw in the Christ stories, said the visitor from outer space, was that Christ, who didn’t look like much, was actually the Son of the Most Powerful Being in the Universe. Readers understood that, so, when they came to the crucifixion, they naturally thought…:

Oh boy—they sure picked the wrong guy to lynch that time!

And that thought had a brother: “There are right people to lynch.” Who? People not well connected. So it goes.

—Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Desus and Mero, Beyoncé, or the Marine Corps Marching Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

I got a weird “spam” call the other day. I don’t usually answer numbers I don’t recognize, but I did this one. An older-sounding man said, “Hello. My name is Joe. We have so much bad news these days that I wanted to give my neighbors some good news.” “Okay,” I said in my skeptical I-don’t-know-who-tf-you-are tone. He continued, “It says in the Book of Isaiah—” At which point I hung up.

It reminded me of the summer when I was seventeen and fell in with a bad crowd. This all came about because of a super huge crush I had on one of my classmates in high school, and because I was graduating and not entirely sure of my direction, and because I was an introvert who wanted to feel part of something, and because of music. Lots of fun music and riotously fun Tuesday night rival-like meetings at a local church where they had gigantic, rollicking singalongs and talked in tongues and laid on hands and all that jazz. So I spent the late spring and summer of my seventeenth year on a journey of attempted indoctrination into the cult-like world of the Evangelical Christians. This was also the summer my BFF and I volunteered at the La Brea Tar Pits working in the labs there. A weird science/religion combo if ever there was one, but I was confused and exploring my options.

I won’t mention the particular sect I got involved with because I don’t want to paint an entire group of people with a broad brush. It all began with my crush, a newly minted born-again Christian, talking to me at lunchtime about Jesus. I had not been raised in any religion. My mother had always encouraged me to listen and make up my own mind about things. But I had “sampled” many of the Christian churches of my friends, both Protestant and Catholic, and I had been enchanted by the occult from my early teens. So I listened politely to my crush, mainly (if I’m honest) because he was cute and I liked the attention. Sometimes my BFF would join us in these lunch discussions. She was always more skeptical, asked more questions, had more objections to blanket declarations than I had. I suspect my crush had a crush on her. At any rate, he invited us to a Christian coffeehouse with him one Saturday where they played Christian-themed folk-rock and it was something to do for two introverted girls, so we went along. It was actually a lot of fun. The music was good, everyone was friendly, and there was a dynamic young long-haired preacher from New Zealand who made the rounds talking to the kids. (And he was really cute—with a dishy accent.) Things at the coffeehouse usually broke up about 11 and afterwards we’d pile into my crush’s car and drive all over L.A. and into the canyons to look down on the lights of L.A. and go to the all-nite eateries—all innocent, good clean fun. It was a blast, so it got to be a regular thing. Me, my crush, my crush’s BFF, and my BFF. Kind of like dating, except not.

The young preacherman at the coffeehouse would come around and chat with groups of kids. He was quite charismatic and emphasized over and over again how we needed to stop random people on the street and start quoting scripture to them because even if they resisted the message and scoffed, you could be planting a seed that would allow God into their hearts and save them. I won’t even get into how dangerous that would be for young girls to do on the streets of L.A., but regardless, I wasn’t about to do it. First of all, I was far too introverted to even contemplate such a thing, and second, I couldn’t help thinking that if God was such a mighty being why did he need my pissant help to open somebody’s heart? Seemed like he could do that on his own if he was into forced conversions. No, what the preacherman was talking about was a human need to spew scripture, a way of proving something to the same human doing the spewing. Like, I don’t know . . . that they were holier than thou? Or maybe, as I suspect was the case with my telephoning Bible spammer, something that made them feel like they were taking positive action in a world that was confusing and often terrifying and often felt like it was spinning out of their control.

But I won’t say that I was unfazed by all this, especially by the really cute preacherman and the sincerity of my crush (even though it became clear as summer waned that he wasn’t interested in me in that way). I was enchanted, to a certain extent, and briefly felt part of something larger and there was. . . fellowship. I can’t emphasize enough how powerful the draw of fellowship was to a questing, confused little introvert like I was then. (That’s how cults get you.) That enchantment even went so far that I allowed the preacherman to convince me that I needed to burn my tarot cards. Yeah, I know. (And for anyone who might be justifiably horrified by this, please know I would not do anything remotely like this now, but it was a weird time in my headspace.) I’ve regretted that so many times I can’t even tell you, but I was caught up in the moment.

Preacherman wanted to burn them with me present so I could be “released from Satan’s bond,” but I declined. I was already feeling uncomfortable about the whole thing and they’d been a gift from my two best friends who had pooled their resources to buy the deck for me, so I was feeling like a foul betrayer of their friendship and thinking I should just call the whole thing off, but, I mean, like, I’d already brought them there and everyone was staring at me expectantly . . . In retrospect, I realize the preacherman wanted that audience of kids to watch me watching those cards burn, hoping my reaction to being “liberated” would play into their acceptance of his message, but I didn’t get that at the time. I just knew I didn’t want to be part of it. Those cards did liberate me, but not in the way the preacherman anticipated.

He took them out to the parking lot with a group of followers (they didn’t want the fire marshal to come down on them for burning something inside the club) while I stayed inside. He was out there for quite a while and when he came back he was flushed with victory. He started preaching about how those cards of Satan had really resisted the flames. He kept lighting them and Satan kept putting out the flames but he prayed and prayed and finally they caught fire and burned with a great, bright fire. And all the while I’m thinking, “They had a protective coating on them. That’s why they resisted the flames. And that’s probably why they burned so bright afterwards.” The preacherman’s house of tarot cards collapsed in my mind at that point. It wasn’t the final final straw, but just about. I couldn’t help thinking that if he was full of shit on that count, what else was bullshit? I eventually came to realize it all was.

So a deck of Smith-Waite reproduction tarot cards—and science—saved me from an Evangelical cult. Something inevitably would have, I think, because I was never a true convert and my BFF had already called bullshit and I was much more accustomed to listening to her than preachermen (even really cute ones). But those cards were the catalyst. I still regret the loss of them, and I kind of wonder if maybe that’s why I can never get decent readings from Smith-Waite decks. They are almost always overwhelmingly negative. I can’t say I blame them for holding a grudge.

Random quote of the day:

“As a Catholic, I believe in God and in evolution; once there were dinosaurs and now there aren’t; six million years ago there were no humans and now there are, so obviously something changed. God has more imagination than anybody.”

—Diana Gabaldon, interview, Outlander Cast Blog, April 13, 2017

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Key and Peele, Celine Dion, or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

I was having a very interesting conversation over on Dreamwidth with my friend notasupervillain in the Comments section of my last Musings post (July 24, 2019). It grew into a post-long exchange. I have taken my part of the conversation and reproduced it here, cleaned it up, and expanded a bit. I’ve left the original exchange as is in the Dreamwidth Comments.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not young enough to be absolutely certain I know the truth. The shades of grey multiply with each year. But that’s okay. The things that are important are beyond those kinds of thought processes. We can feel around their edges, if we try real hard and remember they’re always changing shape anyway.

—from my original Musings post of July 24

I’ve known many truths, but they keep shifting as time passes. So, I’ve stopped trying to hold onto them and I certainly don’t try to convince anyone of their validity. Not like I used to when I was young. Whatever works for as long as it works.

This shiftingness of truth applies even to (or especially to) religious faith. I’ve long maintained that faith is experiential, not received wisdom. I don’t reject received wisdom out of hand—often it is quite valuable—but if all you have is that received wisdom, faith is never going to withstand the rigors of living. Once you’ve crossed that boundary of experience, though, faith has the ability to adapt and change. If you let it. Some people are so wedded to a single interpretation of spiritual experience they can’t see beyond it and try bending all of life to their rigid mold…until it breaks. Adapt or die.

I’ve never been religious, but I consider myself spiritual. That spirituality is fostered and sustained by numerous experiences I’ve had that convince me there is something in the universe besides materiality. Some of these experiences I’ve had alone, some with others, some have been creepy, some have given me great comfort. But they are the basis of my faith.

Now, because I am who I am and always questioning, I’ve long-since reconciled myself to the fact that they may be illusion, “mistaken identity,” brain chemistry, etc., etc. As I have more and more experiences, though, it gets harder to deny that something weird is going on. But I try to stay flexible with it, not confine it. I let it seep inside me, grow and change—I stay mindful.

If I was a strict Baptist or a Catholic, for instance (and as I understand it from some strict Baptists and Catholics of my acquaintance), I might have to consider some of these experiences as manifestations of the devil (because they believe all ghosts and other things are evil spirits trying to fool us into thinking we’ve been contacted by our deceased loved ones, etc., etc. ad nauseam). If I believed there was one God who was just and righteous and ruled over everything, I might ask myself, “So why did He allow the Holocaust to happen?” and it might shatter (or at least erode) my faith.

But the one thing that I know absolutely is that I don’t know what rules the universe. It may be nothing, it may be a lot of somethings, it may be one something in many aspects, it may be something I can’t even conceive of in with my limited human POV. I don’t even know if it’s a just universe. I know what I feel and what I’ve come to believe, but that hardly constitutes proof that someone else can take to the bank of faith. All I can really count on are my experiences, not the received wisdom of a religion or religions—which are always filtered through limited human perception anyway. That wisdom may point me down a path, but I am always going to have to be the one who walks that path and decides for myself what I see. Those experiences are not something you can hand off to someone and say, “Here, this happened to me so you should believe as I do.” If they haven’t had their own experiences, it’s not going to stick. But that hasn’t stopped many people trying to do just that through the centuries.

I know that I do not know, and I have my experiences, which allow me to feel comforted—if not always comfortable—in the midst of a vast uncertainty. They allow me to adapt and change, and to keep seeking answers, following paths, being surprised when new things occur to me that I hadn’t considered before, and moving forward.

Random quote of the day:

“Sunday: A day given over by Americans to wishing that they themselves were dead and in Heaven, and that their neighbors were dead and in Hell.”

—H. L. Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomathy

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Laurel and Hardy, Ariana Grande, or the Salvation Army Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“Religion is to mysticism what popularization is to science.”

—Henri Bergson, The Two Sources of Morality and Religion

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Orville and Wilbur, Katy Perry, or the Avengers. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”

—Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama, Kindness and Compassion

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Orville and Wilbur, Katy Perry, or the Avengers. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

1. Let me thread you a story…(1-18)
2. We had us a preacher once named Mike Spike Huckleberry who liked to preach fire and brimstone and “superior” values.
3. He set up church in his house and called it the God’s True Will Church of Everlasting Superiority.
4. Trouble was, this ain’t a fire and brimstone kind of town. At least not in the sense of damning everyone to Hell.
5. But Mike Spike, well, he was one self-righteous sumbich. Not a speck of love in his Gospel, only judgement and damnation.
6. Some folks in this town ate it up with a big spoon cuz some folks love an excuse to feel superior to others.
7. And if they can fool themselves into thinking God is backing their claims to be chosen amongst men, that makes the poison more delicious.
8. For a time it seemed Mike Spike was going to take over the town. Most people didn’t hold with his message, but he shouted real loud.
9. Sometimes those who shout loudest and insist they’re being persecuted if you disagree with them can hold sway.
10. Cuz good-hearted folk just can’t believe that someone will preach about God and still hold evil intention in their heart.
11. It took a deal of cowering and doubt and good folks second-guessing their motives, but the tide finally turned on Mike Spike.
12. Billy Budd Gibbons, he of the All Souls Love Congregation, asked God to show us a sign if we should follow Mike Spike’s ways.
13. People lost count of the lightning strikes after 48 turned Mike Spike’s house into a deep, dark pit of char.
14. Mike’s daughter, Hectorine Huckleberry-Skanklebrass, spokesperson for Mike Spike, missed the deitific barbecue.
15. She was at her own home next door with her husband, Winnie, doing some cowering of her own in the basement.
16. She and Winnie did some considering while they cowered, afraid the Lord might have a postscript for them after finishing with Mike Spike.
17. They left town in an awful hurry. No one much was sorry to see ‘em go.
18. Sometimes it’s hard to reconcile God’s ways to man. Other times it’s as clear as a flash of lightning.

This story can also be found on Twitter @downportalville.

Random quote of the day:

“It is hardly to be believed how spiritual reflections when mixed with a little physics can hold people’s attention and give them a livelier idea of God than do the often ill-applied examples of his wrath.”

—Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Aphorisms, Notebook A, 11


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.


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