It’s His Fan Club I Can’t Stand.

“I’ve got nothing against God – it’s his fan club I can’t stand.”

Things I’ve been told recently by girls in my grade prompted me to write a post about the institution of Christianity – but where do I start?

I have not experienced such widespread institutionalised intolerance with any other religion, perhaps because Christianity is the “norm” in Australia; in our legislation, lawmakers, the media, Christianity is evident and considered a common characteristic shared by many Australians. This domination does not take into consideration the large percentage of Australians who are not religious at all – off the top of my head, about 18% (edit: fact checked this, 18.7% of Australians marked “no religion” on the 2006 census) – nor does it consider those of other faiths. This continued stranglehold that the institution of Christianity has over our society is, to me, extremely disturbing. Churches and church schools are exempt from anti-discrimination legislation, which is just horrifying. Nobody should be allowed, by the law, to discriminate in any way – discrimination based on faith, gender, sexuality, personal beliefs, etc, is something a “democratic and fair” country like Australia should not be allowing.

This hatred makes me terribly sad, and the fact that it is so widespread that lawmakers don’t even fight it anymore just depresses me. Our atheist Prime Minister refuses to afford same-sex couples the same marital recognition as heterosexual couples because her “traditional upbringing” dictates otherwise, which is disturbing and to me, irrelevant. Just because something is traditional does not necessarily make it a positive thing. To progress, society needs to be progressive – clinging on to relics of the past, and twisted, ancient ideologies is no way to “move forward”. Same-sex couples are an example everyone jumps to, I know, but it is a relevant issue – Christian values should not dictate how the rest of us live our lives.

I’ve attended a Christian school since the age of 5, and I can assure you, readers, that it has not clarified much for me. I was told Christianity was about love and tolerance, but I see few real world examples of this. Girls in my grade hound a friend of mine for not being religious – they anonymously harass her about her lack of faith, and even ask her online, out of the blue, “why do you hate Jesus?” What I cannot comprehend is, why does it matter to you? With all the agnostics, atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc in the world, there are billions of people who do not share your beliefs. Why does this personally affect you? Focus on your own faith, and becoming more secure in your beliefs so you don’t need to affirm them by harassing others. N.B. “There is more evidence that Jesus existed than Julius Caesar” is a terribly embarrassing argument to use… it indicates a complete lack of historical knowledge, and undermines your case. Do you see anyone on Earth debating the existence of Caesar? And please note that many non-Christians acknowledge there was a guy wandering around at that time called Jesus. That is not where the issue is – it’s whether or not he is the son of a higher power that’s under question.

This religion, that is supposedly based on love and tolerance, has not indicated that much to me in all my limited years. Apparently, a religious person at my school has mentioned to girls that she thinks that homosexuals are “evil”. How tolerant and loving of her! Totally getting warm feelings of acceptance from her direction. Unfortunately, this attitude is not uncommon amongst “tolerant” Christians – they cover themselves by saying they don’t have anything wrong with the individuals, just the acts they perform. Sorry kids, that doesn’t actually excuse your hatred – and why are Christians so uncomfortable about sex? Are we in Victorian England? Why does it matter to you what people do in the privacy of their own homes? Why does it matter to you if two people of the same sex, who have loving feelings for each other, hold hands in public? How does this impact upon your life in any way? It doesn’t, unless you let it. Your intolerance doesn’t impact on my life until it does – until you’re upsetting people I like, until I can see the bullshit you’re spouting with my own eyes. Then, I say something.

So, why am I not a Christian? I can’t give you a succinct reason. When I was a child, I would pray a lot – pray that my parents, and my cat (laugh away) would be kept safe. Then, my father got cancer, my cat was hit by a car and killed at the age of 3, and my parents got divorced! A lot for a ten year old to handle in a relatively short amount of time. So, my reaction was to reject this God that did not have my back. As I thought about it more and more, though, I asked that big question – “if there is a God, why are there people suffering in the world?” It’s a good question, and one that I’ve never received an adequate answer to. One answer was “God created humans to look after themselves”. He seemed content with intervening when Eve ate that apple?  Not to mention, the more I considered the idea that there was a higher power who created the world, the more I realised this idea made no sense to me. Of course, that aspect of Christianity is not what I am calling into question here – Christianity isn’t the only religion that considers there to be a sort of higher power. My issue is with the institution, and the zealots who support it. For everyone, their beliefs, religious or otherwise, are highly personal. Each of us experiences a sort of “spiritual journey” to reach a conclusion we’re comfortable with, and that journey and the resulting belief is a very personal thing. You feel very strongly about the existence of God, and you feel very strongly about going to church, and those are your beliefs – personal to you. My beliefs are personal to me. Respecting people’s personal beliefs and values would not be a bad idea.

But I digress. The things taught to me in religion lessons at school didn’t help – the stories made no sense to me, and the songs seemed overly manipulative – indoctrination via song! If you can’t get the kids any other way, that’s the way to go, I suppose. The Christians at my school really do not help me think more of their religion – what makes you think that anonymously hounding someone is going to get them to convert religions? What makes you think isolating that individual as an atheist and picking on her is going to make her like your religion more? By all means, isolate me. Pick on me. I’ve been an atheist for eight years now, neither of my parents are religious (though they are extremely educated on religion, probably more so than a lot of the teenaged Christians I’m referring to…), and I’m more than happy to throw down about religion, politics, all those “uncomfortable” topics. But please, do it to my face. Don’t hound me anonymously, like you do with others. That method will earn you no respect, and it does not do your religion justice. To be honest, by doing that, you are embarrassing all the other Christians who do not force their views on others through pathetic methods – those Christians who are comfortable with their beliefs, and recognise that not everyone shares them, but still manage to get on with their lives. It’s amazing! It must be a true struggle for them, managing to do that each and every day. Or maybe, just maybe, they’re mature. A foreign concept to you, I’m sure.

I have no idea where my thoughts are at the moment. I’m annoyed, and unhappy, and unimpressed with how some people are representing their religion. Being intolerant of groups in society, and anonymously harassing your peers, and influencing all aspects of the society I live in does not strike me as loving, or tolerant, or accepting. Why can you not practice what you preach?

Obviously, this does not apply to all Christians. Like I said, many manage to live their lives without hounding others, and they’re good in my books. This does apply to the ones who hold parliaments hostage with their demands (and those who enable them to do so, and bow to their idiotic demands); the ones who anonymously harass teenage girls online because they aren’t religious; the ones who consider those who fancy people of the same sex as them “evil”; the ones who indoctrinate children without providing facts, or other points of view; the ones who persecute teenage girls who like each other. Those are the Christians I have the issue with. I am intolerant of their intolerance – I can’t be tolerant of such hatred; such hatred that is ingrained in our political and educational institutions; such hatred that does not represent a modern society’s views.

“If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.” – Bertrand Russell

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Effortless.

Excuse the out-of-character song choice, but this song seems quite fitting right now.

I never knew
I never knew that everything was falling through
That everyone I knew was waiting on a queue
To turn and run when all I needed was the truth
But that’s how it’s got to be
It’s coming down to nothing more than apathy
I’d rather run the other way than stay and see
The smoke and who’s still standing when it clears

Everyone knows I’m in
Over my head
With eight seconds left in overtime
She’s on your mind

Let’s rearrange
I wish you were a stranger I could disengage
Say that we agree and then never change
Soften a bit until we all just get along
But that’s disregard
Find another friend and you discard
As you lose the argument in a cable car
Hanging above as the canyon comes between

Everyone knows I’m in
Over my head
With eight seconds left in overtime
She’s on your mind

And suddenly I become a part of your past
I’m becoming the part that don’t last
I’m losing you and its effortless
Without a sound we lose sight of the ground
In the throw around
Never thought that you wanted to bring it down
I won’t let it go down till we torch it ourselves

Everyone knows I’m in
Over my head
With eight seconds left in overtime
She’s on your mind

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Countdown.

A few pet peeves:

  • When people (I’ll excuse tourists, I mean people who I know are Australian) don’t walk on the left side
  • When drivers don’t signal (it’s not just a pet peeve, it’s a fucking hazard)
  • When people chew loudly in quiet rooms
  • When people force their religious beliefs on others (religion is such a personal thing; shouting and preaching at those who aren’t voluntarily listening will not get you anywhere)
  • When people leave voicemails and don’t leave their name
  • When people openly contradict themselves (if you can’t match your actions to your holier-than-thou attitude, can it)
  • People who are of average build complaining about not being able to fit into clothes… 90% of stores cater specifically to your size…
In other news, life is still good. Organised my party after a few bumps, and unfortunately had to cut down on numbers, but it’s still shaping up to be amazing. The next month and a half will be so busy – open days, award ceremonies, mother daughter dinner, formal, graduation, muck up, study camp, my 18th birthday & party, friends’ 18ths, and then suddenly, the HSC!
I’ve received all of my marks for trials except for extension english. They aren’t great, but that blow is lessened by the fact that it’s the same with pretty much every one. I have great feedback though, so I know exactly which areas I need to work on before October! Right now, however, I’m just enjoying the downtime after the exams – preparing for the end of high school, powering through episodes of Dexter, etc. This downtime is much appreciated after those damn exams – I imagine I’ll be feeling this come November 4th, multiplied by 1000. Not long to go!

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Graduation Day.

Smudged funnies in a broken bottle on the dot at nine
Daddy throws clothes, throws on an old stove
I’m crying in the corner at five
Well I’ve seen black and I’ve seen blue but fine lines I don’t see
And just because I am in misery
Don’t it mean a thing that I want to know
That I want to know

Graduation Day
Graduation Day
We take back everything we said about you

September
As far as she remember, they don’t teach humility
And just because her only signal is mayday
Don’t it mean a thing
That she’s seen love and she’s faired war but fairness she can’t see
And just because she is in misery
Don’t it mean a thing that she wants to know
That she wants to know

Graduation Day
Graduation Day
We take back everything we said about you

That camaraderie’s old
Doing what I’m told
And everybody know this is getting out of hand
Everybody is dying for
That chance to be heard not ignored
And everybody know this is getting out of hand

Graduation Day
Graduation Day
We take back everything we said about you

I’m not going to school

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Bye-Partisan?

The divide between the two main political parties in the U.S is widening, and the effects of this will ripple outwards and impact the entire world – we already have evidence of this.

With the emergence of the Tea Party, representing the far-right fringe that is potentially safer to ignore, it seems Congress can’t work anything out. The debt ceiling talks went on far longer than were necessary, and why? Oh, just the Tea Party making ridiculous demands in exchange for doing something they, as elected representatives, should be doing anyway – looking after the interests of their people. It seems to me many Republican and Tea Party politicians don’t really want to look after their constituents so much as they want to stabilise and ensure the fulfillment of their own agendas. This attitude to politics is extremely harmful – you can’t make everyone happy, no, but if you pull bills out of nowhere and try to force them through, you’re protecting the interests of absolutely no one.

On the other hand, there are some Americans who share these views. Those people are a result of poor education, to put it simply. They know little to nothing about other countries (as many of us, with access to the internet, have experienced firsthand), and the information that they do know has been distorted by the media. All citizens from the Middle East are terrorists, all Scandinavians are socialists, all Australians own kangaroos and what is a New Zealand? The amount the average American knows about other countries is truly appalling, but we all knew that anyway. Of course, some Australians know little about other places too – but they aren’t as large in numbers, simply because of our smaller population. Therefore, as a group, they are less vocal. It’s nicer that way.

This partisan divide, with one side trying to simply keep up with most other democratic countries, and the other trying to take America back to the 1950s, is detrimental to their economy, the morale of their people, and their international reputation. Honestly, if I were an American right now, I would be embarrassed at how my politicians were behaving. Granted, as an Australian, I’m embarrassed by Tony Abbott every other day, but his stupidity is not my focus. America, the self-proclaimed ‘greatest nation on Earth’ (see my earlier post), is dragging itself down. These parties can agree on almost nothing, and this unwillingness to put aside their moronic agendas and compromise is causing the rest of the world to question America’s ability to lead not only itself, but the democratic nations it claims to represent.

Earlier today, Standard & Poor knocked their credit rating down to AA+ – embarrassing. In their press release, amongst other things, the company stated “Since then, we have changed our view of the difficulties in bridging the gulf between the political parties over fiscal policy, which makes us pessimistic about the capacity of Congress and the Administration to be able to leverage their agreement this week into a broader fiscal consolidation plan that stabilizes the government’s debt dynamics any time soon.” This gulf is becoming so wide that it’s rippling outwards and impacting upon America’s economic reputation; not to mention, stock markets worldwide were affected as America took an age making a simple decision about raising the debt ceiling.

These politicians really need to consider the wider implications of their actions. In 2011, their actions no longer only represent themselves, or their party. One small action could potentially represent, and damage the reputation of, the entire country. The debt fiasco is an example of that. I cannot understand how these politicians don’t care about this – no longer can they simply consider what the American people would think (if half of them even consider that at all…) – they have to think about the global implications. It is ignorant of them to behave in this pathetically partisan way – the US isn’t the only country guilty of this, sure, but Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott disagreeing over something doesn’t impact the world in the same way Speaker Boehner continuously pushing his own agenda does. An unfortunate truth, really. I think that some of these American politicians (see Michele Bachmann) are so ignorant that it really could cause great harm to many people. And the fact that these people have supporters and people who vote them in truly frightens me.

The US Congress could seriously benefit from a bit more bipartisanship. Perhaps I’m too hopeful – perhaps I’ve seen too many episodes of The West Wing, and am giving these people too much credit. Perhaps America will just continue down this path of saying goodbye to bipartisanship with little consideration of the consequences. A terrifying thought, but one that may soon be a reality we all need to face.

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United States of Arrogance.

I started high school as the girl who would always defend the US. “It’s unfair to label an entire country as stupid based on the actions of George W. Bush”; “not everyone in America is an uneducated hick, some of them even know where New Zealand is!”, statements I do still stand by – but now, I see fewer reasons to defend the US. The arrogance of many of its citizens is truly embarrassing.

Something you’ll find many Americans shouting out is “America! Greatest country in the world!” … Really? What evidence is there of this? The Human Development Index? Sure, you rank 4th, behind Norway, Australia and New Zealand. What about the inequality-adjusted HDI? There, you rank 12th. So, perhaps not the HDI. Perhaps your lawmakers are paving the way, making progress and setting an example? Hm. Your healthcare laws are only just now beginning to catch up to laws made by most other developed countries decades ago; your abortion laws are going so far as trying to criminalise abortion, something most developed countries chucked out, again, decades ago; your far-right nutjobs enjoy holding your Congress hostage and making loony demands. Of course, Australia has Fred Nile et al, but their influence, compared to the Tea Party’s, is limited. Then again, I’m sure most sensible Americans will agree with me that the Tea Party are not representative of the entire right wing of politics, let alone the entire nation. I’m simply mentioning them because their actions earlier this week could have led directly to a dire global economic situation again. Really great.

This rhetoric is present even in the speeches of well-meaning, left-leaning celebrities, such as Matt Damon: “This is the greatest country in the world; is it really that much worse if you pay 6% more in taxes? Give me a break. Look at what you get for it: you get to be American.” I mean really, what? Overly-patriotic rhetoric coming from any nationality makes me ill. This idea of America being number one is reminiscent of freaking colonialism – we’re number one (like Britain), so we’re going to exert power over smaller nations and use up their resources and terrorise the locals (India) or send our unwanted criminals there to drive out the native peoples (Australia, many other island nations…)

America’s reputation in the last 100 years hasn’t been so hot. Japanese Internment, the atomic bombs, Cold War, Korean War, horrible treatment of African-American citizens, Vietnam War which led to Pol Pot committing genocide in Cambodia, all the invasions of the Middle East, terrible presidents, etc. Ergo, I can’t find much historical justification for this notion of America still reigning supreme. I really think the time has come for America to step down from this pedestal it has placed itself on – you aren’t ideologically or politically superior to many countries now, guys. Check out Scandinavia. They’re on the ball. I don’t hear Norway constantly harping about how it’s ‘the best, stuff the rest’? And they have many more reasons to have such an attitude.

I’m not saying there is one greatest country – quite the opposite, I simply do not think there is one ‘greatest’ country. I think that this rhetoric, even if said by well-meaning people defending increased taxes, or said in jest, is dangerous, and reminiscent of decades past, when we had the First World, Second World and Third World. I think this sort of arrogance is pretty juvenile, and for a country as old as America, that’s a shame.

I pick on America because I simply don’t hear this sort of rhetoric in such volumes from anyone besides Americans. Face it, America – there are few countries who still find your actions admirable, and few who look up to you in any way. Unfortunately, Australia has taken to being your lapdog – hopefully we can grow out of that soon, though I’m not holding my breath. I doubt most of Europe look up to you, when there isn’t much you’re progressing further than them in; I doubt the Middle East much respect you, considering you seemingly enjoy occupying their lands and involving yourself in their territorial disputes for your own interests.

So, in conclusion, I think that from now on, you won’t find me defending America as much as I used to. Why should I? In the eyes of many Americans, I, as an Australian, am almost second-class. I have American friends, who are great, and there are certain American cities I still love dearly – New York being the main one. It’s quite contradictory, because while I’m developing this attitude, my love for New York is virtually undying – so who knows, maybe I will move there one day? Hopefully I can avoid patriots and overzealous Christians and Tea Party members, though.

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Be Something.

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BFF.

I’d honestly love for someone to explain this obsession with ‘best friendships’ to me. Why do some people feel the need to affirm that they have one best friend, and one best friend only? “She’s my number one” or “this is my best friend ___”, every single time the person is brought up. Doesn’t it become tiresome, wearing your insecurities on your sleeve like that? That’s one of the reasons I assume you constantly remind us all of your best friendship – because you’re insecure in that friendship; worried that they don’t feel the same, or worried that we don’t all know. Trust me, we know. We (the we in this being me) don’t care. We’ve heard it enough times. It’s almost the end of high school, so with that end, maybe this obsession with having a best friend can also end. Sure, have your best friends. But there is no need to constantly shove your couple status in everyone else’s faces. To be honest, it looks kind of strange, two people being so co-dependent on each other they may as well enter into a marriage. Few things are more off-putting to me than being eerily similar to another person, simply because they’re my ‘best friend’.

Call me bitter, jealous, because I don’t have a best friend – sure. At this point, I don’t know if I care that much. If you’d asked me 4 years ago if I would rather one true ‘BFF’, or a group of close friends, I would have probably said one true BFF, because that’s what I felt that I had at the time. That didn’t turn out so well, and now I’d probably choose the latter. It’s good to have different people to talk to about different things – I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket. It’s risky. People change, grow up, move on – then you’re stuck with half a heart saying “best” while someone’s run off with the half that says “friends”. Sure. Forever.

Just please, stop telling me about your best friend. They can be your soulmate, that’s awesome. My care factor is almost non-existent, and if I hear anything to this effect once more, it will finally be forced to plummet to zero. There are much more important things in the world I care about – really, most thoughts that have ever crossed my mind rank higher on my priority list than hearing you talk about how best your bestie is.

“What kind of ship never sinks? A friendship!” – Anyone who truly believes that has probably never engaged in a friendship. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but really, everything comes to an end. The sooner you all accept that your best friend will not, in fact, be your ‘Best Friend Forever’, the sooner you can start to pay equal attention to those other people who sometimes hang around. Your average ‘friends’, deemed unworthy of that super-special status. Hi.

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Hallelujah.

I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Baby I have been here before
I know this room, I’ve walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you.
I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

There was a time when you let me know
What’s really going on below
But now you never show it to me, do you?
And remember when I moved in you
The holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
It’s not a cry you can hear at night
It’s not somebody who has seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

You say I took the name in vain
I don’t even know the name
But if I did, well really, what’s it to you?
There’s a blaze of light in every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

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Rest in Peace.

I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you

Who can say if I’ve been 
Changed for the better?
I do believe I have been
Changed for the better
And because I knew you…
I have been changed for good. 

Today, our school learned that one of those among us had passed away. A beloved art teacher passed on early this morning, and the loss of her presence truly is a loss for the world. She was my teacher in years 9 and 10, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a teacher have such strong faith in every single one of her students. She was always there to encourage, and give ideas, and lend a hand, and provide support to those who needed it. Every single day she had a massive smile on her face, greeting everyone she walked past. She truly loved people, I think. I believe she was one of those people who found it hard to see the flaws in individuals – instead, she focused on their brilliant qualities, and tried to nourish those so they become the strongest ones in each person. She had such life within her – she was so quirky, and fascinating, and energetic. To anyone who had her as a teacher, she quickly became a sort of motherly figure – she definitely treated her classes like her children, and she would nurture them as if they really were.

It’s really hard to comprehend that we’ll never see her smiling at us again, or singing happy birthday to us in her operatic way, or going out of her way to make sure we’re okay. With her, it was always others first, then herself. Even when she was sick, she would try and look after everyone else as best as she could. I honestly can’t recall another person I’ve met who’s quite like her – there was so much light in her, even when times seemed to be gravely dark. The world would be a much brighter place with more people like her in it – and without her, it seems just that much darker. I will miss her an awful lot, but I know I’ll never forget her or her personality. The best we can all do, I think, is to try and make our attitudes towards life more like hers.

I saw this poem on my friend Bronwyn’s blog, and as she said, it feels quite appropriate for today.

Between The Dash by Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning… to the end.
He noted that first came her date of birth
And spoke the following date with tears, 1964-1994
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth…
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own;
The cars… the house… the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left,
That can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough
To consider what’s true and real,
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger,
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect,
And more often wear a smile…
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy’s being read
With your life’s actions to rehash…
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?

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