The World of Imaginary Friends.

I heard an item on Public Radio the other day about research into childrens’ imaginary friends.  This researcher ask children about who their phantom friends were, what they did and what they said.

She tried to find a pattern in these friends.  There was no pattern.  Children create the imaginary people they need.

Not all children have them and some have many more than others.  The children who have them do better in some aspects of academic development.

To Freethinkers, gods are imaginary adult friends because there is not evidence they exist outside the mind.  We have to admit, however, as with children, these imaginary beings serve well those who carry them around.

One has to think even the earliest humans thought they were on earth for some greater purpose than finding food until they died.  It would have been a relief to believe there was this higher purpose in life, like serving their gods.

Surely the greatest gift of the god of the mind is escape from death.  Escaping death has been a staple of gods from the earliest history.

I’m sure there are folks who are unable to find god in their minds who wish they could.  How comforting it would be to believe it is possible to escape death.

The ability of adults to have imaginary friends is a gift some of us do not have.  Those who say it is available to us think, if they don’t need evidence, we don’t either.

We’re different that way.

We discuss on FaceBook, too.  Red River Freethinkers.

A Road Map for the Republican Comeback.

There is a lot of talk about growth of the Hispanic population in the U. S. and how heavily that group supported Obama.  Pundits let us know the obvious, Republicans need to get more votes there to win the Presidency.

There is another group no one talks about much.  It is nonbelievers and those who believe but do not affiliate with existing denominations.  That is a fast growing group, about one in five voters, who voted for Obama.  It seems self evident Republicans need to make inroads into this group as well.

How they would do this is interesting to a political junkie.  So many of the Party’s states are in the Biblebelt South.

We went to graduate school in Missouri in the 1960’s.  It was the civil rights era.  I remember a young woman student from the Bible Belt telling me, “I’m not sure the Democratic Party understands it will lose the entire South if it keeps pushing integration.”  As she predicted it lost the South.

My strategy for the Republicans would be to assume the South will change by becoming more urban,  diverse ethnically and secular.  I think this is happening already. It will take a while, but a political pay off is there.

As the Republican Party kissed abortion, gay marriage and god politics goodbye, it would gain in the groups it needs, the religious non affiliated and Hispanics.  The South would grow into the Party and success would follow.

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“There are no contradictions in the Bible.”

When there are two different versions of an event in the Bible, literalists quickly assert both actually happened.  Accounts differ, they explain, because one account did not happen to include the other.

Take the death of Judas.  Matthew 27 tells that Judas died by hanging himself. Then the priests took his money and bought the “field of blood”.   We can go to Acts 1 which explains Judas first bought the property.  Then, while on the property, he fell on his head and his bowels exploded.

No problem, literalists say, both are true.  One account just happens not to mention the other.  Judas hung himself, they say, then after decomposition his bowels exploded.  We skeptics wonder why the first account did not include the second, or, visa versa.

I’ve never heard, either,  how the very different versions of purchasing the property are explained away.  I just know they are somewhere.

Ironically, omitted material helps skeptics, too.  Folks who believe the Jesus character did not have a problem with homosexuality note he did not comment about  it.  Apologists point to other things he said that might imply he was against homosexuality, but he didn’t really say it.

Then, there is priest/preacher pedophilia supporters.  Since, so I’ve been told, the Bible does not condemn, specifically, sex between clergy and little children, it could be OK.

Because everyone can find their views approved of, either in the text or by omission, the Bible remains a best seller.

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Social Conservatives Draw a Line in the Sand.

Having made part of my living in politics for a long time and being a political junky at heart, I always listen in on political arguments, even if they don’t involve me.

When I was a Mayor, one of the most common threats people made was, “If you do that, I’ll see to it you don’t win reelection.”  Politicians hear this every day.

If people knew how often it is said to elected officials, they would know how ridiculous it sounds to them.  Many times, the elected position is not the end all of the official’s life.  Then, politicians regularly have to make decisions that make some groups unhappy so the threats are a normal as having breakfast.

One such threat I read on Christian sites is from politically active religious conservatives. They are threatening to leave the GOP if it drops fights against gay marriage and abortion.  “You need us to win elections,” is stated in various ways.

The phrase, “to win elections” is loaded with question marks.  The combination of business interests and religious interests are not winning Presidential elections.

The opportunity is there for Republicans to win the Presidency without the religious right.  First, it needs to encourage a split among religious conservatives.  Second, it needs a platform of fiscal conservatism and moderation on God, abortion and gays.  This kind of platform will steal enough votes from Democrats to offset loses from social conservatives.

The line in the sand will backfire on social conservatives.

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Abortion Needs Story Telling.

Social change requires story telling.  Stories of personal experience provide a window into lives otherwise hidden.

I have one of the breakthrough story telling masterpieces, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852).  Based on blacks she had known, Stowe cleverly portrays slaves who mock and outsmart white owners.  She also brings to light the heartbreak of couples torn apart by sales of slaves.

Just as daring were the first gay citizens and their parents who came out.  It was, and remains for some, a dangerous thing.

Like race, attitudes toward gays has improved. Gay people have simply told their stories.   Parents and Friends of Lesbian and Gays (PFLAG) has had a goal of story telling.  Parents with gay children have talked to groups wherever they lived, telling of love for their children.

Story telling continues in the form of our friend “Mac” who comments here and blogs  on AreaVoices about being a married gay man, The Gay Agenda.  Another man’s story is attached.

There is little public story telling about abortion.  While a celebrity or two has told of their personal abortion experience, it is not common.

It is just as difficult for a women to share her abortion circumstances today as it was for the Stowe story in the 1850’s or gays in the 1950’s.  If the public heard the stories of women and the circumstances they faced when they chose abortion, political opposition would decrease.

I hope the day will come when women can tell their stories.

The 2012 Election Will Look Cheap Compared to 2016.

You will recall during the Republican Primary period there was tension between those who said, “We must chose someone who can beat Obama,” and those who said, “We must chose someone who is against abortion and gay marriage.”

In the Republican Primary season three years  from now, the question will be, “How do we pretend we never had any interest in gays and abortion?”   Now, some Republican super pacs are preparing swamp the primaries and crowd out anti abortion/gay Presidential candidates.

It will require a lot of money.  The Obama campaigns were labor intensive with an army of telephone and door to door workers.  They were volunteers or low paid students.

There is no secret to how it is done so Republicans can do the same.  They might have to have more salaried staff, but my guess is super pacs can come up with whatever is needed.

The first labor intensive task would be to have people reading millions of social media posts.  Each time someone posts some complaint about Obama or something positive about less government, the author would be tracked down.

When the primaries come around, the pacs will hire another army of people to staff offices in every county of every state.  This army will be on the phones calling the social media posters and turning out primary voters for the no-mention-abortion-or-gays candidate selected by the pacs by that time.

There will be a parallel program trying to get Hispanics to forget the party’s love for deporting immigrants.



Sorrows of Those at the Top.

I read a magazine article recently about our former living Presidents.  They are George H W Bush, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W Bush.

While one reads only infrequently about them making public appearances together, apparently they see each other quite regularly.  There is even a downtown Washington, DC, townhouse set aside for their use.

According to the article, when they get together, they don’t discuss the political views they either share, or, do not share.  Instead, they discuss personal health issues and projects they share or do individually.  They all realize their names on an effort can make the difference in fund raising and public approval.

Jimmy Carter has always been the President I’ve found most interesting.  He has a certain level of idealism and the creative mind to put the idealism to work in ways not considered by other people.

He is arguable the worst politician of all of them.  Demonstrating this less than perfect political skill, he was the only one of the four who had something candid to say about their collective lives as ex Presidents, “We all have our sorrows.”

One wonders what those might be for each.  Is it the things we have come to know about each as failures, Clinton’s sexual escapades, Carter’s hostages and W Bush’s invasions.  Or, were they inside things, like betrayals of close people thought to be loyal.

Politics is such each will go to the grave with both loyal supporters and bitter enemies.

Women in the Church of England Can Be Preists, Not Bishops

A writer said the Church of England just committed suicide.  That could well be.

Church organizations can quote scripture and talk of God’s intentions.  But when the result is out and out discrimination, they can kiss goodbye to being a force in society.  That’s what happened to the Church of England.

At a recent conference the Church voted by a narrow margin to exclude women from the post of Bishop.  They have been priests for at least a couple of decades.

We know, of course, similar policies have been in place in the Catholic and many denominations of Protestant churches since they began.  The view that women are equal to men in all aspects of management and governing of affairs have been gaining strength for hundreds of years.

The only reason men gained the upper hand was the invention of Christianity and its fellow travelors.  Before then, women ran things.

Thus, the return to at least an equal status is a return to what I call a natural reality.  Male domination is an aberration in the human experience.

Certain threads of Christianity have adapted to other things as times changed.  I grew up in a temporance branch.  When I eventually encountered Catholics, I was impressed at how tolerant, to the point of embracing, moderate use of alcohol.

Now, something else has come along.  At this point in time Catholics and the Church of England have encountered a turn in the road they are unable to navigate.

Politics and the Church Tax Status.

The rights of preachers in churches to make overt political endorsements is not simple.  Southern black churches have always done it.  Other churches have been criticized for doing it because of their federal tax exempt status.

The attached article suggests one way to deal with it. That is to change churches’ status from 5013C,  nonpolitical, to the same category as political parties.  Then churches could do all the politics they wanted.

In general, politics from the pulpit is a problem without a solution.  Pat Robinson’s 700 Club and other lucrative church operations seem to be under the nonpolitical status.  But each election cycle he rails on about declining moral values, then tells people, “Pray about the election.”   These are his code words for “vote Republican”.

No one can prove he has violated his nonprofit status, but he has campaigned nevertheless.  Probably liberal preachers do the same on behalf of Democrats.  But, does it really matter?

Catholic clergy could not have made themselves more clear the faithful were directed to vote for Romney.  Polls showed the majority did not.  Maybe clergy cause a few of the faithful to vote just the opposite.

What makes politics so fascinating is its mystery.  There is a general belief that money is the biggest variable.  But, smaller budgets often win.

In my little district, Democrats ran two well known men in their 60’s and a young out gay man.  Only the gay man won.

Maybe churches don’t matter at all.

The War on Christmas Season Has Begun.

Every year about this time, there are Christians in the U. S. who complain because they cannot use public property to market their faith.

An interesting conflict in the news these past years is in Santa Monica, CA.  There have been manger scenes in a city park for years.  Atheists wanted to present displays, so the City awarded spaces by drawing.  Nonbelievers put up secular displays such as quotes from Thomas Jefferson debunking religion.  Some were awarded spots but put displayed nothing.

Now, the City has decided not to allow any displays.  Carolers can sing in the park and those who want to display mangers scenes can do so on private property.  The Christians do not think this is fair and are going to court.

This saga has much in common with what Freethinkers have experienced here in Fargo. The Ten Commandments monument has been displayed for 5o years on public property.  We requested the right to place a monument next to it with a secular message.  The decision was a Christian monument is OK,  a secular one is not.  Our case is still working its way through the courts.  I think we will win ultimately.

In Santa Monica, Christians are saying use of public property to market their message is exercising free speech.  Using it for a secular message is not.

The “war on Christimas” is a teaching moment about free speech for our country.  The problem for some Christians is free speech applies to everyone.

P. S. Since this was written a court has ruled in favor of the City of Santa Monica and no displays will be allowed.