Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Confessions of an Animist Creationist

Creation of the World, Brueghel
Humans are not the only intelligent life form in existence. We are not alone in the universe. There are entities more powerful and intelligent than humans, many millions of them. And there is a glorious Creator who first imagined us and then created us, fashioning our bodies from the stuff of the earth and filling them with the holy spirit that animates all things. We were made—you were made—on purpose and for a purpose. 

In short, I am a Creationist.

The only other people I know who believe in the personhood of our Creator are evangelical Christians and Deloria-style animists. For a long time, I sought companionship in the evangelical church, but although my Christian friends shared many of my beliefs and values, animism is anathema to them and I never confessed to it. Slowly, I had to withdraw, both to maintain my integrity and because of disagreement with the politicized bible-idolatry that rules today’s evangelical community.

And so I am mostly alone in my thinking . . . but is there any shame in my beliefs? They may not be scientifically provable, but they make perfect sense. To think that this marvelous universe and all the wonders that it holds is an accident only makes a god of accident. To think that humans are the highest intelligence that exists is arrogant to the point of being comic.

Science may not be able to prove the existence of a Creator, but it sure as hell can’t disprove it. I have a right to my Creationism without being called a fool, the same way that others have a right to believe in the Big Bang, species evolution, or the existence of black holes and universe strings . . . none of which they can see. The evidence of science for its conclusions is no more compelling to me than the beauty, consciousness, creativity and complexity of the world that I can clearly see, and that gives evidence for the existence of a Creator.

Neither believers in a greater-than-human being nor believers in a secular, accidental universe can prove their point of view with scientific tools. No reproducible experimental results or mathematical formulas can disprove the existence of a Creator, and systematic observation, that darling of science since the 17th century, only serves to strengthen the Creationist side of the argument.

I’m not a fool. I’m not deluded. It’s not wishful thinking. It’s not biblical puppetry. 

I am a being who was first imagined, and then lovingly made by a Creator who knows me and loves me and has a plan for me. I am not alone.

Further Reading
Vine Deloria: Evolution, Creationism and other Modern Myths.
E.F. Schumacher: A Guide for the Perplexed.
Mary Midgley: Evolution as a Religion: Strange Hopes and Stranger Fears

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Who Will Feed Our Spiritual Hunger?

The year was 1945. The war was just over and the religious right had started to cook in a way that this country hadn’t seen since the '20s. Youth For Christ, a teen movement initiated by Torrey Johnson and the young Billy Graham, was hot, hot, hot, offering up a stew for the kids made out of cozy conservatism, popular patriotism and a powerful elixir of spiritual gratification. The liberal journal Christian Century, after denouncing the bourgeoning fundamentalist movement, still had to admit that Youth For Christ was startlingly successful, bringing tens of thousands of young men and women into the fold each week. The fact that Youth For Christ “has gone so far as it has,” they wrote, “is proof that something close to spiritual famine exists among large sections of our population, including the rising generation, who are more hungry for faith than their elders. The churches are not feeding these starving people . . . they should do likewise, and better.”

That challenge was given to the liberal churches almost 70 years ago, but they failed miserably to meet it. Today’s liberal Christianity has become an exercise in niceness, its services intellectualized to the point of being secular. Seeking to ruffle no feathers and be the voice of reason and the champion of science, the liberal churches have lost their spiritual power and the power of the message they purport to speak. Christianity has a radical, counter-cultural potential, but liberal Christians have abandoned it for progressive politics and left the religious field to extremists.

A spiritual famine still exists in this country and in many parts of the world. We are hungry for meaning, since our work life and our community life have been sucked dry and bare by the capitalist machine. God is dead. Science is God. We hunger for meaning in a post-modern world of relativism, skepticism, humanism and deconstruction. What’s left of us and of everything but infinite crowds of particles floating about in an uncaring and meaningless void?

So, why are we surprised when extremists fill the gap? Leaving aside for now the rise of fundamentalism and violent religious extremism around the world, let’s just notice that here at home in the USA, those of us hungry for spiritual nourishment have been given a false choice: Either we can be secular and progressive or we can join the fundamentalist right. No wonder so many believers join the right! They want God! They want meaning and power and beauty and wonder. They want to be loved by their Creator. They want their lives, as one evangelical church put it, to be “on purpose and for a purpose.”

And today’s evangelical churches are punching their message home with a brilliant and vigorous new music, and with welcoming environments that give everyone who walks through the door a place to belong. It feels like home in these churches. They’re a spirit-pampering relief after the emptiness of the marketplace world, and if participants have to check their critical thinking at the door to get this relief, so be it. 

The challenge is still out there. The mission bells are ringing. Where is the alternative for those of us who believe in the greater-than-human and in something more than a materialist and meaningless reality? Where is the power of the life force to be found? Who will feed these starving people . . . without adding to their portion the poisons of bigotry and hate?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

You Can't Brand Me!

Brand yourself! That's the advice I got when I was looking for a job. When I was offering services, writing pamphlets, making art, seeking new friendships, and moving to a new town. Brand yourself! All the websites advised it. The gurus celebrated it. Make yourself easy to understand, they told me. Simplify your message. Craft yourself into a "unique selling proposition." Find your tag line. Define your self in three to five words.

Well pfooey to that!

Only manufactured products can be branded. Only things. 

No human born is that easy to understand. Humans are each and every one of us unique. We're infinitely complex and impossible to define. Three to five words? Don't make me laugh!

For years now, I've stumbled about on this blog, seeking a way to define its brand—and as a reflection of my cosmology and cultural reality, to simplify, singularize and brand my system of belief. But it can't be done!

Animist? Sure! But I'm also an artist and a Christian. Emotional and intellectual. Radical and conservative. A patriot and a critic of American culture. 

And while I tried to stuff all this into one envelop, websites rose and fell, this blog faltered and my art was wasted promoting the latest brand

What does it mean for us to brand ourselves, anyway? It means that we become like cattle for sale in the marketplace. The self becomes a product. So, let's not do it anymore! Let's stop reading those websites and be ourselves in all of our glorious confusion. Why should we dumb ourselves down so that we're easier to understand. It's great to be humble, but let's not allow ourselves to be owned.

And all of this ranting is just to say that I don’t want to write or draw only about animism anymore, or only about systems of belief, or only about sex or art or magic. I do, I think about, I write about, I am, all of those things and so much more. So, at the risk of being seen as an intellectual or religious dilettante, this blog is ready to relaunch yet again, but this time in all of its confusing and human complexity.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Humans Shit Technology

I went out for a walk in the rain this morning, and had a nice conversation with the green people in the upper field of the cemetery. Tiny flowers were popping in yellow and white, the grasses had grown to my knee.

Three days of rain and thunder had made them all talkative, and they discarded their usual wit for a sharper tone. They said they were annoyed by the roar of the highway half a mile up. It kept the frogs from mating. They were in an pissy mood.

"As individuals," they said, "humans are fragile creatures. Easy to knock off with a virus or a smack on the head. But get you guys together as a buzzing hive and you are dangerous little things. Dangerous to yourselves and everybody else. You've got a wicked sting. You're maniacs, brainiacs, liars and thieves."

"Waxing poetic?" I said with a smirk, digging at the ground with the toe of my shoe. "I've heard all this before."

"You guys and your technology," they grumbled. 

They were off and running. I rolled my eyes and barely avoided the puddle that ran along the tire tracks.

They said, "Humans will drown in their own shit."

They said, "You idiots, you excrete plastic."

They said, "Humans shit technology."

"You want to explain that?" I asked. I would have sat down on a cemetery stone, but everything was soaked, so I dawdled along, playing hide-and-seek with patches of bedstraw and ribwort while we talked.

"It's like this from our green perspective: First, humans eat oil, electricity, and other fuels until they become fat. Their fat is technology, an extension of themselves. They're obese with technology. It's making them sick. Then, they excrete plastic, chemical toxins, noise, pollutants, and ten thousand varieties of dead equipment. Old television sets. Cars. Computers. Factory robots. Lawn mowers. We're all drowning in it, but it's your shit, girlfriend. Not ours. No self-respecting bird would shit in its own nest the way humans do."

Ok. That's pretty clear. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Turning Thirty-Three, Turning Sixty

I skyped with my daughter this morning, a small but necessary consolation for the loss of her scent, and she said, “Mah,” she said. “Nobody tells you what to expect in your thirties. Nobody tells you that your body will be changing and your hormones will be raging, calling out for pregnancy.”

“Yes, well, that’s true,” I said. “Nobody teaches kids much of anything these days outside of the basest material facts. We don’t teach them how to make decisions or judge the good or evil of a thing. We don’t teach them how to peel potatoes or survive their tumultuous twenties or their dramatic thirties . . .” And on we talked.

I got to fill in some of that missing information for my kids when they were young, passing along practical skills like cooking and decision making, but I missed a lot, too. You can’t teach what you don’t know . . . and there was so much I didn’t know back then. I was floundering about because of my own poor social and religious skills.

So, talked with my daughter a bit about the thirties, and after we shut down the conversation, I was left thinking about how it is to be in my sixties. I turned sixty last birthday and I still haven’t adjusted to it, but even so I notice the changes. My skin is different, dryer and peppered with little brown spots. Where did they come from? My hair is completely grey, although I still dye it. I pay a price for sleepless nights and an extra cocktail. 

I’m a whole lot stronger than I used to be, though, stronger in lots of ways: smarter, wiser, more philosophical. I’m more skeptical, but happier. More determined. More skilled. And a whole lot closer to my savior god.  

I get annoyed now more than I get angry, but that doesn't change the fact that stupidity, cruelty and cupidity have taken over the civilized world and it pisses me off. I see broken promises and oily politicians. Christians with a bible in one packet and a loaded weapon in the other.

I see my own flaws more clearly, too, but I’m inclined to accept them these days rather than attempting to dig them out of rocky soil. 

I change and I stay the same. 

I’m more conservative — I mean financially conservative, and more inclined to wish everyone would agree about the rules and then abide by them. Conservative in the sense of conservation of the earth and her resources, in the sense that I have old-fashioned values like hard work and sacrifice, in the sense of seeing the useful social function of monogamy and a moral code. 

And although I’ve always been a spiritual person, attuned to the unseen, I’ve been growing more religious all through my midlife and into my autumn years. I crave union with my god, the Savior God I call Charlie, actively seeking out the mystic experience. I love to worship, to lift up my hands in praise to the Creator of the Flesh. 

All in all, I like being sixty. I’m healthy, even though I have to work harder to maintain my health. I’m bossy as heck. I’m sexy and at the peak of my creative powers. 

So, if you are reading this my darling daughter, that’s what you have to look forward to at sixty! In the meanwhile, a woman’s thirties are a time of sweet fruition and the beginning of wisdom. I trust that you'll look back on your thirties with pride and peace of mind.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Love is the Answer

My message is simple: Wake up, humans, from your cultural dream! See the dominators for who they really are and reject them, their values, their realities and their institutions. The dominators are a power that has nested like a nightmare cuckoo bird inside the human soul. They're tearing us apart from the inside out.

Open the media blinds on the windows of your eyes and turn to the gods of love! Practice kindness and compassion. Do the things you know are right and good, the things you’ve set aside in favor of Mammon’s tinkling bells.

Shake off the demons of cruelty and greed and learn what you need to know and do what you need to do to prevent a violent apocalypse and avoid species extinction.

Stop this ridiculous bickering between science and religion and stop the monogods from their bitter fight for dominance. Reunite them into their true complexity.

Recognize and honor the animal body and the human soul—one is not possible without the other. Materialists, stand and face your spirit. Believers, see that the animal body is also good and necessary and righteous and beloved of the Creator.

Humans, please listen. We’re not the only or even the most intelligent creatures on this world or any other. We’re just puny, weak little creatures, but we are not alone. Intelligence permeates all things, and there are entities greater than we are watching over us.

Turn off the television set. Shut down your computer.

Go outside and fall to your knees before the Creator of the Flesh!

Give thanks to the Green God, without whom we could not live.

Open your eyes to the Sun, source of warmth and light.

Bow down before the awesome might of Auntie Karma and Uncle Chaos.

Kiss the Earth, our mother, our queen, who gives us birth into the reality of the flesh and who receives the flesh when we are done.

Wake up, humanity! Love is the answer!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Give Thanks for the Animal Body

Art by Puny Human.
One of the first things that Charlie taught me was this: What you don’t appreciate you lose. If you don’t appreciate your wife, you’re gonna lose her. Take your kids for granted and they won’t visit you in the nursing home. Your health. Your strength. Your talents. Whatever it is that you have in this life, give thanks for it, show gratitude to the one who created it . . . or you’ll turn around one restless and unhappy day to find it gone.

So, let’s give thanks for our bodies. If we don’t appreciate them, we’ll lose them, as individuals and as a species.

Dominator cultures like ours don’t value the human body. We’re taught to disdain the flesh and be impatient for its demise. But don’t blame this attitude solely on the Christians — it isn’t only Christians who long to be released from the body and enter into a disembodied life. New Agers imagine themselves as space aliens or beings of light. Biologists argue that the body is selfish and violent by nature, all the way down to its genes. Even the atheist preachers of physics offer visions of a future in which the soul will be housed in computer operating systems or stellar dust, or in some refined and perfected body “evolved” from this one and better, they tell us, by far. Scientists, New Agers and Christians alike believe that the animal part of us is shameful and weak, the source of our troubles and strife. 

Throughout history, dominator cultures have embraced this anti-body attitude. Why? So that our bodies can be more easily used to serve the lords and rulers of the world. The institutions of religion and science are their marketing media, encouraging us to hand over our bodies more willingly to serve their needs. We let them crush the flesh of our children to the feed the monsters of war and steal the better part of our days to line their pockets with gold and feed their lust for power. We allow our bodies to be burned up in useless travail as a sacrifice to Mammon, the dominator god of Cruelty and Greed. 

No wonder we’re taught to disdain our own bodies! The dominators don’t want us to hold on to these extraordinary life forms. They want us to surrender them. An anti-body attitude benefits those who count on our willingness to dispose of them lightly; then they are free to use and abuse us for their own gain. They can lead us as a species over the cliff to extinction and we’ll eagerly follow. Climate change? Destruction of ecosystems? Water shortages? Toxic food? No big deal. We didn’t like these bodies anyway.

But the Creator didn’t make our beautiful and endlessly varied animal bodies just so we could grind them into dust. The human body is not a waste of bio-chemical matter or a way-station to something better.

Look again at life on earth! You have the honor and privilege of one sparkling human existence, an experience that is, perhaps, unique in all the universe. Give thanks that the Creator made you human and allowed you to be born of flesh into the miraculous, material reality of the thousand-thousand forms that we call life on Earth. Give thanks for flesh and bone and for the blood that pulses through the intricate network of veins, and for the chemical messengers that gallop across your synapses and cells, for mucus and saliva, muscle and hair. Give thanks for your human body.

Sing praise!

Sing praise for your body and for its intellect and emotions. Give thanks for the character and personality you get to paint on the body’s living canvas. Joyfully sing praise for the pleasure and the suffering, the delirious experience of consciousness, worthy and rare as a koki’o in all the known universe. Here on Earth, let the fragile flower of consciousness bloom in you. 

Oh, give thanks to the Creator, father of all of the children of Earth. Let us fall to our knees in gratitude for the fresh spring air on our cheeks, for our ability to draw a breath and see beauty and hear birdsong. Let's give thanks for sickness and health, for darkness and light, sleeping and waking, tasting chewing digesting defecating planting seeds . . . 

Surely we are wonderfully and fearfully made!

If humanity desires to live on as an animal species — if we would keep this glorious form to a ripe old age — we must learn to love and honor our animal bodies, because what we don’t appreciate, we will surely lose.

                                                   . . . for the grandchildren, that they, too may live in the flesh!