“Is the Trump presidency a religious cult?” (by Reza Aslan on Big Think)

 

Spoiler alert: Everything is terrible and nothing is okay.

Religious studies scholars will explain that all religions are, or were, cults at their inception. Really, there is no difference between religions and cults. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lis a lot of quantifiably false, made up stuff that Trump’s disciples initiates marks Kool-aid drinkers followers believe… but that’s also true of Christianity, of Catholicism, of Islam, Hinduism… literally all religions. That’s the definition itself.

The choice to believe can certainly be therapeutic, soothing, dull the sharp pain of loss and make the grieving process easier. And it’s definitely your First Amendment right, (if you’re American), though grieving and coping mechanisms do not need to be linked to religion, nor does that minimize the fact that religion is delusion.

Religious congregations are communities, and can be social hubs, so these can be especially important for sad or lonely people, but so can secular community centers and recreation centers, libraries and senior centers (none of which have the funding for in-person door to door welcoming committees in lieu of proselytization street teams targeting lonely people who are at home alone).

According to vulnerability researcher Brené Brown, community, belonging, compassion, understanding, and the like are irreducible human needs, and religious congregations can fulfil all of these things. But so can social media, and we don’t call that a church. We call that an addiction, and most of us universally shame each other for those. But it’s taboo to question the religious, since it is a First Amendment right to be an insane religious zealot, after all.

When does having faith end and diagnosis begin? When do people of faith become a cult, or a cult become a church? And when can we just call all of it pathology?

That said, I do wish they’d stop making every article about American religious freedom about Muslims these days… I mean, yeah it’s more militant than exclusionary like the WASPy crazies who believed, in as purely literal sense – everything they read in the Bible – and then went off and populated White America.

But consider the life of Muhammad’s favorite wife, Khadija, was a successful and respected businesswoman in her own before she decided to marry her distant cousin, poor and two decades her junior, specifically because he was a prophet (which is to say, probably a bit more delusional than most people even back in those days when so much more was “explained” with woo). He lived on after her death, scribbling in his old man bitterness and sadness all of his manly warlord shit so of course that’s what stuck.)

Regardless, focusing on Islam as the problem in the US of all places is such low hanging Forbidden Fruit when there are so many sects of extreme religion in the US. Those first wacky Bible Thumper types have reproduced at alarming rates, and the ones of English descent had already been proliferating their insane theology for over a century before the Boston Tea Party… remember the Mayflower, anyone? Oh, and you know what came next…

But of course, women and girls are to blame for all the bad things that happen to men, and formidable women confident in their beliefs and self-efficacy are still a bit scary in 2018, especially when they’re intelligent and childless, emotionally sufficient and financially independent without men, are they not?

Women are so easy for powerful religious dudes to blame for stuff they can’t control, like for everything from the Fall [of Man], all the way on down to any legitimate opposition to Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court appointment. (His alleged sexually predatory behavior as a teenager notwithstanding; like, everyone knows he wasn’t on trial.)

It was a job interview though, and numerous letters of opposition, (basically the antithesis of good references) from those he’d worked with in prior Clerkships and Judgeships that attested to his poor judgment, partisan nature and lack of levelheadedness on the Bench… which should have been more than enough to eliminate him from finalists for the position, long before Dr. Ford even heard he was in the running, shit, even before Justice Kennedy was forced to step down.

So, “is Trump leading a new religious cult?” is a stupid question, and quite frankly I’m rather disappointed in Reza Aslan for even asking it, when such a better, obvious question is “why are scared, gullible masses so drawn to such unstable masculine charismatic pathologies, over and over again?

And Masculine it is… even though it is #NotAllMen rather, it is damaging to all men). Also, to be clear I do not refer to The Masculine here, nor is paganism devoid of a lot of quantifiably false, made up stuff… but neither is it any kind of organized and codified religion, but hey, Catholicism/Christianity and Islam incorporated a bunch of completely made up paganism into their own completely made up traditions, so there’s that.

One common thread, the men who first edited the Bible, the Bishops at the First and Second Nicaea Councils, and this asshole in between the two, must have really wanted to keep women in their place. A big meeting of Catholic bishops in the 7th Century would hardy have been complete with a bunch of sex workers being trafficked into the place for the big event, just like today’s Olympics, World Cup Finals, Super Bowls, etc. But back then… I mean, eventually the Church itself was plagued by its own hubris: Schism after Schism, Reformation after Anabaptist Anarchist Revolution and finally, all those crazies moving to America to escape persecution….

Little known fact, the Amish are one of the most multilingual populations in the US:  In addition to English, their Ordnung (Laws) are still written in Palatine German, and they speak a dialect called Pennsylvania Dutch (denn wenn man erwartet, dass Amerikaner “Deutsch” richtig sagen, würde das unsere Fähigkeiten überschätzen…) Also their blueberry pies are fucking phenomenal! So there’s that, but shit, the United States was literally built to defend and uphold this and similar religious delusions.

Which ironically but not unexpectedly has been our undoing: defending the rights of anyone to believe whatever they want has set up the US, as nation borne of the lofty ideas of academics and mad scientists (e.g. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin) to fall as a nation of fools. I mean, think about it: we are taught about how the Puritans were the first permanent settlers of families in what became the American Colonies.

The Puritans were brave and good, so kind! It was a freezing cold winter, and they shared their blankets with these savages, (and smallpox! And they had the nerve to call their welcoming hosts, who taught them how to hunt and prepare turkeys, and how to grow staple grain corn, savages!)

Then they shared that feast of Thanksgiving with the natives who had taught them how to survive after they had to leave England because of how they were persecuted in the countries they left for their beliefs… all those bad, horrible people trying to stamp out the insanity! (Shame on them, for trying to tamp that down! Then they went on to tax TEA of all things? The NERVE of those LobsterDads -Backs…)

So the first American religious crazies were the Puritans and the Amish (who are still stuck in the 18th Century, for fuck’s sake) and their Mennonite and Hutterite brethren, who are all direct descendants of those Prophets of Doom people who full on delusional and unhinged upon having the Bible translated into their German vernacular in the wake of Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation. Religious nut jobs flee to America. And now they’ve congregated around the TrumpDumpster.

Even though religious nuts have always come to America, hopefully this won’t always be so? After all, the Muslims coming to the US aren’t radicals. Radical types are staying much closer to their Mecca. This is, however, the same thing that happened with all 8 of my own Catholic great grandparents (about a century ago from Southern Italy and Poland) too… and yes, I have cousins who have congregated around the new Idol of TrumpDumpsterism, uncles and cousins who have gone into the US military to spill the blood of innocents in Vietnam and the current wars America is waging to line the pockets of our wealthiest citizens. I had a great aunt who was a cloistered nun, and I have a second cousin who is a Catholic Priest, whom I think is asexual but if not, I hope and pray he will leave the collar and pulpit if he one day wants to come out rather than touching the youth of his parish, unlike the father of the cousin I’ve never met because my uncle (a former Catholic Youth Minister) impregnated one of his teenage flock around 18 years ago. A creepy man who hugs too long and has asked me if I have my genitals pierced, whose son was made in his image and wants to go into politics (which is fine since he’s a total lech who has molested my breasts when we were teenagers, despite our dads being brothers, yuck!) and he’s done blow off a public bathroom sink at family weddings, so I’m sure he’ll fit right in at any hallowed house of legislature in the entire country; besides, that is really no secret anyway, so if he is given that opportunity I’ve sure as fuck learned from the public censure of both Dr. Anita Hill and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s experiences to just keep my damn mouth shut and just let the predatory man govern us all.

And Catholic priests STILL like to get down and dirty, regardless of a lack of consent from their parishioners partners victims (who are children and adults coming to them for “spiritual guidance,” which is better or more accurately referred to therapy from a mental health professional, but instead is coming from someone completely delusional, albeit they are socially allowed to be so in their position in their culture.) And people are upset that the Catholic Church is under attack, because lawsuits are “bad press!”

This is also Old News, but maybe the Churches and Mosques and Synagogues should all have returned to the dust from whence they came centuries ago, like the Ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians, lost to antiquity forever. But I mean, they are beautiful, so even if we just lost all the dogma and got rid of all the stories and turned the buildings into schools and community centers at least this disaster would be salvageable. At the very least we can hope that the abuses and crimes done by these men will condemn them to public shame and ridicule in their communities and parishes, like their bad behavior does to the people brave enough to stand up to them.

And we women need to stop drinking that Blood of Christ too: the 53% of white women who voted for Trump largely did so because of their own misguided Catholicism. Yes, that is what I said, and that is what I mean: it is 100% misguided for women to continue to choose to be Catholic in 2018, and downright amoral/wrong of them to project those beliefs on other women.

The frustration of generation after generation collectively choosing religious delusion and social conservatism over progress and proof beyond measure of a doubt, given the option to do so is maddening. There is so much entitlement, and so much bullshit, and so much interest in Keeping Voters Stupid!

It is so counterintuitive to listen to the most entitled man of all in order to validate your own wounded masculine identity and belief in your own disenfranchisement, but drinking the brown, sludgy koolaid isn’t healthy for anyone… but hey, it’s less addictive than that Blood of Christ wine, and I guess some people are into that 2Girls1Cup deal anyway, or it wouldn’t be out there on the Internet.

Besides, we know who has the most intoxicating bullshit of all, for those of the bullshit drinking persuasion:

ilovethepoorlyeducated
Pro tip: watching Trump gifs while listening to the greatest hits of Linkin Park, Simple Plan, and Sum 41 will remind you what all the boys were like in 7th grade, probably because the ones who stayed there mentally and emotionally voted for this whackanutsack and cheered the loudest when he said this!

 

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Writing is hard; or, I took a break after my late grandmother’s birthday which ended up lasting through the Kavanaugh hearing.

Sometimes I want to write, so I sit down to do it and I can’t. This can happen for any number of reasons, but usually it’s because I feel bored or sad. Anger and disappointment are pretty easy to write about, but to do so regularly just turns into a bunch of rants or a bunch of whining. And no one likes an angry non-Presidential rant (not that the rest of us can figure out what anyone sees in those aside from comedic value), and no one likes someone who is just whining all the time. Or someone nagging all the time, since to be fair, I guess different people express disappointment in different ways.

Regardless, I almost didn’t write today. This morning was too busy and hectic, and I got a bunch of stuff done that needed to get done, faster and earlier than usual. I went to the post office, brought a form to be filed at a government office, and came home and got some work done. Nothing too bad there either, just tying up some loose ends, so I didn’t have to deal with any of those more… ahem, particular, types of people online today.

(Sidenote: setting up my life abroad in different places, I’ve gotten used to engaging with about 8 different government offices on the regular in each and every one of them, so I’ll have to elaborate on that in a later post, because let’s just say that the DMV is kid stuff at this point… even though it’s still somehow a much more awful, dehumanizing and inefficient experience than most of the ones outside the US.)

So I almost didn’t write anything. I’m tired, grumpy, and a bit crampy, and I don’t want to just whine about that (or anything) with this blog. But that does quite defeat the purpose of having a blog to write in every single damn day if I don’t do it regardless. I am very lucky in that I have a loving partner and a good life and a great dog and we live on this beautiful Mediterranean Island in a house with a view. And I don’t want to complain about any of that. But this is also the cause of some of my sadness, or at least greatly contributes to it, since living in a rural village (population 1000) on an island that is only 67 km² (25.87 mi²) can be stifling.

For comparison by size, smallest to largest:

  • Rochester, NY: 59.77 km² (23.08 mi²)
  • Buffalo, NY: 136 km² (52.51 mi²)
  • Helsinki, Finland: 184.5 km² (71.22 mi²)
  • Raleigh, North Carolina: 370 km(142.8 mi²)
  • Toronto: 630.2 km² (243.3 mi² )
  • Berlin, Germany: 891.8 km² (344.3 mi²)
  • New York City: 783.8 km² (302.6 mi²)
  • Los Angeles: 1,302 km² (502.7 mi²)
  • Istanbul: 1,539 km² (594.2 mi²)
  • London, UK: 1,572 km² (607 mi²)

It’s beautiful… but it’s also kind of lonely. I’m no Thoreau, much as I’d like to be. I’m hardly able to run errands a few days in a row without spraining an ankle on the hills, or at least straining one. Also, we both work from home full-time, but my partner works twice the hours I do, and it is his work that dictates a lot about our location and lifestyle. Since I work less, I do more of the household chores and take care of our pupper. It’s getting to be a lot more work than it was just a year ago. He is such a dashing, yet odd looking pup, and his short legs and long stocky frame have given the poor boy some hip problems and pain in his dotage. He is such an amazing dog though:

 

 

I am lucky and privileged and blessed to live the way I do. But I am also so so so incredibly lonely. Some evenings while he’s working late, I sit in front of my computer and just cry a bit… then I knuckle down and keep working. There’s not much else to do. We keep different hours than our neighbors and the locals (most of whom are so very welcoming and kind! I think Malta in general has a bad rep for xenophobia… it’s not nearly as bad as most of rural Western New York, though to be fair that is a super low bar).

And even the local grocery store opens at 5 am and closes at 1 pm. Then it opens from 4:30 pm to 7 pm… 6 days a week. Since I grew up in a large Catholic family I get that there are families here and they all know each other and have been living here for generations upon generations, and we are outsiders.

There are some other outsiders here too, in spades! But most of them are tourists, or English pensioners who are mostly very kind and sweet, but a little condescending. Ex. I do not need an explanation of the right kind of cream to use in every conceivable cooking and/or baking situation whilst I am doing my shopping at Lidl (a supermarket, with better hours than the local one, but three times as far and with an abundance of loud German tourist and English pensioner patrons, and apparently a serious dearth of cream varieties: they only offer the shelf stable vegan kind, the shelf stable cooking kind in a box, and cans of the shelf stable Reddi Whip type dessert topping that doesn’t need to be refrigerated until you open it).

I have made one friend, and she’s quite sweet, in her late 20s from France. But we are both always working, and I expect she’ll be leaving soon since she also finds it quite dull and really misses the land where she’s from. For me, it’s especially bad on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings. When in Buffalo, on Monday and Wednesday I used to attend potlucks with my friends at their housing co-ops, and  Thursday I used to play DnD with a small campaign in one of their basements… it was a creaky old house, so it felt like we were playing DnD in an actual dungeon, too.

In Rochester I used to spend those same evenings going to meet ups, board game nights, or just doing my homework at the local Gay Café, Equal=Grounds, which was right around the corner from my tiny apartment. A nice little coincidence that.

And, I used to see those same groups of people those days and on Saturday and/or Sunday afternoons, taking part in different community volunteer initiatives or just shooting the shit over a cup of tea (or rather, an herbal infusion, as opposed to the English black tea). It was nice to always have a group where I felt I belonged, since I really hadn’t had one of those since I broke my ankle and couldn’t keep working at Girl Scout Camp… which of course was only in the summer.

There were messy parts in between of course, and in the moment it didn’t lend much to the consideration of my future (now current) nostalgia. But since now it’s now going on three years since I moved abroad and stopped having that social structure, I am starting to really miss that aspect of having community, in ways I’d never realized I would.