/*amazon_ad_exclude = "christian"*/ The Skin I Am In: January 2008

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Slimy Can Of Worms

I recently opened a can of worms on the blogcatalog discussion forum. I was interested in getting opinions and insight on a topic that is personal to me, but controversial. Being agnostic myself, and knowing how highly religious convictions are regarded, I was curious to know how most people felt about morality as it relates to a non-Christian, or even more specifically, a non-believer. However, the discussion was led astray, partially for two reasons. For one, my poor wording in the opening remark led to misinterpretations, and many who didn't read my post on the subject seemed to misconstrue that my question, “are Christians morally superior to non-Christians?” was a statement rather than an inquiry into how they felt (which contradicts everything I stand for). The second element contributing to it's demise as a calm and rational conversation, is the fact that many people do not like to be challenged on topics as personal and deeply rooted as faith.

I can empathize with that position. I have personally witnessed a lot of bias originating from Christians, which deeply frustrates me, hence the basis to pose the question in the first place. One member of the forum challenged my purpose for singling out Christianity, stating she was sensitive to the bias against Christians. I refer to Christianity because it is the only religion I have these experiences with. I was born in the United States, where if you are a natural born citizen to parents who were natural born citizens, the chances are very high that the only religion you got exposed to was... Christianity! There was no malice in my intent; Christianity is simply the most influential religion in the culture and society I personally live in. Over the last two decades, Christians have comprised as much as a whopping 86% of the American population*. For crying out loud, if individuals of the vast majority are sensitive to bias, they ought imagine what it's like for the divided 14% that are not Christian!

The Christian mindset influences our society more than Christians, themselves, apparently realize. I think this is because when something is a natural part of our lives, all references to it seem inherent. However, when you are a minority, you are much more aware of, and negatively impacted by, the common attitudes of society at large since their attitudes often reflect a philosophy that does not support or tolerate your individuality. Often it is disseminated that without claiming Jesus as our savior, we are nothing more than lost souls on a futile journey. Here is a classic example of Christian bias and propaganda: I used to receive an abundance of evangelistic emails, many of which were downright offensive! One, in particular, introduces the names of many people (one being John Lennon, along with a myriad of others, some famous, some not) who had used the Lord's name in vain or disputed the Christian message in some form or fashion. It first details each of their transgressions against God, then distinctly points out that these sins are what led to their demise. These villainous creatures were all punished with untimely deaths, in essence getting what they deserved. One of the examples was a teenage girl who allegedly sassed her mother as she was leaving her home, then moments later tragically died in a car accident. Whether or not this even happened is irrelevant; in this email, Christians are circulating the message that a young girl's death was a justifiable act of God! This, my fellow citizens, is contemptible decorum. Anyone who forwards such propaganda in the name of religion, ought not do it indiscriminately, and had better understand the message they proliferate!

The doctrines conveyed aren't always this blatant. It is often much more insidious. Answer this: If many Christians do not consider themselves to have a higher moral standard, then why has the “good Christian” adjective become a cliché? “She's a good Christian girl,” or, “he's a good Christian man,” or my favorite, “we're a good Christian family,” which, yes! I hear these often. It's as if the two words are entwined and that a person can not be one without the other! These expressions instill subconscious messages that, when heard repeatedly, internalize the belief, therefore continuing the cycle of inaccurate presumptions.

It simply boils down to having respect for one another. It goes both ways; you have to give respect to get respect. Each of us holding a certain faith or belief system, does so for a personal reason. I whole-heartedly respect others' right to practice whichever faith, if any, they choose; after all, most of my family and friends are Christians.

In my personal endeavor, I am getting closer to the place which allows me personal freedom to not worry about others' perceptions of my values. As long as I am comfortable with the skin I am in, they can take it or leave it.

*latest stats are 77% (source: http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_prac2.htm)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Morality of an Athiest? Yes.

I remember growing up and hearing that word: atheist. It nearly chilled me to the bone. The imagery it conjured was unpleasant and uncomfortable: a group of corrupt and vile individuals assembling in unkempt and starkly furnished quarters to plot their Rein of Sin. They were selfish beings who hated God and his followers and maybe even offered sacrifices. I concluded that an atheist, for all intents and purposes, was one in the same as a devil-worshiper. I had been told that they were hollow people whose lives were insignificant unless and until they accepted Jesus into their hearts.

Christians must feel pretty special to be among the select few born into the only religion which awards mortals the golden ticket to Heaven. It is startling to think that two-thirds of God's children will perish for all eternity. It's a real shame for those poor, damned-to-hell children born into Judaism. If only their parents would read them the second half of that book! It doesn't seem fair that the helpless babies born unto Muslim, Hindu, or hippie mothers are ill-fated before they even take their first breaths. Then, of course, there are the trillions of lost souls in China. Let's bow our heads and pray for all these damned walks of life that have not been blessed with the knowledge we Christians have. May their charred souls forever serve as a reminder to us!

Now that I am grown, I don't need fables to scare me into righteousness. Without the naivety of childhood, I know that the word 'atheist' is not synonymous with evil. Atheism alone, does not reflect a person's intent or integrity. It is neither a religion against God, nor an idolatry of the devil. In fact, these concepts are paradoxical; if one does not believe in God, how can he assemble against him? Likewise, why would one deify the antagonist of a non-existing deity? Atheism is simply a word defining the lack of belief in a divine being.

Contrary to popular belief, Christianity is not vital to virtue. Although we are all granted the freedom of religion, society purports the notion that the only acceptable value system is one rooted in the Christian faith. It is true that we must be rooted in a moral foundation; however, that foundation can host different shapes or styles and still produce acceptable results. Instead of focusing on the fundamentals of religion, I advocate ideals that benefit humanity such as compassion, tolerance, and empathy, therefore behaving in a manner that elevates society, not oppresses it. We shouldn't need a book instructing us to do the right thing; we should do the right thing because it is right and because of our concern for fellow man. Call me an idealist. Call me an atheist. Call me ignorant. But do not say I am amoral by exploiting biblical messages to oppose my convictions.

I am utterly appalled that so many people do not seem capable of deciphering right from wrong without the parameters of religion! I use this recent encounter as an example: some other moms and I had met at McDonald's for lunch so our children could play together. We were discussing pregnancy and the sonograms that had revealed our babies' genders. One of the women lamented, “I was so upset when I found out I was having another boy, that I broke down crying.” After a pause she concluded, “How Christian is that?" I literally choked on my sesame seed bun. Did I just hear that right? She needed a religious code of conduct rather than her unconditional love to reconcile her feelings about her unborn child? Without premeditation and still gasping for air, I countered, “don't you mean, how motherly is that?” Based on her nonverbal cues, I don't think she appreciated my insight. Honestly, her disappointment at the discovery was reasonable; it is completely natural to feel let down when things don't work out the way we hope for. So what in the hell did that have to do with Christianity? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. She is one of the countless confused souls who invents and applies moral implications to situations where they do not exist. Are these people so lost in Sunday's sermon, that they don't know how to act or feel on the human level?

Christianity is but a mere middle man to morals. By cutting through the rhetoric and eliminating the middle man, we can get to the heart of what matters. There are countless charitable, noble, and caring people, many of whom have dedicated their lives to human rights, who, by definition, are atheists. Believing or disbelieving in a god does not determine our value here on earth; what is important is the way we treat each other, the impact we make on others, and the legacies we leave behind. The bottom line to morality is simple: conduct yourself in a manner you would appreciate from others, and try to leave the earth a better place than it was when you arrived. Morality isn't conforming to a religious doctrine in order to redeem the prize at the end. It is not about the path to heaven; it is about the life we lead on earth.

Friday, January 18, 2008

What Makes A Woman Feel Sexy?

Firstly, I want to convey that “SEX” (there, I said it) is not a dirty word. Anyone purporting it as such can refrain from reading this post and go back to their childhood or 1950's ideals, whichever is the cause for their undeveloped outlook. The skin that I am in is acclimating nicely to being more candid.

The title of this post poses a question I have frankly never really pondered....until today. There are several factors that may contribute, and I would be interested to know which of these play the biggest role. I suppose my sudden intrigue stems from my evolving sexuality. It may sound odd, but today I am feeling extraordinarily sensual. It must be related to that sexual prime I've read about, telling of the irony in men hitting their sexual peak a full decade before we ladies. But experiencing our sexual prime would not necessarily make one feel desirable, would it? Pardon the slang, but feeling horny and feeling sexy, although often occurring simultaneously, are two different sensations. Perhaps credit is due to a biological influence, such as body chemistry. Hormones can certainly evoke sexual desire, but can they actually make one feel sexy?

There is also the issue of self-image and the components that help shape it. External feedback we receive from others often affects how we see ourself. How much impact does the way men receive us have? I suppose it would depend on our current self-esteem and how easily influenced it is. Regardless of how frequently a woman is complimented, if she has poor self-esteem, the flattery will not resonate with her. However,in most cases, one eventually regards themselves in a manner reflecting the messages they receive from others. Another thing often cultivating women's self-images, especially in the early years, is how their bodies fit society's mainstream image of what makes a woman beautiful and tempting. Our self-image can certainly be deflated when we fail to project that image. Is our sexuality heightened the closer we feel our body fits that ideal?

Likely it could be a combination of these factors that cause women to feel sexy and desirable. Possibly, it's as simple as becoming more comfortable in the skin we are in. Whatever the case may be, it is exhilarating to feel so stimulated and alive. Just feeling sexy can be very arousing, indeed.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Writer's Block, Unedited

It is unfortunate that I do not sleep with my laptop (our relationship is strictly professional) in light of an experience I have which happens in the midst of lying in bed and is unique to any other time. As I relax, putting all the practicalities of the day out of my mind, I begin to give in to my subconscious. Once in the realm of my imagination, open to unfiltered and unedited thinking, I undergo a kind of metamorphosis. Congruent, well-phrased ideas begin to form and before long they easily flow through my mind, one leading to another, and yet another. As I lie there, allowing them to penetrate, I begin to feel stimulated and excited. I am soon realizing a frenzy of activity. I further concentrate on my goal to continue extracting these lucid descriptions. Within seconds, the most powerful and poignant expressions of my subconscious thrust forward into cognition. I feel consummately enlightened, yet simultaneously energized. As I scramble to preserve the moment, not wanting it to slip away, I cry out in attempts to articulate what I am experiencing inside. Unfortunately, however, without the ability to immortalize this gift, the achievement is only fleeting. Once I have risen from bed, the distractions that are the nuances of reality reclaim my attention and the perfect, eloquent expressions retreat once more. To be unable to recapitulate such inspiring material is a very frustrating phenomenon. It is discouraging, indeed, to stare at the keyboard desperately trying to recall the words that reside solely in the 'uncensored' area of the mind. This happens to be my personal experience with writer's block.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Down On The Dogma

I frequently endure frustration in my quest for truth and tolerance in this dogmatic world. Specifically, one of the few behaviors that Christians appear to readily practice as well as they preach is their orthodox discrimination toward anyone dissimilar to their ideal. The tradition is easily passed on when too many of us unquestioningly accept the convoluted messages that are passed down. Instead of adopting this blind trust, I simply encourage people to consider things objectively and understand the message they spread.

I am not encouraging anyone to neglect their institutions of faith. For instance, my cousin is currently finishing up his degree in theological studies. While we do not see eye-to-eye on religious topics, I respect him whole-heartedly because he has put such a great deal of work, thought, and energy into developing his belief-system. Furthermore, he does not demonstrate an outwardly judgmental attitude toward people of other faiths.

When we support a convention in which we attribute the reason for our existence and upon which our entire moral foundation is based, we must be wise enough to evaluate the value, validity, and purpose of not only the recipe as a whole, but each of it's ingredients.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Once Bitten, Twice Shy

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, I have received mixed reviews for my first two ever performances on blogger. Not everyone respected the request I made in my virgin post about going easy on me. Since I made it clear that it was my first time, I felt taken advantage of. It was like getting raped in public (of course, being the naked blogger, I'm sure I was asking for it). Now I am seriously suffering from a case of the old cliché, “once bitten, twice shy.”

With the contradicting feedback, however, I am reminded that there is not one of us who can aim to please everybody. After all, “some like it hot,” and apparently, “some not”. There are, of course, the ones that fall into the mean who like it hot only on occasion, contingent upon the duration of “not”. I do have an agenda to argue several affairs, however, I am also here for pleasure. While at home, I can think of few better ways to spend my time than to articulate some of my perpetual grievances, simultaneously enjoying myself. What is a life that is all business and no pleasure? A wasted one. As I analyze my purpose for submitting these posts, I remember with great joy and relief, “this is not an assignment! I can make it whatever I want.” It is almost too good to be true, which I fear, because you know what they say about that.

Having been bitten among the accolades, has helped to instill in me a lesson about the importance of being comfortable in the skin I am in. Some people seem to like my skin (which happens to smell quite indulgent at the moment thanks to Bath and Body Works Simply Divine Cherry Pie scent... I'm being literal, that is not an innuendo). I am sure there are some who would prefer my skin to be darker. Or thicker. Or thinner. But what it comes down to is this: I am the one wearing it, caring for it, and looking it in the mirror every day. In whatever fashion I decide to portray my skin, I am the one who has to sleep in it at night. As long as I can do that, everything else will fall into place.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Under our Clothing, We All Wear a Birthday Suit

A few years ago I relocated to the South. Albeit, coming from my suburban, middle-class, Midwestern roots, I wasn't exactly on the front line of progression. But for Heaven's sake, the South seems to be suffering from a long-induced coma and doesn't realize that (chronologically speaking) we are in the 21st century. In spite of this, I often don't feel comfortable freely expressing my opinion. I have come to appreciate just how painful it is to be repeatedly biting one's tongue. At times I make subtle corrections or ask challenging questions to thoughtless remarks, but rarely do I spark debate. I am opinionated, not confrontational. Needless to say, I was grateful to discover this platform which enables my passive-aggression. And here I will deliver my naked truth in nothing but my revealing birthday suit.

Now for Tangent #2:
While there is truth in our nation being comprised of millions of spoiled, loud-mouthed chauvinists, it is also fair to say that we live in a self-righteous, judgmental society. Our culture holds staunch doctrines on what is socially acceptable, rejecting other forms of behavior that, in reality, may be perfectly healthy. We are guilty of inventing corruption by labeling certain common and natural behaviors as vile. Examples include profanity, nudity and sex (yes, some expressions of these are vile. The significance is in the intention). For example, what is a parent's immediate inclination when subjected to crimeless nudity in the presence of their children (like in a movie)? It is to hurriedly prevent the image from meeting their child's eyes, meanwhile sending the message that it must be something off-limits and alluring. This patterned behavior is a product of cultural conditioning. I wouldn't exactly let my kids watch unfiltered Cinemax, and I readily admit, I am far too modest to be seen anywhere in public absent my layers of protective apparel (or as suggested in the title, my birthday suit). But as we all know, Europe, not to mention other parts of the world, boasts nude beaches aplenty. Once pondered, you realize it should be no big deal. It's only a body. People used to be (and in some countries still are) unclothed all the time. Assuredly the locals aren't staring and snickering and developing lascivious thoughts as a result. They're conditioned to be as lackadaisical about nudity as we are about ordering take-out. If our culture embraced the human body as a natural apparatus, I can tell you without question that the pornography industry would not be the money-making machine that it is. Recall the failed attempt at prohibition? (I know you're not old enough to remember it, but you went over it in history class). Referencing Tangent # 1.....people want what they can't have. If something is 'off-limits' it only propagates the appeal. Nevertheless, our culture will not come out of the closet anytime soon, without it's clothes on.

Afterward: do not manipulate my message into something it is not. I am not advocating that we all run to our local town square and shed all of our clothing. These things require baby steps. Undergarments should be worn initially.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Yes, I am a Virgin

......to blogging, that is. Until this very moment. I am posting my first post. You are reading my first post. We're in this together. I won't know until my fingers eagerly swipe the last keys whether or not the experience is climactic. If you do not like what you see here, please don't send me hate messages. Remember, this is my very first time. Be gentle.

Blog, blogger, blogging. What is all this hype? And why do I feel compelled to delve into this foreign technical world in which I'm not even sure I understand the premise? The world of blogging is more vast and complicated than a novice, like myself, would expect. But, then again, I do have a tendency to make things more difficult than they need to be. Up to this point, I have rarely even read a blog. In spite of the aforementioned, someone has advised me to begin one. I do, admittedly, have a predisposition to being opinionated and wordy on subjects I am passionate about, and I suppose that may have led to the suggestion. Perhaps, said individual (who I teased had unwittingly subscribed to my platform by exchanging emails with me) thought the rest of the world would benefit greatly from the subject matter I was spewing. Or (more likely), the enthusiasm I used to convey my convictions revealed that I need an outlet to channel this energy.

Considering my opening remarks, this will doubtfully come as a surprise, inasmuch as my theories often do not coalesce with the mainstream. I don't apologize for this, as it is certainly not traditionalists that bring about change. Thereby, even if not in concurrence, one must respect free-thinkers. Without their ingenuity, we would still presume the world was flat. Without their modernization, Christianity would still be an underground religion, and for God's sake, pagans would rule the western world! Even Jesus' now revered messages were once received with skepticism and disbelief. We humans have a difficult time with any idea that challenges what we already know, or think we know.

I am not an extremist in any form, yet my ideals would rarely endorse a conservative rationale. While many may not support the end result, the logic leading me to these conclusions is relatively irrefutable. I am not here to shove my personal convictions down any throats; after all, anyone reading this is doing so by choice. I would, however, love the chance to challenge individuals who have been victim to our society's brainwashing, to think for themselves. That inherently means, not to adopt my personal convictions, but to open their minds (with at least temporary disregard to the norm) and freely analyze their world in order to formulate their own personal truth. The world analyzed must not be the superficial world we have all come to accept, but the naked world, with all it's imperfections and all it's guilty pleasures.

Which brings me to Tangent #1: Why do we feel obliged to label something we enjoy as “guilty”? If it doesn't harm, torture, or damage ourself or anyone else, do we really need to squander the joy out of it by insinuating that the very act of deriving gratification deserves punishment? Or is it because the term itself is a paradox, and by it's very nature causes one to enjoy it all the more? Considering everyone wants what they shouldn't have, perhaps the latter is true. It's like a subconscious mind-game people use to add a degree of “naughtiness” to something that has no moral implications. Like referring to a rich slice of cheesecake as 'sinfully decadent'. This suggests to me that we all grow tired of always doing the 'right' thing. Maybe all of us, including the most dedicated religious figures, need to occasionally commit 'sinful' acts to stir the soul.

~Now that my first time is coming to an end, I hope you won't tell me that you just want to be friends. Although not a sexually-charged blog with frank descriptions of a more 'biological' nature, I hope I can titillate your mind enough to draw you back. As anyone providing good service would express upon farewell, "please come again".