3 Homos & A Heretic, Astrology & A “Good Death”: Did I Wimp Out Or Wait For A Better Time?

About two months ago a very good friend of mine came to visit with his significant other.  Although they had been together for a year, due to the distance, this was the first time we were to meet.  We decided to go into Boston with another friend.  We went to the Museum of Contemporary Art and then to the Cheesecake Factory for lunch.

I think the subject of the bible came up because my friend’s significant other’s mother is a teacher at a Christian school.  My friend’s SO said that the bible doesn’t make any judgments on or about people (paraphrasing).  I asked if he had read it.  He said that discrepancies were because of different interpretations.

At this point I stopped myself from saying, “You do realize that if this country were run by biblical law everyone at this table would be put to death? 3 homos and a heretic; burn baby, burn!  There’s a Barnes & Noble nearby.  After we’re done we could go do some comparison reading of their available bibles.”

(On a side not, if it actually came to that my last request would be to have sex with a woman because if I’m going to burn I’m going to burn with my boys.)

Now I’m not a biblical scholar.  I have read the bible but it was a long time ago.  Recently I’ve reread through to Kings but stopped because it was so mind numbingly dull.  I double check chapter and verse if something is quoted in an article or essay I’m reading, just to make sure it wasn’t taken out of context. 

Still, I do think it’s pretty much common knowledge that the violence and judgments in the bible are not due to incorrect interpretations.  It’s due to the bible being a book full of violence and judgments.  It seems that what he was saying would fall under the term of Christian Apologetics.

I didn’t say any of this but uttered a non-committal “hmmm...” and the conversation moved on to something else. 

It wasn’t really my lack of biblical scholarly learning that stopped me from speaking, at least I don’t think it was.  It was because this was the first time I was meeting this man, the significant other of a friend I’ve had for over two decades.  I didn’t know what his religious beliefs were or even if he had any, any more than he knew mine.  It just didn’t seem to be the right moment to continue in the direction we seemed to be heading as it may have become uncomfortable for at least one of us. 

About a week ago, I took a friend out for her birthday.  We went to a very yummy (and expensive) Middle Eastern restaurant that neither of us had been to in years (and never together).  I don’t remember how this came up, something to do with another friend and I being born very close together yet she was more Virgo and I was more Libra, and it turned into my friend saying that she had asked her boss not to hire any more (I think it was) Gemini’s at work. 

Full disclosure here: I was Pagan for twelve years.  I wasn’t into Astrology too much but at that time I didn’t deny the possibility of it’s being true (now I deny there being any good evidence for it being true).  My friend has been Pagan for forty years (it was her forty-fifth birthday). 

I have read that there were actually 14 signs not 12 and that Ptolemy was off by about 23 degrees in his calculations and that has not been corrected for and that astrology has failed every controlled test that it has ever been put to.  I can’t remember the names of the 2 unused signs, I can’t remember who found out about the off 23 degrees, and I can’t name any of the scientists who ran any of the controlled tests.  Yes, I know, I need to look that information up and commit it to memory.

What I do know, and I have mentioned before about being embarrassed and ashamed that it took so long for me to realize this, is that astrology is nothing but prejudice.  One can see this if one reads an astrology article and instead of Virgo, Libra, Gemini, inserts Black, White, Yellow or Russian, German, Irish. 

Astrology tries to put personality traits onto people because of something they can’t control, in this case not skin color or ethnic background but when and were they were born.  That is prejudice.

As you’ve probably already guessed, I didn’t say anything. I tried to stay as noncommital as possible until the conversation turned.  What I was thinking was, “Do I really want to get into this now? At her birthday dinner?  If I start I’m going to have to be truthful and go all the way and telling someone they’re behaving in a prejudice manner at work isn’t exactly a celebration enhancer.” 

About three weeks ago my friend from the first story came home for his Uncle’s funeral.  His Uncle died quite suddenly, literally just slumped over dead after having lunch with friends. No clutching at his heart, no gasp or look of shock, he had just put his share of the money for lunch with the bill and as he was putting it back on the table he died. 

The night before the funeral my friend and I went into Boston for the evening.  We had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory and then walked around the area.  Ken talked about his Uncle, whom I had know for as long as I had known my friend. 

He talked about how his Aunt, his family and himself, took solace in that fact that his Uncle had lived a good life and that he had been blessed and rewarded by god for having a good life by god granting him a quick and easy death. 

What I wanted to say was:

“We all know or have heard of people who are nasty pieces of work who have wonderful lives and then die in their sleep at an extreme old age.  We also all know or have heard of people who are kind, caring, giving people who die young after suffering with a painful disease for two years. 
What you are saying has no explanation for the latter and to the former says, ‘you lived a good life just not good enough.’ 

I can understand how what you are saying is comforting.  I feel it’s comfort.  At one time I believed it’s comfort.  But do you realize how insulting it is to good people who have died badly and to those that love and mourn them and just how simply wrong what you’re saying is? 

Yes, one could argue that none of those good people who died badly or their loved ones may hear it said and it comforts us so it doesn’t do anyone any harm, but is that true?  We hear it.  Shouldn’t a sense of personal honor or personal integrity be enough to stop us?  Shouldn’t the knowledge that we are taking the illusion of comfort from an illusion be enough?  Isn’t lying to ourselves as bad as lying to others?”

Needless to say, I did not say that or anything else.  It was about twelve hours before the funeral.  It certainly did not seem the time for that kind of discussion on the Meaning of Death or lack thereof. I just listened and was there for my friend.

Yesterday that same friend was on vacation here and we went out for breakfast.  Of course we talked about his family and he mentioned that his Aunt was doing well and taking solace in her husband being gifted with such an easy death. 

No, I didn’t break my trend; I said nothing. 

When is the “right time”?  Is there any such time as the “right time”?  I don’t think so.  I don’t think there is ever going to be a right time.  I do, however, think that there can be the wrong time.  

I lean towards it not being the right time with my friend’s SO.  I definitely think it was the wrong time with my friend less than twelve hours away from his Uncle’s funeral.  I lean toward it having been the right time at my friend’s birthday dinner; birthday or not I don’t think I should’ve stayed silent.  I definitely should not have stayed silent yesterday with my friend at breakfast; it was the right time. 

I’ve never been much of a debater.  I avoided it during school like I avoided sports, primarily for the same reasons.  Sports that have that competition that can become aggressive almost to the point of violence (and sometimes it goes right into violence).  Debating seems to have that same aspect, that same aggressive almost violent feeling. 

I’m not talking about a really good conversation.  That can get intense but there’s not that undercurrent that both sports and debating can have (I guess debating actually is a form of sporting so it does stand to reason they would have the same kind of “feeling” to them). 

So, yes, it’s not being sure of my timing, not being sure of my facts (sometimes), and just not liking risking adversarial verbal combat, but it’s also a little bit of something else.  Something I’ve mentioned before, most recently in my status that talks about 6 lines from “Sock.”*

I’ve used the comfort of the illusion.  I’ve been prejudice.  I’ve been lied to and liked it and continued the lie to myself for years.  I not only liked it, I embraced it.  Until recently I didn’t realize how much of my life had revolved around my belief system and how much of my life is now empty without it.  I didn’t have a lot of interests that extended beyond my religion.  I could’ve been a Priestess (think Nun). 

Not sure where I’m going with that train of thought.  Are my social/speaking skills so rusty I’m worried I’ll state my case badly and just end up looking stupid and more importantly, what I’m trying to say sounding stupid?  Possible.  Do I feel uncomfortable with the idea that I could be the instrument of someone losing their religion so to speak?  That’s a little egotistical not to mention I don’t think that any one person or thing has that kind of power (if it did, I should’ve kicked Penn & Teller’s asses when I met them, not had them sign my chest, as “Bullshit” is the closest thing I have to a “gateway to skepticism” drug).  

Maybe I’ve just got to work more on getting my own head and life straight before I start speaking my mind or it’s just going to sound like I’m shooting off my mouth. 

Burn baby, burn. 

June 7, 2009

*I have finished “Sock” by Penn Jillette but am stuck on 6 lines near the beginning of Ch. 46: “But all these people had been killed by the sick, pleasing idea of an imaginary friend: the pure evil, anti-science, anti-human idea that the truth inside you is more important than the truth outside you. It’s a pernicious, personal evil. Don’t ever deny your feelings. Feel love and hate and everything in between, and crawl all over the sides of those feelings, but don’t feel things you should think. Don’t ever try to feel the truth. Don’t let the things in your head tell you what to do.” I was raised to believe in god & discovering that there wasn’t one was rather like finding out my Grandfather had never existed; he was a figment of my imagination, my Imaginary Friend all along & my Grandmother had never married & had adopted my mother. Since my belief in Cappy (my Grandfather) made me happy, as well as some kind “benevolent” manipulation tactic probably afforded them by my faith, my family & friends never told me he was imaginary & helped my delusion along...for forty years. (I in no way intend this to infer that I had no responsibility in how long I believed).

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