Ya Gotta Keep ’em Separated

I sat down a couple of times over the last week or two to write a blog post about religious beliefs and their place in society, but I just haven’t managed to do it. I saw a great article about Obama’s important speech, and I greatly enjoyed Sam Harris’ approach to the issue (h/t to Colinski for the link). I first realized that I was not a Christian as a teenager, and quickly found it shocking to look at our society from an outsider’s perspective. One of the most troubling aspects of the extent to which Christian ideas pervade every element of our social fabric is the fact that it goes completely unnoticed and unquestioned by a considerable portion of the American population. I have had plenty of decidedly non-Christian friends (Jewish, Hindu, etc.) who probably had no idea how deeply Christianity informed their perspectives on the world around them.

But the simple fact that ideas from Christianity inform many completely unrelated elements of our popular culture doesn’t bother me too much, as long as people are receptive when their assumptions are challenged. The thing that has bothered me most about Christianity since I first realized that I wasn’t a Christian has always been this attitude that “we’ve gotta fix you,” or “you’ll get it, eventually,” or “I pity you, nonbeliever.” So when I see the same “must-convert-the-heathens” attitude in atheists, I have been completely turned off. I agree wholeheartedly that religious beliefs of all stripes have served as excuses for great injustices and atrocities committed against humanity, but it seems like a big mistake to seek to fight those belief systems with another belief system such as atheism. Everyone must be permitted to believe how they see fit to believe. It is perfectly acceptable, and even necessary, that atheists who come into the public sphere demanding a right to believe as they see fit. But shaming and ridiculing other belief systems doesn’t seem like an effective way to create a society that values the free exchange of ideas. It seems to me that people don’t need to cite their belief systems to support their efforts to fight for freedom to/from religion. It seems that putting our belief systems on the forefront of the discussion, we’re no longer arguing for freedom to believe, but instead seeking to convert the nonbelievers.

But enough of that. I just wanted to say that there is a group called First Freedom First fighting for exactly what I was just talking about–the freedom to believe as we each see fit. Tomorrow they will do a simulcast event in support of the separation of church and state. I highly recommend that people look for a local showing to attend.

Anyway…if you’re looking at my website you’ve probably noticed a couple of changes. I got sufficiently bored in my time off in Illinois to go ahead and rearrange/redesign a few things around here. I made graphics for the header logo so people could see that there’s more than just a blog here. I also darkened up the post text and lightened the background logo to allow for easier reading (thanks, J). But one of the most exciting changes, I think, is that I’ve decided to turn the fiction, poetry, and essays pages into blogs, as well. I’m thinking that it might encourage me to continue working on other things if I post them like blog entries where people can subscribe/comment, etc. I have already managed to transfer all of the fiction work over to the fiction blog, but the poetry and essays might take a little more time. On the fiction, and I might be able to do this for the poetry/essays as well, I have done my best to edit the post dates to match the time when pieces were actually written. Sometimes the dates are embedded in the document properties in Word, but I think that I may have changed the dates on some of those during revision processes by using the “save as” function. Nonetheless, it is now possible to get a rough idea of how my progress as a writer has come along over the years, if you really have that much time on your hands.

As far as the whole post concussion syndrome thing goes, I think the rest I’ve been getting in Illinois has been helpful. My mom, a nurse, was a bit troubled on our first visit by my behavior, which she attributed to the medication I was taking. I believe that the neurologist thought I would have my tests (EEG and MRI) done before I reached full levels of medication in my blood, but between his office staff’s questionable competence and the HMO’s refusal to allow anything to happen without their knowledge, I waited weeks to get the MRI and am still waiting to get an EEG. Mom insisted that I see a local doctor she really trusts, even if my insurance refuses to pay for it (I’ll probably find out when I return to California). The Illinois doctor verified the concerns that too much of this medication could have unwanted side effects, such as hyperactivity. I did notice that I was more animated and easily excitable, but the only thing that bothered me was when people looked at me funny when I acted funny. The Illinois doctor told me to step down the medication over the next week until I was off, and then to wait a week off the meds and go get an EEG here in town. The results could be sent to my neurologist back in California so he could make an informed decision about my future treatment.

Since I’ve been off the meds, I’ve felt more like myself than I have for a while. In retrospect, I think that I was probably acting almost as oddly on the medication as I was when my friends first suggested that I see a doctor to make sure I was okay. It seems like it could very easily be one of those situations where the best treatment for my symptoms is time and rest. (and I’ve been getting plenty of that!)

The doctors and insurance companies haven’t been the only ones seeking to make my life difficult lately. The folks responsible for disability benefits in California have been really reluctant to come off those pennies, which has been an entertaining twist on my Spring Break vacation to snowy Illinois. Between them and my surprise at learning that cell phone providers charge for toll-free calls and calls to voicemail, I’ll be quite surprised if my phone doesn’t end up shut off in the next couple of days. If it does get shut off and you want to reach me, just yell. I’ll hear you.

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