atheism

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Bound

Published February 7, 2016 by April Fox

In their tiny cells

with the paper-thin walls

they ask their gods for favors

supplicant and pale, shivering in the heat,

painting pictures of the dollar signs

that fill their heroes’ heads

shackled to their plastic smiles

the ass chases the carrot.

In their tiny cells

with the paper-thin walls,

they write

poking holes in the barriers

with sharpened sticks and crayons

taping over them

praying to get out

They bite their tongues

and swallow them

they are washed in the blood of the christ.

In their tiny cells

with the paper-thin walls

they strip their clothes and wait

palms up face down,

tied up

in the corner

with candy floss and threads of spiderwebs

bound by the belief

that they cannot save themselves.

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Happy Holidays (Operative Word: Happy.)

Published November 30, 2015 by April Fox

I used to work with children at the local Jewish Community Center. When I first started there, a little guy who was especially, let’s say, spirited, was leaving at the end of a particularly challenging Friday. He was a smart, sweet little boy, intent on testing his boundaries with the new teacher, and had given me a pretty killer headache by the time his mom picked him up. He had just gone out the door, the last kid to leave, when he poked his head back in the room and said, “Shabbat Shalom, Miss April!” Twenty minutes earlier he had been calling me a poop and refusing to put the scissors away. And now here he was, wishing me well, even though I was undoubtedly a great big meanie scissors-controlling poop.

I’m not Jewish. I don’t celebrate the Jewish Sabbath, or any Sabbath. The words “Shabbat Shalom” by themselves mean little to me. They are words from a language I don’t understand. But when they were spoken by a little boy in the spirit of love and friendship, they were priceless. When my coworkers said those words at the end of the week, I returned them, because I meant them: Have a safe weekend. Have a happy Friday. Peace. Love. I wish you well.

All of this Happy Holidays/Merry Christmas nonsense is a matter of pride and semantics, nothing more. There is no war on Christmas. Nobody is trying to snatch the Christmas tree out of your front window, or waiting by the mailbox with a Sharpie, ready to steal your Christmas cards and replace your greeting with “Happy Holidays.” Santa’s not going to put coal in your stocking if you smile at someone and return their greeting, even if they didn’t phrase it just the way you would.

The world is a really big place, with a lot of really cool people in it. Some of them celebrate the same holidays you do. Some of them have the same skin tone you do. Some of them call their God by the same name you call yours. And some of them don’t. That doesn’t make their words of love, peace, and hope into something malicious and ugly.

When someone chooses to use their words to share a message of joy with you and you take offense to the words rather than appreciating the message, when you slap away a hand held out in friendship because of a minor linguistic difference, you are the offensive thing. You are the one spreading a message of ugliness and despair. As long as the words are given with love, it’s one message with dozens of beautiful translations.

So with that being said-Happy holidays to you, from your favorite great big meanie scissors-controlling poop. It’s been a beautiful year.

* If you’re looking for the snarky, rotten, profanity-laced version of this that I published a few years ago, it’s right here, you cranky heathen. Merry effin’ Xmas, yo.

A Love Letter to Pat Robertson

Published August 1, 2015 by April Fox

The lights are on in your great glass house
but there’s nothing there to see.

Your eyes are glued to the man next door,
face pressed against his window in a gruesome caricature,
bulging against the panes, lashes wet with lust and your palms
nailed tight
to the cross
you wear like a brace
to straighten out
your prejudice

and the holes bleed out, slick sweat and muddy feet and the ones below
are drinking
from the filthy wounds
like turning vomit
into wine.

You are the keeper of everything;
you are the arbiter of every
sinful thrust

and your disciples gather close and wait
for the baptism to start.

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On Being Open-Minded, and the Freedom of Belief

Published July 17, 2015 by April Fox

If you’ve been here before, you probably know that I have some pretty strong feelings about equal rights, and people attempting to hide their hate behind their religion, and people using their beliefs as some kind of free pass to treat people as horribly as they want to without repercussion. Any time I try to make a valid, logical point about those things, I get hit with the intolerance spiel: “I thought you were supposed to be open-minded. What happened to not judging other people? You need to respect everyone’s beliefs.”

We are tangled up in here: confusing the idea of being open-minded with the act of being complacent, which sounds a bit like an oxymoron in itself.

Fact: action and belief are two very different things, and being open-minded doesn’t preclude you from finding fault in things that are harmful.

Your right to believe in something does not negate others’ right to exist with the same rights and standard of living that you have. If you act in a negative manner based on your beliefs, there is nothing closed-minded about those who tell you to stop it.

It doesn’t matter what you believe; if you are doing something that hurts someone, you need to be told to stop.

When a person who identifies as Christian is molesting children, and people say that it’s wrong, when we are horrified and angry at his actions, we are not attacking his beliefs. We are not persecuting him for being Christian. We are not even vilifying him for believing that his victims look more like sex toys than human beings. We are observing his actions and we are judging him for them. That’s okay. That’s how society works, in theory. We protect those among us who can’t protect themselves. We don’t protect those who are doing the hurting because of the internal dialogue that drives their motivation, whether that be the voice of God or Jesus or the son of Sam. We judge: we make the determination about whether what someone is doing is right or wrong.

When your beliefs tell you that someone is less than you are because of their color or race or sexuality, their gender or their eye color or their socioeconomic status or anything else that they cannot control, you are allowed to hold that belief. Belief is an internal thing. You can believe anything you want. You can believe that the world is flat, or that the moon is made of dank goat cheese, or that the ghost of Bea Arthur* wants you to paint your cat’s toenails chartreuse every other Thursday after giving him a bubble bath in the sink. But see, if you put your cat in the bath and then try to get anywhere near him with that nail polish, chances are–unless you have a really strange cat, which is totally cool–that you are going to come out of that situation with quite a bit less blood inside your body than you had before you started, and your cat will be quite traumatized. That’s a consequence of your action. If you just believe that your cat would look fine in chartreuse but realize that your taste is probably not the same as his, and that he likely doesn’t share your affinity for bubble baths no matter how fresh and clean he might smell afterwards, and you realize that washing and painting your cat would be a total dick move, you are likely to stay intact and your cat will continue to do his cat things happily and at peace.

That is what tolerance is about. That is what defines the difference between action and belief. Being open-minded isn’t going “Hell yes, let’s bathe the cat and paint his toes!” just because someone else believes it’s a good idea. Being open-minded is going, “Hey, let’s see how this belief might play out… yeah, you keep on believing that, but let’s not actually act on that, okay?” Being open-minded is accepting that other people believe that cats should be bathed and polished. It’s not going along with feline spa day just because it corresponds with someone’s belief.

And when you have two conflicting beliefs that have led to two conflicting paths of action, it is up to us as civilized human beings to look at those two paths with open minds, and to judge each one based on a very simple criterion: Is this action harmful to someone else? And if the answer to that is yes, then that is the wrong path. Not based on belief, or religion, but on compassion for our fellow human beings, and what should be a collective desire to do less harm than good. When you are causing damage to someone’s person, their ability to feel happiness, their ability to enjoy life, or their ability to embrace the same civil privileges you have, and you are doing so based on your personal belief, you are harming them, and that is wrong.

*Bea Arthur would never really do that, I don’t think.

The Sesame Street Theory of Gay Marriage Resistance, or, How the Ernie Shirt Fucks You Up

Published June 30, 2015 by April Fox
The infamous Ownie Showt

The infamous Ownie Showt

When I was very small, I loved Sesame Street. I especially loved Ernie, and I had a special Ernie shirt that I had to wear every time it came on. I would run to my room, grab the shirt, put it on and run back and park myself in front of the TV, anxiously awaiting the appearance of Oscar the Grouch, my other favorite. (Raise your hand if you’re surprised by that. Nobody? Yeah…)

And then one day, I couldn’t find it. I remember screaming my little blonde head off; I had to have my “Ownie Showt,” as I pronounced it, with my weird three-year-old lisp. I couldn’t watch Sesame Street without it. I don’t remember how that played out, whether my mom found it and saved the day, or I screamed myself to sleep and missed the show, or realized the warped logic of my position and watched the show in my Hollie Hobbie jammies instead. What I remember is the desperation that I felt, realizing that a tradition I felt tied to was being threatened. I was not a stupid child; at the time of the Great Ownie Showt Meltdown I was probably starting to read, and if you believe my mother, was starting to spell words on my own. I could count to a hundred in English and Spanish, and I knew how to charm my grandpa into sharing his fiber cereal that I swore was tasty delicious dog food. But it fell far beyond my grasp, the idea that I could enjoy Sesame Street without that stupid shirt. That, I just couldn’t understand, at least not in that moment.

I was thinking about that today, reading the usual Facebook posts by people who have been rendered mortally twitchy by the fact that *gasp* gay marriage is now legal in the United States. They are clinging fiercely to their ideas about faith and the Bible as they pertain to legal marriage, and the problem is, those things aren’t pertinent at all. We’re all out there throwing Bible verses at each other; we sound like a bunch of adolescent cretins on some broken-down playground, flinging insults:

Gay abomination verse!

Oh yeah? Well mixed fabrics verse, man! Touching a chick on her period verse, huh? What about that?

Shiiiiit, God said! Old Testament, fucker!

Eating shellfish verse, dipshit! I’ll kick your ass!

YOUR MOM!

It’s pretty stupid, debating the fine points of Biblical dissent when it’s entirely irrelevant to the issue at hand. And we can use all the logic in the world, pointing out again and again things like separation of church and state, and that this decision only applies to the ability to obtain a legal marriage license, and has nothing to do with church weddings, but still, in their minds, marriage is a religious thing. They can’t separate that idea from the larger concept of human rights and legal equality.

Marriage is their Sesame Street, and the Bible is their Ownie Showt. You just can’t have one without the other, and if you try and take the Ownie Showt away, you’re going to have a very pissed off group of people who are missing the substance of the show because they can’t stop screaming out their rage at what they think they’ve lost.

What they’re missing is that legal marriage is a contract, like you enter into when you buy a home or start a new job. It gives you responsibility for another human being. Granted, it is “just a piece of paper” and it has no bearing on the quality of a relationship or the strength of the love of the parties involved, but it’s one of those necessary evils. It is the legal force that says that you can sit by your partner when he or she is lying comatose in the ICU. It is the legal document that says you trust the person on the other end to know when it’s time to pull the plug. It gives you equal rights to all the boring shit like property and taxes that you acquire. Right or wrong, whether you scoff at the made-up romanticism of it or not, marriage is a cultural milestone in the US. To many people, it’s seen as the ultimate show of love and commitment. For some folks, that means having a church wedding after getting the marriage license. For some folks, it doesn’t, and that’s where we’re getting fucked up.

You don’t have to have a church wedding. You don’t have to have your union blessed by a member of the Christian clergy. Not all marriages are Christian ones-and not all Christians disagree with gay marriage.

When you go to get your marriage license, they ask for your name and your age and legal proof of identity. They don’t ask how often you go to church or if you can name and summarize at least ten episodes of Highway to Heaven. It’s a process that’s simpler than registering your vehicle, takes much less time than obtaining a drivers license (and requires pretty much the same information), and is no more religious than signing a lease. Whatever religious aspects you choose to apply to your wedding and your marriage are completely up to you-those aren’t legislated at all, other than within the loose guidelines each state has pertaining to officiants, and in every state, you can be married by a judge, magistrate, or justice of the peace. You don’t have to have a sermon at your wedding. You don’t have to pray to the Christian God. You can be Jewish or atheist or Muslim or Pagan or Buddhist or pantheist or any number of theism-related titles and still get legally married in the United States. So why should a narrow tenet of Christianity apply to every marriage? It shouldn’t.

For a long time, people just kind of accepted the Christian church-based version of marriage. As our world expands and we’re exposed to others with different beliefs, that tradition has changed, and many people are more understanding that legal marriage and a church wedding are not the same thing.

Legal marriage equality doesn’t change the church’s role in marriage, at all. Nobody is going to force a resistant clergy member to perform a gay marriage, but think about it-why would anyone want to get married by someone who doesn’t want to perform the ceremony in the first place? That’s totally illogical. When I got married, there’s no way I would have chosen a Baptist minister or a Catholic priest to perform the ceremony. We had an interfaith minister, who also officiates gay weddings, and there wasn’t a single mention of God in the ceremony. You can do that. A gay couple won’t go to an anti-gay minister any more than an anti-gay couple would choose a flaming gay officiant. Use your brains, people.

Change is scary. We need our traditions to cling to, even when those traditions fly in the face of rational thought. Hold on to your Ownie Showt when you need your God to provide comfort during a dark time, or when you seek fellowship with others who share the same beliefs. Wear it every day, sleep in it if you need to, if you need that security to keep you going after something breaks your heart. Use it as a touchstone: What would Ernie do? But don’t cling to it so fiercely that you scream yourself into darkness and miss the entire show, because I promise, it’s one that’s as full of love and hope and faith and commitment as the one you’re used to watching. There are just a few extra characters you need to get to know.

Snakes

Published March 14, 2015 by April Fox

There is a house full of snakes

waiting to devour us

fangs slick with the ejaculate of

televangelists and

politicians, bellies fat with

power and the scrawny limbs

of dying children, sacrificed for the greater

good, gently laid to rest

before an altar draped in patriotic

cloth and the stench of soggy dollar bills wet with sweat and creased

from Uncle Sam’s fat fingers, and the whores

pick up their guns and strip down to their fatigues and turn the charm on

like it’s the final fuck

before the fix. 

And from his cloud perch, god sits watching, caged and laughing 

at the folly of us all. 

Half-assed Elegy

Published October 8, 2014 by April Fox

Shy at first,
(the way you are when you begin to realize
that your invisible friends
and Santa Claus
aren’t real
but you make your lists and set out
extra teacups
anyway)
I was hesitant to speak
mumbled out into the dark
and empty room
the echo I imagined
shut me up and turned
to live-to-dead telepathy
thinking pointed thoughts toward the earth, the sky
the universe which sat
petulant
refusing
to respond

I thought perhaps
a translator might help,
dialed 1-800 numbers, spoke with
aging housewives wrapped in tattered terrycloth
chain-smoking cigarettes and lying
that they knew the dear departed

I sought evidence of soul recycling,
a familiar turn to a feline eye
or the cast of a particular note
on the breath of a dying bird
clutched between the jaws
of a tame domestic short-hair

For the hell of it,
(having packed away the tea set
left the stockings and the reindeer food
ashes on the hearth)
I raised my voice in a half-terrible
supplication mimic
asked the one they said would save me
for a sign that they were there

Too busy killing babies
and enchanting football games
the silence soothed me
like a love song

And the ground devoured them.

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