Free Advice: Don’t Use the Hitler Quote

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Don’t you just hate it when all you need to promote your Christian youth program is a really good quote, and the only one you can find is from Adolf Hitler? Take the quotation: “He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.” That’s a pretty good line, and it totally makes the point you wanted to make. But there’s that whole Hitler thing…

You clearly have only two choices: You could use the quote and not attribute it, but that feels dishonest, like you’re stealing from Adolf Hitler. (Nobody cares about plagiarism when it involves Hitler, right?!) Or you could use the quote, say who said it, and hope nobody figures out that it’s THAT Adolf Hitler. But here’s where you probably feel safe–it’s not like it’s a quote about killing Jews or the superiority of the Aryan race or anything bad like that. If someone asks, be sure to point that out.

Apparently down in Alabama, a youth bible school decided to run an ad on a billboard and they found themselves in the dilemma I laid out above. The only problem is that they didn’t come up with the obvious third alternative: DON’T USE THE QUOTE. They simply decided to throw in a verse from the Bible to balance things out. What do you think? Did it work? Read the story from the local newspaper.

Offered My Soul To Satan- He Didn’t Want It

The Mississippi delta: home of the delta blues. Famous blues man Robert Johnson was reputed to have gained his great guitar skills overnight. His method? A little help from his new friend, the Devil.

Of course, I don't believe in the devil, but hey- we were in the neighborhood, and I've always wanted to be able to play the guitar without actually having to put the practice in. If I could convince the Devil to show up, I could A) prove, once and for all, that the Devil is real and actually has magic powers, and B) gain mad skillz.

WHERE THE HELL IS THE DOWN-SIDE HERE???

Unfortunately, Satan never showed up. *Frowny-face*  I guess you have to have something worth selling to bring out the big guy. Oh well… I suppose I'll leave the guitar playing to those who actually are willing to put in the work.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Find Out What It Means To Me

I was talking this afternoon with my friends Molly and Kate about religions and religious people, and I said out loud something that I've been thinking for a while. 

It all centered around the notion that I was always raised with the societal imperative that I should respect everyone's religious beliefs, even if they differ from my own.  That's always been my de facto  stance, in large part because it is so ingrained a notion that I never thought to question it.  Now that I don't have religious beliefs from which others' may differ, however, I can see that this is a dictum for believers only.  It really doesn't apply to those of us who see the universe through the filters of logic and reason, as opposed to the "belief" lens.

As a believer, it makes sense.  It's a tacit way of acknowledging that "our way is no more logical than any other so we have no room to judge".  Because really, once you start accepting beliefs for which there is no evidence as presented by people who have no greater authority than just the claim that they know more than you… well, you really can't justify any disrespect of anyone else who does the same thing. I do not feel however, that the same strictures apply to those of us who really do try to base all our beliefs on that which can be made evident.  

In other words: No, I do not respect your religious beliefs!

 
 A nice rack? That I can respect.

I don't give a flying fart how deeply you connect to Jesus or Allah or mother Gaya or whatever.  If it sounds stupid to me, I'm not going to respect it.  You wouldn't respect me if I told you I believed in the tooth fairy or magical unicorns or flying monkeys… you'd think I was either an idiot or bat-shit crazy. That's to be expected- those are dumb things to believe in. The fact is, though, there's no more evidence for belief in a god than there is for any of those ridiculous things. 

So here's the deal I'll make with you believers- when you catch me believing in something with no logical or factual basis, call me on it.  I promise I'll either give up that belief, or I'll admit that I'm wrong here, and resume respecting whatever spiritual mumbo-jumbo you got going on.  Until then- your belief is fair game.  And I think it's dumb.

P.S. I stole the image above from this asinine website.  Maybe if you pay them, they can cast a spell on me to make me respect your beliefs…

Life Lessons From Water Fowl

I was watching geese the other day.  A mother was leading a whole brood of goslings around a lawn as they all poked around through the grass in search of little food bits.  The little ones were well into their adolescence, and, rather than looking like grey fuzzballs with vague goose-like qualities, they now looked more like adult geese with a few vague fuzz-like qualities.

Childhood duck rebellion: just a phase?

Seeing these gooselets mid-transformation like that made me realize something. I actually had a small epiphany. All by myself. And yes, as dumb as this may be, it was about the story of the ugly duckling.

I have, of course, known this story since childhood (it being a children’s story, and all), and have not given it much thought since. It’s always seemed like a one-trick pony to me as parables go. A duckling is ugly and doesn’t fit in with his peers who mock him about it, until he grows up to discover that he’s not a duck at all but a swan and more beautiful than all those assholes. “You might be ugly now, but someday you can blossom into something beautiful.” Easy enough.

Well, that morning as I watched those geese I realized: I had that story entirely wrong! The moral of the story has absolutely nothing to do with beauty! Looking at it now, it’s easy to see why I made the mistake. I mean even the title The Ugly Duckling leads one to think in terms of ugliness versus non-ugliness.  I’ve always been pretty good at missing the point.

 See, even some swans are ugly…

So I finally get it. That story isn’t about finding your inner beauty or blossoming or any of that bullshit.  It has a much much MUCH better message than that. The Ugly Duckling isn’t the story of an ugly duck who finally achieves beauty, it’s about a fucking swan who’s told his whole life that he’s something he isn’t. It’s about the stories people tell us about ourselves and whether or not we choose to accept those stories. It’s about trying to wedge yourself into a mold that has nothing to do with you in an attempt to fit in.  That little bird’s eventual happiness doesn’t come from finally being beautiful, but from finally understanding what he really is as opposed to what everybody else wanted him to be.

I have no idea whether this was obvious to everyone else or not, but this is a revelation for me and I now LOVE this story. I can relate to it on so many levels! I’m planted firmly in my thirties now, and it’s taken me this long to realize how desperate everyone around me is to make me accept their definition of who I am (and, honestly, how much I do the same bullshit to others).

Anyway, the crux is that if I ever have children, this story is now at the top of my list. I can’t imagine a more important lesson for a child to learn than the notion that they don’t have to accept anyone’s idea of who or what they are except their own. Let ’em tell you you’re a duck all they want- if you feel like a swan, be a damned swan!