Fandango’s Friday Flashback — February 14

Wouldn’t you like to expose your newer readers to some of you earlier posts that they might never have seen? Or remind your long term followers of posts that they might not remember? Each Friday I will publish a post I wrote on this exact date in a previous year.

How about you? Why don’t you reach back into your own archives and highlight a post that you wrote on this very date in a previous year? You can repost your Friday Flashback post on your blog and pingback to this post. Or you can just write a comment below with a link to the post you selected.

If you’ve been blogging for less than a year, go ahead and choose a post that you previously published on this day (the 14th) of any month within the past year and link to that post in a comment.


This was originally posted on February 14, 2016 in my old blog. I posted it a few days after Bernie Sanders soundly beat Hillary Clinton by a margin of more than 22% in the popular vote in the 2016 New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary. Bernie was declared the winner of this year’s New Hampshire primary this past Tuesday, albeit in a much tighter race. When I reread this post, I realized that I feel the same way now as I did exactly four years ago today.

I Like Bernie Sanders, But….

BernieI really like Bernie Sanders. But I have to say, as a practical and pragmatic individual, I am hoping that he doesn’t earn the nomination as the standard bearer for the Democratic Party in this year’s presidential election.

And now that Bernie achieved a surprising “virtual tie” in Iowa and won big in New Hampshire this past Tuesday, it’s conceivable that he might just end up being the Democratic nominee.

But Is he electable in the general election?

Bernie describes himself as a “Democratic Socialist.” But the words “socialist” and “socialism” in the United States have very negative connotations. In fact, a lot of Americans find the idea of socialism downright scary.

Of course, they’re thinking of the old USSR, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, as well as of the classic definition of socialism, which is:

A political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.

Of course, “community” in the concept of national socioeconomic systems, equates to “government.” And the Republican candidates — surprise, surprise — are milking those fears of socialism and “government control” over a wide swath of our society for all they’re worth. They’re claiming that the Democrats in general, and Bernie Sanders in particular, want to turn the United States into a European socialist nation like Sweden or Denmark.

Or, perish the thought, France.

But in truth, Sanders’ version of Democratic Socialism is not your grandfather’s socialism. Sanders’ approach doesn’t favor or promote government ownership of specific industries. It’s actually oriented around stronger regulations and trying to make sure that the private sector works for the benefit of everyone, and not just for a the very wealthy, or the so-called One Percenters.

Yet while I embrace many of his strategies for economic and political reform, I just don’t think the American voting public is ready for Bernie’s brand of Democratic Socialism.

On top of being a self-declared Democratic Socialist, Bernie is a Brooklyn Jew. He says he is not actively practicing his Jewish religion, but is, instead, Jewish by heritage and culture rather than by religious beliefs. Some suggest that he is agnostic, or worse, an atheist.

We’ve never had a Jewish president in this country. We’ve never had a non-Christian, non-religious president in this country, much less someone who is thought to be either agnostic or atheist.

So when it comes to the 2016 general election, not only do I think the American voting public is not ready for “Democratic Socialism,” I don’t think that mostly-Christian America is ready for an agnostic/atheist Jewish Democratic Socialist as president.

I’m just saying….

Imagine

674CBCDF-01CE-4446-B59D-A8E4D0E67F8CIn his song, “Imagine,” John Lennon wrote:

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too

Well, leave it to none other than Rory, A Guy Called Bloke, to pose a bunch of questions about one of my favorite topics: Religion.

Warning. I’m an atheist and I have some strong views about religion. If you are one who tends to get offended when someone questions your believe system, I suggest you stop reading here.

With that out of the way, here are the provocative questions about religion that Rory posed, along with my answers:

Would our world be any different to today [if religion just simply never existed]?

I believe it would be different…and better, with one big caveat. The planet would be seriously overpopulated — even more than it already is — because millions of people who, over the ages, were killed in the name of God and religion would not have perished.

Would the world have begun without some kind of belief system in place?

Of course it would have begun. The world (i.e., the planet Earth) is four and a half billion years old and modern human beings have only existed for only about 200,000 years. So, since humans are relatively new compared to the planet, and it’s humans who have “belief systems,” the planet did just fine without any kind of belief system for billions of years. You’re welcome.

Is religion really needed?

As an atheist, my answer is no. Not for me, anyway. But for some, religion or faith or belief in something bigger than themselves provides comfort and solace. My philosophy on religion and belief in God is “whatever floats your boat.” Just don’t try to sink my boat because it doesn’t look like yours.

Many already say that ‘something’ would have been created to fill that void and if that is the case, what would that have been?

Humans are always seeking answers to questions, some of which, even given present knowledge, may be unanswerable. Hence, throughout human history, humans have invented gods and supernatural beings to fill in the blanks and to answer the unanswerable. So yes, based upon human nature and the need for answers and to belong, some sort of belief system would have been created.

Organized religion, as it exists today, though, is designed to control, manage, and manipulate their flocks, and to create and promote group-think built around superstitions and mythologies. It also tends to divide us based upon our specific set of beliefs, rituals, and practices, rather than unite us based upon our commonalities as human beings.

Organized religion also reinforces the notion of “the other” with respect to those who don’t share the same superstitions and mythologies that they do. That is why so many religions have as their mission converting “the other” to their own beliefs, rituals, and dogma. And those efforts to convert the “heretics” and “infidels” can be violent and deadly. And, to me, that’s not a good thing. In fact, I think it’s the most negative and destructive aspect of organized religion.

Okay, rant over. But this is what you get when you ask an atheist about religion. What are your thoughts?

I’m a Believer

If you’re reading this because you think this post is about the 1967 song “I’m a Believer” by the Monkees, it’s not. Not even close.

022D0AC0-1820-43FC-91E9-2EF94E30FEDAWhat this post is about is that I was talking to a friend of mine this past weekend. He’s a fairly religious person and he knows that I’m an atheist. He told me that he didn’t understand how anyone could be a “non-believer.” Apparently he believes, like many people, that being an atheist means that you’re a “non-believer.”

Do you tend to call those who don’t believe in God “non-believers”? Well, if you do, your definition of “believer” is way too narrow. You’re thinking that the word “believer” applies only to a belief system, a religious belief system. A belief in a supreme being, a greater intelligence, a supernatural deity. And for most Americans, that means believing in God, Yahweh, Allah, or whatever you call your deity.

As an atheist, I believe that God does not exist. I believe that Christians, Jews, and Muslims made up God in the same way that Greeks and Romans, for example, made up Zeus and Jupiter and all the other gods they believed in.

But just because I don’t believe that God exists doesn’t make me a non-believer. Because that would imply that I don’t believe in anything. I believe in a lot of things.

I believe that we didn’t exist before we were born and that we will cease to exist in any form after we die.

I believe that our universe is almost 14 billion years old and that the planet we live on is 4.5 billion years old. I believe in evolution. And I believe that we are working pretty damn hard to destroy our planet’s ability to sustain human life.

I believe in a woman’s rights to choose. I believe in free speech, in freedom of (or from) religion, in equal rights for gays, and in gun control. I also believe in the separation of church and state.

But wait, there’s more that I believe. I believe that humans are fallible and that we all make mistakes. Some more than others. I believe that most people are good, decent, and moral, regardless of their religious beliefs — or lack thereof. And I believe in my country. Just not in “God and country.”

Yeah, I know. You’re thinking that these beliefs make me a liberal, which is the next worst label a person can have after atheist, right?

You’re also thinking that these are not beliefs. These are philosophies. These are ideologies. And you’re thinking that I’m expressing political opinions, not, you know, beliefs.

Sorry, I don’t believe that. Yes, these are philosophical beliefs. They are ideological and even political beliefs. But they are, nevertheless, beliefs. Other than from a very narrow religious perspective, just because I don’t believe in God, doesn’t make me a non-believer. I have a whole host of beliefs. Because I am a human being and I am alive.

There is not one of us — unless you’re dead — who doesn’t believe in something.

And now, for those of you who took the time to read my 520-word post, here’s a reward for your effort.

FFfAW — Juxtaposition

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“Is that a lantern?” Jayne asked, pointing to the orange item.

Yes,” Tim responded. “It’s a battery operated lantern that my parents put out on our front porch every year on Halloween.”

“But that winged lion on the lantern’s top,” Jayne said. “Isn’t that a Christian symbol?”

“Yes,” Tim said. “It’s one of four creatures standing around the throne of the Almighty in the Gospel of St. Mark. The winged lion appeared in Prophet Ezekiel’s vision, where four winged creatures represented the four evangelists — Matthew the human, Mark the lion, Luke the bull, and John the eagle.”

“But Halloween is a pagan holiday?” Jayne said. “Why would a Halloween lantern have a Christian symbol on it?”

“Well,” Tim explained. “It’s a compromise between my mother and father. Juxtaposing a Christian symbol on the pagan holiday sends a spiritual message, thus satisfying them both, since he’s an atheist and he loves Halloween, while she’s Catholic and not a Halloween fan.”

“Oh,” said Jayne, But what does that make you?” Jayne asked.

“Very confused,” Tim answered.

(174 words)


Written for this week’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers from Priceless Joy. Photo credit: wildverbs.

All Dressed Up and No Place to Go

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I probably shouldn’t do this. It’s against my better judgment. After all, my philosophy is “you do you and I’ll do me.” So I’d be better off just keeping my mouth shut and minding my own business.

I also suggest, should you decide to take a moment and continue reading this post, that you lower your expectations, since I have no special qualifications or knowledge on the subject matter. I am merely expressing my opinion.

So what, exactly, is the subject matter? No biggie. Just the purpose of life is all.

I read a blog post earlier today in which the blogger wrote, “the reason for life is for God to know me, love me, and serve me.” Then the blogger said that our life’s purpose, our mission, is “to know, love, and serve God in this life so we will be happy with Him in Eternity.”

Now I’m not being critical of this blogger for her beliefs. Hey, whatever floats your boat, you know. But what she wrote did confuse me. The two statements seem contradictory to me. Is the purpose of life to let God know, love, and serve us? Or is it for us to know, love, and serve God? Which is it? Or is it both?

The blogger also can’t understand why anyone would fear death, because death is what allows us to be happy with God for eternity. Death, the blogger contends, is life changed, not life taken away.

I think the blogger has a point. Why bother fearing death if the sole purpose of life is to “be happy with God for eternity” and death brings you closer to it?

You see, this is why I’m an atheist. I believe that death is the end, that there is no afterlife, no eternity to be spent at the right hand of God. So I want to live my life to the fullest because death, I believe, is life taken away.

The blogger ended her post by writing, “The atheist reasoning best explained from an epitaph etched on a gravestone. ‘All dressed up and no place to go.’”

Yes, I agree with that. When it comes to death, the end is not a new beginning. It’s just the end and there is no place else to go.


Written for today’s Your Daily Word Prompt, “qualification,” for the Word of the Day Challenge, “expectation,” and for Fandango’s One-Word Challenge, “moment.”