A hell of a week. A wonderful year.

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This week my furniture and belongings were moved from my apartment to my new pad.  A home I found in a fantastic location.  Close to everything I daily frequent, yet on a quiet wooded dead-end street.  My home is surrounded by pine, oak, and something I will share after I learn its identity.  When I bought the house I had to have a deck built to replace a porch that was never designed to hold a power wheelchair.  That project is mostly completed.  I am waiting on a county inspection before the deck and ramp can be finished.  After moving, my apartment happily suffered a disaster.  The night after my furniture was moved, I went back to the apartment to plug in my chair.  I can’t keep the thing at the house until the deck is done.  The next morning (Wednesday this past week), I went back to the apartment and found between 50 and 100 gallons of water in the living room.  It came pouring from the ceiling in the kitchen during the night and migrated into the living room rug.  Squishy squishy.  I reported this immediately to the landlord.  They drug their collective feet in addressing the issue.  By that afternoon, the apartment was smelly smelly.  That evening I wrote a letter demanding to be let out of my lease.  By the Friday evening, my wish was granted.  I am grateful I don’t have to pay those last two months on an empty apartment.  Although I am an atheist, it is moments like that which leave me feeling that maybe an angel does have my back.  I also had to get a new tire put on my van.  I had a slow leak that turned out to be a nail in the inner sidewall.  The picture above is of one of my two cats, Sylvia.  A year ago this is how she felt between our first and second moves.  This is how I feel now, after the third move in a little over a year.  Maybe I can finally settle down and share what I am up to.

How do I know Thee, father?

As a former Catholic with a more naturalistic understanding of the world, I have long suspected that many Catholics, maybe most?, must have priestly ancestors.  There was a scandal in my own community that was kept hush-hush when I was a teenager.  A priest had become a real father with a girl from the church.  She was my age, +/- 1 year.  No one talked about it.  Years later my mom brought it up.  For some reason, we didn’t discuss these things as a family while they were an actual threat.  Ah, but that is the Catholic way.  We were kept ignorant by our own inability to speak about sexuality without feeling shame.

Now we have strong evidence that children fathered by Catholic priests is a worldwide phenomenon.  Thousands of people around the world have strong evidence that they were fathered by priests.  They are pressured not to speak about these things.  Why did I leave Catholicism?  Because the ideology does not allow for open and honest communication about things that matter.  Plain and simple.

 

Two Symptoms of the Same Problem

In Saudi Arabia, the 14 prisoners who were condemned to death for attending a pro-democracy rally have had their death sentences upheld by their ‘justice system.’  The prisoners have been transferred to Riyad, where executions are typically held.  Now they await a royal decree that the executions can take place.

In Davis, California, an Egyptian-born Muslim cleric named Ammar Shahin gave a sermon this past week during which he prayed for the death of all Jews.  Why?  Because, in his mind, this is what Allah wants.

Mr. Shahin and the Saudi judicial system are guilty of the same flawed thinking.  They both believe that God ordained the violence in their hearts.  He did not.  They merely have dark hearts.  Neither party speaks for God.  And neither speaks for Islam.  I keep hearing that Islam is a religion of peace.  But I cannot see peaceful intentions in praying for the death of Jews, nor in the execution of people who simply want a voice in how their government is run.

Islam has to change.  It is unimaginable that a hatred for Jews, or the execution of these prisoners, is something that God would want.  Ammar Shahin.  Saudi judges.  Why are your hearts so dark?  Why do you stand on the side of evil?

The Limits of Faith

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This has been in the making for some time.  I was inspired to write a book.  I was disturbed enough to try.  For the past few years I have been hard at work developing the themes and concepts I wish to discuss, and integrating them into a model of the book.  The book itself was too complex to write in one go.  I had to build a model of it, to help me see what I was trying to say.

In some ways, the book has been a healthy diversion from life’s problems.  I have a form of muscular dystrophy that makes things quite challenging.  Several years ago I was forced to quit the working world, and deal head on with this.  It took a lot of effort to learn how to live with failing strength.  But I have.  Recently I moved from Arizona to North Carolina.  Soon I will move from an apartment into a home.  This was unthinkable three and four years ago.  But think it I did and now here I am.

Last year, at the beginning of summer, I made my first road trip, on my own.  I went to the 29th annual Pima Writers Workshop, in Tucson.  I submitted a manuscript to be critiqued by an agent.  First time doing that.  The guy likes my writing, but not as a book.  This did not stop me.  But it got me thinking about the scope of what I am trying to describe.  I have an awful lot of material that contradicts our understanding of ourselves.

One of the goals I set for myself at the beginning of this year was to write for an audience.  Begin publishing.  This blog has been on and off the back burner since its inception.  It has been difficult to keep this up while dealing with everything else.  But when I found the home, it occurred to me that I had achieved a goal I had set when I first could no longer work.  I had gotten myself out of one living situation I could no longer handle physically, and into one that I could.  A couple weeks ago I met at the house with a contractor to get a quote on a wheelchair ramp and a front deck, to replace the wooden staircase leading to the front door.  Afterwards, getting back in my van, I had to pause for a vision.  Something was telling me that I could finally pick up the blog again, and sustain it.

We live in a world gone mad.  I have been following the problem of radical Islam with intense disturbed fascination.  My writing interests have converged with world events.  I have spent my life finding the words to describe a phenomenon that regularly now is making the news.  Then, in the past few days, news broke of the pending executions of 14 pro-democracy demonstrators in Saudi Arabia.  As a writer, I feel a need to do something.  It is time to put an end to this madness.

My goal is to stop these executions from happening, by bringing attention to their plight.  But this is a short term goal.  Long term, my goal is to challenge our understanding of God, so that radical Islam loses its power.  My method will be to counter the narrative of radical Islam by describing it in new terms.  Religions like Islam and Christianity present a false view of God.  I am building a case.  We need a new understanding.  Something rational.  Because we have reached the limits of faith.

Saudi Arabia and the Islamic State

Morally speaking, is Saudi Arabia any better than the Islamic State?  The Islamic State is our enemy, and deservedly so.  They use Islam as justification for violence.  The violence is meant to silence their critics, and to intimidate the masses.  Saudi Arabia is our ally.  They are set to execute 14 men for attending a pro-democracy rally.  The youngest of the group, Mujtaba’a al-Sweikat, was only 17 when he was arrested at an airport in his homeland, on his way to study at Western Michigan University.  He never got there.  Instead, he was tried and sentenced to death for attending a rally.  He is set to be executed for exercising political speech.  What is the difference between ISIS and Saudi Arabia?  Why are we allied with one and against the other?  Do they not represent the same form of evil?

A Creative Grind

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Last week I didn’t post anything. I was too close to a creative moment, and I was too distracted channeling the creative vision to break out of that and try to describe it to others. Does this make any sense?

Last Wednesday began with journaling. I wound up making a lot of notes. These notes helped me see something within my narrative. Some potential.  After writing those notes, I couldn’t stop thinking about them.  Later that day I tried to post something here on this blog. But I couldn’t stop thinking about the morning’s notes.   The blog had to take a back seat.  By Thursday, I had missed a self-imposed deadline. I decided not to beat myself up about it. I would just move forward. I still had those notes on my mind.  I got back to work and expanded on what I had written the day before.

Those notes then went into the model of the book I am building. In my last post, I mentioned using mind-mapping software to build out models for this book. I have created a number of models over the past few years. Each one getting closer to my vision. As I worked with the current model, began to feel that the moment was at hand. I have been building these models to help me think about what I have said, and what needs to be said, as I write. Without the models I’m writing into a void. I can’t just wing this narrative without some structure.  This is too complicated for a seat-of-the-pants approach.

I need to see all of the talking points and where the statements have to be made within the narrative in order to keep the suspense, while still informing the reader. I began building these models with the conviction that at some point writing the book would become fairly easy.  At some point, with enough development, I anticipated that the model would trigger the narrative with a mere gaze.  Working with the mind-map this week,  I began responding to the model in just this way.  Two days ago I began a new Scrivener project.  I needed a fresh blank slate for this draft. Yesterday I began composing.  Today the opening began to expand.

Progress in Three Paragraphs

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When free versions are available, why did I pay good money for this translation of the Quran?  Some of the value is in the English-language translation itself.  But much of the book is commentary from experts on Islam.  I paid for that.  Initially, I made a good faith effort to read the entire book, page by page.  But by the time I made it through the introduction, through the first surah and into the second, I realized that the commentary was bogging me down.  Most of this book consists of commentary.  For now, it distracts me from my purpose.

So I have spent the week reading the Quran, but focusing on Mohammed’s words exclusively.  It is slow but rewarding work.  I take the time to copy passages into my journal so that I can better argue with the ideas themselves.  When I read, I argue.  If I don’t argue, I am not engaged.  The fact that I am arguing much with the Quran means that I am very engaged by what it says.  When I get to the end of the 114th surah, I will have the basis for my for the article I am writing.  I won’t be done.  But I will be on my way.

I want to explain why I cannot embrace Islam.  Idealogical differences motivate me.  More than a quarter century ago, I left the Catholic church.  My reasons for rejecting Christianity were just as valid then as they are now.  But they apply equally well to Islam.  I am convinced more than ever that religion misrepresents God.

The Next Step

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Religion is my endless fascination.  I have studied it throughout my life.  I am convinced  that God is not what religion teaches us He is.  This is why I have decided to write.  God is something other than how we have traditionally imagined him.

My evidence lies in an argument I am composing.  I am analyzing Christian and Islamic theology within the context of logic.  The Christian half  of my analysis is completed.  But because I am not Muslim, I needed better knowledge of the subject of Islam.  So I bought the Kindle version of The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary, by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Caner K. Dagli, Maria Massi Dakake, Joseph E.B. Lumbard, and Mohammed Rustom.

I have been taking notes as I read the book. My argument develops out of this exercise.  Work this week has been good.

ISIS

Last night I dozed to sleep listening to the radio.  At one point, the voice behind the microphone expressed thoughts and prayers for the people of Nice, France.  That was my first realization that ISIS had reared its blasphemous face again.  What is ISIS?  A collective for moral zombies.  They have surrendered their minds to a blasphemous interpretation of Islam.  They have surrendered their souls to an anti-human ideology.  Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel left this earth as a mass murderer for an evil illusion.  He does not deserve a grave.  He has already claimed his place on the trash heap of wasted lives.