Sacred Playgrounds and Supreme Nonsense

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Time for Reflection

The Supreme Court heard this case of a Missouri church demanding its “religious freedom” for playground rubber.  Yes, welcome to America.

I’ve been waiting for the Voice of Reason (never booming from the sky) to hold up the Big Mirror of Truth (always revealing as it is) to expose the hypocrisy of these folks.

Now, via the New York Times, we have the Reality Check all the “Religious Liberty” preachers can take to the bank:

“For this reason, state and federal laws treat religious organizations, particularly houses of worship, differently — and often favorably. Trinity Lutheran may not like being prohibited from getting public funds to upgrade its playground, but surely it has no problem with, say, receiving special tax exemptions.

In recent years, however, a push from religious advocates, primarily Christian, has distorted the idea of “religious freedom” to apply in any situation in which they think their beliefs should trump everyone else’s interests.”

Special treatment.  Exclusive rights.  Exceptionally chosen.  We have the Majority and the Power but we’re Persecuted. . .

See the pattern here?

Somehow, someway, Fairness and Equality and holding up the Mirror of Truth, is so often missing from American Christ-and-Me-anity.

We can be very grateful for those who speak with Reason and polish up that Mirror.

Rain is Green

Spring rains are making the trees pop with blossoms and leaves.

I sometimes wonder if my blood is green (Spock!).

Unexpected things happen. . .

I saw a rabbit chase a squirrel. . .

and a blue-headed turkey in the field with a red-throated turkey. . .

I expect this unexpected beauty.

How a Humanist Prays in Public

I posted this comment on The Friendly Atheist responding to an article on Humanist invocations in the Arizona statehouse.

Ok, folks, I’ve given plenty of public prayers in my (faith) day. I have a little suggestion for those who give invocations at any level of local, state or national government. Something like this:
“It’s time for elected leaders to do their job and represent everyone of any faith or no faith. As a freethinker who respects the good in all traditions, I respect the wise and sensible teaching of Jesus of Nazareth who instructed his followers in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter six, verses 5-6: “Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray [in public] so that they may be seen by others . . . But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray in secret.”
Now, let’s do the business we [you] were elected to do!”

Where it says “they love to stand and pray” I would hold that note for a long moment:

“They Looooooooove to stand and pray, so. . .that. . .they. . .may. . .be seen. . . by others.”

Sometimes I fear we are now in the midst of a Hypocritocracy.

How would YOU “pray” in a public meeting?

The Gospel of John (Muir)

Muir-1902-Kern Canyon-Helen Jones

Speaking at a local UU congregation this last Sunday (yes, a “secular sermon” on Easter!), I read this as our “scripture” from “The Gospel of John. . .Muir” (My First Summer in the Sierra, 1911).  To honor Johnny’s birthday this week (April 21), here’s his reflection on a strange experience he had in the mountains and how some would call it “supernatural.”

“Now I’m back at the camp-fire, and cannot help thinking about my recognition of my friend’s presence in the valley while he was four or five miles away, and while I had no means of knowing that he was not thousands of miles away. It seems supernatural, but only because it is not understood. Anyhow, it seems silly to make so much of it, while the natural and common is more truly marvelous and mysterious than the so-called supernatural. Indeed most of the miracles we hear of are infinitely less wonderful than the commonest of natural phenomena, when fairly seen.”

The Silent Skipping Stone

March 2008 soundedge

I don’t write many of these things called “poems.”

The Silent Skipping-Stone

We are
sauntering upon a soggy stone
an infinitesimal rock spinning through space
As if. . .someone threw us, skipping across
the dark ocean of the milky galaxy

It makes sense—
We so desperately long for, search for, assurance, to be comforted,
to be told we are important—to someone
that we are thought of, cared for
that we are watched over and protected
until welcomed “home”—somewhere (where the skipping stops and sinks).

Our spinning, skipping stone
is ours alone
alone
alone together
swirling on our only home—
the only one we think we know.

Skipping.

As if. . .someone dropped a fecund seed
on a massive marble of muck
and forests and meadows and plains sprouted with virescence.

Skipping.

As if. . .someone sparked a cell to life—what’s that?—and it
evolved into organisms pregnant with animals including us.

Skipping.

As if. . .WHY do we do this to ourselves!
WHY do we speculate and postulate and gravitate to
As if’s?

Don’t our eyes tell us, our senses sensitize us, to common sense?
Why skip our reason?

We wonder, we imagine, we dream, we hope.

And after thousands of years
distracted by our wandering imagination,
the Rock still spins.

We travel without going anywhere (at least anywhere that matters to us—we don’t perceive it anyway; we can’t conceive of it anyway!).

We’re going nowhere. . .but 600 million miles—
year after year after century after century. . . lifetimes of lifetimes.

Skipping. Sauntering.

A long long way. Standing still at 67,000 miles per hour.

Do you matter?

Do we matter?

What does it matter?

We’re skipping, sauntering through space, on

Our stone.

Chris Highland
April 2017

The Forgotten Resurrection Story

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I asked a pastor if he knew the story of a whole bunch of people being resurrected days before Jesus rose on Sunday.  The pastor, embarrassed, said that no, they had never heard that.  So I blew the dust off my Bible and turned to Matthew chapter 27 and read verses 45-53.

The text says that Jesus is on the cross and screams that God has left him.  Then someone gives him a sponge full of wine.  Then he screams again and “breathes his last.”

When Jesus died, it says the holy curtain in the holy temple was ripped in a holy half, the earth shook, stones split apart, and. . .

“The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep [died] were raised.  After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.”

I asked the pastor why this dramatic part of the story is forgotten or ignored.  By the look on the pastor’s face he agreed with me it was a wild tale.  If this story was told every Holy Week, it might make some people start asking questions, such as,

If this part of the story is so strange and unbelievable, almost mythological and magical, why isn’t the Easter story itself unbelievable too?

And think about it:  if all these walking dead zombie people really had wandered into town, seen by multitudes, wouldn’t THAT have been the REAL story to pass on from generation to generation?  “Moses came to our door selling stone tablets!”  “Elijah rode his chariot into our garage!”  “Habakkuk sat on our back deck and fed the birds!”

Whole books would have been written about these appearances, signed by all the families who saw these godly ghosts, right?

Well, maybe it’s better to just not read these uncomfortable verses, or talk about them, or preach on them, don’t you think?

Short Secular Easter “Sermon”

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What a beautiful season full of Beauty for all to enjoy!

Isn’t it sad that so many use springtime to tell stories of suffering, death and fearful faith?  I can still remember how satisfying it was knowing that someone was horribly executed according to their father’s great plan, so that he wouldn’t need to send me to a terrible place of eternal punishment.  Wow!  Glad I was “saved” from that!

After receiving a “nice, loving” note from a “Christian” who seems to know exactly what hell is and who’s going to go there. . .I decided to re-post this little message from last year:

Easter

Deep breath. . .take a walk. . .enjoy the great natural wonder of Nature!

What’s True (how do you know)?

Every Quack is Not a Duck

Haven’t heard a better whistle to wake us up to Wisdom, Common Sense and Reason.

This Seattle Times article is unsettling.

“[University of Washington Prof.] Starbird argues in a new paper, set to be presented at a computational social-science conference in May, that these “strange clusters” of wild conspiracy talk, when mapped, point to an emerging alternative media ecosystem on the web of surprising power and reach.

It features sites such as Infowars.com, hosted by informal President Donald Trump adviser Alex Jones, which has pushed a range of conspiracies, including that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a staged fake. . . .

Starbird is publishing her paper as a sort of warning. The information networks we’ve built are almost perfectly designed to exploit psychological vulnerabilities to rumor.

“Your brain tells you ‘Hey, I got this from three different sources,’ ” she says. “But you don’t realize it all traces back to the same place, and might have even reached you via bots posing as real people. If we think of this as a virus, I wouldn’t know how to vaccinate for it.”

Starbird says she’s concluded, provocatively, that we may be headed toward “the menace of unreality — which is that nobody believes anything anymore.” Alex Jones, she says, is “a kind of prophet. There really is an information war for your mind. And we’re losing it.”