Carry no one’s cross! Choose freedom!

Remembering the patriarchal manipulation of the cross



Recently I was elated to see a number of great Twitter posts regarding news of an imposing 34 foot cross being removed from a public park in Florida.  This victory means that members of the non-theist and non-Christian communities can feel free to enjoy Bayview Park without that imposing religious symbol looming.  But in my opinion, this is not only a victory for those who wish to be free from having religion imposed on them.  This victory is also taking a step forward in dismantling the patriarchy which has silenced girls and women for decades.

I will acknowledge that for many Christians the cross is a symbol of hope, comfort, and inspiration.  We see it all around dangling from necklaces, rear view mirrors, tattooed, and randomly scattered along the grassy banks near highways.  For numerous Christians, this symbolizes hope that they will be spared from the fires of hell in the afterlife and instead meet Jesus, their savior.  Even when I attempted to follow the Christian path, I simply could not manage to avoid being distracted by my memories of how the cross, and in particular, the crucifix was used to silence women.

The memories that I associate with the cross center on experiences where this symbol was used in conjunction with two scripture passages in particular, in order to justify ill treatment of women.  One scripture was Genesis 3:16 which states “your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you.”  The other passage, directly related to the symbol of the cross, which was taught by pastors to justify enduring unhealthy relationships was Luke 14:27 saying that “whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”  Those who are familiar with the passion story are fully aware that the carrying of the cross as referenced, is equated with suffering and brutality.  So the implication used toward women was that the earthly inconveniences that they endured simply did not measure up to what Jesus endured as he willingly carried his own cross which he would eventually be nailed to.  And if being an obedient, subservient wife to their husbands meant keeping their mouths shut and following the rules of men folk, then it was their cross to carry.  Lovely little sentiment isn’t it?

It’s bad enough that the carrying of the cross belief is used to exonerate Christian followers and urge them to suck it up and remember that Jesus endured much more.  But what’s even more disturbing is when the cross and the aforementioned scriptures are used to teach women that they are obeying God’s will in accepting their lowly place in their relationships to men.

I’m most disturbed by defeated attitudes of women who remained in physically or emotionally abusive relationships because of such patriarchal brainwashing.  Far too often I’ve heard women’s sigh of defeat as they depressingly maintain their places in abusive relationships based on unhealthy expressions of religion.  It truly saddens me to think that there are still women who willingly give up their self-worth and joy for life to fall in line with this belief system.  It saddens me because as a Secular Humanist, I believe that this life is all that we get and not a minute of it should be wasted by stifling the value that we can offer to make the world an even more awesome place.  A quote from Natalie Portman’s 2002 interview with Rolling Stone magazine sums it up nicely for me.   “I don’t believe in the afterlife.  I believe this is it, and I believe it’s the best way to live.”  I share in Natalie Portman’s belief and this is why it saddens me to think that someone would give up the possibilities to make this one life as beautiful as it can be as a result of oppressive, archaic religious teachings.  While I try to remain respectful of peoples’ religious beliefs, I will always find it disturbing to think that a woman would choose to be belittled and silenced by her husband because of the advice of some minister, elder, or brainwashed woman.  Or the fact that there are women out here who not only carry that metaphorical cross, but also bear the physical and emotional scars as punishments for daring to express their individuality.

I can only imagine what it must be like for those women who feel it is their religious obligation to withhold their opinions, downplay their intelligence, and stroke the egos of their husbands or significant others.  And that in doing so, the belief is that they are becoming disciples of Jesus by carrying the cross that was given to them.  Well my opinion of the Bible’s passion story, is that carrying the cross didn’t end very well.  After all, the cross carrying story is incomplete if it doesn’t include the brutal beatings, the big owey of having thorns smashed into skin, and stakes being driven through hands and feet.  But the rationale is that if Jesus could willingly bear the brunt of such brutality for all of humankind, the least that a woman can do is happily and dutifully take on the occasional discomforts which come with modesty and subservience.

While I am disturbed by the fact this belief system is still to this day being taught, I am also enthused that I happen to live in an age where there are growing numbers of strong, independent women and girls who exercise their rights to call BS on such a manipulative tactic.  Women who see this practice for what it is – beliefs based on ancient scriptures that were not only written by men, but also taken out of their cultural and historical context for the purpose of controlling a population of people.

No woman, or any person for that matter, should be expected to sacrifice the beauty of life and expression for the sake of carrying anyone’s cross.  No one should be the target of a guilt trip inflicted upon them by clergy or brainwashed lay leaders who use the passion story as a tool to suggest that compromising dignity and self-worth is a minuscule price to pay in comparison to being flogged, spit upon, and nailed to a cross.

So again, for me and my experience of the cross, the victory in Florida’s Bayview Park was yet another forward step in freeing the general public from religious imposition as well as the oppressive overtones that said symbol has had for many people, women in particular.  Maybe now members of the non-Christian and non-theist population can fully savor the golden glow of the Florida sun in all its beauty, free from the literal looming shadow cast by an imposing symbol of one-sided beliefs.  And for those who saw the removal of the cross as defeat as opposed to victory, maybe they will now be inspired to erect one in their own backyards to enjoy in private as it should be.

Carpe Diem,



Over the rainbow!

I’m celebrating Pride month despite the fight over the rainbow!

rainbow fries

So it’s June, the trees are full of leaves, the lawns and fields are splashed with the vibrant colors of perennials, and as expected, the heat is rising.  Along with the rising mercury, tempers are apparently rising as well.  Let me be more specific – the tempers of the fundamentalist religious folk that is.   Their tempers are rising yet it has nothing to do with the torrid summer heat.  They were even hot under the collar even in the cold month of December all because of Starbucks’ decision to celebrate the holidays by selling coffee in neutral red cups as opposed to slapping references to Christianity all over them.

So now I understand that the new fight is over the rainbow.  Being that June is a Pride month celebrating the LGBT community, there are rainbows everywhere in the form of diversity flags.  I personally think that is one of the coolest things, by the way.  But it’s of no surprise that the staunch fundamentalist movement is vehemently opposed to the LGBT community.  Instead of supporting pride, they believe that the LGBT community should be shamed, among other things.  So now the claim is that the rainbow colors are being used inappropriately and was stolen from Christianity.   Many of us may know the church’s teaching from the Genesis 9:13 passage in the bible.  For those readers who aren’t familiar, basically the passage is saying that the rainbow was meant to be God’s way of saying, sorry you pissed me off so badly that I tried to drown you guys with a flood.  So here’s a sign that I won’t do that again.  And that sign was in the form of a rainbow as an outward covenant.  I was taught this in Sunday School and it was even mentioned in my public school when I was in elementary school, but that’s a whole other issue in itself.

The buttress of the fundamentalist argument is that due to the aforementioned biblical reference in Genesis, the rainbow originated in Christianity and that is where it should remain solely.  And that the late Gilbert Baker, the self-described “gay Betsy Ross” who created the diversity flag in 1978 had committed blasphemy in doing so.  That in using the various colors in the diversity flag, Mr. Baker had stripped the rainbow of its connection to the divine.  And instead of the rainbow being a covenant between God and creation, it was promoting acts of abomination – namely same gender intercourse.   And no matter how many people stress that this is only about two people who love one another regardless of gender,  the fundamentalists still believe that the only thing on the minds of the LGBT community  is lust, unnatural sex, and even more unnatural sex.  All this over a simple use of rainbow colors!

Last year the fundamentalists focused their anger on Starbucks for commemorating the holidays with the modest red cup.  And now apparently McDonald’s has been added to their bad list because of its use of the diversity flag on their fries container in honor of Pride month.  Shame on McDonald’s for showing signs of respect and inclusiveness!!!  I could certainly be wrong however I didn’t think that the evangelical church had obtained copyright of rainbow colors.  Seriously, will the judgmental tendencies ever end?  Who’ll be next in line?  Maybe it’ll be seafood restaurants for using an image of a fish in their advertisements and thus they will be accused of diluting Jesus’ “loaves and fishes” miracle.  Or maybe they will go after Twitter because that cute little bird may just bear too much of resemblance to a dove and once again, there would be yet another theft from the Genesis flood story.  It’s getting quite ridiculous.

There is so much pain, anger, and hatred in the world right now.  Why should there be even more added to it with the senseless argument that using rainbow colors to celebrate Pride month will somehow offend a god?  And if the fundamentalists firmly believe that God is all-knowing and all-powerful, wouldn’t it make sense that he/she/it would prefer to direct that mighty power to help ease at least some of the world’s pain, anger, and hatred?  I also don’t think that it’s just us non-theists who are shaking our heads in disbelief at this petty argument either.  I would imagine that there are actually many progressive Christians looking on in disbelief as fundamentalists continue to protest over such things as modest red coffee cups, rainbow decorated fries containers or even the word Holidays being used as opposed to Christmas.

Life is an amazing short ride filled with so many awe inspiring moments.  It’s up to us to make it what it is and to make it better for those around us as well as for future generations.  Wouldn’t life be best spent with loved ones, enjoying this beautiful world around us, and making the most of our short time here on earth?  On that note, I’m going to do just that right now.  And even though I usually limit my consumption of fried foods, I may just swing by a McDonald’s restaurant and have myself an order of fries in that nifty little container decorated with the diversity colors.

Carpe Diem, be safe, and have yourself an awesome Pride month!


So help me what?

My recent cringe worthy experience with courtroom oaths.

You can't handle

Last month I was required to serve as a juror for a two week long federal criminal case.  Most people that I spoke with viewed jury duty as a task to be avoided at all cost.  I have to admit that initially I was in that camp of people as well.  I simply couldn’t get past the thought of being disrupted from the rhythm of my week.   As soon as I realized that I was one of the people chosen, I was immediately overcome with dread.  I’d envisioned myself hold up for hours in a dank room with eleven strangers arguing over the fate of someone whom I did not know.  But once into it, I found the entire process to be educational on so many levels. Everyone from the judge to the attorneys on both sides treated us with cordiality and respect, even going as far as holding a post-trial Q&A session in the deliberating room.  It was neat that they sacrificed some of their time to talk with us about their processes.  They even went as far as to ask us for feedback on the way they presented the case and how it played out in our decision at the end.

I also experienced another educational component to serving in the federal court system as a juror.  Prior to assuming our official duties, we were asked to stand, raise our right hands, and…well I’m guessing you probably know where I’m heading here.  The old “so help you God” phrase embedded in the oath.  Call me naive, but I still find it difficult to believe that in 2017, we’re still seriously using this tag line to encourage jurors and witnesses to govern themselves in respectable and truthful manners.  I did as instructed, however each time a new witness was being sworn in to testify, that old cringing sensation would kick into gear.  And each time that I heard those four words “so help you God,” my mind interjected five very different words in response- “separation of church and state.”  I suppose that most people would argue that I’m completely wasting my energy in hoping that someday the legal system will eventually omit those words from its practice?  An indignant part of me almost wanted someone to respond with the words of the little boy in the courtroom scene from the movie Miracle on 34th Street – “well gee, everybody knows you’re supposed to tell the truth.”

My response to this is nothing new.  I’ve always wondered about the initial intent around inserting “so help you God” into the swearing in process.  Was it based on an assumption that the witness may fear that they will invoke the wrath of God upon themselves if they tell anything but the truth? That knowingly misplacing the truth in their testimony would somehow invalidate their ticket to heaven?  As I said in my early posts, I try to be respectful of others’ beliefs and practices even if I don’t align with them.  But the continuing practice of embedding theism into the justice system is something that feels completely archaic in my opinion.

I’m grateful for the experience that I had serving as a juror.  I appreciated the cordiality which the judge and lawyers extended to us throughout the process.  The complimentary Dunkin Doughnuts and coffee that they provided for us every morning were appreciated by all to say the least!   But I cannot help but to be surprised that in this day and age, we are still operating under the assumption that each and every person who passes through the courtroom is expected to adhere to theistic based vows.

Quite frankly I don’t know what the answer to this will be.  What would be a happy medium for the court system to use to avoid mixing piety with executing the requirement that witnesses be truthful in their testimony?   In speaking with fellow non-theist recently, I was told that there is a provision for military enlistees to take an affirmation statement over an oath in order to accommodate non-theists.  Seeing that this was never offered during my 2 week jury duty tenure, I’m guessing that this same right is not offered in the court system.  It’s something that is sparking me to do some research so that I can become educated on my rights as a non-theist juror as well as inform others who also have troubles with the swearing in process using God based oaths.

In the full scope of negative events going on in our world right now, this is one issue that I may temporarily put on the back burner at least for now.  That it certainly will not kill us non-theists to comply with the legal system’s requirement that we take archaic vows, invoking the name of a smiting god if only for the sake of moving a trial along.   Even if we do pick and choose this battle, I would imagine that it may be a steep mountain to climb.  But hey, if I’ve adapted to swimming upstream as a non-theistic hospital chaplain, I can also join fellow non-theists in gaining the ability to climb the steep mountain on the path to changing outdated government practices.

Carpe Diem!


Wonder Woman vs. the patriarchy of religion!

The patriarchal overtones of religion are wreaking havoc again!


So the box office is going insane with the release of the new Wonder Woman movie!   And apparently there are a number of men who are going insane for a different reason – that the movie’s premier screening was for women-only. My guess is that women wanted the opportunity to watch an empowering feel good movie depicting a strong woman character free from any snide comments from stereotypical alpha male attendees in the theater.  I can’t help but to find a little humor in the fact that there is so much anger around the woman-only screening.   Of course that seething anger is coming from men who have the ludicrous notion that such an event is an attack on males.  I have to find humor in this because there’s no sense in getting angry over something that is not likely to go away in my lifetime.  And that something is the whole paranoia that the promotion of equality for women is somehow anti-male.

Readers may question as to why this topic is relevant on my blog about the liberating feeling of secular living.  Or as my fellow secular humanists say, how we’re “good without a God.”  The reason is very clear.  Quite honestly, I feel that at the root of this superiority complex that men have towards women is the result of patriarchal overtones in conservative religious extremism.  I still remember sitting in church and hearing all of the god references being prefaced with male pronouns and wondering how girls and women must have felt knowing that their most supreme being of all beings was male.  And if god is male then males are mini-gods placed here to guide, to make the rules, and to make women feel protected, right?  Wrong!   Because of such instances as these, I’m no longer surprised that men are put on a pedestal by some women of faith who’ve been conditioned by beliefs and practices which originated in a different time period.   This form of governance was also the result of referencing the Pauline letters in the bible, obviously written in a different period and different culture, suggesting that women remain subservient, dress modestly, and basically let the men do all the talking and decision making.  One glaring indication that there are patriarchal overtones in the religious world is the fact that there are still denominations to this day which forbid women to serve as ministers.  And that is only one of many reasons.

I feel that the religious based belief that men are the superior gender seeps into other areas of life as well.  For instance, the disrespectful treatment of race car driver Danica Patrick, the snide comments about female sports broadcasters and the anger at the very mention of a female coach in the NFL continue to perpetuate the superiority seeds planted by the patriarchy of religion.  It’s so ridiculous that it’s both comical and sad at the same time.  When I heard about the stereotypical alpha male population getting all worked up over the all-woman screening of the Wonder Woman movie, I wasn’t the least bit surprised.  After all, we’re living in an age where this superiority complex is unfortunately being perpetuated by obnoxious acts such as the adult male who displayed his disdain for strong females by  humping on a statue of a little girl on Wall Street.  What I don’t understand, and probably never will, is how can someone’s masculinity be threatened by positive, empowering depictions of women?  How is advocating for female actors being paid as much as their male counterparts considered to be anti-male?  And as mentioned earlier in this blog, I attribute it to the conditioning of the patriarchy of religious teachings.

Years ago I saw a segment of a Chicago news program where the broadcast journalist was interviewing a famous comedian, whom I will not name..  In the interview I had cringe worthy moment when the comedian asserted that “there ain’t no more real men.”   Initially I thought that being a comedian, this was a part of a punch line that he was setting up.  But then I realized that he was seriously suggesting that men had lost their dominance and had been reduced to a softened shell of what men were originally created to be.  This same sentiment is shared by other people, both men and women alike who believe that men who advocate for equal rights for women and the LGBT community are somehow watered down versions of the men of yesteryear.  Men who would have otherwise upheld their biblical obligations to exert dominance and superiority, not standing for any of this organized male bashing going on today where women have forgotten their place in the pecking order.

So my coping mechanism at present is to find humor in situations such as the backlash behind the women-only premiering of the Wonder Woman movie. I can’t help but to admit that I’m still saddened by the unfortunate fact that in 2017 women and LGBT people are still being discriminated against and ridiculed as a result of conservative religious teachings.  But I will continue to do whatever I can to contribute to the cause with the hopes that someday they will finally experience equal treatment free from hatred and condescension.  Until then, I’d love to see the Wonder Woman movie, however I don’t have a problem waiting until after the all-women screening.  It will not make me feel any less masculine or any less appreciated.

Til next time, Carpe Diem



I’ll have my pie right now please!

My Secular Humanist views on quality life now, not later


Today as I was driving to work, I wanted a little variation from just my preset radio stations.  So I decided to hit the Autoscan feature to get a little sampling of each station in the area.  It played a few seconds of varying stations from hip hop to smooth jazz and in between.  But then something caught my attention.  What I initially thought was a talk show, turned out to be a radio evangelist sharing his thoughts on the reward of heaven all while using quirky culinary metaphors to convey his point.  I’m not one to actively seek out evangelist programs by any means, however the Autoscan lingered just long enough for me to find some element of entertainment in his message.  The point that he was trying to drive home was about the importance of taking earthly life as it comes with both the pleasures and the hardships, fully understanding that at the end of it all, the real pleasures would await us on the other side.  That life was like sitting at the dinner table, not only enjoying the steak and potatoes, but also the less desirable Brussels sprouts.  And if we did a good job with our dinner, the reward would come in the form of that succulent, buttery crusted cherry pie!   It was also interesting to hear the minister posit his rather absolutist assertions about what to exactly expect in heaven. In doing so, he even went as far as saying that the foods that we love so much on earth are guaranteed to taste ten times better in heaven. This man was literally laying out the pie-in-the-sky system of beliefs!

Of course any time spent on the topic of beliefs about the afterlife by religious zealots would certainly be incomplete without mentioning their absolute assurance that upon death we are also guaranteed to be reunited with our loved ones who have preceded us in death.  And as I anticipated, the radio evangelist shifted from his talk about the buffet of sweet delicacies in heaven to the moments when we will rejoice greatly by grabbing the hands of our deceased loved ones and engaging in a joy filled celestial dance.

On the surface, for people who are struggling with grief and closure, this belief system brings with it a sense of comfort to assert that their loved ones are waiting patiently for them on the other side.  I respect that people will utilize this belief in order to return to some sense of normalcy in the aftermath of loss or tragedy.  I would be lying if I said that I was not devastated to sit at my parents’ hospital bedsides as they took their final breaths.  I would also be lying if I said that I did not experience shock and grief at losing friends in auto accidents and other untimely, undignified ways of dying.  I fully admit that while I was in the throes of those devastating experiences, I too entertained the thought that I would be reunited with them again in an afterlife.  The truth of the matter is, however, there was always that part of my consciousness where doubt, logic, and reasoning lived and breathed that questioned such beliefs.  And in retrospect, if I had to assess where I was during that particular time, the false sense of comfort that I found in visiting such beliefs were undoubtedly the result of my being racked with grief and insecurities.

Of course, losing loved ones is devastating, humbling, and heartbreaking.  Quite honestly, there are times when I still miss my parents, my sister, and a host of friends who have died over the years.  But I don’t feel as if I have to wait until I die to be reunited with my deceased loved ones.  I’ve learned effective ways that I can be reunited with them in the here and now.   I’m reunited with my mother each time I see pictures of her smiling face or whenever I hear her favorite Nat King Cole songs pouring through the speakers of my home at the holidays.  Memories of my dad crystalize in my mind each time I hear a broadcast of his favorite team, the Chicago Cubs or whenever I strap on my electric guitar and strike up a blues lick that he loved to hear me play.  I am reunited with my sister whenever I hear Motown classics playing on the radio. And each time, I feel joy, peace, and smiles.  While I often wished that I’d had more time with them, I steep myself in gratitude for the time that we did share together..

Aside from the topic of our deceased loved ones, I also think about what these belief systems are implying about life in the here and now.  I’ve grown up around this belief system of the heavenly reward.  As far back as I can remember I’ve always had troubles with the thought of being so preoccupied with that suggested “other world” past the pearly gates, that I would not fully enjoy all that life has to offer me in the here and now.  I remember many times sitting in church with those same old internal cringing moments as choirs would heartily sing, “I’m going up yonder to be with my Lord.”  I could be wrong, however my understanding of going up yonder meant that dying had to occur in order to get there.  But I also fully acknowledge the horrific history behind many songs such as these.  They were sang by oppressed people who, because the decks of their world around them were stacked against them, the only solace that they could muster was the belief in a beautiful reality of freedom through death. But there are still others who continue on with the belief that despite any worldly challenges or pleasures, no pleasure is comparable to the ones that will be experienced when the earthly life ends.

As odd as this may sound coming from an unapologetic Agnostic, I try to respect that there are others like the radio evangelist whose broad smiles are in anticipation and confidence of what they believe is yet to come at the end of their lives.  If this gives them the moral compass that inspires them to do good for others, then good for them.  But I can still be respectful of their beliefs without compromising my own un-beliefs.  My biggest contention is when members of  this population place non-theists in the crosshairs of their overarching judgment and condemnation.

As for me, I’m content with striving to live a full life, savoring all of life’s beauty, interesting people, and amazing memory making moments as much as I can without envisioning something even sweeter on the other side of my last breath.  Some people find inspiration in bible verses, I find it in the arts and song lyrics.  So in relation to this whole concept of a reward in the afterlife, I couldn’t help but to turn to the very relatable lyrics from Jimmy Cliff’s reggae classic, The Harder They Come.

Well the tell me of a pie up in the sky

Waiting for me when I die

But between the day you’re born and when you die

They never seem to hear even your cry

So as sure as the sun will shine

I’m going to get my share now of what’s mine

These words perfectly capture what I feel in regards to living a fulfilling life in the here and now in stark contrast to the beliefs that surrounded me growing up.  Maybe I have a problem with delayed gratification, but I simply cannot place my hopes in things that I cannot see, hear, touch, nor prove.  I will make the most of the time that I have with my loved ones without the belief that when it’s all said and done, the real joy is when we’ll ultimately be reunited in a place called heaven.  That being the case, I will savor true quality time with my family and friends as often as I can.

So I will NOT wait until the day I die to have my slice of pie.  I’ll take have it right now, thank you very much.  And being the island lover that I am, make mine coconut Key Lime please.

Til next time, Carpe’ Diem


Abracadabra and away we go!


Good day readers and fellow bloggers.  It’s a beautiful sunny day today in the midwest and I just spent part of it driving with my windows down to take in that awesome smooth breeze.  The sun’s out in its full power, there are beautiful people out making the most of the brilliant sunny day tossing Frisbees, spiffing up colorful perennials in front yards, and spandex clad cyclists whizzing past on their sleek road bikes.  For the most part, people are driving at reasonable speeds, which makes my journey even more awesome.

Driving along the busy strip filled with trendy restaurants, artsy stores and shops, I notice a large eye catching sign printed in ornate cobalt blue letters advertising free trial yoga classes.  The sign immediately takes me back a number of years to when I’d made the decision to leave the security of my job to become a full-time freelance yoga instructor and aspirations to open my own yoga center.  I’d been practicing yoga years before yoga had become the cool thing to do.  I’d felt a rush of enthusiasm at the thought of helping others with their yoga practice and reaping the gratification at seeing the looks of achievement on participants’ faces.  I dove in full force, obtaining teacher certifications, received my yoga teacher insurance from the California Yoga Teacher’s Association, and participated in countless intensives and seminars.  It hadn’t long before I had matched the salary from my full-time job as an Administrative Assistant at Columbia College.  I taught at least 25 classes a week at various fitness centers and yoga studios as well as taken on a number of private and semi-private students in my home.  I was in my element, even being invited to lead seminars in public libraries on the background of yoga. I enjoyed the autonomy, of meeting new interesting people, and making the science of yoga more appealing to those who would otherwise feel intimidated by media depictions of svelte, athletic models.

Conversely, the inception of my yoga teaching days was also during the time when I was still attempting to ignore the red flags about the religious world.   Even though I wasn’t involved in organized religion, the god language was still there.  I’d even written a few articles for Yoga Chicago, a local yoga publication which made reference to a god presence during sunrise yoga on the beach.  However the articles were never directed to any specific religion, simply presented as spirituality.  But even in doing so, I started to attract people who not only loved yoga, but also held tightly to their religious beliefs.  I’d learned about a number of yoga enthusiasts who had incorporated the practice into their Christian faith.  Of course it was aptly branded and marketed as Christian Yoga.  I found this a little surprising because there were some participants in my classes who were initially skeptical and feared that practicing yoga would require conversion to Hinduism.  But the tag line was that the goal of the practice was to bring praises to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through yoga movements.  This population even went as far as renaming the ancient poses to fit the Christian theme.  For example, the seated staff pose had suddenly been renamed the “Moses staff pose.”  Yet again I made the mistake of ignoring the internal cringing in response to such a thing.

Being a full-time yoga instructor, I felt compelled to stay apprised of current trends in the practice.  Even if I wasn’t in agreement with the direction of those trends, I would at least need to be educated as to what was out there.  I’d seen hip hop yoga, Motown yoga, Mommy and Me Yoga and a host of other derivatives.  As I decided to look into what “Christian yoga” was all about, I thought that a reputable resource would be a popular Christian bookstore chain.  Today as I was driving and noticed the advertisement for a yoga center, the memories flooded in like a tidal wave regarding the infamous experience I had as a yoga instructor walking into a Christian bookstore.  The middle aged male cashier seemed friendly and welcoming enough.  However his demeanor changed abruptly when I asked if he had any books or videos about Christian Yoga. His response still echoes to this day.

“What!?  Christian Yoga!?  Absolutely not!  We would never carry anything like that here.  That’s mixing the good news of the gospel with the dark arts!” he exclaimed his brow furrowed, the corners of his mouth drawing back in a blatant look of disgust.

Since that day, I’ve had countless exposures to yoga advertisements, yet for some reason passing by the grand opening of a new yoga center triggered memories of the Christian bookstore incident.  I could still harbor residual bitterness in response to the brash response that I received from asking a simple question on that infamous day.  Quite honestly, the response that I received in the Christian bookstore was a bit startling and it’s no surprise that from time to time it resurfaces.  But  I’ve learned to simply acknowledge the memory, then release it and enfold myself in gratitude for where I’ve arrived in regards to the sense of liberation and authenticity in living a life devoid of dogma.

I acknowledge that there are many others out there who share that cashier’s sentiments about their religious beliefs.  The religious zealots who have their judgments and damnations locked, loaded and ready to fire at not only yoga practitioners, but my fellow non-theists, or marginalized groups such as Secular Buddhists.  Responses such as the one from that cashier only continues to add to that smoking gun of stigma aimed at those who do not share their beliefs.  Whether it was for the sake of safety or cultural conformity, I spent too many years of making the mistake of sacrificing my authenticity by attempting to fit into that group myself.  However it was only a matter of time before the appeal of inner and outer peace associated with living a life of authenticity would override that tendency.  And because of that sense of peace, I released the fear of rejection that can unfortunately come with choosing to no longer lie to myself and others about religious beliefs and customs.  As a result I’ve had Facebook and Instagram friends disappear.  I’ve had relatives suddenly shut down lines of communication with me.  The sense of peace that I have in being true to myself is worth the lowered population of Facebook friends or being erased from relatives’ phone books.  The friends and relatives who have remained throughout the process are the ones who love and accept me as I am, someone who loves life devoid of faith in a god, holy books, or customs to provide a sense of security for me.

Yes, I’ve found peace and empowerment  in my secular life and I try to respect the fact that there are others on the other end of the spectrum who have also found peace be aligning with systems of beliefs and rituals.  So while placing faith in religion is not something that I align with, I know that there are many others who do find total solace in that world.  And if there are factions of the religious community who equate my being an Agnostic yoga practitioner with the dark arts then so be it.  I cannot change that view nor should I try.  But what I can do is continue joining other non-theists who want the freedom to live out our lives in peace and enjoyment without being subjected to unwanted proselytizing, conversion techniques, and arbitrary predictions about where we we go after we take our last breaths.  So if after all of that I’m labeled as being a practitioner of the dark arts, then I will respond with a resounding Abracadabra!

Carpe Diem,





Taking it one jellybean at a time

My Secular Humanist views on life and death


Sometimes on those rare occasions when I have a little down time, I get a few laughs from television channels specializing in retro programs.  It can be a little interesting to step both feet onto memory lane and watch some of the programs that I enjoyed during different states of my life.  I shared this recently with an acquaintance recently who also chimed in with his own wish list of shows, one of which included the 80’s sitcom Gimme a Break.  I remembered that show well and for a very good reason.  First off, allow me to set up the show a bit for those who may not be familiar.  It was a show featuring Nell Carter as a live-in housekeeper and nanny to the three teen daughters of a Police Chief played by Dolph Sweet.  Both actors have been deceased for a number of years now.  But as I recalled sitting on the couch watching that program, there was one episode in particular which likely peeled back a layer to reveal the dormant Agnostic in me during my teenage years.

The episode was centered around the character Nell’s strained relationship to her dying father.  Later in the program, that situation became connected to the Police Chief’s youngest because of her fear that she would lose her own father to a work related death.  The scene which left a lasting impact on me occurred on the family’s porch between the daughter, Samantha, and her elderly grandfather during their heart-to-heart talk about death.  The grandfather fields the young girl’s questions about life and death and his advice is something that continues to resonate with me to this very day.  He explained that life should be lived to the fullest without the fear of dying.  That if we get so consumed with dying and what will happen at that time, we will miss out on the beauty of living.  He used her love for jellybeans as a teaching tool advising her to take time in order to savor the taste of each and every jellybean and all its individual flavors and sweetness especially when knowing that she only has a limited number of those delectable jellybeans.  And the result being, she would be consumed with enjoying those precious few jellybeans that she would no longer be afraid of running out of them.

Some may feel that I’m reading too much into this sweet innocent fictitious scene between an adolescent girl and her grandfather.  But for me, that porch scene perfectly captures my outlook on life and death.  For years, the fear of the afterlife was put into me by the church.  It began when I was in 11 years old and accompanied my mother to the funeral of a beloved choir member.  The minister’s words struck so much fear into me that I started to perseverate on the topic of death and the afterlife. Hellfire and brimstone messages can do that to a young impressionable boy.  So many years have gone by since I’ve seen that ultra cool scene from the Gimme a Break sitcom.  But as I continue to grow older, I’m no longer encumbered by the fear of not having enough time on this beautiful earth.  I try my best to live life savoring its sweetness of as many moments as I can.

I’ve never felt comfortable with the thought that life was meant to be lived  running toward a promise of the invisible dangling carrot called heaven.  I acknowledge that fairh works for some, however for me it falls short. For me, instead of living by faith, I would prefer to live by logic and reason.  I truly experience heaven right here on earth.  Such instances as savoring the refreshing spray of the Atlantic ocean on a beach in Key West was heaven to me.  Or the moment I felt standing atop a mountain in Estes Park taking in the exquisite panoramic view of Colorado.  I don’t hang my hopes on blind faith which assert that I will experience true pleasure in the afterlife nor do I place faith in a god that provides pleasures for me or smites me when I don’t live in a certain manner.

The opportunities for me to experience heaven increase with every sunrise.  Many who really know me, also know that I have a love for the ocean and everything tropical.  I also love to stand on the shores watching in awe as those who are so talented at surfing hit the waves putting on displays of sheer beauty, power and grace.  Although fitness is something that is still important to me, I would also imagine that being in my 50’s is a little late to take on such an activity.   However, for me the ship hasn’t completely sailed off into the sunset.  Instead of living in regret for the time that I did not learn to surf in my younger years, I am continuing to move forward by making plans to take lessons in standup paddle boarding this year.  My love for being on the water will be even more heightened as a result.  And it will be yet another instance of taking the time to savor the sweetness of each day.

As an Agnostic, I have particular beliefs about life and death.  That belief is that this life is all that we get.  That death is door which closes the chapter.  I’m not a believer in a celestial home or a place below where fires await us if we fail to obey guidelines as delineated in scriptures and stories.  Does this make me depressed?  Absolutely not.  Living life with the belief that this is all we get inspires me to live with a heightened sense of intentionality and mindfulness.  In empowers me to go beyond intrigue and instead savor the feeling of being out on the water with a community of others in the midst of beauty.  It shifts my priorities to take time to put mundane tasks aside to go hiking with my son or sipping a tasty Cosmo with my wife on the patio in the glow of the setting son.  So the writers of Gimme a Break did more than just elicit a few laughs with that jellybean episode.  It inspired me to live life with enjoyment and mindfulness, like savoring one jellybean at a time.

Until next time…Carpe Diem,