Archive for the 'Values' Category

Toward a Woman-Friendly Feminism, II

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

On one feminist blog I visit regularly,  a discussion of the inauguration has devolved into a criticism of Michelle Obama’s self-designation as “Mom-in-Chief” and has further disintegrated into an attack on stay-at-home moms – as if they are lazy do nothings.  I am soooooo tired of feminists who are so hostile to everything women are and everything women have traditionally done. Having had the great good fortune of mothering two little boys many years ago, and having done both men’s work and women’s work, I can truthfully say that the job of looking after infant humans is probably the most exhausting and demanding work I have ever done;  I can also say it was the most pleasurable and the most rewarding.

Providing  tender loving caring to children is probably the most important work any person will ever do. It is critical to the continuation of the species. It is critical to the development of socially responsible human beings. And, in most cases, it is better for both the mother and the child if the child’s mother  is available to look after her child. But she doesn’t have to do it in a traditional marriage; she doesn’t have to do it at home; and she doesn’t have to do it all the time.

If we had paid maternity leave of up to two years,  mother-friendly work places, and more flex time, we could create a world where  women would truly be free to choose to have — as well as not to have — children.  I am for a feminism which recognizes the problems facing the majority of women and which is devoted to helping us all. I am tired  of a feminism made up of and focused primarily on women who aspire to enter professions traditionally associated with men.

The feminist concept of choice should not be limited to the choice not to have children (although, admittedly, the ability to avoid unwanted pregnancies is a fundamental freedom for women), but should be expanded to improve and enrich the lives of all women, all the time,  even mothers .


Toward a Woman-Friendly Feminism

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

I read a lot of feminist blogs and comment occasionally; often there are differing opinions as to what feminism means and what sorts of positions feminists should take. So, as a result I have been feeling the need to define for myself, if for no one else, what being a feminist means to me.

To be a feminist means never to forget that I live in a patriarchal society. To live in a patriarchal society is to live in a society which assigns value based on gender, using the male sex as the standard. In patriarchal societies, men and men’s work are viewed as vastly more valuable than women and women’s work (think of the difference between the incomes of a hedge-fund manager and a stay-at-home mom).

This assignment of value is a result of cultural beliefs rather than a reflection of “real” social value. Unfortunately, less conscious members of patriarchal societies (both men and women) do not recognize the arbitrary nature of patriarchal values, but take it as a given — as the natural order of things — that men and men’s work are more valuable than women and women’s work (i.e., that hedge fund managers deserve to be paid billions, while stay-at-home moms deserve to be paid nothing). Members of patriarchal societies unquestioningly accept patriarchal values as “real” values because they have been programmed to believe that patriarchy itself is “reality.”

Note: When I use the terms “men’s work” and “women’s work,” I mean work traditionally associated with men or women – not work which should be done by men or women.

As a feminist, I no longer view patriarchy as “reality”. I take the post-modern position that cultures create their own realities ; therefore, I recognize patriarchy as a construct of culture rather than a fact of nature – and a very unjust one at that, especially as it pertains to women. Consequently, I do not feel that I must accept patriarchy’s value system as representative of a reality which, like it or not, I must put up with.

If we created patriarchy, we can uncreate it and construct a more just society. Recognizing that patriarchy systematically and arbitrarily devalues women while systematically overvaluing men, feminism’s primary task, as I see it, is to make more people conscious of the injustice of the patriarchal value system in order to right the wrongs which patriarchy systematically inflicts on women.

But patriarchal programming is so powerful and so insidious that even women who call themselves feminists have a difficult time fighting clear of it. For the feminist movement appears to have unconsciously bought into the idea that men’s work is more valuable than women’s. Working from this mistaken assumption, feminists believe that the only way women can achieve full social value is to be accepted as an equal in the male world, which means denying that there are any differences between men and women, totally ignoring the demands of domestic life which the majority of women have to deal with.

Instead of working to create a workplace which can accommodate the needs of most women who are attempting to juggle the roles of wife, mother, and breadwinner, the feminist movement has more or less joined the patriarchal bandwagon that requires women to become ersatz males – regardless of the realities of their lives as women. Feminists have bought into the patriarchal line which says, “Ladies, if you want to play in our world, you have to play by our rules. This is a feminist movement which has sought not to overthrow patriarchy but to join it. There is no feminist questioning of the overvaluing of work traditionally done by males. They just want to jump on the bandwagon so they, too, can reap the rewards from an unjust system.

In addition, there is no questioning of the devaluation of women’s work. Nowhere have I encountered in mainstream feminist rhetoric any serious argument for a boost in wages for day-care workers, or waitresses, or cooks, or cleaners. Most of these jobs today do not even pay a living wage. And a woman who chooses to stay at home with her chidren is frequently looked on as a traitor. In fact, I can find no group more contemptuous of women’s work in general and motherhood in particular than feminists themselves. The end result is that feminists are reinforcing the patriarchal value system.

I believe that feminists want to achieve a more just society, but I think they are going about it the wrong way. A feminism seeking a more just society would question the ridiculous amounts money in the form of salaries and bonuses men (and some women) receive for doing work the social value of which is extremely questionable. A feminism seeking a more just society would also question the ridiculously low pay – in many cases no pay – women receive for doing work which has enormous social value – such as childcare, eldercare and care of the sick.

Instead of trying to sell the idea that there are no differences between men and women (as if we were all disembodied genderless minds floating in space), feminists need to recognize that, regardless of whether or not there are innate differences in male and female brains, there are actual differences in male and female bodies and, consequently, the way men and women experience life – especially reproductive life. And in spite of the few far-out feminists who have such contempt for childbearing they envision a perfect world where women eschew motherhood altogether, most women are going to continue to have children, for the simple reason that motherhood is one of the greatest joys available to a human being – and it is an experience which is uniquely available to the female of the species – no matter how difficult patriarchy (and the feminist movement) tries to make it.

To really help women, feminists should stop trying to pressure women into becoming men; they should stop promulgating the myth that there are no differences between men and women, when it is clear to any fool that there are. Instead, they should recognize the differences and point out the inequities in the values assigned these differences. They should put their energies toward creating a work environment that accommodates itself to the exigencies of women’s lives, rather than joining forces with the male world in requiring that women accommodate the very real demands of their lives to the arbitrary demands of the workplace. They should work toward a more equitable society where work traditionally associated with women is paid at the very least a living wage – regardless of where it is done. They should work to better women’s lives, no matter whether a woman chooses the business/professional world or the domestic sphere. Bottom line, feminists should stop trying to turn women into men.


The Shattered Image, A Personal Journey

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

I was an environmentalist from an early age, before the term had even come into use. I had always loved nature and been especially sensitive to nature’s beauty. In fact, I felt most at home, most safe and secure, out in the countryside or hiking in the woods. When I was eleven or twelve, I would take the family dogs for long walks alone in Alsop Park – a nature preserve behind our apartment house right in the middle of Little Rock – and I was never afraid. I think growing up in the south and being raised by a father who claimed the woods as his church had something to do with it. Even if one grows up in the suburban south, as I did, the wilderness was never far away – was always accessible for country drives and afternoon walks. My childhood dream after seeing Deborah Kerr and Stewart Granger in “King Solomon’s Mines” was to go on an African safari. I longed to experience nature at its wildest. That was far more appealing to me than a Roman Holiday.

Many years later, I was able to realize the dream of going to a rainforest, but it was not on the continent of Africa, but in Central America – in the Quaker community of Monteverde, Costa Rica. In August, 1972, I finished a graduate degree in English one week and left for Costa Rica to get married the next. It was quite a jolt, going from the Barsetshire of Anthony Trollope’s novels, which had been the subject of my thesis, to the world of Joseph Conrad’s “Nostromo.” Like most North Americans of that era, I knew something about Europe, but almost nothing about Central or South America. I had never even heard of Costa Rica. So, when I boarded LACSA, the national airline of Costa Rica, I felt like I was stepping off into the void. I had no idea what an impact this tiny beautiful country was going to have on my life. I was going to Costa Rica to join my husband to be; I was focused on my marriage, not the locale. (more…)

Shattering the Image, Part II

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

This website focuses on the negative role Christian values, derived from the image of God, currently play in determining, not only the fate of western civilization, but, as the result of a western-dominated globalization, the fate of the whole world. I have felt compelled to write these essays because, not to be overly dramatic, I truly believe that the future of the human species is at risk. And it is at risk because our system of values has become totally corrupt – to be Biblical, it’s become as a “whited sepulchre.”

From CDS’s to WMD’s, nothing is as it seems, and it seems to matter very much what “the meaning of is” is. Our literal financial bankruptcy is a metaphor for our moral bankruptcy. No matter what venue one might be talking about, value given does not result in value received, but in value lost. We value that which no longer has any value and devalue that which is valuable. We do those things we ought not do and do not do those things we ought to do, to paraphrase the book of common prayer, and there is no health in us.

But just because I am out to expose the problems inherent in the image of the Christian God, it is not my purpose to deny the value of religion altogether. (more…)

Shattering the Image

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

The survival of the human species demands that we do nothing less than recreate  human nature.  Luckily, because we are humans and humans are adaptable, we can.  But in order for us to recreate ourselves,  we must first recall the image in which we,  western man, were famously created – the image of God.  To reconstruct human being, we must first deconstruct God. For, regardless of whether or not you are a believer,   the image of God as presented in Genesis – and throughout the Hebrew and Christian Bibles – permeates western culture and has had a profound effect on how Western Man sees himself, and consequently on how we relate to our social and physical world.

If you are wondering why I am using the politically incorrect term “man” for humanity or why I am  using the masculine pronoun to refer to all humanity,   I do it because the image we were created in is a male image (He is after all Jesus’ father, not his mother, and the pronoun He is universally used to refer to Him throughout the English-speaking world).  Consequently, we live in a society which is based on the idea that only those who are male are truly made in the image of God; therefore, only those who are male can be understood as fully human. Females are merely a subset,  as Eve’s secondary creation makes manifest,  their single purpose being to act as vessels to incubate the next generation. To be made in God’s image is to be not only male, but also a dominant male,  as Eve’s mandated submission to Adam represents.  In short, we live in a patriarchal society,  the hallmark of which is a dominant male deity – such as God or Zeus.  And it is this “patriarchal bent” which is causing all the trouble – both socially and environmentally.
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Hockey Moms, Soccer Moms (WTF)

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

My son played soccer. At age 32, he still does. He was very good. Was team captain and MVP in both high school and college – in spite of tearing his ACL on both knees. Although no sports fan, I used to attend his games. (His younger brother was a runner, but I haven’t yet heard women being disparaged as “track moms.”) Anyway, back to my older son. Since he was my son; I wanted to show him my support and my interest. I spent many a Saturday hanging out at the soccer field complex in Huntsville, Alabama. I guess that made me a “soccer mom.” His dad showed up too, but I hear very little about “soccer dads.” So, because I cared about my child and devoted Saturdays to his soccer games, that makes me some sort of creature to be derided and condescended to and patronized. And that’s just the “soccer” part. The mom is even worse.

To be called a “Mom” (except by one’s children) is the greatest putdown our society can dish out. As is well known, especially among liberal pundits and intellectuals, from the moment that seed is planted in her womb and that little embryo starts to grow, female mental capacities simultaneously begin to diminish. At the end of nine months, with the birth of the baby, the infantilization of the Mom is complete. And as her child grows and matures both mentally and physically, Mom’s brain atrophies and turns to mush – so that by the time her child reaches adulthood, Mom has turned into that most worthless of creatures – an ageing female whose body is a mere husk and whose mind is non-existent – and who is strangely unresponsive to Barack Obama.

Sarah Palin, self-described hockey mom, rehabilitates the image of a human female who has committed the cultural sin of caring enough about her children to attend their games. She juxtaposes the image of Mom with the image of Governor and the image of a candidate for Vice President of the United States. This may not be enough to persuade me to vote for her, but it is enough for me to cheer her on.


Are Women Human? Do We Want To Be?

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

This essay is written from the radical or ecofeminist point of view.

As has been pointed out since feminism stepped forth onto the cultural stage, Western civilization is fundamentally patriarchal. A patriarchal society is founded on the idea that the male of the species represents the standard –the ideal–for what it means to be human. Women, being by definition different from men, have been considered to be substandard, as any difference from the standard implies inferiority. Women have therefore been constructed — both physically and mentally– as inferior to male humans, their brains and their bodies, like the brains and bodies of other female mammals, understood as serving one purpose only – reproduction. Women have been viewed as less well developed, less evolved, than men, with the logical consequence that to be a woman in Western civilization has been to be something less than fully human.

This outdated cultural assumption has been lodged so deeply in the collective unconscious of western civilization, that most of us don’t even know that it is still there until a political campaign like the one we are currently experiencing comes along, where both parties have put forth candidates for high office who are not male – unleashing a shocking level of sexism in a society which thought it had said “goodbye to all that.” It is to be hoped that the psychological meltdown exhibited specifically in the liberal visceral rage which has met the candidacies of both Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin will bring to consciousness the original sin of misogyny on which our culture is based. We really need to move on.

The “Western” definition of what it means to be human originated approximately 2500-3000 years ago. It arose from a weaving together of ideas from Greek philosophy and Hebrew religion. According to the Hebraic/Hellenic narrative, Man is possessed of free will and the reason to exercise it. Man’s transcendent reason frees him from the biological constraints of lesser creatures. Man identifies with mind – rather than the lowly physical body. Where non-human animals depend on “instinct” for survival and are ruled by these instincts, Man’s key to survival is his reason, which lifts him out of nature’s prison and puts him in control of himself and his environment. For Man, alone, biology is not destiny. Nobly exercising his free will, Man can chart his own course, determine his own fate. As Shakespeare put it (with some irony) –

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how
infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and
admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like
a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals…

Admittedly, this is an attractive and seductive cultural construct – even godlike (In fact, one might say that the JudeoChristian idea of God is a symbolic projection of this ideal). It has served Western humanity (especially the white male part of it) well, providing us with the collective self-esteem to go forth and conquer the world – and the earth — militarily, economically, culturally, and technologically. But, today, the world and the earth are fighting back. This cultural construct is “out of joint,” causing a world of pain and demonstrating that it has outlived its usefulness. And, it is precisely this overrated, inaccurate, and inflated definition of male humanity which has made life in patriarchy so difficult for women – especially women in their reproductive capacity. And this is why –

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Some Inconvenient and Uncomfortable Truths

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

The immodest goal of this blog is to save the human species from self destruction by exposing the hidden (and not so hidden) values which drive western civilization — especially the values which form the foundation of cultural attitudes toward women and the earth.  But, along the way, I have come to some very uncomfortable realizations which I would like to share with you.

To save the human species from self destruction, we must learn to value both women and the earth. Hatred of women in addition to being wrong in itself is poisoning society. By continuing to construct obstacles to women’s (especially single mom’s) access to resources we are creating an undereducated, impoverished underclass which threatens the social stability of all humans. In much the same way, trashing the earth is poisoning our air, water, and soil, and therefore poisoning all humans who live on this earth. But learning to value women and the earth is such a radical notion that it threatens western civilization as we know it. Of course, you might say, that’s the point. But we must understand that to fully embrace both feminism and environmentalism is to remake our cultural value system, and that includes remaking our image of ourselves and redefining our relationship to nature, the earth, and each other. This is a tall order.

Feminism and environmentalism possibly are incompatible with capitalism. Capitalist profits have depended on the untrammeled trashing of the earth, which is why conservatives have been so opposed to environmentalism. Capitalist profits also may be dependent on a large segment of the population (e.g., women) either donating their work to society by working for nothing in the home or working for less than adequate wages in the workplace. No matter how you look at it, it is clear that capitalism has been dependent on the existence of an underclass – and women make up a big part of it. Where would the profits go if all workers were paid a living wage or industry cleaned up its act? I am not saying that it is a sure thing that capitalism is incompatible with feminism and environmentalism; I am saying that capitalism as we know it, the capitalism which assumes as its right and depends upon the exploitation of the earth and women’s bodies and minds, is.

Feminism which seeks to see women as equal to men also is incompatible with traditional marriage, the basic building block of western society. Feminism, itself, then could be seen as a threat to social stability. Feminism completely rewrites the relationship between the sexes. Many women as well as men are not ready to write off traditional marriage and the dominant independent male/dependent submissive female roles. These husband/wife roles are deeply embedded in our cultural and individual psyches and when they work, we can derive great emotional and erotic satisfaction from them. (But, more and more, they don’t work.) In addition, from a practical standpoint, society still assumes these roles and has made little or no accommodation for women raising children outside of a traditional marriage – making it extremely difficult for women to raise children on their own.

Feminism and environmentalism are also incompatible with any one of the transcendent patriarchal, Abrahamic religions – whether Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. Transcendent patriarchal religions, especially Christianity, are essentially anti earth and anti woman as they are centered around a transcendent male deity. Maleness and transcendence are sacred. And if maleness and transcendence are sacred, it follows that both earthly immanence and woman are profane.

So, all you feminists and environmentalists, are you ready for a complete overhaul of yourselves and the culture you live in? Are you ready to come up with some sort of alternative economic system? Are you ready to abandon traditional marriage? Are you ready to leave the religion you grew up in? But what is the alternative? Continuing down a path to self destruction. Folks, this is not going to be easy.


The Abortion Debate

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

When I had my first child one week before turning 35, it was the happiest day of my life. Only to be matched by the birth of my second child two and one-half years later. I was supremely lucky in my experience of motherhood; I was physically, psychologically, emotionally, and financially ready and able to care for my children and I got two of the greatest kids anyone could ever want. I was relaxed and happy and in a marriage which was relatively stable at the time. Which meant that I had the time and energy to enjoy my children. And enjoy them I did.

But I don’t want to think about — much less to go into — what I went through to avoid pregnancy all those years leading up to those happy days. I came of age pre-pill and pre-Roe, and for a middle class girl of my generation to get pregnant was the shame and tragedy of a lifetime – and provided the plot for many potboilers. Of course, the tragedy both fictional and real usually revolved around the damage done to the career prospects of the accidental young father; the girl –“damaged goods”– was usually tossed aside on the trash heap of life. In fiction , it seemed a fitting fate that the fallen woman conveniently die in childbirth — or as a result of a “back alley, coat-hanger abortion.” In real life, it was off to the Florence Crittenden Home with the hopes that friends and family would buy the “six-month visit to Aunt Kate’s” story.

Let’s just say it’s a miracle that I wasn’t permanently psychologically scarred by the fear and loathing my family instilled in me at the very prospect of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Or permanently scarred physically by my contraception of choice. For, like hundreds of thousands of clueless women, I risked permanent sterility when I opted for the Dalkon Shield to delay pregnancy. Of course, who knew back then what damage those little plastic thingies with the sharp points were doing inside a woman’s uterus? And, who really cared? All I knew was that I bled like a stuck pig every month – so much so that I couldn’t leave the house — and when it came time to think about getting pregnant, well, the Dalkon shield had done its damnedest to make me sterile. But finally the babies came – and how I have loved being a mother.

This is the experience of motherhood I would wish for all women who want to have children. But it is increasingly rare. For a multitude of reasons. First and foremost, we live in the only mammalian society I know anything about which deliberately sabotages the whole process of motherhood. (more…)

The Perils of Transcendent Patriarachal Monotheism

Monday, April 30th, 2007

This essay was delivered as a talk to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tallahassee on April 29, 2007.

Not to be too Henny Pennyish, but I think the end times are upon us – not the end of all times, but the end of western civilization as we have come to know and love it – and, from my point of view, it’s about time. If we don’t accept and promote this end – and look for a new beginning, a radically new way of being in the world, we or our grandchildren may be facing the end of the human species altogether.

From my point of view, the place to start in changing our ways is with the way we think about religion in general and Christianity in particular. One of the ways we liberals think about Christianity is that it is a collection of silly stories and superstitious beliefs which only complete fools could believe in. Another way we think about religion is that the stories are not meant to be taken literally, for it is the morals of the stories, not the stories themselves, which form the kernel of religious belief.

Perversely, I find myself agreeing and disagreeing with both approaches: I do not dismiss the Bible or Christian doctrine as being fundamentally silly or superstitious; but, along with the Richard Dawkins’s of this world, I do believe that anyone who takes the stories literally is more than a little off base. Like the liberal Christians of this world, I do believe it is the moral of the story, not the story itself which is where the message is; however, I no longer believe in the message, having come to the conclusion that, due to unintended consequences, the moral itself has become immoral – promoting death and destruction rather than life and the well being of all.

So if I believe in neither the story nor the moral, why don’t I just get on with my life and abandon religion altogether? Because I believe that Christianity is too powerful and dangerous a force in our culture to be cavalierly dismissed. To me, religion is not just one aspect of culture, it is the essential shaper of culture and cultural institutions. Religions, when they are functioning properly, have an evolutionary purpose: religious symbols are the carriers of cultural value systems which in turn generate cultural worldviews which ultimately promote social stability and individual survival.

The JudeoChristian God is the symbol which carries the value system of western culture. From my perspective, Genesis is not the story of the creation of the world, but the story of the creation of our worldview. God The Symbol is the creator of our psychological reality, the shaper of human consciousness within JC society, signaling what is important, what is not important, what is good and what is bad, what has value and what has no value.
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Taking Religion Seriously: Moral Minds and Mary Midgley

Wednesday, November 1st, 2006

Even though I’m sure I’ll disagree with a lot of what it has to say (I’m a post-modern deconstructionist, after all, and words like universal always raise my hackles), I am so glad that a book like Moral Minds has come out (Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right And Wrong, Marc Hauser). We need some sort of antidote from the scientific community to books which have recently been published denouncing religion as too silly to take seriously. I have not yet had a chance to read Moral Minds, but based on the NYT review and some brief participation in Professor Marc Hauser‘s online research project, it appears that, although Moral Minds does not address religion per se, focusing instead on what Professor Hauser believes is the significant role of morality in human evolutionary biology, Moral Minds at least opens the way for serious scientific discussion of the function of religion in human evolutionary biology – given that religion is a primary provider of moral system and therefore a shaper of moral minds.

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Rape and Pillage: The Sacred Marriage and the Gospel of John, Take One

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

The Christian version of the new creation as told in the Gospel of John completes the transition from pre-Western to Western consciousness – a symbolic journey which began in the dark mysteries of the great Mother and moved through the various iterations of the Sacred Marriage to finally arrive at the current version of the story — which reads like wife abuse and an ugly custody battle leading up to an acrimonious divorce.

From a survival strategy based on a worldview which saw all life as dependent on a Sacred Nature, humanity evolved a new survival strategy – a strategy which focused on the domination of a desacralized nature (land) and the conquest of the people most closely associated with nature and the land (women, farmers, peasants, campesinos, etc.). Western culture moved away from a reality which placed the highest value on life-giving activities: the care and feeding of plant, animal, and human life, and constructed a new reality where the highest survival value was given to life-taking activities: the conquest of land and the extermination or enslavement or colonizing of the people on that land. Why did this happen? Is Western humanity cruel and perverse?
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The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

Sunday, October 22nd, 2006

Dear Richard Dawkins,

I have just read Jim Holt’s review of your new book The God Delusion in The New York Times (October 22), and I have a few comments. First and foremost, I would like to apologize for what I am about to say, because my comments are based only on a review. Although I have not yet read the book, I would like to address some of the issues brought up by Holt while they are fresh in my mind. (more…)

Delving Into the Mysteries of Human Consciousness

Monday, October 16th, 2006

Readers sometimes ask me to define the word “deconstructing” so, I will try to answer in a way that is meaningful within the context of the essays on this site.

For many years I was a structuralist, i.e., I was convinced that at the deepest level of the human psyche there was a structure of universal values and absolute truths which were common to all people in all cultures at all periods of history. I thought that, if I could just discover this bedrock of values, I could then trust them to guide me through my life – and I was desperate for such a guide. And, so I spent many hours pouring through books of mythologies, books on comparative religion, books on psychology and anthropology, and so forth. But what I found as “universal” was not universal, but merely western; and what I thought was truth was at odds with my own experience of reality.

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Damsels in Distress, Murder Most Foul, and The Da Vinci Code

Wednesday, May 11th, 2005

Although I, like other readers, thoroughly enjoyed reading The Da Vinci Code, for me, the most fascinating and interesting thing about The Da Vinci Code is the phenomenal response to it — which shows that The Da Vinci Code is much more than just a fast-paced page turner. What is it about this novel that millions of readers find so compelling? What is it about this novel that the church finds so threatening and so dangerous that it has no less a personage than Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone up in arms, warning Catholics a little belatedly — not to read it and that shill for the church, Pat Buchanan, suggesting on MSNBC’s Scarborough Country that a fatwah should be issued against author Dan Brown?
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The Pope and I

Friday, April 8th, 2005

Back about twenty years ago, while I was doing my exercises before work and listening to NPR, I heard a report about a breakdown in communication between the pope and the archbishhop who was head of the Anglican church. It seems that these two eminences were planning a get-together to discuss the issue of women and the priesthood, when the pope cancelled the meeting. The pope then announced that it was against God’s will for women to be priests. Period. That Jesus Christ had been male, the apostles had been male, the apostolic succession had been from male to male down the centuries to him and that he was not going to be the one to break with tradition and allow a woman into the priesthood (giving her, I guess, a shot at the papacy, should she make it up through the Catholic hierarchy).

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Born in a Manger, Giving Birth in a Barn

Friday, April 8th, 2005

Although Easter has recently passed, it is Christmas I have been thinking about lately and the mother of that baby who was so famously “away in a manger.” I, like millions before me, have fallen under the enchantment of the cozy homeyness of the stable where Jesus was born, the soft golden light cast by a lantern or perhaps emanating from the Lord Jesus himself, the warmth of the animal bodies, the softness of their breath stirring the straw of the manger , caressing the baby lying within.
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Getting Over God

Monday, November 10th, 2003

I no longer believe in God. But before you automatically write me off as a nihilistic atheist, let me explain. When I say I no longer believe in God, I do not mean that I do not believe in a first cause or a principle of ultimate reality or that I think for a minute that what we understand as material reality today is all there is to know. What I do mean is that I no longer believe in that personage called God which we have come to know through the Hebrew and Christian Bibles and the Koran and who, as Jack Miles clearly demonstrated in his Biography of God, is really a very unsavory character. I do not confuse this cruel tyrant with ultimate reality, dear reader, nor should you. As to ultimate reality, I confess I know nothing — except I know it isn’t God.
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