Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The End Is Nigh

The end is nigh, or so we are assured by US lawmaker, Michelle Bachman. Perhaps she is more on the money than we might first think.
Not in anyway she might conceive, I should add. The end will not be one great bang and it is religion heading for the wall, not humanity.

Evidence should be our primary guide, and the evidence shows a slow crumbling of religious adherence, in the western world at least. The reality is religious belief cannot sustain in the glare of knowledge. As to evidence, we are watching the many very public signs of the decaying hold of the mythology. None more dramatic than the frantic antics of the Bachmann's religious right.

There is growing evidence in Australia that following is dwindling and followers  ageing. The result of failing economic viability churches are being closed and sold, various denominations are combining in places where only one minister can be justified.
My concern in this, and I do have a concern, is for those good and decent followers who are increasingly seeing their faith base dwindle. 

I was never quite so anchored in faith, in fact despite having been a lay minister I was a total failure in regards faith and belief. Even so I know it took me many years to transition from church involvement to godless. Leaving was immediate, immediate but finding answers to the many new questions was something I was left to do on my own.

Lets be honest, religious groups are a business model and there is no profit line for those who are no longer involved. They rarely look to residual responsibility as maintaining what is slowly dying captures all the focus.

I will continue to badger the Bachmanns of the world, the entitled Romans who spread their malignancy, those cults and sects which entrap and abuse. Yes, abuse, a word solidly fixed in the mind now with religion.
What I would argue is that godless of goodwill should, must be there, ready to help those who are left floundering as the inedible decay of religious establishments progresses. I'm not entirely sure how to do that, except to suspend judgement and at least be available to discuss and share a tortuous journey. 


  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Forget the church and state debate

Forget the church and state debate. There is a related and far more insidious problem, politics and religion. 
Most western countries have constitutional provisions separating church and state, provisions difficult to overturn. 

Those very same provisions allow religious influences to dominate through the democratic process, while equally allowing for its expulsion by voters. That same process also allows manipulation through the media. 

We are now seeing the effects in the USA with the religious right attempting to hijack the country’s political/social agenda. 
I would be surprised If this inane performance is not embarrassing to the average Christian. For the rest of us it is a frightening demonstration of a believe or we destroy mentality of all the Abrahamic religions. 

With respect to those who are religious adherents lets look at the absurdity inherent in religious/politics activity. 
If there was any basis to the religious claims the concerned congressional Christians would have already resolved this impasse with prayer and the active intervention of their deity. 

Of course life doesn't work like that, reality requires ration problem solving and actual application. 
So lets start calling for the removal of religion from politics. Again, even my Christian friends would probably agree that it's horses for courses  and exposure through political activism only serves to further diminish religions credibility. 

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Back on the saddle

I am feeling the time has come to rebirth Grub Street Journal. The effort which was involved in fighting against insanity of conservatism tok its toll. The election, first of Obama then or Labor in Australia signalled the time for a break.

Not to say those progressive governments have been all sweetness and light, but there is a certain reticence when it comes to attacking their fragile existence. 
It seems that conservatism, or more correctly regressive powers are i the ascendancy so that fight should be rejoined.

At the same time, during that hiatus, I have responded to the negative effects of religion, both in its own right and in its effects on public policy.

The juxtaposition of politics and religion is hardly a new phenomenon, but it is high time it was directly challenged. When religions start to contribute, economically, when they are corporatised with all the imposts that involves I might consider their right to a voice. 

Might but in doing so, if that miracle ever occurred, retain the right to challenge the types of inequitable policies they traditionally champion. So expect a bit more input now, a voice against regressive pressures on public policy. As usual I make no apology for criticising the politics of countries other than my own. It is a small world and events everywhere effect us all regardless of national sensitivities.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Devil You Say

A short story

The Devil You Say
The clubhouse was rapidly filling, and perhaps becoming noisy. For the old greybeard at a corner table it was simply part of the great continuum.
He existed in a secure bubble, fairly impervious to the vagaries of his rowdy surroundings. He kept glancing at the door as he sipped slowly on his tall glass of ambrosia.
Suddenly the activity stopped as his voice boomed through the  universe; "Gabriel, Michael! Here, now!" The two angels were already on their way to his table, and simply continued their journey without concern.
As they sat a waiter, with eight arms, placed a bubbling black storm in a shot glass before the greybeard, along with another ambrosia, it just served the other pair with the latter.
They sat and watched as the old one threw back the stormy shot, then sipped his cooling chaser. 
Then Gabriel said, "we were on our way, why the impatience?"
"I have a problem. I need your help", he said stiffly. "But where have you pair been?"
Gabriel looked at his associate then took the lead, "Out on the links God, not here but an even better course."
"What are you taking about? I created golf as a punishing pastime for stupid mortals and you have become besotted with it. Even after I created the clubhouse for the likes of us you have still been drawn to this punishment?"
"You said you have a problem Lord, what is it we might help with?" Michael asked, hoping to divert the boss. 
The greybeard indicated back over his shoulder with his thumb. 
The pair needed to look past, around or through the freaks at the bar. Multi limbed, headed or simply slimy blocks, they all blocked an easy view of the target.
It didn't matter, in fact, because the target known to them, since the beginning of time. They had watched as the former angelic visage of this one time Special Prosecutor For God; indeed officially he still was. 
But everyone knew the ravages of idleness, abundant ambrosia and unrestrained anger at the old man had devastating consequences.
The svelte charm of the angel had turned dark and musty. The white robes had faded to near black and eruptions on his skin from an excess of ambrosia, and too little manna, gave off effects like the horn looking lumps on his brow. 
"He just sits their sucking ambrosia, day and night. The bar staff are constantly complaining about it. I need to do something about it or I'll have no peace for eternity."
"Satan?" Gabriel asked. "He's been there since the last task you set for him. You were happy about him then, maybe you should just give him another task. That was a few millennia ago after all."
"Satan? I mean Ha Shaitan," the old guy looked at them quizzically.
"That is what people have called him for ages Lord. Satan, the old Hebrew name isn't very popular now but for that one old job, no pun intended, his reputation has been working overtime for you."
"Whatever," the old one blasted, "What are we going to do about him now?"
The two archangels sipped quietly on their ambrosia as long as they dared, then Gabriel said; "Lord, there is a descendent of old Job who is causing us a bit of bother. Declares, even shows his devotion to you. 
"But all along he's just a bleeding heart lawyer who is screwing up many of our, errr your, better plans to have fun with mortals."
"Job? Haven't thought about him for eons. Is this fellow as devout as the forebear?"
"God Almighty, if anything he is worse." Michael winced. "As hard as we try to sow despair among your god fearing Christians Job busily works at undoing our efforts, all in the name of God it seems.
"Of course, he can't possibly stop everything we do, and he does constantly go on about Satan, which helps us a little."
"Soooo," God mused to himself, then out loud, well no universe loud!
 "Do you think this Job can hold out like the last one? Might be a bit more fun for us all, sent Satan as you call him, down for another run. 
" I'm sure he is still capable of ruining, destroying anything he comes in contact with. Perhaps your lawyerly friend might be partial to a little personal destruction; or better perhaps he won't be." It was here the universe had a good dose of God, or at least his manic laugh.
The three sat and talked for a bit, not so much hatching a plan as simply putting the pieces in place. 
"So take him off now, get this thing started. You know well just how quickly an infinity can pass."
As they sauntered off to collect Satan each was rueing how long an infinity really is. They felt an hour with God was like six infinities rolled into one. At least they knew how to handle Satan, it was a topic they had planned and discussed often.
The effects of the Ambrosia were short lived, took an age to develop and a day or two to wear off. They'd both been through the routine in their various efforts to emulate the fellow angel for the sake of humans.
The wretched gown was another thing. Science had not yet discovered a material which might just withstand contact with the sulphurous, indestructible fabric.  Nothing would destroy it of course, that would be impossible. But after they badly fitted Satan with a cheap suit, sort of lawyer suit, one of them would carefully transport the terrible outfit to a volcano which was threatening to erupt. It wouldn't destroy the robe, but no one would find it for several eons.
It didn't take infinities, just several Earth days to have Satin, ensconced at a bar stool where Job's lawyer friends liked to relax. 
They thought it might take a while for their god fearing target to appear, but to their amazement he showed up within minutes.
To their further amazement he walked straight over to Satan. 
"There you are," the effervescent character greeted. "Where have you been? I've been waiting forever for you to get out of his clutches."
From the bewildered and bemused look on Satan's face the Archangels knew this wasn't about to go as they planned. 
They could hear Job offering Satan a way out and they could hear that devil wanting out but finding excuses. He surely wouldn't. But Ha Shaitan didn't last long in the hands of a trained evangelist. They winced as the final block fell:
"Of course you aren't an Ambosiaholic Satan, can't possibly be. You don't have the genetic disposition. In fact you don't have genes.
"Look, I'm not asking you to be a double agent, make a clean break. I want to pay the old bastard back too, and I need more help defending against human rights abuses. You'd be great at it..."

We can't tell how long it was before our fearless archangels sat before God Almighty again; minutes, days, years, eons or infinities were all a blur.
"So report!" He demanded.
"the good news or the bad news?" Michael asked.
Just tell me about Ha Shaitan and that Job."
"Oh that, Gabriel passed off airily, he's out of your hair now, sort of." Michael winced at the sort of and added;
"Well that's the bad news. He's an associate with Job Legal. Joined the other side you might say."
"I thought Job was devoted to me!" God roared.
"Ummm perhaps we misunderstood the nature of the devotion Lord. You know how you keep making enemies."
God Almighty stared at them with fury in his eyes, then said;
"You will go straight back, fetch Satan out of there and kill Job!"
"No can do,"  Michael said, without any hint of apology. I'm going right back, but I have a room full of gorgeous women to visit."
God simply glared the question at Gabriel.
"I'm on the pro golf circuit now God, too busy to worry about that stuff. But you are fine here. You never go anywhere or do anything, and no one really cares much for you anyway. Just enjoy existence." He could not keep a nervous giggle from bubbling out.
"GOLF" roared God, you know I hate that game.
As they started to leave a slightly petulant Michael turned back;
"You see God, we have found out a resurrected golf champion is far more loved than a resurrected god. Lots more gorgeous women too. Seeya!"

Monday, February 11, 2013

Falling Between two Stools




I have just posted a set of articles on MagusInk, celebrating the creative genius born out of the Dust Bowl phenomenon in the USA during the 1930s - The Muse does some hardtravelin This set of stories looks at the contributions of writer John Steinbeck, photographer Dorothea Lange, and ‘The Dust Bowl troubadour’ Woody Guthrie.

Two aspects really struck me out of my research, first was the difference a little dignity can make to the degradations of poverty. It is bad enough to be cold, hungry and homeless, but adding social pariah status and blaming the victim  makes breaking the cycle nearly impossible. The voices and images of this trio at least gave a human face to these victims.

The other revelation, to me at least, is that I’m not the only one to constantly fall between two stools, and into an odious pile of shit. Perhaps the only thing I have in common with Guthrie and Steinbeck, and it did help to relate better to them. Both had a strong social conscience, and  neither was comfortable with aligning that with any particular fixed and organised group thinking.

Steinbeck in particular was reviled by the political right and left in the USA. On the other hand he attacked capital and labour organisations with equal intensity. If  he, or Guthrie dallied with socialism and communism at times but was clearly incapable of becoming embedded with organisations. 

Both he and Guthrie were really only at home with their subjects, the dispossessed and the grafters and showed little interest in ideologies and dogmas. Having to compromise or stay quiet for the sake of being part of a group was simply not in their DNA. Not that that stopped the right from labelling and attacking, especially during the McCarthy Era. However both seemed to take those attacks in stride and often somewhat humorously.  

I guess the real point is that they could have made their lives a good deal easier in some respects, no doubt at the cost of being able to live comfortably with their deep passions. Sometimes the trade off is not worth it and thankfully that pair were never really tempted by it. Instead, along with Lange, they have left a valuable and instructive legacy.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Back on the publishing trail

Here we go again, back into publishing. Several books currently being prepped, but in the meantime the concept spurred me on to develop a web base for the enterprise.
 MagusInk is now live, and will feature an eclectic mix. My co-developer, Brian (Petrolhead) is an avid devotee of wicked pop music and motorsports. While I shrink from both those passions I expect I am, as aways, a minority.
My contribution, prior to sharing some new publishing treats, will be focused on books and my sort of music. To begin with I feature 'Writers Redux', a look back at great writers who might have fallen off the` radar. The first is Gore Vidal and Lincoln.
Rather than wicked pop music I've selected a great, albeit little known, Victorian band; Grumpy Neighbour. I have recently had to pleasure of meeting them again and remain impressed. Though for regional shows we generally only get the cut-down version, the lazy Dawg. Still a great sound and experience.
All good fun, and I hope worthwhile in the end. Please come visit the site and let me know what you think.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Questioning the dominant paradigm

Where is that thin line between considered and gratuitous commentary? Is it appropriate to question the veracity of Islamic, Jewish or Christian belief?

Recent violent protest in Sydney, while lamentable, occur more often than we like to recognise.
In recent times we have seen confrontations between unions and authorities in Melbourne and earlier in the year the 'occupy' confrontations in both cities.
At the same time we have seen a range of violent protests in refugee detention centres throughout the country.
The reality is that Australia is part of a wider global community, we are subject to the same troubles and responses as the rest of the world.

To that Question
When is it wrong, despite research support and reasoned argument,
to actually present a potentially contentious position?
For some time now I have been researching what has evolved as the reality of religion per se.
It didn't begin that way, it began as an effort to focus on the positive message of our historically sandaled sages; Jesus et al.
My background and a degree of previous training was within the Judeo/Christian sphere, so it was reasonable that my focus should begin there.
The methodology has been somewhat broader than that if my previous church based training.
Certainly the Bible was a central reference point, but as an overview rather than the church preferred study of 'biblical bubbles' in isolation of the broader context.
Now clearly, as a former Christian, that training had not sufficiently captured me. Yet emotional ties to other peoples beliefs, or my own reticence, had captured me.

The Hard Part

"While I can recognise that religion has a broader role, often defining cultural and individual identities, it is in the end an empty vessel."

I placed that statement in quotes because it represents a fair summary of where my research has brought me.
I broadcast it realising that it will appear offensive to many, but with the equal understanding that I take offense at the strictures put on society by many religious adherents.
Is my expression valid or gratuitous? Just because I know it will upset some should that stop me from making it known?

As it is, I believe I have accrued sufficient evidence to claim the 'emperor has no clothes'. The vessel is empty, but do I have the right to actually say it?
I think I should have and do have, but suspect that I might just be out-numbered in that belief.