What I Believe, Do Not Believe, and Am Unsure About

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Like many others with Aspergers and OCD traits, I enjoy making lists and organizing my thoughts in a linear fashion on paper. While flipping through an old notebook, I found the following lists of “What I Believe”, “What I Do Not Believe”, and “What I Am Unsure Of”, and thought I would share it just for fun. Since I am not religious anymore, I made this list to try to figure out and pinpoint what I personally believe or no longer believe.

What I Believe

  • There is probably some kind of all-encompassing spirit or energy in the universe. Whether that energy is conscious and/or aware can be argued.
  • There is an inter-connectedness of all things.
  • I believe in the power and goodness of love, kindness, and forgiveness.
  • I believe in the power and strength of nature.

What I Do Not Believe

  • Any form of religious dogma. It is ALL man-made.
  • I do not believe that any human or religion has all the answers, no matter how much they think they do.
  • I do not believe in eternal punishment or “hell”.
  • I do not believe that everyone needs to or should follow the same path.

What I Am Unsure Of

  • Are there any Gods or Goddesses in any form?
  • Is there an afterlife? Are ghosts, hauntings, or reincarnation real?
  • Are there other “realms”? For example, do fairies, aliens, alternate realities, mythical monsters, etc. exist in this current reality or any other?
  • Is there such a thing as a personal soul? If so, do only humans have them, or all living beings? Can a non-organic being (like Artificial Intelligence) have or develop a “soul”?
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“Love, Simon” Movie Review

Love-Simon

Today my husband and I went to see the new movie “Love, Simon”. I love reading YA novels and have always enjoyed teen movies as well, so I was excited to go see this one. I thought the premise of a teen hiding his gay sexuality from his friends, family, and school was a realistic one that likely has occurred many times in our culture. Perhaps it is getting easier to come out now than it was back when I was in high school or before that, but it is still hard for many young people to come clean about such an intimate and often maligned subject. Especially if you fear your family and friends will not accept you after the admission.

In “Love, Simon”, the main character (Simon, of course) DOES have supportive, open-minded family members and friends, but he is still afraid to come out of the closet. Perhaps this is because of the bullying he sees go on at school, pointed towards another kid who is openly gay. Or it could be that even though he knows his parents and friends will accept him, he just isn’t prepared for the social pressure and discomfort that often accompanies such a declaration. I think that even though Simon knows his family is loving and liberal, he may have a smidgen of doubt that his father would be happy, since he often makes jokes about girls with his only son.

I won’t ruin the whole plot for you, just know that there is a lot of friend drama, some blackmail, more than one romantic subplot, and a lot of the teen angst you would expect from a movie like this. The movie has a great sense of humor and addresses the subject of sexuality frankly and with many quips. I loved how Simon as a character was just your normal, average kind of guy, and not some kind of “gay stereotype” (other than Simon being in a school musical, but then again, many of the straight kids in the movie were in the musical too, so it didn’t seem to be meant as some sort of sexual stereotype).

Overall, the movie was sweet and uplifting. I saw my husband actually tear up at one point, but I rarely ever tear up at movies, so it didn’t do it for me this time either. It was definitely worth the time to see it though, and the teens seated all around me seemed to be in love with the movie.

Admit that you can be prejudiced…

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I know this is a sensitive subject, but I want to be honest about it. First off, I know that the last thing anyone wants to admit to is having a racist or prejudiced thought. For some reason, we think that if we have a wayward thought or idea about this subject even once in a while that it automatically puts us in the company of the KKK or other hate groups. However, I believe that if we live long enough, all of us will have at least occasional prejudiced/racist/stereotypical thoughts or ideas. It is unfortunately a part of living in the culture we exist in. By pretending that we never have these ideas, we are actually making the problem worse, not better. If we could identify our prejudiced or stereotypical thoughts and recognize them for what they are, then we could consciously decide to change those beliefs and ideas. That is the way we could really get rid of the damaging effects of prejudice.

For instance, most of us have at least some stereotypical beliefs. Even positive ones (like that Asians are all super smart or that African Americans are better athletes) are still stereotypes. I admit that I occasionally have stereotypical beliefs, so when I do, I have to consciously grab them and think them through to decide whether they are really true or not. For instance, watching the news makes it easy for me to think that all conservatives look down on the poor and are greedy. Of course, this is not always true, but it is a stereotype I see frequently. On the other side, I know many people stereotype liberals as being wimpy and lazy. The trouble is that most of the time these beliefs are not critically analyzed and we only look at one side of the story (the one we happen to agree with). We are all victims of bias and perception, but we refuse to see it.

As a child, I honestly do not remember prejudice or racism. I grew up in an urban Indiana neighborhood that was very much a melting pot. My elementary school was probably at least 50% minority, although back then I never even thought about that kind of stuff. My mom dated guys outside of her race and for a while one of those guys was like a second father to me and lived with us. My older sister’s first real boyfriend was from a minority as well. I think my first real look at prejudice came around the age of 11 when I moved to a small town in Georgia. In this small town minorities were rare and in my middle and high school, racism definitely existed. Most minorities stuck to their own kind. There wasn’t a lot of intermixing and the town was almost set up in a segregated fashion (clearly marked minority neighborhoods and even a separate cemetery for non-whites). This new culture was certainly a shock to me, as were some of the hateful comments I heard. Of course, these people would have denied being prejudiced if confronted, but behind the scenes they were definitely not shy about their beliefs.

As an adult, I definitely try to be open-minded and not stereotype people or groups, but I will admit that I am not perfect. For instance, one night I remember my husband and I going to a local White Castle and noticing that we were the only “white” people in the crowded restaurant. I hate to admit it, but I experienced some momentary discomfort and just felt kind of “out of place”. However, as I sat there, I thought about the fact that minorities probably often find themselves in this kind of situation. I’m used to looking around and seeing lots of other people who look like me, but many others don’t regularly have that experience. Thinking the issue through, truly gave me an entirely new perspective and made me sympathize with those who often find themselves surrounded by others who are different from them in some way.

I’ll also admit that the first time we took in a foster child from a minority that I was a little more anxious than I should have been. When we accepted that foster placement, we didn’t even know he was from a minority, so when I first saw him I was surprised a bit and also a little worried. My first thoughts were to question whether I could do a good job raising someone from a different culture, however, once the child moved in and we got to know him it was soon clear that underneath the exterior differences he was just like every other kid we had taken in. Soon I was going to bat for him against others who were stereotyping him or treating him like he didn’t exist.

In the end, my point is that when we do have thoughts or experiences that bring out the “prejudice” or “racism” hidden inside of us, it can be an opportunity to learn and grow if we face it head on and think things through. However, if we just sweep it under the rug and pretend it doesn’t exist, we only help to perpetuate the problem.

Religion is getting harder to defend…but I still have hope.

"Blue Heart Sunrise"

“Blue Heart Sunrise”

I love God. I always have and likely always will. I’ve always had a deep interest in spirituality…even before I understood religion. As a small child I often had vivid dreams (that I can picture to this day) of both good and bad spirits visiting me. I was always glad that in these dreams the good seemed more powerful in the end, no matter how scary the bad might seem. I rarely have those dreams anymore, but once in awhile I still do and I’m always relieved to see that the good is still strongest.

However, aside from my own personal feelings and experiences, I am finding it harder and harder to defend manmade institutions of religion. I try. I know there is good in religion. There is truth to be found in the scriptures, metaphors, stories and myths. There is goodness in many of the people and religion in its healthier forms can help provide a deeper sense of community, family and belonging. It can make you feel closer to God and help you to grow spiritually. If done the right way, it can provide a chance to reach out to others in love and make the world better.

Unfortunately, more and more, I am seeing the dark side of religion and it breaks my heart. I grew up seeing this some in my own family where people were condemned to hell for simple things like cutting their hair, wearing the wrong clothes or watching tv. Luckily, I did not grow to follow that kind of fear-based faith but found a couple spiritual mentors who showed me true love and encouraged me to think for myself and research things rather than just believing what I am told. I thought growing up that the rest of the religious world wasn’t as fearful and judgemental as some of my family members, but I am seeing more and more that fear and misplaced devotion seem to be issues across the religious spectrum.

Where is this fear you may ask? It is in families fighting and disowning one another over varying religious opinions. It is found in people who want to discriminate against another group of people simply because those people are “bad” according to their religion. It is in women who are abused and made to feel like second-class citizens because of fundamentalism. It is in the belief that God loves some more than others and that this “God” approves when we bully or mistreat other nations or groups of people. It is in the torment that comes along with the belief that our loved ones are going to hell if they think differently than we do. It is in the blindness that results from believing we have the only truth and everyone else is wrong.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. I wish I had a solution. I sometimes wonder if John Lennon wasn’t right in imagining a world without religion. I don’t want to believe that. I don’t want to think that this is how religion has to be. Through it all, I still hope. I hope for a time that we will all come together in love. That we will accept and celebrate differences instead of fearing them. That families will not fall apart over differences of opinion. That we will work together to solve problems, not to force our personal convictions on everyone else. That we will help to comfort those in pain, but never help to cause that pain. I still hope.

Good Luck Charlie…People are Crazy

The "Good Luck Charlie" Lesbian Couple

The “Good Luck Charlie” Lesbian Couple

So I have seen a lot of stuff on social media and the news about the “Good Luck Charlie” episode on Disney Channel that introduced a gay couple. I watched the episode myself and thought it was handled well, without making too huge of a deal about the whole thing or getting too political or religious. The family wasn’t walking in a gay pride parade or out protesting gay rights. All that happened was that Charlie (played by Mia Talerico) happened to befriend a little girl who had “two mommies”.  The lesbian couple comes over when their kid is having a play date with Charlie. Amy and Bob Duncan (Charlie’s parents) try to treat these parents like they would any other kid’s parents.

Well, after the show ended, I figured there would be a few people mad about it, but nothing like what happened. Christians banning Disney Channel in their home, extremist crazies sending death threats to the little girl who plays Charlie on the show, tv watchdogs jumping into the mix, etc. This is just ridiculous to me, especially those making threats against a poor, innocent five-year-old girl who had nothing to do with what they decide to put on the show or not put on the show. Although, even with those who are peacefully angry about the whole thing…I just don’t get it.

In today’s world, some kids do have openly gay parents. I know several gay couples personally who have kids and/or grandkids. Even back in the 90’s when he went to college, my husband shared a room with a kid for one semester who had a gay mom…and this was at a very conservative Christian college! So this does happen. Unless you tell your kids they are not allowed to befriend kids that may have gay parents (which to me seems prejudiced)…they may just end up doing that. You may find a kid in your home who does have gay parents, just like the Duncans did.

My question to those who are angry is…what did you expect the Duncans to do in the episode? What would have made you happy? If they slammed the door in the face of the lesbian parents? How about if they went on a rant about how the kid’s parents were going to end up burning in hell forever? Or maybe they should have just told the kid to go home, that “their type” was not welcome in their home? To me…that kind of unkindness and disrespect for one’s fellow humans is what would have made me lose my temper.

Stop the Bullying! Please!

Stop Bullying!

“Stop Bullying” mixed media ACEO art.

I hate bullying. I hated it when I was a kid and I still hate it as an adult. Over my short lifetime of 31 years, I have been bullied for many reasons, among them:

  • Physical looks (been called ugly, fat, big butt, butch, lesbian, etc)
  • Personal interests and personality (been called a nerd, geek, dork, retard, stupid, immature, crybaby, goody goody, weirdo, etc)
  • Social issues and awkwardness (probably due to my Asperger’s)
  • Being too liberal
  • Being too conservative
  • Being a Christian and believing in God
  • Not being the “right” kind of Christian or “Christian enough”
  • Being a woman who speaks her mind and is intelligent (which apparently means you are a “bitch” or are not feminine enough)

Of course, I know there is some argument about what constitutes actual bullying, but I consider bullying to be anything said or done to intentionally hurt another person or to just be plain mean.

Unfortunately, I have also been on the other side of bullying, especially when I was younger. I have called other people names, talked about them behind their back and stood by silently while others tormented a particular person. I am not proud to admit that, but it is the truth. One thing that has shocked me as I have gotten older though is how much bullying still occurs in the adult world. It happens at work, it happens in social circles, it happens in politics, it happens in tabloids and media, it even happens in churches! And of course we all know it happens on Facebook and other social media sites frequently – especially between family members.

So what can we do about the bullying plague? How do we raise kids who won’t bully when even adults act that way at 40 and 50 years old? The only true solution I can see is to change ourselves. If I stop bullying and you stop bullying and then others stop bullying…hopefully someday the problem will be eradicated…or at least greatly reduced. So think twice before you call someone a name or mock them cruelly. Maybe keep your mouth closed when you are tempted to cut someone down behind their back or spread a rumor. Stand up for someone who is being torn down for no real reason. Keep debates and arguments about the actual subject at hand and don’t start personally attacking someone just because their opinion is different than yours. If deep inside you know that you are purposefully being mean or hurting someone…just stop it. It really is that simple.

Judge not lest you be judged – quotes about true tolerance

Ok, I normally don’t get all political on my blog posts, but all this stuff going on lately is really bugging me. All the hate between the liberals and conservatives, all the hate between those in favor of Chick-Fil-A’s stand against homosexuality and all those who think it is prejudice, all the namecalling and mudslinging that goes on in election races…all this stuff really bugs me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think everyone is entitled to their own opinion and God gave us free will and the choice to make our own decisions for a reason. BUT, does that mean we have to be filled with so much anger and hatred towards those different from us or who (gasp!) don’t agree with our beliefs? Both sides talk about love and tolerance, but you don’t see much of either of those attributes when people fight. The truth is, when you start tearing others down, true tolerance goes out the window. Tolerance DOES NOT mean you have to agree with what the other person thinks, but it DOES MEAN that you show them the courtesy and respect every human being deserves.

So in the hope of furthering true tolerance and unconditional love, here are a few quotes I thought we might all need to consider, starting with a couple from Jesus himself.

“Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Matthew 7:1

“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” John 8:7

“When we judge others we leave no room to love them.” ~ Mother Teresa

“We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.” ~ Paulo Coelho

“Let the refining and improving of your own life keep you so busy that you have little time to criticize others.” ~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

“There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it hardly becomes any of us to talk about the rest of us.” ~ Edward Wallace Hoch

“All we see of someone at any moment is a snapshot of their life: there in riches or poverty, in joy or despair. Snapshots don’t show the million decisions that led to that moment.” ~ R. Baach

“We are all stumbling towards the light in varying degrees of grace at any given moment.” ~ Bo Lozoff

“God Himself, sir, does not propose to judge a man until his life is over. Why should you and I?” ~ Sammuel Johnson