Thursday, June 21, 2007

Religious Freedom?

Serious post today. I'm working on an article and sort of fleshing out ideas here. There may be some incoherentness, but I wanted to get some initial thoughts down. Sorry about that. I'll get back to posting fart jokes sometime soon. I promise...

So – religion. Or, more specifically, fundamentalism and cults.

I’ve railed before about the evil creature that lurks behind the cold, dead, blue eyes of Tom Cruise. He’s a hollowed out golem for the evil that is Scientology and, poor Katie Holmes has been sucked in by his toothy smile and preternatural good looks. When all is said and done, the good, beautiful, Catholic girl from Toledo has given birth to the savior-like spawn of all of the Scientology whackos.

Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Jenna Elfman, Leah Remini, and Isaac Hayes all believe in this “religion”. A religion that, quite truthfully, could very well have been thought up by Hubbard on a night of too much drinking with Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Phillip K. Dick. (Heinlein actually took a passing swipe at the absurdity of Scientology in Job: A Comedy of Justice. He referred to Scientologists as “those nutty ElRonners”)

What concerns me most about cults like this is their willingness to trample on people’s rights and do blatantly illegal things to censor those who would speak out against them. A simple google search will undoubtedly show you the lengths Scientology will go to in order to completely crush those who would speak bad of their "religion".

So why am I mentioning this? Well, it’s because I found this article while doing some random searching on presidential candidates. Specifically, I was looking a little more closely at Mitt Romney.

Now – I have some insight into Mormonism. You see, I live within a mile of, and have lived that close most of my life, to Kirtland Ohio. Kirtland was the first stop for the Mormons after they were thrown out of New York. After getting thrown out of Kirtland (they did things like make their own money and force non-Mormon businesses and farmers out of Kirtland. Joseph Smith was also tarred and feathered when he started chasing after local underage girls) the LDS moved on to Missouri (where they actually did WORSE stuff) and finally on to Utah.

Despite most of the Saints moving to the new Zion of Utah, many stayed behind and still live and thrive here. So at least once a week I get a knock on the door from some clean cut, young Republican looking, man or woman looking to ask me if I’ve read the book of Mormon. So I’ve kind of grown up around the LDS – although I never ever considered it a viable belief system.

The problem as I see it is two fold. The first is the idea of a Mormon Mafia that is intent on squelching anyone who would speak out against them. The previously mentioned article is an example of this. This reeks of the same tactics that the Scientologists employ, and, truthfully, with all the money that the Mormons have (ALL members are expected to tithe, without question, 10-15% of all their earnings.) they have a lot of political and economic clout to silence anyone who would rouse some rabble about them. The second part – and the part that Romney needs to overcome – is the growing Fundamentalist LDS movement. Specifically polygamy. (It sure don’t help that his father was part of a Mexican polygamy group. Whoops!)

Anyway - The reformist or fundie LDS groups are pushing for a return to polygamy and they are making some headway – especially since they have a visible candidate running for president.
The thing is – Fundamentalist LDS sects bring a whole lot of other shit with them – besides the polygamy thing. Which, by the way, I’m ambivalent about. If a dude can handle more than one wife, kudos to him. I can barely handle the ONE I’ve got! On the other hand, the dark side to modern day polygamy is the mysogonistic, male dominated, subjugation of girls who should be shopping for their first training bras. The sad, twisted, fucked up reality is that 12 and 13 year old girls are being married off to middle aged and older men who are raping them and forcing them to bear babies. The Taliban does that kind of shit. It’s not right there, and it’s definitely not right here.

I feel strongly about fundamentalist LDS because I have some personal experience with one of these groups.

You see – when I was in high school, I worked at the local mall in the paint section of Sears. It was a good job for a high schooler. One of the people I worked with was a man named Dennis Avery. He was a bit odd – sort of a quiet Walter Mitty-esque man who bore more than a passing resemblance to Don Knotts in his Mr. Limpett role. Anyway, Dennis was a nice guy who struggled in the job and myself and another clerk named Brian watched out for him. What was odd was that, while he worked, his three daughters; Trina, Becky, and Karen would wander the mall, occasionally checking in with their dad. Apparently, they had no sitter while Dennis and his wife worked separate jobs.

They were all beautiful little girls; aged 15,13, and 7 respectively.

Myself and the other clerks took to giving them money and buying the girls food on our breaks. We also occasionally looked out for them for Dennis.

Unknown to all of us, the Avery’s were members of a splinter group of Mormons known as the Reformed Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In April of 1989, the leader of the group led Dennis, his wife Cheryl, and those three little girls into a barn in Kirtland. All five of them were bound with duct tape, thrown into a pre-dug pit, and shot – one by one – with a Colt Commander 1911 .45 caliber pistol.

Their crime? Questioning the authority of Jeffrey Lundgren – the leader of their group about things like polygamy and the other crazy shit that is part of LDS dogma.

Religion can be a terrible thing.

For more information on Mormonism and the genesis of what’s been called the “quintessential American religious movement”, I can’t recommend Jon Krakauer’s Under The Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith highly enough. It's an EXCELLENT book on the entire fundamentalist mormon movement. While unrelated to the Lundgren Murders, it gives a great synopsis of the entire history of the LDS and Fundamental Mormonism.

And for a better account of the murder of Dennis and his family, see this website.

The Avery family. ( Counter clockwise from left: Trina (aged 15), Cheryl, Dennis, Becky (13), and Karen (7)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Anal Probes For All!

I wanted to update and throw up some more links that I’ve found lately.

I’m also sorry about the lack of updating lately, but my new job has kept me really, really busy. That and anytime I’m feeling creative, I find myself working on my newest novel. So sorry. I’ll try to update more.

Now bite me.

My first batch of links have to do with extraterrestrial stuff. While looking at these, it’s important to let you know where I stand on the whole “life on other planets” argument. For my part, I believe in the possibility of extraterrestrial life – despite the inherent unlikeliness of it. Insofar as the Fermi Paradox, the Drake Equation, and the Rare Earth Hypothesis contradict the likelihood of alien life – I’m still a diehard sci-fi, Star Trek, Star Wars loving geek. Fermi’s Paradox says that the size and age of the universe suggest that many technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilizations ought to exist. However, this hypothesis seems inconsistent with the lack of observational evidence to support it. That being said, I hold out the hope that there are others out there.

Which brings us to the second part of the equation – are they good or bad?

To answer that, I need to place a condition on my first answer. I absolutely do not – under any circumstances – believe all of those redneck, white trash morons who believe they’ve been serially abducted, or “probed” by wandering greys. How fucking self-important do you have to be to think that an technologically advanced alien explorer has crossed the endless vacuum of light of years of space to stick a probe into your whale eye? Do they really think that the aliens care about the south end of our digestive tracts? And the whole alien-human hybrid thing too. Believe me, they don’t want to mate with us. I’ve got a sinking feeling that – with all the infinite variety of possible intelligent life out there – we earthlings probably have a lock on the deviant sexuality. Sex with aliens is just a reflections of our own degeneracy. Not that I’m saying there isn’t anything wrong with internet porn, plushy conventions, midget sex, S&M, or a good old fashioned boinking – it’s just that I’m certain they’re not interested in our naughty bits.

So the whole good and bad argument should be predicated on the aliens not wanting to peg us in our fudge makers. If they are bad – which I suspect they would be – they want us for some other nefarious reason. Like in Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, or M. Night Shymalan’s Signs. I do believe they could look at us as just primitive, dumb animals to be dissected or used as livestock. But is that evil? Amoral? Or the luxury of being an apex predator with bigger brains than we hairless monkeys? I don’t know.

So – what does that have to do with today’s posting? Well – to get back on track...

The aliens are here! They’re coming! Watch the skies! And they’ve been spotted by different people!!! So – has the invasion begun?!? I should say that I found another article on the internet where someone suggested that these pictures might be part of a guerilla/viral internet marketing campaign for the new Transformers movie. I don’t know though. Pretty compelling pictures, huh? I am not going to be happy if I have to put my plans for single-handed world domination on the back burner to fend off an alien invasion. I’ve got deadlines to meet, people to kill, and contractors who need to get paid for chrissakes!

I found this article also which is a lot less tin foil hat and a lot more real science – an earthlike planet has been discovered. This is exciting on all kinds of levels. You know – it’s funny that it’s possible that an advanced alien civilization could possibly be detected by the SETI project, but we don’t have the resources to listen to a fraction of the universe out there. This discovery is cool in that it gives us something to point the radio towers at. Now if we can just figure out warp drives, we can zip out to take a look see. Where’s Zephram Cochran when you need him?!?

And now for something a little more earthly – this made me laugh so I hard I had a little bit of pee squirt out… I love a good prank. Remind me to tell you about The Great MetroPark Massacre sometime…

Ever have an asshole for a roommate? Ever have someone leave little notes about not cooking fish in the microwave in your office kitchenette? Ever want to punch them in their throats because of their snarky, passive aggressiveness? This is my new favorite site…

And now it’s time for today’s chilling story about President Bush’s campaign to make us the biggest asshats in the free world. If you didn’t see this coming, you’re either a Republican apologist, a na├»ve moron, or suffering from severe mental retardation. Now let me add that Ahmadinejad’s a dumbass who’s asking to get his nutsack kicked; him and that Castro-wannabe Hugo Chavez. I get that. But can’t we fix the shitstorm we started in Afghanistan and Iraq (where we shouldn’t have been in the first fucking place!) before we go looking for the next contender?!? God, can somebody please take away George W.’s cowboy boots , cowboy hat, and cap gun before he hurts himself or somebody else’s kid?!?

Now scram! I’ve got to fend off an alien invasion!