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Monday, December 26, 2011

Kill the Apostates!

Jehovah's Witnesses consider themselves a "moderate" religion. However, what follows is an excerpt from their Watchtower magazine, which reveals a truth about them that they might not wish to discuss when they ring your doorbell:

"We are not living today among theocratic nations where such members of our fleshly family relationship could be exterminated for apostasy from God and his theocratic organization, as was possible and was ordered in the nation of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai and in the land of Palestine. 'Thou shalt surely kill him; thy hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him to death with stones, because he hath sought to draw thee away from Jehovah thy God,... And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is in the midst of thee.' (Deuteronomy 13:6-11, AS). Being limited by the laws of the worldly nation in which we live and also by the laws of God through Jesus Christ, we can take action against apostates only to a certain extent, that is, consistent with both sets of laws. The law of the land and God's law through Christ forbid us to kill apostates, even though they be members of our own flesh-and-blood family relationship."
~November 15, 1952 Watchtower pp.703-704
So, since the laws of the land forbid murder, Jehovah's Witness members treat Apostates — ones who have left their religious organization — as dead. Yes, my children and my flesh-and-blood brother treat me as dead because I no longer wish to be a member of the family religion. How does one treat another as "dead"? By shunning — completely ignoring — such evildoers.
I have described my experiences in Religion is Manipulative and Kindness of a Stranger.
I speak from personal experience in saying it may be embarrassing for the Jehovah's Witnesses to admit that they shun anyone. Yet, the religion's members are obliged to shun family and friends who they judge as " wicked."

Visit website "Phoenix of Faith" the memoir. Follow on Twitter: _Phoenixoffaith Copyright © 2012. Permission is granted to copy and re-distribute this transmission on the condition that it is distributed freely.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Caring for the Planet

The letter below was written in response to a letter Mr. Ian Anderson, president of Kinder Morgan, published in the Burnaby Newsleader. His letter has been published here. Below is a letter of response from E. Harrison, published online at the Burnaby Newsleader.

Dear Ian Anderson,

It is with deep sadness that I read of your intentions to expand the oil industry in Burnaby. My fear is that any increase in oil production translates into more pollution of our planet. My heart breaks when I think that my children and grandchildren may not live to see a clean earth.

Burnaby has ongoing issues with the oil industry. Indeed, I lump your companies all together, since I have seen very little accountability from any of you. For example, Chevron has leaking storage issues still unresolved. Also, I’d be curious to know how the neighbors feel who lost their homes when Kinder Morgan oil rained on their community a few short years ago. Recently, oil appeared in the water on the north shore for which no oil company has claimed responsibility. How come private homeowners must pay for removal of small oil storage tanks from their yards, yet big corporations like yours will not take responsibility for massive oil spillages? How many more warnings is Mother Earth going to give us before she gets too sick to sustain life anymore?

Is there anyone in the oil industry with a conscience or a desire to clean up our planet and reverse the global warming?  

Any one?

Common practices need to be reviewed. If the city is using tar/oil-based products that result in pollution problems, then we are not living right as a community and as a city. How do we change an entire grid system to eliminate harms to our environment when these are practiced and endorsed by our governments? I read about the billions (yes, billions) of dollars the oil industry budgets to lobby our politicians. Sadly, based on their comments, many of our politicians have already been “persuaded” to support the oil industry. Once corrupted by oil money, these “public” servants become servants of the oil industry, rather than their constituents. We cannot have a democracy or a clean planet if we allow the oil industry to own our politicians.

Yes, Mr. Anderson. Your letter made me feel extremely vulnerable. The only thing I could think to do was go for a nature walk. I cried when I visited the stream and saw a purple and turquoise film on the water. It was raining and the parking lot drained directly into a stream that feeds Burnaby Lake. No wonder the lake required dredging, courtesy of the taxpayers. No wonder the lake is sick. Seeing the condition of the water made me weep. Yet, your desire is to increase oil consumption and make the environment even more toxic.

I felt a sadness come over me that I have not felt for quite some time. I cried as I approached a walking bridge. The water appeared murky and in the distance, a mist hovered over Burnaby Lake. I pondered what Burnaby’s parks would become now that Kinder Morgan has set their sights on expanding their industry in our beloved community. On one side of the bridge my gaze followed several ducks paddling through the cloudy water. Already the waterways are suffering from pollution. A Tim Horton’s cup bobbed against a bridge support. It seems some people treat the planet as their personal garbage dump. The oil industry has its garbage dump too: Tailings Ponds.

Selfish attitudes toward care-taking of our planet must change.

On the other side of the bridge was a beautiful Great Blue Heron grooming himself. I wished I had brought my camera. How much longer would I get to enjoy these moments in nature? How much longer before these beloved birds become extinct because of pollution and toxicity?

I recalled Harper’s conservatives affirming they would like to see Canada become a large oil-producing nation. I have seen the “Ethical Oil” advertisements. I wonder if other people recognize as I do that there is no such thing as “ethical” oil.

Canada has not cut back on oil consumption. In fact they have increased their carbon count according to another news article I read last week. The Canadian government has no intention of preserving life on planet earth. The uses that the oil industry deem “safe” are actually harmful to our environment.

It has always been my dream to get off the oil consumption grid. I have no desire to add to the load of pollution already spewing into our water courses. I don’t think in terms of how rich I could become. I think in terms of “nature in balance” and “humans coming into balance with nature.” That clearly is not the direction you have intended for our beloved community, Mr. Anderson.

It is my wish that the oil be left in the ground. If politicians could walk away from the oil lobby money, new sources of energy would soon be discovered and implemented. Sources that support the environment, rather than destroy it. I embrace that concept and I trust it as “my truth.” I trust the answers will come if we really seek a solution to climate change. Let’s support our planet instead of raping it. Let’s be kind to the planet and to each other.

If we know what is good for the planet we will keep saying no thanks to your planned expansion.

E. Harrison
Burnaby, BC

Visit website "Phoenix of Faith" the memoir. Follow on Twitter: _Phoenixoffaith Copyright © 2012. Permission is granted to copy and re-distribute this transmission on the condition that it is distributed freely.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Men and Emotions

Do you know anyone who seems "stuck" in another decade?

That was one reason why I divorced Jerry* in 1997. Throughout the 23 years of our marriage, his hairstyle stayed the same, his mustache stayed the same, his tee-shirts and jeans—the only clothes he would wear—were worn to a frazzle, yet he would not shop for himself. It was my job to "look after him" along with my two children—effectively, he was my third child. In fact, I had more intelligent conversations with my children during those years than I ever had with my then husband.

Why talk about that now, years after the fact? What's past is past, some might say. Admittedly, it came up again after my attendance at a recent conference in which women called upon men to take a position to end violence against women. With six men in attendance, the effectiveness of the conference is yet to be seen. I have learned that men's blocked emotional issues can erupt in unexpected and unrelated ways. At the conference, it was said that men often rage at their wives and children, those closest to them and who they supposedly love. Yet, their anger has little to do with their wives and children. The source of anger is rooted in men's childhood.

Women discussing violence at men's hands seem to reinforce their victimization mode. The majority of men are absent from such discussions, so have little awareness or interest about owning their part of the problem. Not terribly effective. Meanwhile, violence against women continues. So just how can women let go of their victimization? By getting supports in place? The subject was raised. Admittedly, women do have some supports in place, but these are floundering because of funding cuts for women's groups.

Governments consisting mostly of men would rather divert funds to cut corporate taxes instead of investing in programs to help families who need help with mental health issues. People who have some level of awareness have been writing letters to governments, newspaper editors, and posting on blog   sites. Who reads any of these? If you are one who has actually read this far, congratulations on your focus and interest in this most important issue! While publicity is important, who is really benefiting from the publicity? More women? I am really impressed if you are a man who is reading this far down a blog!

So yes, Jerry had a growing anger that was eating away at him. Just because he didn't hit me did not mean he was "nice" to me. For example, while traveling one time, we rolled up behind a car at a stop sign. The car ahead paused as if caught in indecision. Jerry impatiently rammed its rear end once—then again— as if to say, "Get out of my way!" The shocked people in the car must have recognized Jerry's "road rage" and sped off immediately. The jolts were more than physical for me. That action woke me up to just how much anger he had seething inside him. It was about to burst forth.

Only after I divorced him did I discover qualities I had not seen while in the marriage. It became glaringly obvious: he was addicted to alcohol, drugs and sex. I felt somewhat foolish for having not seen it until after the fact.

Now I understand that addictions are attempts to bury emotional pain. By that time, I had been receiving therapy for my unresolved childhood issues for about ten years. I understood the need to talk things through in relationships by then. Yet sadly, Jerry was incapable of talking about his past. He simply WOULD NOT TALK! Any attempts on my part to communicate turned him into a little boy who disappeared into his cave (the garage) or a bar or some other woman for his solace. Communication was just too painful. He lived in such agony that he could not bear to speak about it. And I, being the "submissive" religious wife, was expected to "be happy."

Divorce was my way out of what became a dangerous existence for me. As I was gaining my health through counseling, he was diagnosed with Hepatitis-C. He is dead now, without ever seeking help for his festering rage. So sad.

After the conference I realized that men are being called to deal with the emotional issues of their childhood so that they can function healthily within their current relationships (marriages, parenting, etc.). While most men appear functional in jobs, their careers are often the only area of life where they actually have it together—maybe.

Many women feel blamed when they have outgrown the marital relationship. The only way to "survive" in such dysfunctional marriages would be to go on anti-depressants or other mood-altering drugs. At yet another conference, I learned that women have been diagnosed as sexually unresponsive (pdf format) because they are no longer attracted to the emotionally unresponsive men they married. Again, the responsibility appears to get shifted onto the women. Blame is such a useless and irresponsible stance.

I agree, it's not all men, but many men.

Do you personally see a need to grow?

This is the tip of the iceberg: Men need to start growing their emotions in order to be men that their women can respect.

My son appears to carry a similar mentality as his dad. Before the religious Shunning Order against me took effect, as a passenger in his car, I witnessed how he sped down the city's main drag when an unsuspecting car made a right turn in front of him. My son was forced to slam on his brakes or change lanes. He yelled, "Hey, get out of my lane!" — apparently, he had an effective teacher.

Lately, I have wondered how he treats his wife. Like father, like son? Since I am being officially shunned by the religion, I have no way of knowing the answer to that loaded question. It doesn't stop me from wondering: how much emotional work is happening in his marriage?

I realize I have many failings and imperfections for which to apologize. I had past religious ideals which I now believe destroyed my family. Nevertheless, here is a call to my son (still in the family religion) and my brothers (two of six still in the religion) to begin dialoging about their efforts at emotional work.

*  Not his real name.

Visit website "Phoenix of Faith" the memoir. Follow on Twitter: _Phoenixoffaith Copyright © 2011. Permission is granted to copy and re-distribute this transmission on the condition that it is distributed freely.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Saving Democracy

Occupy Vancouver has been shut down by the 1%. The Tent City is gone.
Except I wouldn't be too sure it is the end of the 99% — those who are awakening to the injustices of society. As the rich become richer and the poor are going into greater debt each month, the level of awareness grows.
Why the greed of the 1%? Why do they appear to covet all the assets? Could it be because they want even more? To want more — doesn't that indicate a poverty mentality? Doesn't that "longing" mean the 1% feels they still don't have enough?
Poverty consciousness?
Telling, isn't it?

Model for Prosperity

The poor will always be among us. It is up to us to share with others less fortunate, rather than hoard and take even more away from the little means that the 99% have remaining. In some cultures, farmers left the corners of their fields of grain for poor people to glean. Some farmers left more than usual for the poor. Others, less so. It was a kind of welfare system where the poor could work to provide for themselves and their families. The poor retained their self-esteem and self-empowerment by working. The farm owner expressed love and care, rather than greed. They expressed generosity rather than a sense of lack or not having enough to share. No one went without, because those with more found it in their hearts to share more. Those of moderate means perhaps had less to share, so gave less. Compassion and love reigned, rather than greed.

Canada's Banking System

How many credit card offers did you get in the mail this week? How many banking ads did you see on television? Does that mean the bankers want the 99% to go even deeper into debt? Some people are so mired in debt that they can afford only the minimum payment each month. Meanwhile, interest and living charges compound, with no way to get control of their living costs. New finance companies are springing up, offering to "consolidate all your debts" — for a fee of course. Legal loan-sharking.
So does everyone want to "have it all" and be among the 1%?
Mr. Flaherty, Canada's Finance Minister, insists that Canada has the most sound banking system in the world. NO, IT DOES NOT, Mr. Flaherty. In fact, no sooner Prime Minister Harper took office, he empowered banks to take away 40% of the pensions of his citizens, shrank endowments for education and women's groups — and more. That move instantly translated into less financial security for the 99% who erroneously thought they had enough to live on.
Canada's system has become one of greed, rather than love since Prime Minister Harper took office. The 99% are becoming poorer by the day since he implemented his Greed Strategy.
Sadly, Prime Minister Harper is quickly bringing down the country he swore to protect. And now he wants the 99% to buy fighter jets for the Prime Minister to destroy our country even further. But as long as he gets to line his own pockets on his war-creation, the 99% living in poverty do not matter. Where is his heart? Where is his conscience? Are they buried so deep in his own pocket that they will not reappear in this lifetime? Is this what his heart and soul came to "accomplish" in his lifetime?

The Cost of Living

According to a CBC News Story, inflation has not increased, but rather it has gone down to a mere 1.2%. Anybody buying groceries knows that statement is pure government propaganda. Each month, our grocery bill increases. Not only groceries, but clothing, rent, gas, tuition fees, and any other purchases imaginable have not decreased in price, but increased substantially. I bought dried Quinoa yesterday. It costed over $10 per kilogram at the grocery store. Anybody on a gluten-free diet pays $6 or more for one loaf of bread and it's not like we have a choice. We can't eat cheap wheat bread — it's toxic to a celiac. And I have to eat, so I can't just "get my spending under control" as some people might believe.
I heard an inspiring talk by Mirianne Williamson where she quoted a US Supreme Court Judge, "You can either have all the money in the hands of a very few, or you can have Democracy. You can't have both." It's true. The 99% promises Occupation will not quietly go away. The movement will regroup and rise again because our Democracy is on the line. I trust the 1% will understand this: We cannot stop talking, or else we have no more Democracy.

Visit website "Phoenix of Faith" the memoir. Follow on Twitter: _Phoenixoffaith Copyright © 2011. Permission is granted to copy and re-distribute this transmission on the condition that it is distributed freely.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

No wonder BCA won!

Team Burnaby (aka: Team) lost the election. Perhaps they shot themselves in the foot. Did they not realize how their flyer sounded to the residents who bothered to read it — and then vote? The wording sounded like Team "automatically" opposed the Burnaby Citizens Association (BCA) by rejecting Policy 5.45, the policy against bullying. Why? Just because the BCA birthed it? Team's knee-jerk reaction could be the very reason not even one of their candidates got elected. Yes, I know it sounds strange to vote against a policy that protects students from being bullied, but this really did happen in Burnaby — in 2011! The policy was deemed necessary because some religious parents in the community were openly "demonizing" LGBTQ folk. These bullying parents perceived themselves to be citizens with the "highest morals and principles" and looked down on anyone who do not believe as they did.

While doing my "due diligence" in an attempt to learn about all the candidates, it seemed to me that some candidates were using a vague language in trying to be "politically correct" and not offend anyone's beliefs. For example, I almost didn't vote for one BCA member, because she was quoted using a vague language in one article I read. But then I read another article that stated she was one trustee who DID vote in favor of the policy. Action spoke louder than words, so that helped me decide to vote for her.

I listened to all the audios posted online of the candidates who bothered to speak. Again, I noticed much complaining of where the BCA Mayor and incumbent councilors and trustees failed, according to Team's perception. Taxes too high, Policy 5.45, etc. were some reasons given. Burnaby would not have received the award for "Best Run City in Canada" by Macleans Magazine if they were failing their citizens, as Team asserts.

For anyone who cared enough to meet their candidates, the debates are another way to get a sense of who is running, then make an informed choice. I found the BCA candidates and Greens approachable, down-to-earth and helpful. I felt at ease speaking with many of them at Stride Avenue. But, when I approached the Team table, there was no one to talk to. The one person there was in a deep discussion with someone, and after several minutes of waiting I could not even make eye contact. And Parents' Voice? Did they even have a table? True, I did notice another table in the far corner, but the people there appeared to be engrossed in a game of some kind. No one there seemed interested in being approached by — anyone!

There were four Independents, supposedly. Until I visited the Parent's Voice website and discovered that two of them (at least) were listed as people to vote for, since they were favorable to eliminate the new Policy 5.45. Apparently, they were okay with bullying LGBTQ students. A screen shot is saved here. Wolves in sheeps' clothing? Further to that, here is a quote that seemed to indicate that all the Independents were covertly aligned with the bullying group: a letter to the Burnaby NewsLeader from none other than the Burnaby Parents' Voice president, Heather Leung.

Yes, the election is over and the BCA won — again. Considering the dynamics at play this time around, I think I know why. It's time to hear the happy voices of CHILDREN again!

Congratulations to the BCA, as their policy on protecting children earned them the well-deserved win!

Visit website "Phoenix of Faith" the memoir. Follow on Twitter: _Phoenixoffaith Copyright © 2011. Permission is granted to copy and re-distribute this transmission on the condition that it is distributed freely.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Movie Review: The Help

Dare to peer into a world set in Jackson, Mississippi during the early 60s. "The Help" stars Emma Stone as Skeeter, Viola Davis as Aibileen and Octavia Spencer as Minny. It is about the marginalization of the colored folk and less fortunate whites. The elitist townswomen have nothing worthwhile to do with their lives except to discriminate against their colored sisters—the very ones who raised their children, kept their houses clean and orderly, and served them and their snobbish friends. I laughed and I cried and everything in between. The story revolves around an ambitious young writer who, due to her own upbringing and unhealed grief over suddenly and mysteriously losing her much-loved nanny, feels there is a story to be told. She proceeds to approach the community of maids to hear their perspectives.

Through much hesitation and fear, the maids come around. Their collective disclose results in the birth of a book called "The Help" which scandalizes—and liberates—the community of all its dark secrets.

Sadly, prejudice can only happen when people forget that we are all ONE.

Visit website "Phoenix of Faith" the memoir. Follow on Twitter: _Phoenixoffaith Copyright © 2011. Permission is granted to copy and re-distribute this transmission on the condition that it is distributed freely.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Outgrowing Religion

Art Created by Satinka

I outgrew my religion. Jehovah’s Witnesses is one of many religions full of oppressive rules which members are not allowed to question. If a member has doubts and questions, he/she is viewed as a “Doubting Thomas.” The member is then watched with suspicion, as he/she might be an “Apostate” — a heretic, an infidel, a Judas. After all, he/she might be the one bad apple that spoils the entire bushel basket. The only way to prevent “spiritual contamination” is to watch everyone. Even better, if the elders could get its members to tell on one another. And that is exactly what they do.

The religion was full of “shoulds” and “should nots.” Members were not empowered to use their own mind — everything was “group think—group speak.” They were proud of the fact that they had their own “pure language of truth.” As if every other religion speaks un-truths. The elders based it on a scripture:

"For then I shall give to peoples the change to a pure language…”
—Zephaniah 3:10 (NWT)

In therapy I learned that the “should” word is about rules—someone else’s rules. By the time I was “should-ed” on, I had heard the rule through many mouths. It felt reasonable to ask the questions:
  • Where did the rule originate?
  • What was the purpose of the rule?
  • Does it apply to my life in a healthy way?
  • Does it fit where I am today?
  • How does the “should” rule feel in my body?

Regarding the practice of going door-to-door to convert my neighbors, I felt it would be disrespectful to think that I had some superior knowledge over what my neighbors believed. It would be disrespectful to have a friendship with my neighbors for the reason to convert them to my family’s religion. Was I really showing love to my neighbor if I thought they knew less than me about the power of god in their life? How could I possibly know what was best for someone else? What I thought could only be described as arrogant.

When I questioned the “shoulds” I knew that I would be betraying my own sense of values and principles for my life. I had outgrown those rules. I had outgrown the religion. It was none of my business what my neighbors chose to believe. It would not be fair and balanced to think I knew what was best for my neighbors.

The United States Election
Remember the USA election of 2012? With the workup to the election, I saw many religious people running for office and they were very popular for some reason. They had many rules — some very harsh ones. Militant newcomers that no one heard of before were gaining ground. If they got elected, rights and freedoms could have been tramped away by their “back to the Bible” rules for “family values” according to their standards. While many of us were “losing our religion” and “outgrowing religion” others were immersing themselves fanatically. They wanted to set up their own theocracy — rule by god. Was that really in our best interests?

"Until last spring, Jo Martin was a relatively non­political Houston housewife. Today she's on the front lines of a religious war that has fractured the Republican Party. Martin, a 52-year-old mother of three, and her husband David, a stockbroker, are lifelong Republicans but hadn't been active in party politics for many years until they happened to attend a local GOP meeting last spring. They were appalled by what they found. The party apparatus had been taken over by religious activists intent on bringing "biblical principles" to government: outlawing abortion, ostracizing homosexuals, and teaching creationism in public schools, among other things. ...We honest-to-goodness felt like we had fallen through a time warp into a Nazi brown-shirt meeting," Martin said. [2]

San Jose Mercury News, by Jeanne Hubert writes,
"...the Coalition on Revival's agenda includes 'a call for the death penalty for abortion, adultery and unrepentant homosexuality.' " [3]

According to the Republican Right wing, putting their warped spin on what “god says” is in everyone’s best interests. Then comes the flashback to my own warped religious upbringing, thinking I was the best one to know what was in everyone else’s best interests. I shudder at my lack of respect which I so clearly see now, but so clearly didn’t — couldn’t — see back then. Looking back, it was presumptuous for me to think I had special knowledge that others didn’t have. My apologies, folks. I just simply didn't know any better, so I hung on tenaciously to what had been implanted in me from birth. I grew up thinking my parents knew it all, and I had to be just like them to belong to the tribe.

But I was wrong and so were they. None of us knew any better at the time. My apologies for my part of the religious ignorance.

The Tangerine Scarf
I read a book called, “The Tangerine Scarf” — a story about an Islamic Muslim woman named Khadra, raised to believe in Sharia Law. After moving to Indiana, she learned some pretty harsh lessons on her journey to moderation. Nevertheless, she learned. She was capable of learning. She allowed herself to see through the veil of blindness that religion implanted in her, figuratively speaking. On her journey to maturity, she measured her upbringing against all others and hers of course was the better one, always a bit more “superior” to anyone else. She was brown skinned, and felt just a little more superior over the black-skinned Muslims. The Indiana white men were low-down dirty “Hoosiers,” as she called them. She was so proud that her family washed their anuses after defecating. Like no one else except Islam likes to be clean back there. Narrow world view, similar to mine in its own way. I realize that people need to see the need to grow before they can actually undo the conditioning of their upbringing. The book is advertised as fiction, but it is very true-to-life for anyone learning lessons to moderate their patriarchal religious rules.

Outgrowing Religion
What does it take to open up the crack of doubt and peer through enough to glimpse another reality? In my case, I began taking dance lessons and ended up having an affair with my dance partner. Therein lay my moral downfall, according to the tribunal of religious elders who judged me. I had been “contaminated” by the world, and not fit to be a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses any longer. They disfellowshipped me in order to punish me and bring me back to my senses. Except that I kept going once I got out the Kingdom Hall (church) door. When I looked back I was mortified to look upon what I used to be. I made a vow to purge every last vestige of that old belief system which served no one except the religious patriarchs in the New York head office.

What is Your Truth?
We were all born with an inherent ability to think and feel for ourselves. It is called “intuition.” Thanks to religion, that natural ability has been “deadened” by rules. Thanks to religion, people are now told how to think and what to feel. I have personally been told, “You shouldn’t think like that” or “You shouldn’t feel like that.” Thinking and feeling for myself had become a mortal sin. Religious patriarchs insist on members giving their power of decision-making over to them.

I decided to take a brave look at myself in the mirror and find my own truth, rather than blindly accept some so-called “religious truth” which does not fit my life. I looked deeply into myself to find my own personal truth. In order to make this connection, I took a deep and honest look at my inner life. I was always afraid I might slip back because of religious conditioning. I began to recognize the times when I looked elsewhere for answers. By bringing myself back into my Inner Self  I began to recall what I already knew — I wasn't superior to anyone. We are all human, after all. There is no need to be divided by religion. We are all ONE.

[1]  New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, 
Revised 1984.

[2] Scripps-Howard News Service  quoted 

[3] San Jose Mercury News by Jeanne Hubert quoted 

Visit website "Phoenix of Faith" the memoir. Follow on Twitter: _Phoenixoffaith Copyright © 2011. Permission is granted to copy and re-distribute this transmission on the condition that it is distributed freely.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Vancouver Hockey Riot

It was pre-meditated.
I have been reading opinion after opinion about why the Vancouver hockey riot happened, who is to blame, and how to prevent such an event from recurring.
Did it ever occur to anyone else that the riot was premeditated? I ask the obvious question because who of us has a sporting event checklist that reads like this:
  • Tickets
  • Money
  • Blackberry
  • Hoodie
  • Molotov cocktails
Wait…Molotov cocktails??? Is anyone else detecting a disconnect?
Click to read what Wikipedia says about a Molotov cocktail.
How do sports buffs smuggle Molotov cocktails out of the house all the way downtown without being detected? Down their baggy pants? In the girlfriends’ carry-all?
If “ordinary” people carry Molotov cocktails and are “on the ready” to get violent at any moment — and the police are not authorized to make arrests — something is seriously amiss with our legal system.
For some strange reason I am reminded of a “Cops” show I saw once where the police were in hot pursuit of a fleeing saggy-bottomed suspect. His pants slipped off his hips, all the way down, around his ankles. His baggy pants helped him get busted.
It didn’t happen in Vancouver, needless to say.
I still laugh about the baggy pants falling down, but I’m not laughing about the Vancouver hockey riots.

Visit website "Phoenix of Faith" the memoir. Follow on Twitter: _Phoenixoffaith Copyright © 2011. Permission is granted to copy and re-distribute this transmission on the condition that it is distributed freely.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

911 Call for Justice

The atrocity so insidious that no answers will satisfy. The disaster so evil that any plausible answers result in even more questions.
Here we are ten years later — since 911 — and the mystery has still not been solved. There was not even an investigation. That feels suspiciously like a cover-up by the powers that be.
I knew the moment I saw the buildings fall straight downward into themselves that a double-demolition had been staged. Buildings do not simply implode, two at a time.
Another problem for me: The then-President Bush spoke of seeing the attack on television BEFORE any video was released showing the first plane hitting the first tower, according to this video.
According to WikiLeaks audioclips here and here mounting evidence seems to indicate 911 was indeed an inside job.
The then-government was in on the entire plan. 911 was a staged drama — an excuse to invade Iraq and start a war.
Past President Bush gives Osama Bin Ladin undue credit. According to Yahoo Answers, Osama Bin Ladin did not mastermind the attack. Does that mean Bin Ladin is safely hidden away, courtesy of the US taxpayers, while one of his look-alikes lies in a tomb?
My conclusion is 911 had to APPEAR like a terrorist act, instead of arson. How else could the owners collect insurance? And how else could the government start a war when most of the nation desires peace?
Since the trade center buildings were a planned demolition another question emerges: How could those responsible allow employees and firemen into the buildings knowing the buildings were being demolished?
If what I figure is true, those responsible are criminals, murderers and arsonists. Massive greed has brought blood guilt upon those responsible, yet no one has been charged. Those involved figure they are "above the law."
This blog is a 911 call for justice for the 3,000 people who lost their lives that day, but also for the citizens of the United States who deserve answers.

Visit website "Phoenix of Faith" the memoir. Follow on Twitter: _Phoenixoffaith Copyright © 2011. Permission is granted to copy and re-distribute this transmission on the condition that it is distributed freely.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Bullying in the Name of God

What can society do with religious bullies? You find them in most religions of the world today. I certainly experienced it in my life, starting with my father and working up the patriarchal line of elders who finally judged my faith as "defective" and disfellowshipped me.

Parents Voice

Religious bullies are alive and well in Burnaby, BC these days. A group of fanatical right wing religionists are currently trying to force their influence into the public schools by demonizing gays and lesbians. How traumatic if one of their own children have such leanings. Is it likely these children would — or could — talk to their parents about their so-called "illegal" sexual feelings? Why don't parents realize their oppressive views could hurt their most "precious possessions" as they call their children? The group includes some Christians, some Islamic Muslims, and other right-wing religious folk. I feel sure at some point they will reach a divide, since religion ultimately divides, like oil and water. An excellent example of a religious divide is found in the Bible at Genesis Chapter 11, describing religious disorder while building the Tower of Babel, resulting in the scattering of the various groups.

Islamic Muslim and Sharia Law

I watched a Sam Harris Video which attempted to answer some questions in response to the Norway terrorism by the zealot, Anders Behring Breivik.
We have learned that Mr. Breivik has a religious past; however, he did not figure he would be praying about his vandetta. And he certainly had strong opinions about Muslims. Religion can sure mess with a mind.
I agree with Sam Harris' theory that "political correctness" is an impediment to discussion about the failings of religious beliefs. In my opinion, no one is allowed to freely speak about the flaws of religion. The only people who feel no constraint about speaking out are considered racist of bigoted by much of society. As a result, the loudest voices are the fanatical religious voices spouting dogma that does not serve the highest interests of humanity.
Perhaps the Norway shooter felt he was giving Islamic Muslims a taste of their own medicine. While I do not condone violence in any shape or form, the question needs to be asked: Was Breivik engaged in his own version of jihad—holy war—to protest his perceived Muslim onslaught? Little did he know his actions would spark a response from the Islamic community: Oslow Today, London Tomorrow: The Sharia is Unstoppable.
In the first few moments of the above video, a general and clear announcement was made that some Islamic Muslims intend to bring Sharia Law to the UK, to Europe and to the world. Is it a coincidence or did this video spark the rioting which began a few days later in the UK? Imbedded in their theology is the Quranic teaching to convert or kill the Infidel (non-believing humanity) by jihad.
So much for exercise of free will and choice. Surrender or die is the message. Surrender—the very meaning of the word Islam.

Fundamental Latter Day Saints (FLDS)

Justice has now been served in Bountiful Lister, BC (the legal name). Interestingly, Bountiful is a made-up name by the FLDS prophet, perhaps associated with the baby-making/production line of the polygamous community: teen virgins for the prophet. Consequently, Warren Jeffs will be spending the next 30 years in prison for his child molestation in the name of God. Perhaps more corruption will be unearthed shortly.
When asked whether he was ever taught about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Truman Oler, a young man who left Lister after being denied an education, said, "The one thing [church leaders] are trying to do is use that right to protect themselves," he said. "We never as children knew of charters and rights and freedoms." Read the entire article by Daphne Bramham, reporter for the Vancouver Sun here.

Jehovah's Witnesses

I know from being an ex-member of the Jehovah's Witnesses religion that their legal department pays off victims with member donations. For the most part, they have kept themselves out of the sex scandal news—at least up till now. But I personally know of several instances of sex abuse hidden under the rugs of the Jehovah's Witnesses Watch Tower Society. Thanks to the sheer volume of complaints made against them, light is now being shone on the corruption in the Jehovah's Witness religion. Read more from victims of the Jehovah's Witnesses religion.


Irish Prime Minister, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, himself a Catholic, has strongly criticized the Vatican for what he said was an attempt to frustrate the Cloyne inquiry, accusing it of downplaying the rape of children to protect its power and reputation.

A Call to Dialogue

In these few examples of religious corruption and abuse, perhaps there is a question to ask oneself. What will I do personally to begin to promote dialogue on the subject of religious abuse of any kind?
I have begun blogging about the issue.

Visit website "Phoenix of Faith" the memoir. Follow on Twitter: _Phoenixoffaith Copyright © 2011. Permission is granted to copy and re-distribute this transmission on the condition that it is distributed freely.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Religion Pretends to Offer Choice to Women

Interestingly, I find myself following tweets about Michele Bachmann’s ideologies. I have been directed to the Reality Check website several times in the past few days. Information I am gleaning indicates that Bachmann’s is an anti-feminist movement of the Republican right wing of religious fanaticism. She and her followers are against abortions and against freedom for women in general. She promotes women’s strict biblical adherence to their husbandly wishes, which quickly translates to “loss of self.” She knows nothing of women’s rights beyond staying pregnant and barefoot. Maybe Michele herself is exempt somehow, but others are not so fortunate if they listen to her religious spiel.

Religion is quickly going backwards, not only in the eastern cultures such as Muslims, but now Christianity appears to be jumping on the fanatical bandwagon of “submissive women.”
When I first heard of Bachmann's movement, I thought surely women are smarter than to buy into such antiquated thinking.

When I read, I Spy With My Little "i" ... The Not-So-Subtle Misogyny of THE FAMiLY LEADER's Marriage Vow, I felt afraid for the vulnerable woman or girl who found herself with an unwanted pregnancy. If she walked into one of these pretend “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” she would be misled into needless delays in receiving an abortion, because at these “pretend” choice clinics, abortions are not provided. As many people know, the sooner an abortion is performed the better, and abortion is especially desirable within the first three months of pregnancy.

Michele’s husband, Marcel Bachmann lists himself as a clinical therapist, even though he is not registered anywhere as such, according to another article at the Reality Check’s Website. Nevertheless, the Bachmann’s fanatical religious family seems to promote the idea of being qualified based on scriptures Christians will use to "prove" that God is the entity that “qualifies” them. I know the scriptures, because this is also the view of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, another fanatical right wing fundamentalist religion who are against abortion. I know, because I am a past-member of that organization. If a young JW girl “got into trouble” her parents would take her to the elders for counseling. These elders have no professional qualifications, and are lucky if they have finished high school. No doctorates here. Just the Bible which they say is the “Sword of the Spirit” and the only weapon needed to overthrow Satan and his machinations (Ephesians 6:10-18). The JWs also quote 2 Timothy 3:16, 17: “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.” These fanatical religions sincerely believe that the Bible alone can provide greater qualifications to counsel than any PhD.

If you want to know what changed my mind about the rightful place of abortion clinics, it is the touching story of a woman who found herself in a position of having to choose. While still in University, the young woman found herself pregnant and feeling completely unprepared for motherhood. She struggled within herself, but finally decided she would have an abortion. Several years went by and her circumstances changed. She found herself in a loving situation and chose to become pregnant again. Once the baby arrived, she realized it was the very same soul that was aborted earlier. The baby had simply delayed her arrival and was perfectly at ease with the mom’s decision to abort, seeming to understand at a “soul” level the reasons her mom made the difficult choice she did. The story emphasized to me the “healing” nature of the second pregnancy. The lesson in this for me was the inappropriateness of judging someone’s motives for choosing to terminate a pregnancy.

Visit Esther Harrison's main website. Visit website "Phoenix of Faith" the memoir. Follow on Twitter: _Phoenixoffaith Copyright © 2011. Permission is granted to copy and re-distribute this transmission on the condition that it is distributed freely.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Religion is a Structure of Co-Dependence

Religion is a structure of co-dependence whereby people are taught they cannot live without it. To be sure, religion cannot survive without its members. Like an alcoholic or drug addict, the religious people “need their fix.” And like an alcoholic or drug addict, the churches need a cash flow to keep functioning — somewhat.
Why would I theorize thusly?
Go to meetin’ and are lifted up, told you are a sinner in need of redemption. You need Jesus, but more importantly, you need the approval of the minister to say, “you’re okay.”
The natural question arises: Don’t people automatically “know” they are okay? Apparently not, they are taught to believe that without the redemption they are nobodies. They are the walking dead. They are going to hell or will surely die at Armageddon. Zero state. Tell me: is there such a  religion in existence that doesn’t teach a hellfire or Armageddon doctrine from which its members need to be saved or rescued? Ah, but isn’t a “rescue” a sign of dis-respect, based on the Karpman Triangle principles?
True, according to Karpman, as taught by one of my many therapists, all relational situations can fit into one of two triangles of dynamics:
The Triangle of Disrespect contains the following relationship dynamics:
  • Persecutor: blaming or finding fault
  • Rescuer: wanting to fix; even if it interferes with someone’s “free will” or choice
  • Victim: “poor me”
The Triangle of Respect contains the following relationship dynamics:
  • Vulnerable: awareness to identify feeings without judgment
  • Assertive: taking care of the Self by taking healthy action
  • Caring: feeling compassion without doing someone else’s “work”
So, let’s check and see how religion fits into either of these two triangles. Religion teaches that Eve, the mother of all humans, has made us all victims. Ever since she tricked Adam with a little help from a talking serpent in the Garden of Eden, we are ALL in need of a rescue. The Son of God became the assigned Rescuer; but not unless he was first a Victim, dying on a torture stake/cross, persecuted and killed by unbelievers. Carrying the torture/persecution idea further, all Christians were to anticipate and expect the same disrespectful treatment. Persecution at the hands of unbelievers was prompted by the big unseen enemy, Satan the Devil, the ruler of hell/the world. But the BIG Rescuer and BIG Persecutor was none other than God, since he could not find it in his heart to just forgive the newbies in Eden.
Quite frankly, the entire "Garden of Eden" story sounds truly disrespectful and really far-fetched. Furthermore, the patriarchal society currently in place promotes belief in such a convoluted scenario.
Where is our “free will” to believe or dis-believe? Church elders quickly label the unbelievers, the doubters and even the questioners as heretics, apostates and infidels.
So, again I ask the question: In which of the two triangles does religion find itself? For me, it was obvious: the Triangle of Disrespect. Naturally, the realization of which triangle religion fit into led me to believe that God and the Devil are equally evil.
Why don’t we simply honor one another's spiritual nature and leave religion out of the mix?

Visit website "Phoenix of Faith" the memoir. Follow on Twitter: _Phoenixoffaith Copyright © 2011. Permission is granted to copy and re-distribute this transmission on the condition that it is distributed freely.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sharia Law in Canada

While one might think now that Muslims/Islamists live in Canada, they would be happy to learn to live in a more “moderate” way. Well, you’d be wrong. Not everyone wants freedom. Many people do not know what to do with such freedom. And some people cannot even define freedom such as we have in Canada.
I was surprised while listening to an audio clip where a professor of Arab Studies Dana Olwan at Queen’s University, spoke out against the passing of the law banning niqabs in Quebec. As a feminist and an Islamic Muslim, she was outraged that niqabs were banned. When she gets “passionate” her Arabian accent comes forth. Otherwise, she speaks excellent English. “The bill intends to manipulate all women, she says, not just Muslim women.” Bill 94 reserves for the state a place in women’s closets. It tells women how to practice or choose their own beliefs. It regulates how women present themselves and how they dress, according to Dana.
While I believe people can surely choose their own beliefs, I can barely fathom why she feels there is no freedom here, in view of the oppression women live under in Arab lands. But because she is a professor in a University, she is believed and has quite a following.
Patriarchs have dictated to the Arab women how to dress for so long, it has been internalized and now the women “persecute themselves,” some might say. They choose to wear tents, hijabs, niqabs and mutilate their pre-pubescent girls bodies following the Sharia Law of circumcision, as well as learning the Qur’an by rote. Many of these people are Muslim/Islamists first. Many do not consider themselves as “one of us” namely “the West” or even Canadian. Many of their hearts are still in Islam.
It is true that while I am concerned about rights of women, I happen to agree with the face-coverings being a security risk. We all assume that the people under those tents are women. But, after the 9/11 attacks, it isn’t a stretch to think they could be men wearing bombs. Heck, the women could be bombers, too. It’s happened already in Britain. Quite frankly, it’s just too eerie not seeing faces.
Some feminists believe the veils are a tool of oppression. But there is another possibility. Perhaps the veils are worn to intimidate us non-Muslims/Islamists. After all, Muslims/Islamists believe they are superior to every other race. The “brown” Muslims/Islamists even believe they are superior to their African “Black” counterparts, according to Aayan Hirsi Ali in her book, Nomad. I suppose if you believe you are better than someone, you are entitled to more liberties, too. But, what liberties are they missing that we, by default for being white, have? Perhaps she is referring to the freedom to practice Sharia Law in Canada. The Muslims/Islamists pushed for it in Ontario—and Sharia almost became law. Think of the repercussions of such a law:
  • Freedom to beat your wife if she doesn’t agree with you on some issue.
  • Freedom to stone your wife if she commits adultery (maybe stop beating her and she will find some reason to respect you).
  • Freedom to cut off a hand or foot of someone who stole something from you.
  • Freedom to reduce a woman's power by half. A man’s word is worth twice as much as a woman’s word.
  • Freedom to make up more tyrannical rules as they go along.
  • Freedom to cut off a pre-pubescent girl’s genitals (clitoris, outer and inner labia), stitch up the entire vagina leaving a small hole from which to pee.
I say, when men cut off their balls, western women still would not want to lose their vaginas, so forget Sharia.
Just in case you are thinking Female Genital Mutilation does not occur in Canada…think again. FGM does occur in Canada.There are doctors who will perform the surgery in Canada, despite it being against Canadian law. No one has to fly to the Arab world to have it done. These immigrants are Muslims/Islamists first. Many bring to the new land barbaric traditions and practices, where they hope one day they will be in power. They believe becoming the ruling power is Allah’s will. He will bless them and their polygamous families as they proliferate many times faster than westerners, and Allah will give them our land.
It has now become abundantly clear to me that it is the Westerners who are the barbarians, the Infidels, the Apostates.
Yeah, right.
But then, every religion thinks they alone will dominate the world. They all think it is their God’s will. The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe they are the only ones who will survive Armageddon and live forever in Paradise under Jehovah’s theocratic rule. There are the Dominionist Christians who think the same thing by enforcing upon us the ancient Hebrew Scriptures known as The Old Testament.
It would be nice if the religious fanatics would lose the ego-speak.
Most women welcome the law to ban niqabs. It is a law for freedom, not oppression. Granted, it’s hard to get into the head of a Muslim/Islamist after being raised Jehovah’s Witness in Canada. Each belief system has a “warp” to it. Nevertheless, I do see the parallels and the twisted reasoning that both religions use to manipulate the governments in crying for never-ending liberties to practice their sick religions and practices.
I feel sure that people are waking up to some awareness and some inner sense of moral conscience that will act as a compass to bring humans into balance. After all, we are all humans and therefore we are all equal.

Visit Esther Harrison's main website. Visit website "Phoenix of Faith" the memoir. Follow on Twitter: _Phoenixoffaith Copyright © 2011. Permission is granted to copy and re-distribute this transmission on the condition that it is distributed freely.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Religion is Manipulative

Secular authorities appear to know little about how religions operate. Aayan Hirsi Ali, political scientist, spoke a universal truth when she said “government seems to feel they must enshrine cultural religions and hold [them] as sacred, no matter how dysfunctional these people act.” (_______, p.__). She has seen religious dysfunction in her life experiences as a Muslim in Africa, Saudi Arabia, Holland and the United States; and I can testify about my experiences with the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Canada.
Religious groups keep lobbying for more freedom. They cry “religious discrimination” when someone reacts to an apparent dysfunction. Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, present to the public the ideal of “respect for family life,” yet their members are forced to shun family members who leave the religion, which is about two-thirds of their flock, according to Time Magazine To me, this reveals an obvious “disconnect.” Many families are broken up as a result of religious dogma. How do families "get taken in" by a shunning rule?

No choice but to “shun”

When my mom left the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion I had no intention of shunning her. Next thing I knew, a letter arrived in the mail from an elder in her town. I felt I had no choice if I wanted to continue associating with my friends --- all Jehovah’s Witnesses. I am ashamed to admit, I gave into the religious pressure to conform to the rigid rule: I squirm with discomfort now when I think how I began shunning my mom. Shunning her felt horrendously unnatural. It felt like a self-betrayal of my own principles.

Religion is “two-faced”

It seems to me that the Jehovah’s Witnesses have one face for the general public; presenting themselves as a “moderate” religion. However, for their members an entirely “other” face emerges: tyrannical.
Why does society continue to enable destructive behaviors like shunning, which takes place according to the direction of their elders?
Why do governments continue to give religious organizations money and power to control and manipulate their members?

Religion is manipulative of secularism, too

Interesting thought: religions manipulate their members. More importantly, because secular authorities continue to believe religions have members’ best interests at heart, these same secular authorities do not realize they too are being manipulated by the two-faced presentation of religious beliefs. Jehovah’s Witnesses “official” position presented to media regarding shunning is, “We do not interfere with family issues.” Yet, clearly that is not my experience. The Jehovah’s Witnesses split up my family with their harshly-enforced rules.

Visit Esther Harrison's main website. Visit website "Phoenix of Faith" the memoir. Follow on Twitter: _Phoenixoffaith Copyright © 2011. Permission is granted to copy and re-distribute this transmission on the condition that it is distributed freely.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Anti-Bullying in BC High Schools

Here is the third letter to the editor written in response to the anti-bullying policy, now passed by school administrators...

Throw fear outside

Burnaby Now June 29, 2011
Dear Editor:
I appreciate the Burnaby NOW's coverage regarding unanimous acceptance of Policy 5.45 by the school board members. The video posted on Jennifer Moreau's blog demonstrated how well the school board worked with the various subsets of the community for a resolution.
However, Burnaby's Parent's Voice group was less than impressed. The video included a woman who claimed she was present to "witness darkness history" claiming the schools will now openly "promote homosexuality." She fears the LGBTQ community "cannot reproduce the next generation." As a person born into a fundamentalist sect, and who faithfully practised for 40 years, my heart went out to her as I realized she sincerely believes in what are typically religiously-defined "family values."
The Parents' Voice group may now disrupt the education of their own children. Looking back, in my parental role, I too once would have over-reacted similarly. Those fears were fed by my religious leaders. Such dramatization could be viewed as yet another type of bullying to force a religious agenda.
Some might even say the group is now using their own children as pawns to manipulate the school board.
Reactions like that would be considered "honorable" and a "sacrifice in the name of God" by hard-line fundamentalists.
Too often, religions teach an "us against them" mentality where "we" are always better than "them." Such a mindset does not encourage members to accept the rich diversity around us.
I was fortunate to find excellent therapists who validated my anxieties and helped me work through such groundless fears.
Religious folk might choose to trust their own scripture that says, "Perfect love throws fear outside." - 1 John 4:8
E. Harrison, Burnaby
© Copyright (c) Burnaby Now
Posted at:
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Friday, June 10, 2011

Policy on Anti-Bullying in BC High Schools

While the bullying in Burnaby High Schools continues...a writer responded to a letter to the Burnaby NOW editor that was written by a retired teacher/Vancouver School Board Administrator, Ben Seebaran called New Policy has Weaknesses. The response is posted below:

Yes, policy 5.45 is necessary

By E. Harrison, Burnaby NOW, June 8, 2011
Dear Editor:
Re: New policy has weaknesses, Letters to the editor, Burnaby NOW, May 20, from Ben Seebaran, retired teacher/administrator with Vancouver School Board.
No reasonable person could object to a policy designed to provide a safe environment for all students. In theory, the Burnaby school board's Policy 5.10 dealing with violence and intimidation or Policy 6.40 on multiculturalism would suffice; nevertheless, the question remains, "have these policies eliminated bullying of LGBTQ students?" Ben Seebaran's question whether the board may be promoting a pro-LGBTQ agenda is worthy of examining.
Interestingly, the article Seebaran quoted turned up on The breakaway group of pediatricians who issued the caution to educators might have a religious agenda in saying, "schools should not seek to develop policy which ... encourages non-heterosexual attractions among students who may merely be experimenting or experiencing temporary sexual confusion." Policy 5.45 is not "encouraging" certain sexual behaviours. The [Burnaby School Board] merely desires protection for LGBTQ students who have been bullied.
Seebaran's comment, "There is a danger that anti-bullying policies and curricula will discriminate against religious students who believe that homosexual behaviour is morally wrong" leaves one with another question. Is it fair for religious people to attach a religious morality to secular people, who may very well have their own version of spirituality which works for them? Respect for others implies no one needs to emulate anything against their will. So why do religious people feel it necessary to inflict their theology on others? That behaviour could be viewed as "divisive" or disrespectful. LGTBQ folk just want to fit in like everyone else. It would seem that since religions have achieved freedom, these same ones have now become the persecutors.
Indeed, lifestyles are influenced by traumatic experiences, and much therapy is needed. Therapists are careful not to judge abuse victims. Judgment and dogma would cause further damage to the fragile balance that resulted from the initial indoctrination. Rather, victims require validation and acceptance of their experiences - very different from "encouraging" behaviours. Some students have already received plenty of damnation from people who are supposed to love them - including parents - and do not need more of the same from religious groups. With a high suicide rate among LGBTQ students, support is crucial.
No one expects fundamentalists to change their beliefs, unless they choose to. But it cannot be expected that everyone believes as they do. Policy 5.45 is a healthy initiative that validates a group that has been unaddressed by earlier policies.
E. Harrison, Burnaby
© Copyright (c) Burnaby NOW
Published here:
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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Bullying in the Name of God

E. Harrison wrote a letter to the local paper in response to the bullying being carried on in the name of God:

Judge Not

I read with great interest the article in the Burnaby NewsLeader called "Anti-homophobia debate packs school board meeting" (April 29).
My first thoughts were, "Can anyone believe there could be a debate on this issue?" and "What is there to debate?"
I could not quite fathom that someone would protest protection against bullying of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual and Queer (LGBTQ) folk.
Having belonged (in the past) to a fanatical religion I knew at once there is only one segment of society that would protest protection of LGBTQ folk from being bullied: the religious fundamentalists. I recognized the spin, having exited such a group — in my case, the Jehovah's Witnesses. They claim to be a "moderate" religion concerned about preserving their narrow definition of "family" — family, of course being defined as husband (man), wife (woman) plus any children resulting from said union. These so-called "special interest groups" spew hate directly from the church/kingdom hall platforms and even quote scriptures such as found in Genesis Chapter 19 to support their twisted reasoning. For example, they use the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by God as a precedent that "proves" the God of the bible destroyed these cities because the men desired sexual relations with other men, rather than the women.
After leaving the religion, I am now feeling concern about the constant cry for more "religious freedom" emanating from these fundamentalist groups who will not openly acknowledge that they are religious in nature. They turn around and persecute and marginalize human beings who desire the same freedoms to choose their private life course. Yet our modern western society seems to put religions on a pedestal that no one is allowed to touch, lest these individuals be called bigoted. Yet, it is these very religions that are spewing the hate and propaganda that marginalize folks they judge. These religious groups feel that they speak on behalf of God, and therefore are above the law.
Fundamentalist religions probably don't like to be put in the same box as the Jehovah's Witnesses, but I say why not? — their spin on family values is the same. How fundamentalist religions treat other human beings will come back to haunt them. What goes around comes around. These so-called moderate religious people do not appear to be heeding their own scripture: "… For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap." — Galatians 6:7 (New World Translation).
I suggest we treat all humans with respect, allowing each individual their exercise of "free will" to choose what is appropriate for themselves without interference, judgment, persecution or marginalization, lest it come back to haunt such self-appointed judges.
This article appeared as:
Judge ye not, should apply in this case
Burnaby NewsLeader
Greater Vancouver
Published: May 19, 2011 9:00 AM
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Copyright © 2011. 

Permission is granted to copy his blog only if it is distributed freely.  

Monday, May 30, 2011

Living with Integrity

Why must "family" be so dysfunctional?

My patriarchal brother is a religious control freak. Ironically, he is the youngest child in our family of seven children. He takes his formal religious duties seriously: he is trying to "save" our hopelessly divided family.

A year ago last spring, he, along with his wife and their new baby met me at a sushi restaurant for lunch. He lives three provinces away, and was in town visiting his in-laws. I supposed I was an afterthought, since I am being actively shunned by the religious members of the family, including my two children. The last time my children spoke to me was eleven years ago, when I left the religion. I had no idea where either of my children lived.

After the unexpected restaurant visit, another year went by before I worked up the nerve to ask my patriarchal brother if he ever saw my children. I fully expected him to say, "Your children do not wish me to divulge their whereabouts." Instead, he informed me that my son and daughter-in-law live in the same town as them. No mention of my daughter.

I was flabbergasted! My son lived in the same town, yet he never mentioned it during the sushi lunch…?
In the same phone conversation, I was astonished to learn that last July 2010, I became a grand-mother. In other words, during the sushi lunch, my daughter-in-law was about six months pregnant! Information about my children was somehow not of interest to me?

Why did it take so long for the news to get to me?

My first sense was this information was a type of "carrot on a stick." It seems my brother had the idea that telling me about the birth of a grand-daughter might draw me back into the religious fold in order to have a relationship with the grandchild, as well as restore harmony with my children. My patriarchal brother wants credit for "saving" our hopeless family---have us all happily united under the banner of the family religion which I disowned.

After the phone call, my brother emailed me some photographs of the aforementioned grand-daughter. I was shocked. No photos of son or daughter-in-law—only the grand-daughter. I was so torn it took me a week to respond. On the one hand I wanted to scream at him for his manipulative behavior. Here was an innocent grand-daughter being used a pawn. On the other hand, I did not want to disrupt the fragile line of communication that had opened up after eleven years.

I sent a short email back, "I thank you from my heart for the precious gem photos. I shall cherish them. With unconditional love."

Nevertheless, these photographs had quite an impact on me. Grand-daughter's smiling eyes danced through the lens and touched my heart. I felt an amazing love connection with her. A baby I had never set eyes on. A baby I never knew existed till the phone call with my brother—and my grand-daughter approaching her first birthday.

Oh yes, birthdays. Another highlight that is irrelevant to the family religion.

A baby I might never get to hold in my aching arms. Yet, I became transfixed by her innocent smiling eyes, filling me with wonder. I talked to this amazing, beaming being. I said, "Hi there. I am Grandma. I'm sorry I can't be with you right now, but I still love you. I love you unconditionally, no matter what. I am here for you, if you ever need me. I care about you and I love you. Yes, I love you." Saying those words felt so right.

I printed each and every photograph and set them in a prominent location, so that I might gaze upon this miracle every day. I wondered if my brother and my children know what a precious gift they have shared with me. Perhaps on some level they do know and we are all enriched by this tiny miracle.
As I stared in amazement at her photographs, mesmerized, I heard a tiny voice say "Gamma."

I was jolted back to reality.

Yes, the pull on the heart strings can be strong. Keeping the family together is all well and good, but there is something to be said for personal integrity. Sadly, as long as that old family religion is in the picture, our family can only remain divided.

Visit Esther Harrison's main website. Visit website "Phoenix of Faith" the memoir. Follow on Twitter: _Phoenixoffaith Copyright © 2011. Permission is granted to copy and re-distribute this transmission on the condition that it is distributed freely.

Friday, May 27, 2011

GST/PST vs HST Tax Referendum

Interesting. For almost a year we have had the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) in British Columbia. Now we are asked if we want it, by referendum.
I am one of those people who signed the petition to ax the tax. Why would anyone vote for more tax? I figured. We were already paying the Provincial Sales Tax (PST) of seven percent and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) of five percent. We were already paying too much tax, to my way of thinking.
Then the tax switch happened, without our consent or consultation. But it was a "smart" move, the BC Liberals insisted.
As soon as the HST was implemented I noticed price increases. Some of them huge. Food prices, for one, have increased; especially meat. Also, many of the restaurants we frequented jacked up their prices. And now the tax is across the board, not just on services, but on food items and other products previously sold tax-free.
My partner thinks the HST is a "good" tax, in theory. I listened and watched, as he used Chris Thompson's YouTube explanation, in which Economist, Kathryn Kunin reasoned on how "the HST is a very good tax for BC."
I listened to the explanation. In theory, the HST would be applied—and refunded to businesses. Oh, great. Another tax that would benefit businesses. As if they don't have enough tax breaks.
Quite another story for the consumer.
But then, business owners and their families are also consumers, are they not?
The HST would be applied at each production step, but it would be refunded to business. And in the end, the consumer would pay less. In theory. Like this:
Exp Sub-Tl GST PST HST Total Reality
Meals $40.00 5% 7% $44.80 $44.80
Meals $40.00 12% $44.80 for both
Reality: Either tax plan would result in a bill of $44.80 plus tip. Unless the restaurant decided to increase its prices.
Groceries are a different story, which I was unable to chart. "Basic" groceries are GST and HST exempt. Raw meat is tax-exempt, but HST is charged on cooked, prepared meats. Using the GST/PST model, a few groceries were charged five percent tax, with no PST. I could see it costs more for groceries using the HST model because twelve percent is now charged for some items I found surprising, such as nut mixes from the bulk bin.
Repairs I feared would cost more. So I looked at an example of say, car repairs:
Car repairs
Brake Pads 
or with HST
Brake Pads 
In reality, tax charged to all items results in a higher repair bill.
But my partner suggested that in BC, with the HST, businesses could reduce their cost and could pass their savings onto their customers. In the ideal world, yes. But, in BC where there are plenty of rich people who will pay whatever price without batting an eyelash…? And plenty of demand!
Here is where my partner showed me the YouTube chart from Chris Thompson where PST was applied to at each production step:
Final cost to Consumer
According to the economist, Kathryn Kunin, what this chart means is that at each step the Provincial Sales Tax (PST) is applied to the production process, say a toy:
  • Step 1 harvest raw material, say steel.
    Ca-Ching! Payday for the provincial government.
  • Step 2 Smelting Plant melts down material into workable chunks of product and sells to producer.
    Ca-Ching! Payday for the provincial government.
  • Step 3 Toy company produces toy parts.
    Ca-Ching! Payday for the provincial government.
  • Step 4 Toy factory puts together a toy car.
    Ca-Ching! Payday for the provincial government.
  • Step 5 Sale to consumer.
    Ca-Ching! Payday for the provincial government.
At each of the five production steps leading up to the sale of the toy car, tax is applied and collected by the provincial government. By the time the toy car gets to the consumer's child, tax has been paid five separate times. The PST was "layered in—imbedded" at each production level. Tax upon tax was paid many times before reaching the consumer.
We have not even talked about the GST, which was supposed to be applied to goods and services. What does that mean, really, when some stores were charging PST and GST on everything, even items that were GST exempt? We personally took items back to the store several times for reimbursement. On principle.
HST was supposed to change all that. In theory.
All tax paid would be reimbursed at every transaction in the production process. Here is what I mean by "tax that would again benefit business" rather than consumers. The new "smart" tax, according to Premier Christie Clark. Wow, put the word "smart" in front of something and it automatically means something beneficial…? For whom?
The supplier receives a refund on all the HST that was paid through the various levels of production.
I'm not sure why it says 7% HST comparison, when the HST is 12%, not 7%. My partner says it is because the 7% is the provincial portion of the tax. Comparing apples to apples. Provincial portion to provincial portion. The additional 5% not mentioned would be over and above what is presented in the chart and would be the federal portion. Okay, technically I could use twelve percent HST, but then I'd have to add the five percent GST to the PST table.
Anyway, here is Chris Thompson's chart.
7% HST comparison
Consumer Cost
Final cost to Consumer
But, really, it would cost $112.00 because HST is not 7%, but 12%. But, for arguments' sake, let's use the chart that was presented by Chris Thompson.
When I listened to the theoretical explanation, I could see that, in theory, HST would be applied once—at the consumer stage. True, it would be applied during each production step, but would be refunded to the producer and the retailer. And in the end, the consumer would pay less sales tax.
In theory.
But, now we have had the opportunity to test this theory out because the HST is now been implemented since last July. So, how is it working out, BC?
Here is what I observed: It appears to be more costly than ever using the HST system. In the ideal world, if the supplier gets the HST back, the production would become cheaper. And naturally a cheaper price would be paid by the consumer. The chart appears deceptive because it looks like no HST was paid. In actuality, the tax was paid, but refunded. Unfortunately, in BC no one can afford to live without raising prices. Lowering retail prices would lower the bottom line. The high cost of living here sends retailers into fear. They fear they can't afford to lower their prices. In fact, with all the GST/PST/HST confusion, many retailers saw this as the ideal time to raise prices to the exorbitant stage. The government would get blamed. And, in reality, that is what happened.
What used to cost $100 now costs $120.
Car repairs
Brake Pads
or with HST
Brake Pads
Sad, but true.
But, businesses are doing well. They have raised their prices and they get back all the HST paid so they are sitting even prettier than they did in the days prior to HST. Another victory for business.
The consumer is left with the increased food bill, the increased services bill, etc.
A "good" tax for BC businesses indeed. Sadly, it is harsh for the poor people, since business gets their HST back. Do poor people get HST back? Apparently, HST tax credits will be available. Many low-income British Columbians are eligible for federal and provincial tax credits. According to The BC Liberal HST in BC website those with low and modest incomes receive a GST credit of up to $381 annually. Also, the BC HST credit provides up to $230 annually. But, only a portion will be refundable. Unlike the businesses that get 100% HST refunded.
Regardless of what BC votors choose, what recourse will BC consumers have? We are free to shop around for the honest businesses that will not gouge their customers with exorbitant price increases. Ask for several price quotations before making a major purchase. My partner and I already do this.
We take the time to get to know the product we wish to buy, and buy it from a credible merchant—one with integrity. Honest merchants are still out there, but it takes time to find someone who is honest. Weed the gougers out of our life.
Same with government. Democracy is corruptible, since humans are involved who may lean toward greed. Again, weed the corrupt government out of our life.
It is like tending a garden. Patience and perseverance will help us weed corruption out of our lives and we will be left with people who are honest and have integrity. It is up to each one to become informed and trust the process. Let's change our world for the better.
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