Category: Uncategorized


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I spent much of the last decade as a practicing Pagan. So when I came across an article entitled Agnosticism is Lazy Thinking, I figured I would check it out. I do not really consider myself agnostic, but what the author describes as agnosticism is close to where I am.
The author of this article believes that any good faith system should be able to explain everything.

Any good worldview should have explanatory power that relates to all of the things that can be observed in the universe. This would include the material universe: the nature of matter, energy, and time; and the immaterial universe: logic, truth, justice and morality. In other words, a good worldview will be able to adequately address both science and philosophy.

He goes on to say Greek Mythology fails this test because there was no god of quantum mechanics. This is actually laughable to me because the Greeks had no understanding of quantum mechanics and many Christians actually reject most of the research that comes out of physics, but as a pagan, I feel qualified to say that Apollo as god of math and science would also be the god of quantum mechanics. I don’t really feel the need to beseech a god too often about physics, but if I did, I would be ask Apollo for assistance.

An Agnostic states that they do not know how to explain both science and philosophy in a unified manner. Implicit to Agnosticism, however, is that they reject all of the alternative worldviews.

This is not lazy. In order to reject these answers we have to be presented with them first. Many agnostics search endlessly for answers and simply do not deem your answers satisfactory. That is not laziness. I have read probably 500 books just to help me understand where I stand in the past 5 years. That is more books than many Americans read in a lifetime. Just because I cannot find a unified theory, does not make me lazy. Physicists still haven’t found a unified theory, but that doesn’t mean they, like many agnostics aren’t searching.

I think the rub for the author is the latter part of the agnostic equation, agnostics reject “all of the alternative worldviews.” This means they reject his worldview. I know this may be unfathomable for the faithful, but for some intellectuals, your faith doesn’t make sense. That doesn’t mean I haven’t researched your faith, participated in your ceremonies, prayed to your god, and in general tried to understand. It takes a lot more effort to have to justify constantly why you have rejected the faith of your family than it does to embrace what is offered to you.

I reject the notion that because agnosticism isn’t positivist, you can’t criticize it. In fact, agnostics often analyze their beliefs, particularly when new facts are offered up. Agnosticism is flexible and accepts that we will never have all of the knowledge. We will never know everything. That is okay. We work with the information we have in order to shape our understanding.

Finally, I reject that “it is also the duty of the critic to show how some other system better explains the facts.” If you want me to believe want you do, you have to show how it offers answers to my questions. So far, my conclusion is that we have insufficient knowledge to create a unified theory that makes my spiritual beliefs in a higher power with our current level of science. This is more consistent to me than rejecting science outright so I can cling to belief or rejecting the possibility of a higher power just because science as I understand it doesn’t require a god. If you can present me with evidence, particularly evidence outside of your religious texts that help to me to formulate a unified theory, I will be grateful. My understanding of the universe is constantly changing and I appreciate those who help to fill in the blanks. Maybe I am not a “traditional Agnostic” any more than I am a “traditional Pagan” or ever was a “traditional Christian,” but my agnosticism is not lazy, it is formulated around a pursuit of understanding and an acceptance that there is always something more to learn.

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I think sometimes we try so hard to figure out the things in life. I spent hours thinking about the questions of God, the Universe and whether or not it is okay to be an atheist I realized that biggest problem with the whole event that trigered the creation of this blog was that I assumed there was something wrong with being and atheist As if the idea that science ad the idea that my matter and energy would live on without whatever it is that makes my consciousness is somehow depressing or not hopeful.

I have talked to a number of people and asked a lot of questions. I have asked a lot of questions, and many people have concluded that I am trying to get them to find God for me. In some ways maybe after many years of failed attempts to find the Christian God, I wanted to see why it is that Christians I know have so much faith. I really didn’t manage to figure out what it is that created their faith, everyone seems to have a different way of getting there. What I found was that faith and belief all come from a feeling, a feeling I seem to be unable to have relating to their God, though I definitely had a supernatural experience while camping, just that experience was related to an alter to Artemis in the forest and not the Christian God.

So, I suppose I haven’t ended up an atheist, more of a spiritual theist who isn’t really sure there is something more, but connects to the magic of nature and the forest. I still trust strongly in foundations of scientific inquiry, and am not yet willing to accept that we are all there is in the universe, though I don’t think that is a depressing thought.

I took some time off from writing. Sadly, when you have a chronic illness, you do not feel like writing. I lost the battle with convincing myself to write the past week or so, and for that I apologize to anyone who missed my witty ramblings about religion. (Seriously, I love you guys. My readers are awesome!)

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As a culture, we have become hypersensitive to criticism and questions. Most of us, particularly when it comes to questions from people of other religions, do not know how to separate frustration over not knowing the answer to a question and thinking people are personally trying to attack our beliefs. When we feel comfortable in our views, we do not like that comfort to be challenged, especially, if we find not knowing the answer troubling. On the bright side, many of the questions faced by both believers and non-believers are philosophical questions that have been examined by people for a very long time.

Both believers and non-believers have something to lose if we cannot learn to treat each other’s opinions with respect. The ability to think for ourselves and choose what we believe is something that most cultures have only tolerated for the last century, and some cultures still do not tolerate this. If we want to avoid the need to take up arms against our neighbors who do not share our beliefs, we need to stop trying to impose our beliefs on others. It is one thing to try to discuss in a respectful manner why you think someone has not thought through what they believe, but we need to stop name-calling and intimidation.

If you have a question, phrase it in a manner that is deferential or at least polite. If you do not know the answer, be honest. Nobody knows everything and it is usually better to be honest about what you do not yet know than to try to make something up. If you are interested in looking in to the subject deeper, then do so.

We have reached a point where we have learned to shout at each other, but ignore what the other person is saying. It has led to a major cultural clash because all sides want to be able to impose their beliefs on others, but we have seen from generations of societal experiments where religions have been banned entirely, such as in the USSR, or some religions have been banned, such as the treatment of Native American religions in the 19th and early 20th centuries, that people rebel. Oppression is not a welcomed part of the human condition.

My call to you is this: be tolerant, be willing to ask questions, give questioners the benefit of the doubt (they may be genuinely interested and if you shut them down you kill the chance for dialog) be willing to admit when you don’t know, and respect the honesty it takes to make that admission. We live in a world that is troubled by religious conflicts. People are persecuted every day for their beliefs, or their lack thereof. This is the 21st century. We should be able to move beyond this and respect the rights of everyone to worship whatever god or goddess they choose or choose to believe there is not god at all without penalty, without fear for their safety, and without having the religious beliefs of others imposed on them.

Freedom

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I want to talk about freedom.  Many people believe that freedom gives them the right to do anything they want.  This is problematic because if that were true, that would mean you have the right to infringe on the freedom of others.  This means that in order for there to be anything resembling freedom for everyone, then that freedom is naturally limited to those things that do not infringe on the rights and freedoms of others.

It is also important to note that freedom isn’t free.  I am not even talking about the traditional way this statement is used.  For freedom, soldiers give up their freedoms.  Freedom costs money.  If you have money, you have more freedom than others in America do.  Not only that, you have the “freedom” to provide your employees with a salary below the poverty level, insuring they have fewer freedoms than you do.

What do I mean by freedom isn’t monetarily free?  Let’s talk about college, which is supposed to be the great equalizer, but statistically students who go to good colleges tend to do better than those who do not.  The thing is, as a first generation college student, I know getting into those colleges isn’t the hurdle.  I had no problem getting in, where the problems arose was actually being able to afford to go.  Where you go to college, limits what you can study and what you will end up doing.  Ultimately, money limits opportunity.

Money determines your access to healthcare, too.  In light of the recent Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case, your employer can determine what is covered by your health insurance compensation and you then would be responsible if, for example, your insurance does not meet your medical needs.  If you were rich, you could just pay for it yourself, but when it costs 2 weeks’ pay to cover your medication (which is about what an IUD would cost if you make around $13 an hour. Many Americans affected by this law make less than that).  If you are rich, you also have the freedom to buy political favors.  In theory, all of this influences the freedoms of everyone else, but in the United States, the so-called “Land of the Free” we are all supposed to be free.

This is why I support a single payer health care system, so all Americans have equal access to the medical care they need.  This eliminates the employer religious concerns over covering whatever birth control a woman and her doctor decide she needs because instead of covering insurance as part of her compensation for working for you, it would be provided through the government.  Yes, this has tax implications, as did the billions of dollars we have paid on wars.

Since we are talking about my politics, I also support big government.  I think there are certain important roles to be played by the government.  These roles should include: education, health care, employment oversight, environmental oversight, and the protection of the equal rights to freedom of everyone under the law.  The problem I see in our country is the unfortunate lack of free and open elections.  This has been further impacted by the Citizens United ruling, which codifies the rich being able to manipulate elections and buy political favors.  The American government no longer is for the people by the people, it is for the few and by the few.

This needs to change.  Just because I see serious flaws in the system, I love this country and I believe it has the ability to be better than it is.  In fact, as Americans we should insist on whatever it takes to make our country the best in the world.  The first step is to seek true equality of freedom.  This means giving people equal access to opportunities, an equal voice in deciding the future of America, and an equal right to practice their religion, so long as that practice doesn’t prevent others from being able to freely practice their religion.

How do we do this? You didn’t really think I was just going to write a philosophy article without giving you some sort of suggestions did you?

First, we need to work to overturn Citizens United.  It is going to be very difficult to have anything resembling equality of access to opportunities if we continually give the rich a megaphone while forcing the poor to whisper.  Check out the Mayday PAC

Second, you need to vote.  Your vote is important.  You should do your research and think critically about what you are told.  Who is saying talking, who is paying for it, and what do they have to gain from it?  I don’t care if you vote against my beliefs, but you should still make your voice heard.

Third, you need to stay engaged. Sign petitions, run for office, write and call your representatives, and keep informed on the issues.

Ultimately, I believe your ability to live freely, impact elections, and decide how to practice your religion should not depend on your personal wealth.  Freedom shouldn’t be dependent on the socioeconomic status of your birth.  While we are on that topic, my friend Marie posted today on Freedom, particularly freedom from slavery http://t.co/ZfM09mMlw6.  July fourth is a fantastic day to talk about freedom, particularly as “patriotism” in the United States focuses a lot on the idea of freedom. For me your freedom to do something should not impede the freedoms of others. You should read Marie’s post before you continue because what she has to say here is the first half of what I have to say.

I’ll wait… seriously, this blog isn’t going anywhere.

Now, that you have read that, I’m sure half of you are thinking “but Crystal, I’m not a Christian,” so I would like to amend Marie’s conclusion with this.  My changes are in italics.

 Good people of the world, it’s time we came clean. It’s time we stopped hiding … behind the term “addiction.” Certainly one can be addicted to almost anything, but let’s at least call it what it is. Every time we click the link, flip the page or pay the john, we are exploiting someone. A person. A human being just like you. It is nothing short of evil for anyone to abuse another in this way.

The wealthy using their privileged position to impact legislation in their favor at the expense of everyone else is also a form of exploitation, particularly when the legislation there are seeking is specifically formulated to ensure that the poor stay poor.  We have a crisis of exploitation in our society and much of it revolves around the privileges of wealth, maleness, and whiteness, but that is a topic for another day.

photo credit: blinkingidiot via photopin cc

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I feel the magick in my veins
It follows me even when I stray
Its with me everywhere I go
A fiery companion of my soul

Crystal Dreamgazer 2014, All Rights Reserved

photo credit: Frances Lane via photopin cc

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I want to take a moment and put a human face to the other side of the Hobby Lobby case, the ruling to which should be announced in about 8 hours. Hobby Lobby has argued that what is at stake here is a question of religious liberty, but for me it is actually a question as to whether or not my employer could actually bar me from having birth control. You see that IUD they claim causes abortions, is the only birth control I can use.

I get something called a paralytic migraine. This is exacerbated by any artificial hormones, meaning the Hobby Lobby approved contraceptives can actually give me a stroke. If the court rules in Hobby Lobby’s favor today, that means I will either need to avoid employment by companies with religious exemptions or contribute even more of my wages to my healthcare. It has been suggested that the government would actually be forcing me to subsidize my employers religious beliefs, because I would pay more than employees of non-religious employers. I guess the question at stake is do religious beliefs trump all? Do these liberties extend to other laws? What about Civil Rights laws? Do corporate religious beliefs trump employee religious beliefs?

I will defer to “a religious organization’s good-faith understanding of who qualifies as its minister.”  Justice Clarence Thomas

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The Supreme Court recently ruled in Hosanna-Tabor Church v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that Federal labor laws do not apply to religious organizations in regards to people who can be considered ministers.  The defendant, Ms. Perich claims she was fired by the Lutheran Church School she worked for because she developed narcolepsy.  The interesting and perhaps concerning part of this 9-0 ruling is that the school can define her as a minister because for 45 minutes a day she was responsible for attending chapel with her class.  What bothers me is that it seems to me that anyone who works for a religious organization could be defined by the church itself as a “minister” if the church wanted to fire that person.  (By the way the official reason for Ms. Perich’s firing is that apparently it is a violation of church doctrine trying to take the church to court instead of trying to work out the problem with the church itself).

 What could be the long term ramifications of this ruling?  It seems to me that this ruling determined that ADA does not actually apply to churches, so long as they choose to call them a minister, even if it is after the fact.  Blatant discrimination against the disabled is okay now, so long as you are a church.  I am not arguing here that churches should have to move into the 21st Century and accept groups that they would otherwise vocally come out against; however, I think you would be hard-pressed to find a church who turns people away because they are sick.  As Rev. Barry Lynne, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said “Blatant discrimination is a social evil we have worked hard to eradicate in the United States…” said Lynn.  “Clergy who are fired for reasons unrelated to matters of theology—no matter how capricious or venal those reasons may be—have just had the courthouse door slammed in their faces.” 

Ultimately, I am lucky to live in a country where the government cannot appoint my religious officials, but I think in this particular case, the church has been put above the law of the land.  It doesn’t matter if you are actually a minister, if you work for a church, you are at risk.  What does this mean for victims of sexual abuse by priests?  Will it make it harder to prosecute priests simply because the church is above being held accountable?  Marci Hamilton, a professor at Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, “The upshot is that religious organizations can fire clergy based on disability, race, or gender, and clergy will not be able to sue them for invidious discrimination.  No one becomes clergy in the United States expecting to face such discrimination, but now at least those who are being ordained can know from the start that if they are ever subject to invidious discrimination by their religious institution, they will have no legal recourse… But the Court did not hold—or even approach the notion—that religious organizations operate autonomously with respect to any body of law other than the federal anti-discrimination laws.” Only time will tell what this judgment really means for the average church employee, but overall I am troubled by the potential implications of this case.

Image borrowed from http://www.slapupsidethehead.com/2010/06/religious-freedom-doesnt-give-you-that-power/

A couple of weeks ago I caught bronchitis, for some people this is just a hassle, but being asthmatic, it is something a bit more serious for me.  For two weeks I barely slept, coughed my throat into tenderness and was generally miserable.  It seems like nothing good can come from this story, but something did.  Getting sick was really a wakeup call for me: I wasn’t living, I was simply existing.

It might sound crazy to you, but the first couple days that you can get out of bed and return to your normal life after a couple of weeks in bed are euphoric.  You get to live life again, and life is so precious.  Prior to getting sick getting out of bed was a struggle.  Some days it all seems so pointless.  Right before I got sick all I wanted to do was just be finished with school, now I have a new appreciation for what I’m doing.  If I going to spend 2-8 years of my life specializing, then I better love it.  I know there will be bad days, but there are always bad days in life.

In some ways, that is the back story to this blog.  Being sick made me realize that I did not just want to exist; I wanted to do something and be a complete person.  Since I started school in June, I have struggled to find balance.  I don’t think anyone can be fully prepared for the jump from undergraduate to graduate academics.  Somewhere in the shuffle I lost myself.  I would come home daily frustrated because I was discovering things I hated, but with the exception of my boyfriend, I had given up everything I loved.

In some ways this is all about rediscovering who I am, but as I have heard it recently argued, every couple years people change into new people.  I guess I’m just trying to direct my new person in a way that will lead to an actual enjoyment of life.  Some people take life so seriously, as if they work hard enough nothing bad is going to ever happen to them.  The reality is that things go wrong in life, so you have to embrace the days that go really well to help you get through the really bad days.  As Churchill said “If you are going through Hell keep going.”  If you keep moving forward, hopefully you can escape your bad situation.

Some of the changes I am making are small, for example, I am striving to eat breakfast every morning.  Others are a bit bigger, I have taken up playing the guitar again, I’m writing, and I’m trying to overcome my more diplomatic nature and actually develop solid opinions on things that are important to me.  I might fail, but I figure what is the purpose of living if you don’t take at least a little bit of time every day to do something you love.  So my question for you is what do you love and how often do you get to do things that make you genuinely happy?  Right now, “Die Trying” by Art of Dying makes me happy.

Leningrad The Band

I can’t bring myself to do my Russian yet, which means my first video share.  Enjoy Dorogi by Leningrad!