Tag Archives: God

How I Went Through the 5 Stages of Grief on Facebook

I woke up last week to the news of the shooting in Paris, and was just horrified. I felt like I couldn’t look away, and ended up switching between Twitter and EW.com to keep up with what was going on. Finally, I was like “Drew, you’ve got to get yourself together,” so I went to Facebook. It’s like a week later and I realize that I totally went through the five stages of grief right there on my wall. I’m sharing them with you guys as part of my healing process.

1. Denial. I will deny myself posting this cool video of a dancing cockatiel so I can share WKQX’s awesome image showing our solidarity with  the victims. I do this because I don’t want anyone thinking for even one minute that I am on the side of the terrorists. I know there are some people out there who think the terrorists were justified or that sometimes terrorism is ok or whatever, but I think that it’s terrible. Have they forgotten 9/11 or Sandy Hook or Hurricane Katrina? Just awful. (But seriously guys? That cockatiel is really, really, rocking out).

2. Anger. I always find myself getting super angry about one small detail of a tragedy. With the Charlie Hebdo attack, I am crazy angry about the murder of Ahmed Merabet, the Muslim policeman. The terrorists were Muslim and they killed a Muslim? What is up with that? How can you say that you’re fighting the enemies of Islam and then kill an actual Muslim? I want all my friends to know that I stand with Mr. Merabet’s family. Plus, it’s important for all of us to remind the haters that many Muslims don’t even like terrorists. They’re just like normal people!

charlie hebdo mug

3. Bargaining. Oh God! There is a Groupon available for 2 for 1 admission to Key Lime Cove, the Chicago area’s greatest indoor water park! I have to let everyone know about this bargain! Also, I promise to God that I will pray more often and be a more loyal servant to Him. I am so grateful to be part of a faith that doesn’t have any taboos and no history of violence. If I could just remind more people of our beautiful history, there would be less terrorism in the world.

4. Depression. There is so much evil in the world, and I feel so powerless to do anything about it. Those attacks in Paris were just like the attacks in Austria or wherever a few months ago, or maybe it was last year. You know, the one where all those people were killed and I think they took those poor school girls. God, that was terrible. And now it’s all happening again. Even worse, while we were all talking about the attack in Paris, I saw that there was an attack in Africa – I think it was Uruguay – where all those people died. It’s just awful. I can’t stop thinking about it.

5. Acceptance. It’s like Vice President Cheney once said: we’re all going to be victims of terrorism some day. I think we just have to deal with that. So for now, I’m just going to be happy to live in the greatest country on earth and enjoy all of our freedom. You know what? I feel bad for the terrorists. They come from such a violent culture, where everyone has a gun and people are killed by their neighbors or the police for totally stupid reasons.

Guys, I feel totally better after sharing this, and want to leave with a famous quote: “Can’t we all get along?” Dr. Rodney King said that, and I think it’s ironic that these attacks happened right before the world celebrates his birthday.  I think if more of us tried to follow his words and his example, the world would be a better place.

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Should You Be Outraged? A Guide to Religious Conflict

Early this year, the Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project published a study claiming that religious hostilities worldwide reached a six year high. Fully a third of the countries in the world had a significant amount of religious hostility during the reporting period, whether it was on the part of the government or the citizenry.

You could believe that inter-religious violence and hostility is only something that happens “over there.” You could believe that, but only if you don’t spend any time on the Internet. Members of faith communities not only want you to know about the appalling and disgraceful attacks on their co-religionists abroad, but also about anti-religious activity right here at home. Why are they sharing all these terrible things with you? Is it because stories of persecution accomplish the three major goals of organized religion in America (fostering community through shared victimhood, justifying antagonism towards other groups, and fundraising)?

No, it’s because they want you to share in their indignation and outrage. Unfortunately, each of us has only have so much outrage to spare. We can’t go blow our entire outrage wad on religious violence and persecution. We have to save some to direct at Roger Goodell, President Obama, and Kim Kardashian. Also, maybe grand juries. Yet we want to support our friends in the various faith communities. To help you find direction for your indignation, I’ve carefully researched this handy guide that outlines the struggles of five of the world’s major religions. Included is who they are fighting with internationally as well as their challenges closer to home. There is also a handy infographic at the end, outlining just who is fighting with whom.

Religion: Christianity
Percent of World’s Population: 31.5%
Victimized Internationally By: Muslims. Hindus. Buddhists. JewsOther Christians. Also, Communists.
Victimized in America By: 
Homosexuals. Secularists. Atheists. Alsoby a society that gives into hypersensitivity and insists that Christmas displays be taken down. This apparently fuels the hatred and intolerance that lead to persecution, according to Dr. Ben Carson.
Should You Be Outraged?: Yes! Fanatical enemies of Christendom are everywhere, whether they go by the name of Boko Haram in Nigeria or cower under whatever “Political Correctness” is in America.

Six reasons for anti-Semitism

Religion: Judaism
Percent of World Population: .2%
Victimized Internationally By:
Muslims. Other JewsChristians. Worse, per the ADL, over a billion people worldwide harbor anti-Semitic attitudes. This is staggering! Slightly less staggering is a survey that purports to represent world opinion by asking eleven binary questions of people who live in countries where they’ve never met or heard of a Jew, but still!
Victimized in America By: Mean jerks who say nasty things about Israel, preventing the Jewish state from ever taking military action or constructing settlements. Also, a major American television network has aired two seasons of a “sitcom” perpetuating the worst possible stereotypes of Jews.
Should You Be Outraged?: Yes! Because of Schindler’s List.

Religion: Islam
Percent of World Population: 23.2%
Victimized Internationally By: Christians. Jews. Hindus. Buddhists. Also, an alarming number of Muslims are killed by other Muslims.  And who could possibly do anything to stop it when something as confusing as that happens?
Victimized in America By: The FBI. NSA. Congress. The State of Oklahoma, which acted decisively to thwart a nascent Islamic state in their backyard by banning Shar’ia law. The ban was overturned by the secular and politically correct courts last year. See anti-Christian victimization, above.
Should You Be Outraged?: Yes! But you already posted that picture of Mala Yousafzai to your Facebook wall, so you’ve done enough.

Religion: Hinduism
Percent of World Population: 15%
Victimized Internationally By: Muslims. Buddhists. Other Hindus. Also, American academics who write dangerous books about Hinduism and sexy, sexy, sex.
Victimized in America By: We are all complicit in the theft of yoga from the Hindus. Also, prominent Hindus on TV only pursue non-Hindu men and others talk in affected accents and lack machismo.
Should You Be Outraged?: Yes! The flashbacks in Slumdog Millionaire are very upsetting.


The Embarrassing Face of American Buddhism

Religion: Buddhism
Percent of World Population: 7%
Victimized Internationally By:  Muslims. Communists. Other Buddhists. Also, evangelical Christians believe that the biggest problem facing Tibet is that they aren’t Christian enough.
Victimized in America By: It’s bad enough that every liberal arts student becomes a Buddhist for four months after finishing their comparative religion class.  It’s quite another to for Buddhism to be appropriated by countless celebrities, so that the face of American Buddhism is the fat, stupid face of Steven Seagal.
Should You Be Outraged! Yes! Do you want a washed up B-movie action star representing your religious community?

Boy! That is a a lot of violence, persecution, and oppression. It’s almost as if some members of religious groups will always find a reason to fight other religious groups and if that gets boring, they turn on members of their own faith in a neverending cycle of attacks and retaliation. Actually, that pretty much sums it up. Here’s a handy summary chart that you can clip out and carry with you for a handy reference for the next time a person of faith tells you that theirs is a religion of peace.

religious violence

It’s probably too easy to get depressed by all the violence and strife in the world caused by intra- and inter-religious conflict. Look at it one way, and it’s like the NFL – pointless barbarity for the sake of score settling based on manufactured rivalries where young men face all the risk, recruited by wealthier folk who somehow never get their hands bloody.  Look at it another way, religious groups are like the NFL – if they didn’t have their rivalries, what would they do with their time?  Look at it a third way, and it’s like the NFL – to people who don’t follow it, the stakes seem incredibly low. All that struggle for a lousy ten yards or that stupid patch of dirt where a guy supposedly saw something he couldn’t explain.  That might be the biggest outrage of all.

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Why Does God Have to Take the Elderly and the Reckless?

Hey Everyone,

Natalee coming back at you! Thanks for checking in for the next post by yours truly. I was originally going to write another dream journal today, because I gotta tell you, I am having CRAY-CRAY dreams about food. Like, I pretty much only dream about food these days. Especially those new banana chocolate chip muffins at Dunkin’ Donuts! You had me at chocolate chip, AND then put a chocolate swirl on top?! AMAZEBALLS.

I also owe you guys a post on my theory that J. Crew is trying to make women all self conscious by making their sizes smaller. Tell me this isn’t happening! Size 6 4 life, amirite? But I’m feeling pretty down today, because I learned on Twitter that Sid “Uncle Miltie” Caesar died. The man was stupid funny!  How can we forget that thing where he would say to that chick  “say goodnight, Gracie,” and the chick would say “goodnight, Gracie!”? Hysterical. And he totally launched the careers of all those Jewish writers, like that one guy who married his daughter. If it weren’t for Uncle Miltie, Jews would still only be famous for killing Jesus. The man was a pioneer of comedy. I think it’s safe to say that without Sid Caesar, there’d be no Grown Ups. We are in your debt, sir!

Of course, I’m still processing the loss of Shirley Temple and Philip Seymour Hoffman. You know what they say: bad things always happen in threes. The Lord works in mysterious ways, I guess. I know that some of you remember PSH from Mission Impossible III or maybe you were old skool and went back and watched Twister. But did you know he was a big theater actor, too? This article in People said that he was a “consummate professional who revealed new depths in the character” when he played a guy named Willy Loman, which is from that play by the guy who was married to Marilyn Monroe! Barney Miller? Anyway, crazy to think that Philip Seymour Hoffman was like one degree away from Marilyn Monroe, right? God bless you both, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Shirley Temple. You went before your time and you will be missed!

Nelson-Mandela-Paul-Walker-Cory-MonteithI hope that we’re not about to have another year like 2013. You guys, I’m still bummed by the guy
from Fast and Furious dying. I don’t remember his name but he was sooo kyoot! I didn’t see The Fast and the Furious, or 2 Fast 2 Furious, or Fast & Furious, or Fast Five, or Fast & Furious 6, but I was excited to see what he would do next. Between him and Nelson Mandela, I spent pretty much all of December looking at People, US Weekly, Star, OK!, and Entertainment Weekly. And then I got behind on TMZ, Perez Hilton, and Gawker. It is just so sad, you guys. You just don’t expect someone to die from crashing into a light pole at 100 miles an hour!

Do not even get me started on Cory Monteith. I will probably start to cry.  Why do God and heroin always have to take the good ones? We’ll never know if Cory or the guy from Fast and Furious would go on to take serious roles like Matthew McConaughey. Remember that movie where he’s a lawyer and he asked that jury to imagine the rape of that little black girl and then he asked them to imagine if she was white? I just watched that again in December, as my tribute to Nelson Mandela. I was in my office when I found out that he died, and I ran and found our computer guy, Jagdish, and I just hugged him and wouldn’t let go, because I knew Mandela did so much for his people.

Sometimes I just don’t understand why old people, addicts, and the reckless have to die, you know? God, please bless these angels who are with you now in heaven. Oh, hey! Someone brought in muffins!

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“Judeo-Christian” is a Phrase Used By Dummies

Every year around this time I prepare to go to Oklahoma to visit my wife’s family for Christmas. I’ve known my wife for twenty years, and you would think that after a couple of decades, I would run out of jokes. But, like the very best things your loved ones can give you, Oklahoma is the gift that keeps on giving. Once upon a time, the fact that the state has one senator who believes climate change is a hoax perpetrated for profit by the Weather Channel, another senator who thinks Schindler’s List is just too sexy to show on TV, and a state legislature that banned imaginary jihadists from implementing imaginary sharia law would have meant that Oklahoma was on the far right fringe of American society.

It’s not anymore. Opinions that were once funny when spoken in the half-speed Oklahoman dialect are now in mainstream of the right. Sure, they’re still funny at the speed of normal human speech. Until you actually think about them. Because there’s so just so much bullshit.  In keeping with the proud Native American traditions of Oklahoma, they use every part of the bullshit.

Take for example a recent proposal to build a chapel in the statehouse. In supporting his idea, Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon adds a candy coating of reasonableness to his nutty center by claiming that the chapel would honor the state’s “Judeo-Christian” heritage. Let us pause for a moment. I was raised Jewish. I have been to Oklahoma. Do you know how you know if you’re in a place that has no Jewish heritage? When people can recite the names of all the Jews they’ve ever met. And they ask if you know them. This happens ALL THE TIME in Oklahoma. If you’ve never been, Oklahoma is the kind of place where people say Christ’s name reverently, and never use his middle initial or hyphenated last name.

Thus, I have no idea what Judeo-Christian heritage Shannon is talking about. But it’s not just him. Conservative folks talk about Judeo-Christian heritage and “traditional Judeo-Christian” values all the time. Rick Santorum does it, which right there should tell you it’s a stupid thing to say. I should note that it’s not stupid because Jewish values and Christian values are different. They might be. I have no idea, because I went to Hebrew School for five years and didn’t learn a thing, save for “Holocaust! Boooo! Israel! Yayyyyy!”

It’s stupid because the right wingers are trying to look inclusive by welcoming the smallest possible group they could find. According to the 2010 census, Jews are 1.8% of the population. Here’s a fun fact: the number of adult Jews in the United States is almost the same as the number of people still using AOL dial up. Judging by my family, that might be the same 2.5 million people. Why do conservative Christians in 2013 want to throw their arms around people connecting to God at 56kbps? There’s a whole big internet of fast, Java-enabled God out there. I suppose It might be to give them street cred. Jews could be like the Black friend that racists always insist they have after they say something ignorant.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s nice to be invited to the club. I remember my brother once insisting that he wasn’t white. I thought this was nuts: given the opportunity, I most definitely want to be part of the winning team. Does anyone get called up to the Yankees and turn them down out of loyalty to the Akron RubberDucks?

Which brings us to the other part that’s so stupid about all of this. You can’t simultaneously say “traditional” and “Judeo-Christian” when talking about American values. You’ve only been willing to let us on the team in the very recent past. Before that, your grandfathers and great-grandfathers were limiting Jewish access to higher education, cracking down on immigration, and accusing Jews of being a fifth column aligned with an international finance conspiracy. You hated us. This is why I never miss an opportunity to high five Irish people. We went from dirty immigrant outsiders to members of the ruling class! All right! Let’s get some corned beef and laugh at Latinos and Muslims!

If we’re being honest, when it comes to white Christian values in the US, the only thing that’s traditional is excluding as many people as you can. The problem is that they don’t make white people like they used to. By which I mean that white Christian people simply aren’t making white Christian babies at the rate they used to. So, if you can’t make white Christians in the traditional way – some zinfandel, Carole King’s Tapestry, and missionary for 35-45 seconds – you have to change the way you count. Fudge the numbers. With some slight of hand, and you can hyphenate in the Jews. Presto! “Judeo-Christian” is born, and lest anyone raise an eyebrow, you can throw a “traditional” in there to act like we were there this whole time. Just like your Black friend.

Again, I’m happy to be on the team. But I feel like I’m being used. The only time I hear “Judeo-Christian”, it’s to justify installing the Ten Commandments in a public place, or to keep gays from getting married, or as Paul Ryan did, to oppose the Affordable Care Act. Those things all sound suspiciously like traditional right-wing evangelical Christian values. What about traditional Jewish values, like, um, guilt trips, terrible wine, and deli trays?

The last time I heard “Judeo-Christian” in the news, it was  Bill O’Reilly making the claim that not acknowledging Christmas is an affront to the Judeo-Christian tradition. Again, Jews aren’t so concerned with Christmas, Bill. You know we love sales, and this year Chanukah was long over before we could find really good deals on a new TV.

All these guys sound awfully defensive, like the Christian right knows they’re going to lose. Which brings me to another fun fact: in 2010, the second biggest religious identity in the US after Christians was unaffiliated, agnostics, and atheists. Crap. We finally got to the big leagues, and realized it’s the XFL.

Merry Christmas!

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The Post About Rambo, Jesus, Burma, and Rand Paul You’ve Been Waiting For

Last Monday was Veteran’s Day, and like most Americans, I love two things about our country: our veterans and our wars.  Our veterans are so nice we celebrate them twice. If they lived, they get Veteran’s Day and if they fell, they get Memorial Day.Everything else in America gets celebrated only once. Except Jesus. We celebrate his life on the day with the presents and his death on the one with the chocolate. If aliens wanted to know what things Americans really care about, they could look at which things we celebrate twice and conclude that we love soldiers and Jesus. And we especially love soldiers for Jesus. I’ll get to that in a minute.

We also like wars. Especially World War II. No war is as good as World War II – fought by the elderly to free the world from tyranny and earn them a lifetime pass to call black people “shvartzes” and nag about why you didn’t go to law school (I only know elderly Jewish people). But we’re generally warming up to all wars old people fought in – the anger over Vietnam has subsided as its veterans get older and we realize the rich cultural legacy the war left in the form of John Rambo, James Braddock, and Country Joe and the Fish.

We love wars so much, we make things wars even when they aren’t military. President Johnson declared war on poverty, Reagan on drugs, and Bush on terrorism.

Ok, so we went 0 for 3 on those. But you don’t even have to President to declare war. Atheists declared a War on Christmas (lost) and fetuses declared a War on Women (draw). Sometimes, wars pop up when you’re just standing around being a shmuck. Senator Rand Paul discovered a War on Christianity. All this time, there’s been a war on the world’s most practiced religion, and it took Rand Paul to call our attention to it. According to Paul, Christians are under greater threat now than they were in the Middle Ages, when they were threatened with exhaustion from all the Crusading, stake-burning, and Inquisitioning.

Rand Paul is right. Or, whoever he plagiarized the speech from is right. He’s also right in that it’s better to crib the plot from Gattaca on Wikipedia than to actually watch it. But what the person whose ideas he stole may not know is that Christians are finally going on the offensive. We have soldiers for Jesus and they’ve picked their battlefield. It’s called the 10/40 Window. 10/40 is like WD40, only instead of stopping the squeaks of door hinges, it stops the squeaky prayers of brown people to figures other than Christ. No, really. 10/40 refers to a band of Africa and Asia from ten degrees north of the equator to forty degrees north. Apparently, evangelicals have been aware of this long neglected area – where 60-odd percent of the world lives – since the term was coined in the early 90s. There are literally billions of “spiritually impoverished” Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus engaging in a War on Christianity by using a cunning strategy of not giving a damn about it.

Every American war needs a man who lives by his own code. A man outside the system who fights for justice. A man who lives by the motto “No Rules, Just Right.” A man who doesn’t care that this is the slogan for Outback Steakhouse, because nothing is more American than a crappy slab of meat served in a family casual restaurant chain in the parking lot of a mall.

And that brings me to the Father of the White Tiger, the nom de guerre (but not in a French way) of the leader of the Free Burma Rangers, a real life A-Team in The War on Christianity. Father of the White Tiger is the son of former American missionaries, a former Army Ranger, and a guy who compares himself to the Hobbits. His name refers to his young daughter, who accompanies him on his missions, because soldiers in the War on Christianity don’t care about being charged with reckless child endangerment.

If you’re like me, you probably can’t stop following the news about Burma. One hundred thirty five ethnic groups, a military junta that may be opening up after decades of repression, and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi – a woman so powerful and charming she even got Hillary Clinton to dress like her.

Unfortunately, Burma and Congress still have two things in common: they both fetishize the military and they both like screwing minorities. I once dated a girl who took a single comparative religion class in college and concluded that Buddhism was a universally peaceful religion with lots of cool ideas about reincarnation. That girl was an idiot. The Buddhist ethnic Burmans who run the country are beating the snot out of the Muslim and Christian minority groups.

Thank God for Father of the White Tiger and the Free Burma Rangers. They work with Christian guerilla fighters in the jungles of Burma  to document human rights abuses by the Burmese army, provide medical assistance, and assist the hundreds of thousands of displaced people. Also, they bring the Lord, in the form of counselors from the Good Life Club. Because why wouldn’t you? There’s none of the of squishiness of traditional missionary work, as the leader says: “We stand with the villagers; we’re not above them. If they don’t run from the government troops, we don’t either.”

This kind of thing gets my American blood pumping. I love inspirational stories about proud American warriors persevering against incredible odds. Remember Jessica Lynch, emptying her rifle before becoming a hostage to barbarous Iraqis and then being rescued by US Special Forces? And Pat Tillman, leaving the NFL to fight in Afghanistan only to be killed by enemy soldiers? Remember how both those stories weren’t, strictly speaking, true? Doesn’t matter. Kicking ass matters, whether it’s real or fictional. A small team of Christian soldiers righteously fighting evil in the jungles of Burma is powerful stuff, and it almost sounds like the plot of a Rambo movie.

And here’s where the fiction of Hollywood and Senator Paul and reality come together. It IS the plot of a Rambo movie. The one you didn’t see that came out in 2008. It opens with documentary footage shot by the Free Burma Rangers. The film is officially banned in Burma, but a huge hit with the various rebel groups who especially like Rambo’s slogan, “Live for Nothing, Die for Something.” It doesn’t matter that it makes no sense – the slogan was actually one of three things they loved. The other two were his giant pectoral muscles and the complete denial of the fact he’s 61 and looks every year of it. What could be more American than that?

Well, one could make a terrible sequel in a 30 year old movie franchise and then retroactively claim that your goal was to draw attention to one of the world’s most repressive regimes. That’s the kind of cashing in we love in America. Like when Rand Paul, a US Senator, can plagiarize a speech and then claim himself as a victim of a shadowy organization known as the Footnote Police. Interesting that the Footnote Police made themselves known so soon after Paul revealed the War on Christianity.

I guess we know which side attribution, accuracy, and the truth are on.


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God, What a Jerk

Both of my sons are too young to have The Talk with. They know that babies come from a mommy and a daddy, but it hasn’t yet occurred to them to ask about the mechanism by which this happens. Unfortunately, they are around and alert enough to know when a tragedy has struck a member of our family or that of a friend’s. Given that they are still scarred by the pre-credits scene in “Finding Nemo,” it’s not easy to find something to say that will give them comfort or make any positive impact in their understanding of the universe.

I can’t say that I have or will ever figure out what to say to the kids when confronted with tragedy. But I know what I’m not going to say. I will absolutely never, ever, say “God has a plan for all of us.” This is a TERRIFYING thing to say. There’s some omnipotent all-knowing entity in the universe that has plans for me and I have no way of knowing what they are? I’m sure my sons will sleep much better at night if I tell them that God might have a plan to have my wife and me sucked through the roof in a tornado that night. Who can know his plans? Anyway, go to bed. Have good dreams!  Now I’m going to stay up all night wondering if God’s plan is to have me sit at a sports bar watching amateur improv in between innings of a never ending MLB game? Screw that God.

Why is God making plans for me anyway? I don’t make plans for Him. I don’t say, “Hey God, you’re going to go watch an evening of experimental gamelan/bluegrass music and there’s nothing you can do about it because I am an all powerful plans maker! ” I bet God would’ve appreciated it if I told Him of my plan. Or maybe God would’ve prefered I keep my nose out of His business and let Him make His own plans. Hey, God, ever hear of do unto others as you’d have done onto you? I read that in a massage parlor once. Why on earth would I pray to a God who can’t follow the golden rule? Screw that God.

“God has a plan” is of a piece with the other terrible thing people say, “the Lord Works in Mysterious Ways.” So I’m supposed to spend hours every weekend praying my head off to an eccentric and erratic deity? Would you be friends with someone who gave you a beautiful house and a beautiful wife, but also was really into genocide, massacres, famine, disease and Fleetwood Mac? You wouldn’t, because friends don’t let friends listen to Fleetwood Mac. More importantly, you’d probably realize you could have had the beautiful house and the beautiful wife on your own. And you wouldn’t have to wonder what kind of friend would give you stuff while so clearly getting off on human suffering. Screw that friend, and definitely screw that God.

When God closes a door, he opens a window. God could be playing with nebulae, quasars, mountain ranges, and He’s messing with the entry points to my house? Why? Why not leave the door and the window open? I’m not aware of anyone ever being made to feel better by telling them that God wants them to climb out of a window. I just lost my job and I’ve got a mortgage and a family, but all I’ve got to do is find which damned window God opened. Thanks., Maybe the Almighty could’ve brought down the vacuous and small minded sycophant that shut the door to my employment in the first place. You ever think of that, God? So now I’ve got to figure out if you opened a window to a different job? Screw you, God.

If I ever become God, I’m going to be a whole lot nicer. As a higher being, I’m not going to dole out favorable treatment only to the lower beings that suck up to me. I try to be kind to animals, not because they wear symbols of my earthly demise around their necks (though a squirrel with a little CTA bus charm would be cute), but because I recognize that I have the power to make decisions and an ethical background that rejects cruelty. Are we to believe that somewhere in the universe there’s a God that can’t be kind because he never got the basic behavioral rules for kindergarten? We’re praying to an emotional five year old? This is a God, after all, who after creating the world, decided he didn’t like it and flooded the whole thing. My sons do the same thing with sand castles and Lego forts. Ahh! I messed up! I’m just going to destroy it! My sons will grow up, but God doesn’t? Screw that God.

For the last couple of millennia, people of Abrahamic faiths have been praying, pleading, and hoping that God would speak to them. And who does he speak to? George W. Bush. Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, and Michelle Bachmann. Michael Vick. With all of the terminally ill people in the world, the starving, the refugees, the people at Fleetwood Mac concerts, God talks to these bozos. And he didn’t even give them good guidance. He talked to Rick Santorum, but didn’t tell him that sweater vests and meddling in people’s sex lives are both passe. He didn’t tell Herman Cain not to molest women. And he didn’t give Michelle Bachmann a functional frontal lobe. God told George W. Bush to run for president and told him to invade Iraq, but never mentioned in any of their chats that Iraq had no WMDs and Dick Cheney was actually the devil? Seems like that would have been good information to have before all the dying and destruction. Screw you, God.

I know that some people during trying times in their lives have felt like someone is watching over them. I think that’s less reassuring than it is very, very, creepy. What if the feeling that a higher power was always watching you wasn’t God, but the NSA? What if the warm feeling you get inside after praying isn’t His love, but the gas you didn’t want to release during the quiet parts? I’d say that the NSA and gas are certainly the more likely answers, what with Obama’s national security state and the popularity of Jamie Lee Curtis’ colon-blowing yogurt.

Then there’s dream you had, where during the most difficult times of your life you only saw one set of footprints in the sand? Was that God carrying you, or some creep who just slipped you a roofie and is carrying your limp body off?

I don’t find any of this comforting at all.


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Crises of Faith

I was raised Jewish. These days, I consider myself a devout Pedestrian, but I can’t hide from my experience in that particular religious tradition. Saying “I was raised Jewish” is more of a convenient shorthand for saying “I am an adult survivor of the spiritual and emotional trauma that was Hebrew school.” In general, I hate the culture of victimization, but we’re talking about Hebrew School. They used to teach us to sing prayers to the tune of television theme songs. What kind of sick sons of bitches do that? To this day, whenever I hear the M*A*S*H song, I feel a ghost yarmulke on my head and have nightmarish flashbacks to Mrs. Levine – a fireplug with blue eyeshadow – crying about the six million. Oh, the six million – every damned week!  Mrs. Levine totally ruined the Holocaust for me.

Here’s what I learned about Jewish history in Hebrew School: long periods in the literal and figurative desert were punctuated very rarely by brief periods of strength and unity, which inevitably ended in crushing defeat and a return to exile. The Jewish holidays of Purim, Passover, and Chanukah (there are probably other Jewish holidays, but since I went to Hebrew School I don’t know them) all follow the same narrative: Jews were up against incredible odds and through hope, dedication, and perseverance, we overcame and won. Until the next time we got our asses handed to us. It kind of makes you wonder why Jews have stuck with God for so long. The Flood, Enslavement, Haman, Exile, the Holocaust, Kosher Wine, Bernie Madoff, Joe Lieberman… what kind of God inflicts such terrible things on believers? Only a complete jerk God, that’s who. A hateful, spiteful deity who is flipping you off with a “mighty hand and an outstretched arm.”

This of course brings me to the Chicago Cubs and their fans, the Jews of Baseball.

What kind of team would subject their fans to 104 years without a World Series win? Each year, the spring begins with the faithful full of hope in the belief that if they just pray hard enough, this will be their time. Every spring at Passover, Jews say “next year in Jerusalem.” Cubs fans say “next year, games in October.” And then fall comes, and just like Jews at Yom Kippur, they atone mightily for their sins. And for the entire summer in between they believe – just like they did the previous one – that they might overcome their history and actually win it all this time. How often can Cubs fans think they’re following Moses to the promised land (remember “in Dusty We Trusty” two or three failed managers ago?) only to find themselves lost in the late-season Sinai? Maybe they should stop worrying about that stupid goat and just build a giant golden calf.

The evidence is clear: the Chicago Cubs hate their fans. This spring started out with the new owners demanding the city acede to their demands to build a new hotel and a skywalk and erect a new scoreboard in a $500 million dollar package that would essentially turn Wrigley Field from a friendly confines in a residential neighborhood into another tarted-up major league ballpark with a giant TV in center field. The one thing the Cubs had going for them was Wrigley Field, and its many alleged charms. Apparently, urinating in a century-old trough and drunks spilling their beer while singing suicidally about how they don’t care if they ever come back is charming.

If the city didn’t accept their plan, the Cubs were threatening to leave the city for suburban Rosemont. What kind of cruel God threatens to abandon the faithful? Especially for a place like Rosemont, where the current tourist draw is the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center – which will be hosting something called the Empower Network featuring “Toby and Layla’s Super Secret Money Getting Formula.” Next month, the convention center is hosting  Anime Central: The Midwest Anime and Manga Convention. Rosemont: a place for complete dupes and people into elaborate fantasies. Maybe it would be a perfect  place for Cubs fans after all.

The Cubs hate their fans, and they don’t even really try to hide it. They take their money through ever-higher ticket and concession prices and spend it on contributions to conservative political candidates. The Chicago Cubs. Chicago, home of the Machine, the Daleys, and Obama. We haven’t  had a Republican mayor since 1931 – right around the last time the Cubs could reliably win a pennant. Why not use the money to buy a reliable pitching staff and some sluggers? Because that would be an act of love. That’s not how the Cubs roll.

How can they get away with this? Just like Judaism, the crushing obligation of being a Cubs fan usually comes from your family. I remember sitting in interminable Rosh Hashanah services with my family, and seeing which of my siblings would ask my dad if they could leave first. This became an elaborate psychological game: getting my brother or sister to break, turn to my dad, and get the look of utter disappointment and a long sigh. Sure, God wanted us to sit there until our asses went numb. Then, suddenly, Torah time! Everyone has to stand and you’d stumble and hit your crotch on the seat in front of you. This is pure cruelty – just like the Cubs hitting a homer every couple of innings – there’s no danger of victory, but just when you find a comfortable position in those stupid narrow plastic seats you have to stand to be showered with beer and risk tripping over the bleacher and face-planting into some frat boy’s tramp stamp.

So why keep up with it? Is it family tradition? Is it masochism? Is it really that much fun to be the loveable losers? How can the very thing we worship exhibit at best a lack of interest and at worst utter contempt for us? Why not find something better to do for three or four hours on a weekend? What was I talking about again?

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