Sep 17th


My name is Peter and I'm a recovering religious extremist.


I normally don't disclose it but in the early 70s I lost five years of my life to a cult which I will not name. I am still ashamed of having done such a thing. I did many regrettable things in the name of being a True Believer. Once I physically broke free - and it continues to be a matter of decades to get them exorcised from all of my life - I was so stunted by the experience that I avoided organized religion at all costs over the following twenty years. By avoiding all forms of spirituality of course I left a significant void in my life. In the early 90s I stumbled onto Starhawk's book The Fifth Sacred Thing, a pleasant novel that showed me in the course of the story that it was possible to have a common sense functional spirituality, totally avoiding any contamination from organized religion. In the years since then I've slowly grown and evolved my own personal brand of spirituality, unique and only for myself, proselytized to no one.

Decades after breaking the grip of an organized fanatical religious cult, today I find life forever changed by another, and following quickly behind that yet one further.

No one has to repeat here what has been seen on CNN thousands of times. In the name of a god who would puke if he truly existed, Osama bin Laden has struck a place in history to go down with Idi Amin, Adolf Hitler, Tomás de Torquemada and Heirich Kramer & James Sprenger. Decades to come his image will be used by parents to scare children into proper behavior. People will recall that moment in time of September 11th, simlar to how my generation remembers where we were when JFK was shot.

So war has come, a war without front and a war which has already struck deeper into our borders than any within memory. That is not my primary fear today.

It is the second of the religious fanatics I mentioned above that concerns me. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, two of the leading voices for intolerance in America, went on the record saying some of the most hateful comments since Fred Phelps first opened his mouth. Falwell reportedly said, "God has protected America wonderfully these 225 years. And since 1812, this is the first time that we've been attacked on our soil and by far the worst results. Throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. The pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way — all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.' "

"Well, I totally concur," Robertson responded.

Since then they have both backtracked. Falwell called CNN made regretful sounds and his website now says that he was quoted out of context.

To quote CBSNews.com's Dick Meyer,"These aren't quotes taken out of context. Falwell and Robertson did not misspeak. These are their considered beliefs. You can see the video for yourself at CBN.com, and click on "Thursday Morning 700 Club" in the video section."

These are the religious extremists that I fear. The ones who will push for vague police powers to be used against terrorists, but which lead to the Thought Police. The ones who will push for authority to remove liberties from the minority to preserve the safety of the majority. The ones who hide behind this global tragedy to further their personal hateful impulses.

This said, am I a hawk? Am I a dove? Am I a right thinking American or am I a left leaning pinko peacenik?

I don't know. I am a combat veteran, with uniformed service dating from the mid 60s through the end of the 80s. I've also been a firefighter, volunteering thousands of hours of free medical aid. My dues have been paid many times over, as a warrior and as a healer both, and can never be questioned. Having seen love and war both, I don't instantly salivate any more when the war bell rings, I'm afraid, but I know there are times for it to ring.

I'm afraid that dear friends of mine are pollyanna-esque in their approach. "Enough drum circles & candles & songs and bin Laden will feel our energy and convert to being a flower child" - an extreme depiction, but it conveys the essense. Others close to me are girding their loins, awaiting their reserve call-up notice. I hear 'give peace a chance' and I hear 'bomb the fuckers into the stone age'. Neither will work. I wish either would; my preference being the former.

This is a war, this is an enemy, this is a time and situation unlike any other we've ever faced, and there is no easy answer. No blacks, no whites, no light switch make-it-better, no instant gratification. This article by an Afgani-American who has lived in the United States for many years offers insights ignored by those on the emotional extremes. I have no idea what will happen, what will work, what will fail.

In the meantime I'll stock my shelves with perishables. I'll have sex more [Antiterrorist Crisco, as Lydia said in her 9/13th]. I'll tip my barista Ahmed kindly - he is also a native born American terribly hurt by last week. I'll frequently light candles. I'll do whatever I can to help my honey to bring her coming child into the world without fear. And I'll continue to watch. There are sufficient people watching the foreign terrorists ... I'll be watching the domestic variety. Supporting my brothers and sisters in uniform, yet being a coalmine canary for our civil rights. No one ever said this was gonna be easy.

As an affirmation: Life Is Good. Say it with me. Say it with me as you clean your rifle, say it with me as you light your candle, say it with me as you fuck and suck and jerk and embrace life as a living, hoping, surviving force. The evil assholes, foreign and domestic, cannot be allowed to win. Say it with me often.

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