a little east of reality

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I've been reading on Craig's blog about an attempt to have September 30 declared International Blasphemy Day. While I don't have any particular drive to blaspheme :) what I do find important about the idea of the day is that blasphemy is a matter of offence, and the truth is that it is not at all difficult to offend other people. Pretty much any religious idea or statement about religious doctrine or practice, for or against, can be deemed blasphemous by someone else. It is the nature of such things that where beliefs differ, offence will occur. People, generally, are easily offended.

On 9 July 2009, a law was passed in Ireland making blasphemous libel a crime for material "that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion; and he or she intends, by the publication of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage". Matters held sacred by any religion: can you see how easily (and inappropriately) that law could be deemed to have been broken?

Some time before the law was passed, a debate was held at the Guardian Hay Festival between Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens. It was a wonderful rambling conversation that examined many different issues relating to religion and blasphemy. The whole debate is 78min and can be downloaded here, but this nine or so minutes below is a good representation of the kind of points they make. It is not important whether you are religious or not, atheist (as they both are) or not, offended by what they say or not. I think this debate would be thought-provoking for anyone on the subject of blasphemy.

From blasphemyday.com:
The primary focus of the Blasphemy Day movement and indeed this website is not to debate the existence of any gods or deities...

The objective of International Blasphemy Day is to open up all religious beliefs to the same level of free inquiry, discussion and criticism to which all other areas of academic interest are subjected.
Without honest, open discussion religion can become a fence within which freedom of mind and will is contained and captured. Questioning, criticism, accountability, doubt ~ all are necessary and should remain legal. This is not to say that inciting any kind of action or violence against believers or non-believers is okay. Other laws govern that kind of action in many countries. But the right to think and express those thoughts, whether warped or wonderful, should be protected by society and its laws.

What do you think? Let me know what you think about the debate, too, if you end up listening to it. And in the spirit of the day, I have a recommendation for anyone who knows the Old Testament in the Bible. You don't have to love it or read it every day; you just need to be familiar with it. I'd like to recommend The FOB Bible. From the linked page:
The Old Testament re-imagined through poetry, verse, closet drama, e-mail, and short story. At once irreverent, whimsical, sexy, feminist, and poignant, this ain't your mama's Bible, and you sure didn't learn this in Sunday school.
I find this description apt. I like the way the pieces explore and question various ideas in the Bible, and without the need to come to any particular conclusion. Not only that, but it's really well-written. Here's one reading ~ it's a fun one and pretty much the only of the Youtube readings that isn't mumbled or otherwise inaudible (favourite line is when New Testament god 'whistled in disbelief and the air around him filled with tinkling bells and minty freshness'). I really wish the one about Abraham was there. I love that one. I also have no doubt that it, and several of the other pieces, would be labelled blasphemous by someone, because the authors dare to think and feel and bring new perspective to old words set in stone. Enjoy.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

so many draft posts, so little time

In the absence of a real post, here's a fun article for you. It's an exclusive interview with members of the 'real' global vampire community. I actually thought it was a parody at first, but apparently not. This first exchange I found interesting:
Q: What do you think is the largest major concern facing the modern vampire subculture?

A: I would say that currently, the largest concern and struggle for the modern vampire subculture is trying to solidify identity and structure for the various facets in the subculture.
Seriously? That's their greatest concern right now. As opposed to say, the fact that they are delusional? I guess that can be hard to spot from the inside.

On a more serious note, though, I wonder what it is in a person that causes them to 'awake' to the idea that they need to drink other people's energy or blood. I don't think it's an issue if their prey are willing (and there are people out there who willingly let others drink from them), but what intrigues me is the need to do it. Other rituals, like piercing and tattoos, other rites of belonging or passage, I can kind of grasp the reasons for them, but this one still floors me. And when someone simply believes they are a vampire, well yes, that speaks delusion to me. But delusions have a purpose and damned if I can even guess at this one...

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

officially mormon no more

I didn't make an appointment to see the bishop when I went to hand in my resignation letter. I'd had it sitting in my bag some time, not because I was hesitant, but because my writing group, which used to meet every second Sunday right across the street from the chapel, is now meeting elsewhere and I'm never in the area. Somehow today it felt necessary to have this decision, made a long time ago, finally actioned.

But he was in a meeting, and so I waited. Two wards meet in that chapel. I chatted with friends before they left for home and then sat alone for a while before new people started filtering in to attend the afternoon session. Just before the meeting started, one of my ex-seminary students came through with his family. Six** is a funny and deep-thinking kid (technically now a man, but young enough to be my kid, so whatever). I always wish I knew him better ~ he's just good value. He was probably surprised to see me there, given that he knew I had stopped attending back in January. He has his own issues and doesn't necessarily attend by choice. It's something we talked about a long time ago, when my mind was thick with doubt, but I wasn't yet talking to anyone else about it. I always felt bad for not telling him exactly how I felt at the time because I thought maybe he needed to hear that not being part of the church was a valid option, a choice he had a right to if he wanted it, and I don't know if I said it out loud to him like I should have. I think he knew I supported him no matter what, but I don't like not being open, especially when I trust the person I'm talking to.

I wanted the chance to talk to him and explain why I was there today, but the meeting was starting and he had to go inside. The ward was having their Primary presentation, an annual event where the Sacrament meeting ~ the music and talks, etc ~ are provided by the children in the ward under twelve. It was a little surreal. There I was, waiting just outside the chapel area where the meeting was happening, knowing that I was there to end my membership, all the while listening the children sing about eternal families and sharing the Gospel, etc. One talk featured a story about (ironically my favourite of the presidents of the church) Spencer Kimball telling a man whose many children were all active in the church and had all married in the temple (a special thing in the LDS church, with eternal blessings attached to it) that his was the greatest success story he had ever heard. Part of me felt sad because I taught in Primary for so many years and I still miss the kids I taught last year. But another part of me was responding to the memorised quotes and talks and songs by reflecting on how young the kids start learning that these things are truths and wondering what Six was thinking as he listened. Maybe he still had his headphones on and missed it all.

Finally the bishop was free. I explained why I was there, gave him my letter, and apologised for what I felt was probably an awkward meeting for him. I could tell he was holding in his emotions when he asked if this was a step I really wanted to take. I explained that I had made the decision over a long period of time and was sure it was what I wanted. I didn't explain much more, because I knew that everything I felt I needed to say was in the letter. Talking to him about it then would have put him on the spot; probably make him feel like he had to find the magic words that would fix my broken belief. He's a good guy; I didn't need to put him through that. He started to explain 'the process from here', but I stopped him to explain that actually the only part of the process that involved me was that they would send a letter later to confirm I was no longer considered a member and I was cool with that. Then I wished him and his family well and that was that.

It was so strange, driving away. In some ways this was such a small thing ~ a piece of paperwork to tie off a loose end that's been dangling for months. But in some ways it's huge. The LDS church is part of the culture I grew up in, has always been a massive part of my social network, and was a major influence in the forming of my core values. It took me a long time to stop attending, even after I felt I should (it's uncomfortable to be a non-believer in amongst all that certainty ~ I didn't realise how often it's stated/reinforced/implied/sung until I no longer felt the same) because I needed the time to say goodbye to it. I did do that, which is why I'm calm today. Way back when I first realised that I no longer believed Joseph Smith (founder) to be who he claimed to be, and knew immediately (because my mind always plays things out to their logical conclusion) that this would end with me leaving, I think I cried for about two weeks straight.

I got lucky on the way home. There was Six walking along and I offered him a ride. He didn't seem particularly surprised by my news, but then his mind was full of more pressing things. Actually I was glad to just leave it behind and focus on my conversation with him as we drove. He leads a busy life and I'm not sure how long it'll be before I catch up with him again.

To those who read this blog who are members, let me state for the record that I adore you and will still be happy to read about your church adventures and milestones and will never think you are silly to be LDS. This decision is not about me rejecting everything I ever learned at church. Maybe I would feel differently if my church experience had been more negative (and I acknowledge that for some there is a lot to be bitter about) but I was actually pretty lucky in the people I knew and worked with at church. I had amazing teachers who loved me unconditionally back when I was (I'm fairly sure) a complete snot. I still have wonderful church friends, some of whom I've known since my early teens.

I was actually warned that my family and friends might disown me if I left the church (by someone it happened to). My mother (the only active member in my family) and every friend I've told so far all reacted the same way ~ they were surprised/shocked, they told me that they would respect the decision (even if they felt it was a sad thing) and then we moved on. I'm sure at some point someone will react poorly and tell me it's a huge mistake or that I'm going to hell or something, but as long as my close friends and family are cool about it, I don't really care what anyone else says. I even had a few friends respond by telling me that they were also not attending church, or were experiencing serious doubts or, in one case, were also planning to leave. That was a surprise, but interesting.

And life travels on.

**(0:48-0:53 a reference Six will understand if I end up sending him a link to this post. :))

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

number nine...number nine

Turn me on dead man. (That's what it says when you play it backwards.)

Okay so, in no particular order, nine things I'm grateful for at 9:09 on 09/09/09:

- the upcoming work conference that will allow me to visit my lovely friends in Brisbane for free
- friends who turn me onto excellent songs/bands
- the Guild. Geeky goodness for gamers. Actually gamewise I prefer Duke Nukem to World of Warcraft, but luckily a guy at work has overwhelmed me into a glazed stupor helpfully supplied me with WoW game information I have no use for but which now means I understand pretty much every game reference in the show.
- writing group, writing prompts, words in general
- current homestay student. Blueberry Boy is nice, independent, has a good sense of humour, can feed himself if left alone, occasionally cooks Japanese food for me too. Like tonight. Just a pleasure to live with and staying eight months...bonus!
- Youtube.
- People who take the time to provide English subtitles for the Japanese, German and Catalan stuff I like watching. (Anyone ever notice that gay couples in soap operas are not constantly cheating on each other like most soapie couples seem compelled to do? I think it's because the characters are less common and there's pressure from the fans to portray them well and in functional relationships. Anyway, makes for excellent, not-tearing-one's-hair-out viewing. Brooke Logan-Forrester-Marone is so ridiculous I want to break things when she's on the screen and it's been at least ten years since I watched an episode of that soap.)
- So You Think You Can Dance? US, Canada and Australia. That show has attracted some fantastic, creative choreographers.
- my new Doc Marten shoes

I wonder what this list will look like by 10/10/10...