Who’s to Bless and Who’s to Blame?

 Broken rules are all the same
To the broken or the breaker
Who’s to bless, and who’s to blame

Kris Kristofferson

I always understood the song to be about who gets the blessing and who gets the blaming, but recently, I’ve begun to understand the lyrics as being who is doling out the blessing and the blame when faced with sorting out who the rule breaker is and who was broken by the break in the rules.

Who gets to decide who is blessed and who is blamed?

Certainly the person breaking rules and causing harm has taken it upon themselves to blame the broken and taken the blessing or permission to do so upon themselves.

So the broken has the choice of being broken and ground down, or to demand a blessing and that the broken rule be mended and the breaker taken to task, and attain a blessing – a corrective action – while shifting blame to it’s more proper bearer – the breaker.

In that sense, each of us the blesser/blamer and the question becomes one of which role we assign or impose upon other people – do we blame them or bless them? Can we find a way to not break rules and work within them so no one has to be blamed or blessed?

Or is it in the breaking or challenging of rules that blessing can occur, to take authority, entitlement and privilege upon ourselves, right or wrong? And thus be blessed or blamed depending on the outcome of our rule breaking, rule making or outright  rule?

If winners write history, then who is blessed is clearly those who seek to rule, if they are successful – and blamed if they are not.

In many ways it comes back to self-esteem, confidence and worst of all certainty of purpose and meaning – as uncomfortable as the idea of breaking someone else to your will, it seems preferable to be the breaker than the one broken.

Unless you cannot be so sure, so certain, then the idea of responsibility for breaking people is totally abhorrent, in which case, being broken is little different than normal conformity, inauthentic and unexamined.

Living inauthentic and unexamined lives is the ignorance that is bliss – and being broken is to live in full awareness, conscious of the break, the injustice, the imposition. But to be broken does not mean defeated, it does not mean without resources or resilience, broken is the incentive to stand and correct the problem – there is strength in being broken, only when you are broken can you understand your values and meaning and become renewed, phoenix-like – stronger than before – to become the breaker of the status quo and remake the rules – to fight for a new and better day.

Forgiveness

“The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.”

Thomas S. Szasz
Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus
State University of New York Health Science Center

Forgiveness is often associated with religion, worse, of being a wholly religious idea or of religious origin.

Forgiveness is a human quality, not divine, although, it can feel very powerful when forgiveness is freely given – especially unencumbered by expectation or conditions that the other party apologize, change their behaviour or even minimally acknowledge their actions and/or the outcome/impact of their actions upon you.

Forgiveness is difficult, because we often think only in terms of what we cannot forgive – sometimes anticipating, sometimes after the fact. Lines drawn in the sand, lines that cannot be crossed or broken, lines lines lines, in intersecting circles of what’s forgivable and what’s not, often shifting depending upon who crossed them and under what circumstance and with what intention.

Although, we are generally more concerned with how actions impact us rather than what the person’s intention was – we understand the importance of intention, since that’s how we judge ourselves and asked to be judged.

Thus, forgiveness is partly being willing to accept the other person’s intention as more important or rather than the outcome as the determination of the relationship status. Asking and knowing the others intention may well be the first step towards forgiveness; it is the first step to mutual understanding.

That kind of forgiveness is with or under conditions – what if the person who causes you harm denies your reality of the harm and doesn’t claim the responsibility for their intention, action or outcome?

How can you forgive if the person won’t repent, won’t learn, won’t understand, won’t stop.

I think forgiveness is not about the other person or even your relationship with them – forgiveness is about you – what emotional qualities you want to carry, and grudges, even small ones, add up over time even if they are only in your mind and not made tangible by carrying grudge stones.

My spouse introduced me to the concept of grudge stones – in Newfoundland Canada, people carry a small symbolic stone when they carry a grudge, and when they are willing to let go of the grudge, they throw away the stone. The more grudges, the more stones, and they weight you down physically as the grudge weighs you mentally.

So forgiving someone who harms you – even and especially when they continue to do so – is a powerful thing and difficult to achieve – it’s easier to forgive with the passage of time and the ending of the offending behaviour – easier for one or a few instances – difficult for a continuum of never ending offensive behaviours. But at some point, you have to let go of the anger and fear and hatred as being too heavy a burden to carry through life – so if you can accept that you will forgive one day, why not make it sooner than later?

Even so, it was with some astonishment and much inspiration that I learned about the World Without Hate project.

It began with a post 9/11 hate crime and ended – well, part one ended the project continues – with the execution of the shooter but not until one of the surviving victims sought to have the death sentence commuted to life in prison without parole.

Because if we don’t forgive the haters, then they never have a chance to learn that they were wrong and ignorant to hate. They never get a chance to be better and to inspire or encourage others whom they can reach out to before they commit to the hatred and the dependent violence.

Because if we don’t forgive people who cause harm, how can they have the opportunity to redeem themselves instead of going from crime to time, crime to time, crime to time? What incentive, if not to be forgiven and have a chance to prove they have rehabilitated, do they have to change, to learn, to grow as people?

Forgiving is not forgetting, forgiving is just letting go and not carrying their burden of hate and misdeeds for them. Forgiving is handing them back that emotional baggage and letting them make it right – or at least attempting to the upper limit of their ability.

Forgiving is to allow yourself to let go of your hatred and fear of the person who harmed you, to not give them the power or ability to change you for the worst – to take away your trust and faith in humanity, to take away your trust in yourself and your ability to function, to interact and to participate – to connect without reservation to other people – to be able to make distinction and discerning judgments about the quantity and quality of those vital connections to other people without being tainted or undermined by past harms.

Forgiving is about trust – trusting yourself and trusting others – and trust is about certainty and purpose and meaning. Living authentically is to create and determine meaning, and losing trust – especially in yourself – is to lose everything that is dependent upon meaning – it makes no sense to allow others to take and undermine this – forgiveness restores it, because the act of forgiving is an act of meaning, making meaning and making sense of the meaning you must see in the world.

Trust is about expectations, you do not have to suddenly trust that those who have done you harm will cease to do so – especially if they deny your reality. Trust is expecting people to behave as you have observed them to do so – sometimes one person’s best really isn’t good enough – trust people to be consistent, not to be able to hold to a higher or your standard of behaviour, ethics and values.

Often when we feel betrayed or let down by people, it’s because they have done what they could be expected to do based on their behaviour and it’s that they have failed to attain a standard that we imposed on them unrealistically.

Trusting people doesn’t mean being vulnerable or allowing them to continue to harm you, trust just means you anticipate their behaviors based on their past performance and you adjust yourself accordingly. If you know a person can’t keep a secret, don’t share secrets with them. If you know a person can’t maintain self control, don’t rely or depend on them to do so – trust that people will behave in a continuous and consistent manner with past behaviour – no matter what the behaviour was – it will still disappoint you when they continue sub-standard or mediocre conduct, but at least it’s consistent and consistent is easier to cope with – and by changing your response, they may well surprise you with improved conduct.

Forgiving means being the change you want to see in the world, a world with less hate, less violence, less harm, less badness.

So forgive someone every day – and start with yourself – you can only be the best you can in the context and with the information you have and then resolve to do or be better when new information presents or the context changes. But you can only be your best when you forgive yourself and give yourself permission to be, and not carry other people emotional baggage or let them drag you down to their level.

Hold firm to your standards and ethics, forgive yourself when you slip so you can pick yourself up again and be better the next time.

Uttering Threats of God

Aside

Warren Jeffs, on trial for assisting a rape – you remember, he was actually charged before the rapist was – has threatened the jury that god will basically smite them with death and sickness.

So, can they charge him for uttering threats using god as a weapon? would he have to defend himself by proving there’s no god, thus no weapon and therefore it wasn’t a threat?

Or would he have to plead guilty to maintain his faith-cred?

Everybody Needs Somebody…to look down on

Christians in the west have long complained that they are treated poorly because “we” know they couldn’t get away with violent response to art or commentary that is freely expressed and critical of religion and Christianity in particular the way that they perceive that the media and public refrain from expressing criticism of Islam for fear of causing riots or other violence.

It’s pretty disturbing, since this response is basically complaining that Christians would be violent if they felt they could socially and legally get away with violence – because at the fringes, Christians do use violence directed at abortion clinics and medical providers and intimidation tactics against art galleries and companies who advertise in a manner that Christians disapprove of – usually in gay publications or being inclusive of gay people.

Christians act like they are still being fed to the lions instead of being the operators of the Circus Maximus.

The problem is that freedom of religion isn’t balanced or tempered in secular society – while each person has the right to the religion or not of their choice, there is no legal or social requirement that says “as long as you keep it to yourself and not impose it upon other people who are free to make their own choices, without interference from other people.”

People who are religious, if not outright required by the religion to go door to door to testify, do have a compulsion to spread the word about their religion – as if by sheer numbers, can prove their religion right or earn salvation points by bringing others into the fold. Mostly, it’s believers who are convinced of being right that they feel entitled to push their views onto other people, into secular law and the public square.

I often think it’s a poor self-esteem thing, as if by being in the majority or at least a large group, there’s a sense of validation in the belief – and perhaps on some level, believers know how ridiculous, illogical and plain silly much of religion’s stories and claims are – but if everyone pretends that they are real – you don’t feel silly clapping to keep Tinkerbell alive if everyone in the theatre is clapping after all – so if everyone or at least most people will at least act as if the religion is real, then believers don’t have to be so defensive about it all the time.

The difficulty that believers have with the so called New Atheists, isn’t the non-belief that’s been there all along – but rather the new part of the current atheism is the unwillingness to coddle or be sensitive to religious sensibilities.

The complain most uttered is about the lack of tact, respect and civility of the “new” atheists, not the actual content – but the manner of the debate.

And, as new atheists, it does not serve our purpose to grant them their wish for “respect” for their views and opinions, when there’s no merit or validity to them, so a certain base of civility because of being members of a civil society yes, but no consideration or acting as if the claims of religions had merit or validity.

Given that religion in the past and in some countries today treats other and non-believers with brutality, torture and murder – that the worst that new atheism does is be disrespectful and mock them, Christians and other believers should be grateful that new atheists are far more humane and compassionate than believers have demonstrated throughout their history to those deemed heathens, pagans, heretics and witches. The humanist toolbox is logic, reason, mockery, parody and empirical evidence – not genocide, torture, murder and discrimination.

Atheists, unlike religionists, do not recruit. We encourage, we challenge, but we do not recruit – atheism is not something that can be forced or required – people have to be able to let go of religion in their own time, at their own pace if it is to be meaningful and lasting.

Atheists are not angry at deities that we do not believe exists, we aren’t not worshipping to avoid deities because we don’t believe that there’s going to be some awkward meeting, where we suddenly encounter each other and talk about the weather while not making direct eye contact.

We simply are not convinced by the subjective feelings and experiences offered by believers as compelling to them evidence, we do not expect to understand the universe right now and are not daunted by the complexity to throw our hands in the air and say, a god must have done it, we do not find the promise or threat of eternal afterlife any more compelling than behaving so that Santa will bring presents. Although I often wondered why the Easter Bunny didn’t require good behavior for chocolate, somehow, good behavior being a condition of Easter bounty makes more sense than for Christmas presents.

Many believers also seem to have an unexplainable idea that non-believers simply haven’t been properly exposed to the right religion aka theirs – just like a man who tries to convince a lesbian that their particular penis will convert her to heterosexuality. Like I don’t know what makes me wet….

It comes down to who gets to know what’s best for you.

Religion claims to know what’s best and believers subscribe to the religion of their exposure more than choice – most people remain in the religion they were raised in or something close – rarely, people convert to different faiths – but there is a correlation between education and religiousness. The higher the education, the less the religion. Because the more you learn and know, the less you need religion to provide simple explanations for the complexity of the universe and of life.

Believers who are certain – and it’s the certainty that’s the real danger more than the particular beliefs- are at risk of viewing secular society as having failed and to feel entitled, if not required by duty, to do whatever it takes to restore “order” by imposing their religious views on society. If not by the word, then by the sword – as history has demonstrated time and time again.

The certainty of the beliefs gives the believer the “burden”, the call to duty, of being a martyr to inspire others to follow and to cow the unfaithful into believing – and violence is too often the “go to” action to enforce and force their beliefs on others – especially as their standing in the mainstream community is threatened by social progress – like how they aren’t as able to discriminate against gays anymore – and since they lost the battle against black rights and women’s rights – they are getting anxious that there’s fewer people for them to get away with discriminating against.

By giving credibility and consideration to the mainstream religious sensibilities, we allow the fringe extremes an undeserved social consideration that is a launching point for their violent assaults on secular society.  The controversy that we need to teach, is that while each of us has a right to our beliefs – no matter what those beliefs are – that the beliefs themselves are not owed any respect, credibility, consideration or equal footing that the beliefs do not deserve on their face or by their details.

A believer in a religion is little different than a believer in a broad conspiracy – there’s no evidence for the belief and this is claimed as evidence of the belief – it’s all part of The Plan so that only the True Believers realize and know – what evidence there is, is subjective, interpretive and rarely logical or consistent and heavily relies on convoluted details, assumptions and illogical premises – religious apologists work very hard to smooth out the contradictions between their religion and reality, much to the annoyance of the fundamentalists who find reality rather than the religion, at fault. But the fact of there being apologists speaks volumes of the inadequacy of religion to hold up under scrutiny.

The higher the demand for respect – or rather reverence – the higher the scrutiny the belief or claim should be subjected to; and, the reality is, that some sacred cows are destined to become hamburgers.