Monday, July 24, 2017

Penny Lane

One of my favorite Beatles songs is Penny Lane, that song about nostalgia, about a small town, about missing what once was. The working class family and the row houses. The firehouse, the bank, and the barber. The gazebo in the town square. 

This afternoon I was visiting my mom. After dinner we decided to take a little drive around town, my hometown. It was our version of Penny Lane. So many things had changed in our little Midwestern town, one small thing at a time, and we felt so nostalgic. In a good way.  

We drove past our old family home, admiring the new fountain on the front lawn under that tree I planted one Arbor Day in the early 1970s, wondering how we had ever lived with six people in such a tiny little house. I enjoyed remembering playing in the school yard behind our house, how that school felt like home to me, how that school yard belongs to my family as much as it belongs to anyone. I could almost almost smell the chlorine and honeysuckle as we sat there in front of the fading white house. We headed away from our old neighborhood, remembering the many friends who used to live there, what was that boy's name I used to babysit, Mom asked? The one who is a policeman in town now? We couldn't remember.

We drove past the hospital where my sister Linda was born, the same hospital where I worked while an undergraduate social worker. We passed the park where my husband and I got married in the early 1990s, right there at the little outdoor brick bandshell as children and their dogs ran across the grass. We drove all of the way down Main Street, talking about old friends, seeing our old dentist office and remembering how scary his nurse was, pointing at old places of employment, wondering who was still alive and who wasn't...

We drove around the fountain in the center of town, saw a little concert going on at the city hall building. There we saw the notorious townie person who is known to dress up at city events and dance to music. Mom was telling stories about the dancer and I told her that years ago that guy was a mental health client of mine; what a tortured young man he used to be. If the guy could be happy and dancey and dressed in a pink tutu with white tights rather than tormented as he used to be, more power to him. I'm happy for people to laugh and make fun of him if he, now considered a she in town, was no longer living in mental torture.

We passed the corner in town that used to have buildings all tight up to the four corners that, now, is open and light and not congested. I remembered having a burger at that restaurant on the corner with my dad right after having my hair cut in high school. I went from super long hair to an shoulder-length Olivia Newton-John hair cut. And wasn't that little shop cool that used to be there...

It was a truly lovely drive with Mom. After dropping her off at her house I drove around the fountain once again for good measure. As I was driving out of town Mom called me twice, once to tell me she loved me. A second time to tell me she remembered the name of the boy she used to babysit:  Jonathan!


Friday, July 21, 2017


It was a hundred years ago, back in my twenties, I was in a class where we were talking about guilt. Everyone in the class was talking about their various experiences of guilt, telling their stories, talking about the times they felt deep senses of guilt and shame. I remember sitting there in that moment racking my brain for times when I felt guilt. But I couldn't come up with one.

Weird, right?

When I was asked for a response I essentially reported that, that I couldn't think of any significant guilt. The response I got from the class really stuck with me.

My peers in the class reacted with doubt, essentially saying Of course you feel guilt, that's bullshit. One guy even looked right at me and said, Maybe you're a sociopath. Sociopaths don't feel guilt
Well, I heard that, sat, and waited for the class to be over.

A hundred years later, and something sparked that moment for me today. Of course  I'm not a sociopath. And I still don't experience guilt much. Or shame. And there is a good reason for that. 

According to one online definition I found Guilt is a cognitive or an emotional experience that occurs when a person believes or realizes—accurately or not—that he or she has compromised his or her own standards of conduct or has violated a universal moral standard and bears significant responsibility for that violation.  Reread that. Compromising one's own standard of conduct. Guess what, I just don't do that. I know I am weird; I talk about things like this and I run the risk of coming across awkwardly, like one who is kind of self-centered. But it's really more the opposite. I simply think too much. I have the need to pick apart my own authenticity, my own ethical standard. It's fricking exhausting sometimes.

The thing is, I know that I try hard to do the right thing. I make mistakes. I definitely do the wrong things sometimes. But I can not carry guilt around. When I do things wrong, I do as much as I possibly can to learn from it, to correct it, to make amends. So why oh why should I feel guilt or shame about errors? Why should you? What is the use of guilt?

Learn from your mistakes.
Make amends.
Forgive yourself.
And fricking move on - because carrying guilt around helps no one.

What is the value or benefit of guilt?
Religions often use and abuse the administration of guilt to control people. Other institutions often use guilt to motivate or shame. But I am here to go out on a limb publicly to say that I find guilt POINTLESS. I REFUSE to wallow in it. I refuse to act like it is a useful emotion. I refuse to condone anyone carrying it around. And I encourage you to let your guilt go too.

Am I a sociopath?
NO, of course not. I simply don't accept the absolute bullshit and weight of guilt. About anything.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Let Them Eat Voice

WHY, Karen?
Why do you focus so much of your blog on atheism? Is it really so important to you? 

You have a fixation, I think. What is your fascination with GOD? If you don't believe in God then why are you so fixated on Him? 
It's all your problem, Karen!

Well, guess what, People, I focus so much of my blog on atheism because its antithesis is EVERYWHERE. I can't walk out of my house without seeing the presence of religion everywhere in this culture. I walk along shaking my head at the absolute nonsense and massive anti-intellectualism that this beloved country of mine is swimming in.

At the grocery, at the pool, in the library, on the news from the radio in my car, billboards, advertising, and massively in politics...
Don't you see? It is everywhere.
I am a microscopic voice in the din.

You may think that I am fixated or obsessed on religion. I assure you, I am merely responding to the continual force feeding of religious messages in this country. And I, in my temerity, have the nerve to disavow myself from the din. I have the nerve to stand alone if necessary. I refuse to ignore the sickeningly false claims and beliefs of the majority in this country. I will not be quiet.

This small blog of mine has the decibel level of a flea on a mouse in a crowd yet people still come here and comment to me that my blog is too vocal, too skeptical, that my fight suggests some unhealthy and laughable preoccupation with religion on my part. My response to these claims and accusations is that those comments are among the reasons why I must keep writing. If a minuscule voice such as mine reaps the caustic accusations of believers, what does that say about this culture?

That free thought is rare.

That openness about reason and rational thought is unusual.
That the voice of the majority believes their own fable stories and feel privilege from those stories. 
That my small murmurings are a threat.

They have the bread. I have my voice.

I know that this story is a myth.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Great Scott!

During the 2016-2017 school year, while Elizabeth was busy on campus of her community college and while I took a class myself, the two of us became involved with a group on campus that was originally called the Freethinker's Club. I mentioned it here on my blog one time (just once because I was on my blogging hiatus at the time). The club soon became a member club of the Student Secular Alliance, SSA, a national group that, according to their website, empowers secular students to proudly express their identity, build welcoming communities, promote secular values, and set a course for lifelong activism.

Because of our involvement with the SSA on our campus, my daughter Elizabeth and I were recently asked to be interviewed by a young journalist named Scott Jacobson who likes to write for an international online publication called the Humanist Voices

Here are links to our interviews if you are interested.
 You didn't think I would write some short, dinky one-part interview, did you?  🙂

 Thank you to Scott Jacobson for doing his part
 to promote Humanist values.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Virginia Satir

Have you ever heard of Virginia Satir?
She is often referred to as a pioneer of family therapy.

In my social work training back in the 1980s I was always looking for something, someone to feel attached to. I was always looking for something that felt truly meaningful to me. I found that centering when I was introduced to Virginia Satir late in my undergraduate work.

It wasn't until I was in grad school that I was able to read significant amounts of Satir and to figure out the way I wanted to move forward. One of Virginia Satir's most novel idea of the time was the idea that the presenting problem of an individual or of a family system is seldom the real problem, but was, rather, unhealthy coping attempts by the members of the family. Satir, further, offered insight into the problems that low self-esteem could cause problems in the relationship. We in the biz consider much of her work as Neo-Freudian.

Individual and family therapies were all undergoing major changes and better understandings of clinical treatments and interventions during Virginia Satir's career and she was a major player in some of these major moves toward modern psychotherapy. In her practice, Satir tried  to help people to accept life as it is and to reach peace of mind. She encouraged clients to meditate, use breathwork, and visualize positive results. She also suggested using affirmations to boost self-esteem.

Self-esteem! This was a new focus of therapy.
Now imagine how improved self-esteem and better personal power would change the entire business of working with a family. It was a switch from thinking of a sick family system to a positive, health-focused view. What a shift! 

I loved Virginia Satir then and I love her now. 

Satir introduced so many new concepts and ideas to family therapy that truly transformed and made hopeful the field of family therapy. 

It's been awhile since I practiced in the field of social work or since I did anything in the therapy field, but when I think of the best of that field, I think of Virginia Satir. My hero.


Here are just a few things Virginia Satir said:
  • Life is not what it's supposed to be. It's what it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference..
  • We need 4 hugs a day for survival.
    We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance.
    We need 12 hugs a day for growth..
  • We must not allow other people's limited perceptions to define us..
  • Problems are not the problem; coping is the problem..
  • Over the years I have developed a picture of what a human being living humanely is like. She is a person who understand, values and develops her body, finding it beautiful and useful; a person who is real and is willing to take risks, to be creative, to manifest competence, to change when the situation calls for it, and to find ways to accommodate to what is new and different, keeping that part of the old that is still useful and discarding what is not.
  •  Adolescents are not monsters.
    They are just people trying to learn how to make it among the adults in the world, who are probably not so sure themselves..
  • What lingers from the parent's individual past, unresolved or incomplete, often becomes part of her or his irrational parenting..
  • I want you to get excited about who you are, what you are, what you have, and what can still be for you.
    I want to inspire you to see that you can go far beyond where you are right now..
  •  I want to love you without clutching, appreciate you without judging, join you without invading, invite you without demanding, leave you without guilt, criticize you without blaming, and help you without insulting. If I can have the same from you, then we can truly meet and enrich each other..
  • Every word, facial expression, gesture, or action on the part of a parent gives the child some message about self-worth. It is sad that so many parents don't realize what messages they are sending..
  •  In the nurturing family...parents see themselves as empowering leaders not as authoritative bosses. They see their job primarily as one of teaching their children how to be truly human in all situations. They readily acknowledge to the child their poor judgment as well as their good judgment; their hurt, anger, or disappointment as well as their joy. The behavior of these parents matches what they say.
    Can you see why I love her?

Monday, July 10, 2017

Tazing my Tenets

I was talking to Mom on the phone a few minutes about what's going on in the world and whatnot. There's a reason I don't watch the news, it is just awful. AWFUL. But Mom watched the news.

She told me about a dude, boyfriend to a women with three kids: one year old twins and a two year old. This will truly never guess this. He tazed the toddlers for misbehavior. TAZED.

Now, I have not gone out and looked for the news story to verify the facts or anything, okay. But here's my problem. Yes, this is  my problem. I like to think that people are good, you know. I like believing in the goodness of people, their good intentions, their good hearts. But every single day the news has stories about human beings who behave in reprehensible ways, people who screw up my life philosophy.

So, I avoid the news in order to preserve my delusion.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Gateway to Reason: St. Louis July 28-30, 2017

Have you ever been to an atheist convention?
My husband and I and the kids have been to several of them here in the States and we have always, without fail, loved every single one of them. The community of atheists at these conventions is always so interesting and...well, the opposite of homogeneous. Every convention has been unique and has had its own flavor and vibe.

This month in St. Louis we are holding Gateway to Reason, a fabulous opportunity for all atheist, freethinkers, humanists, and questioners to spend some time listening to intelligent and fun talk, to be entertained by some new, innovative performers, and to walk the halls to visit the tables with merch and information of all kinds. NOT to mention the evening events and the general hanging out and the meeting of like-minded people! Spend an hour, spend three days with us. You won't be sorry!

I've mentioned that I will be speaking at Gateway to Reason convention this year about being a first-gen atheist parent as you can see on this link. And I'm DELIGHTED. Not only will I be sharing some insight and support for all new or burgeoning atheist/freethought/humanist parents, I will also be leading a rather unique panel of people that include other first-gen atheist parents and their offspring. We will be available to take questions from the be there with your questions!

So come and check us out!

I will have a special thank you gift
 to all My Own Mind blog readers 
who introduce themselves to me at the conference.

(Also, for regular readers of this blog you can click on THIS LINK to hear my voice
and hear my name pronounced properly! 
I know URSKA enjoyed it!!!  😀)

Friday, July 7, 2017

Secular Student Alliance - Elizabeth Loethen

Just passing along a little mother's pride.
My daughter was recently interviewed for an online publication called Humanist Voice for her work with the SSA, the Student Secular Alliance in her community college campus.

If you go over to read it, I hope you leave a comment.  



Thursday, July 6, 2017

He Sees It: How the World Treats Women

The other day I was at a local public swimming pool sitting in the sun, worrying about getting a sunburn, realizing that wearing my sunglasses made it possible to people watch without people feeling watched. Most importantly my son was having a wonderful time and meeting new friends. The day was lovely and coolish.

But something happened that has stuck with me all week.
There was a young girl walking toward me on the tarmac, walking past the Lazy River. I saw this older guy with grey chest hair and an inner tube around his waste looking at this girl. Not just looking at her but raking his eyes over her. In fact, the word raking is an absolutely perfect word to describe what his eyes did to this very young girl.

My body went stone cold.

John is the super white kid
next to the girl's classmate...
to give you an idea of his age.
A little bit later my son told me that the girl in question is twelve years old, he'd met her in the climbing wall like with a young pool friend; John's school friend and the girl were in the same class at school. John said Look at the size of that girl's breasts, Mom. Life is not going to treat her well. And MEN! I feel sad for her.  I did too. She was only twelve and already getting these vile looks.

A little bit later John and I were in the car listening to NPR's story about women in Turkey getting abuse and even public physical conflict for the slightest cultural infraction of modesty, from showing a wrist to smiling in public. How do you women do it, John asked, how do you do it?

Want to read more?
A Letter to my Son
Seven Stages of Man
Heart Outside of My Body
He's So Scawy

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Why Are You Angry at God?

Am I raging and wounded? Have I seen too much pain and unfairness that I have entered a period of anger at God? Am I in despair and feeling hopeless? Am I afraid that God has abandoned me in my desperation? Am I feeling that Life Isn't Fair?! Am I unable to locate any gratitude towards God?

In my time I have been accused several times of being angry at God? The Christian god, presumably. People making this suggestion to me never ever  take my reply as honest. They simply cannot accept the reality that No, I am surely not angry at your god.

The truth is, I have no anger whatsoever at any so-called deity.

I do have anger at religion, tons of it. The organizational, structured  shame and guilt and abuse and prejudice and hatred and misogyny. 

I have anger at cover ups, abuse of power and religious political power, tens of billions of dollars of financial abuses, overt lies and manipulation, all religious wars, massive sexual abuse scandals that are forgiven by church authorities, encouragement of faith over reason. 

I'm angry about every single effort to defeat true knowledge in the place of religion, inculcating children into the fantasy of religious belief, at religious teachings taught in classrooms and offered as facts to the minds of children, at prayer over medical treatment, at every effort to hide truth under the cloth of bullshit, at the fact for each and every single person who has ever struggled to understand something in earnest while being taught to stick with faith, and at every vile adult male who ever married or injured a young girl or boy well within the bounds of their religious practices or traditions. 

I'm angry that all doubt in the religious mind is told that it is the resident demon putting those thoughts into their head. UGH. 

I'm thoroughly disgusted that outrageously and overtly powerful people are thought to be humble.

I'm disgusted for every single penny or other coinage with the words In God We Trust on them, for every misappropriation of false history passed along, for every single person on their knees in prayer with tears streaming down their faces with the belief that that action is their only option, for all of the church history that has been falsified, and for every single young person struggling with the guilt of absolutely normal maturity and sexuality. 

I am fully disgusted at the ostentatious wealth of the Catholic church, much of it stolen from conquests, while the church de facto encourages and supports poverty.

I'm saddened tremendously by the people who believe in some nether-regioned bad guy that is after them and all of the anguish that accompanies this belief. 

I find it a huge loss that few religious people ever seek to understand the incredibly beauty and vastness of the universe. Just think of the millions of minds that have been handicapped by religious belief.

I'm angry that people spend so much of their sincere effort to figure out the Will of God, that the church demonizes nearly all sexual practices, that atheists and all people of logic and reason are considered the least trusted people in this country, that people of all ages anguish and fear the concept of hell, that all ridiculous stories that make no sense in the holy books are treated as absolute fact or real history. 

I'm disgusted with the entire vile concept of Biblical Parenting, that believers are encouraged to discount, cherry pick, or misrepresent the words of their holy books yet those same books are treated as sacrosanct, that perfectly well-meaning, truly good people are encouraged to stick with faith over their own decision-making reasoning abilities, and that this country would never elect an openly atheist into positions of power. 

I'm ridiculously angry that a woman's right to personal autonomy has become a favorite witching call of the religious right.  

I am angry that, were I to die at this moment, some of my family members would believe that I was burning in hell for all eternity, and this is the religion that they choose! 

The more fundamental the religion, the fewer rights women have. 

I am angry that the powerful religions on this planet that still exist do so by having exterminated the other religions that existed before them, by torturing people into fearful belief, and by every other violent and forced method of spreading a belief system.   

I'm genuinely angry that genuinely GOOD people honestly have been convinced that it is their religion that prevents them from committing horrific acts of murder or rape.

I'm angry that the best fricking thing we have to offer people attempting to recovery from addictions of all sorts is a treacly religious 12 Step program.

I'm disgusted that religious families are tragically encouraged to abandon family members who have differing beliefs or understandings of the world.

It is abhorrent that wealthy church members are powerful church members, that people in poverty are encouraged to embrace and accept their position of powerlessness.

I'm angry that adults all over the planet are satisfied with not knowing things, and that the churches systematically install so many of the feelings inside of a believer that confuse them so very much.

I am livid that CHILDREN are taught to fear, reject, revile, hate people different from themselves. 

I'm angry that my children and all children of reason often have felt like they wanted or needed to go into hiding due to the pressures or disdain from the believers around them and that those same children have been told that they are going to hell. 

I'm angry that most third world countries are so mired in evangelized missionary doctrine that they are stripped of their own powers and of their own belief systems.

I am truly disgusted with the entire concept of sin and how the church teaches and controls and tortures the emotions of adherents with it. 

I'm angry that the majority of people in this country are religious and that any effort to secularize the government or the culture is treated as UNFAIR or as a THREAT to religion. 

I'm angry with the smarmy well he believes in you  type of person out there. 

I am angry with the teaching that we are all inherently evil people and that the only way to salvation is through the church.

I'm angry as heck that so many truly good people anguish over the possibility of losing a freaking afterlife rather than finding ways to make this life a truly good, just, loving, and meaningful one. 

I'm angry that autonomy and personal power are not important tenets of the religions of the world.

Am I angry with a god?
Not at all.
It turns out that I am angry at the power-hungry narcissist human beings who control the hearts and minds of so many people on this planet using religion as their walking stick.

What do you think? 

I've continued thinking about this and I have some other things that I am angry about that religion has been the direct cause of.
I'm angry about the Crusades. Have you ever read about the bloody journeys of the  Crusaders? The Childrens'  Crusade?! It is horrendous. 

I'm angry about the witch hunts that happen in all cultures all over the world in all of time (including today), fear of witches and demons is really fear of the power of women and I despise it. 

I'm super angry about the entire relationship of Galileo with the church, I don't care how humanely the church thinks it treated him. And the church can take their forgiveness of him and KMA.

I'm angry at all of the many times the reining religion either destroyed the people and accoutrements of the defeated religion or absorbed it into their own and then claimed ownership, including revised history. 

I'm angry at the destruction of places of learning, museums, schools, etc all through time. 

I'm super angry about the entirety of what is often called the Dark Ages, when religion held sway and all science of the time was either far from the reaches of the church or done in secret. Who can measure the losses?  

...And I'm still angry about the Library at Alexandria.  Who knows what treasures were destroyed for Mother Church? It boggles the mind what has been lost...

But angry at any deity? NO, still the narcissistic, power-hungry humans that created and maintain the fallacies of the religions of the world.


If this post spoke to you you might also enjoy these posts:
So...What if You're Wrong?

Out and Open and Wanting to Say it Tonight
Ghosts and Bedtime
Science is Your God
Your Life Has No Meaning