Black Funeral Impressions — An Atheist Perspective

beloved cousin -- we will miss you

beloved cousin — we will miss you

Hey guys, back from my trip and man was it an eye opening roller coaster ride. When dad was alive, I never got to really know the Norman side. This being my first time meeting a lot of them, I felt like I was in the middle of a Tyler Perry Film with my Uncle Bernard in the role of Madea.

FUNERAL IMPRESSIONS

What the pastor said Pastor Haley gave a beautiful eulogy but as expected, he had to preach throughout. One of the things I found annoying was his assertion that those who did not know Jesus needed to get right with the lord because someone in the congregation would experience death either personally or via a close loved one, soon.

Way to terrorize folks into faith there preacher man.

As Sherrie was well loved this rather large funeral home was packed to the gills with mourners, so it is very likely anyone in there could die “soon”, thus fulfilling his “prophecy”.

Hell, I could have gotten killed on the way home with all those crazy highway drivers. Being the atheist in the room, I am sure this would have been a sign that god has indeed spoken. God just seems miffed when people refuse to kow tow to him, doesn’t he? I wish I could have asked this question, “If god only smites us lowly sinners for being all uppity like–why did he take Sherrie, who by all accounts was the very example of Christian love?”

Speaking of which

Biggest hurts Being part of the immediate family, we were asked to view Sherrie’s body before anyone else. It was odd seeing someone so lively so still…and she looked very different…bloated, older … not like herself. The only reason I recognized her was because she had her nails done up. Sherrie was one to treat herself every week to an expensive manicure as one of her feminine luxuries, otherwise she was a bit of a tomboy.

I have two uncles left of five brothers who have already passed. I love them both but Uncle Bernard (Uncle B) has always been my favorite. The loudest cat in the room (yes, he is that brother who would annoy you at Applebee’s) he is funny, boisterous and kind. Uncle B and Sherrie were very close, they spoke everyday, and as my Uncle is an airline steward, he frequently had her fly in to see him at various locations. When you saw one you saw the other.

Now, I’ve seen my Uncle remain strong even when his brothers passed, but with Sherrie—no. Uncle B got drunk as hell and literally started falling on the floor kicking, screaming, crying and calling out for her.

It broke my heart so I ran to him trying to comfort him. He kept saying, “Jesus I need you, I need to be near the cross, god is so good all the time. You are worthy to be praised!”

It was then that the insidious nature of religion was underlined for me. He continued to praise a god who, by his own account, is the source of his pan. This god, in other words, is the reason for Sherrie being gone, due to some divine plan we can’t comprehend. This form of “worship” is what this god expects. “Show me you love me more than her, even in the midst of your pain” this god demands “and I will let you into heaven.”

This made me cry more.

At one point–he looked directly at me and said “When I start to fall tomorrow, I need someone to lean in my ear and say, “God is real and he is good all the time, god is good all the time,”

Uncle knows I am an atheist.

Everyone in the group who had been I assisting Uncle B in his bereavement turned to look at me to see my reaction. I said nothing. But I remained close by my uncle wiping his tears and consoling him. Then he said “Jesus I need you to wrap my arms around you–I can’t feel you Lord this is too hard! Lift me up! Show me your love lord!”

I held back the urge to say “Jesus isn’t there uncle! It is human hands holding you up – comforting you — Your brother Willie, Cousin Curtis…my sister and ! Look around you, you are being held up by humans, not gods.”

I didn’t.

He also screamed out, “Lord I want you to touch the heart of every Norman in the room so they know you are real…”

More things were said in this regard, but you get the point.

Later my niece came to me and asked my why I just wouldn’t say what Uncle B wanted me to and I replied “Okay, let’s reverse this situation. If I was in distress and I asked any one of our religious relatives to renounce their faith to make me feel better, would they? But even larger—would it be fair to ask?”

Jasmine said, “Okay, good point.”

I also told her that if I was Muslim or Hindu no one would expect me to do such a thing — but because I am an atheist I am supposed to go against my own convictions.

I am not angry with my uncle…it was just uncomfortable.

When he later sobered up he would say he didn’t remember anything (although other numerous details he did). I never brought it back up and I won’t. Still, I got an idea of why he stopped calling me to join him when he would corm to Atlanta for visits.

Biggest WTF moment has anyone heard of a ‘dance ministry?” Neither have I, but apparently brothers dress up in black suits, wear white gloves and do interpretative dance moves ( think mimes) and lyp sycn to modern christian music. Wish I were joking. I was so stunned I had to bury my face in my handkerchief to keep from laughing. I finally did however when I could take it no more ( damn that song was looong). Folks thought I was crying, so they kept patting my back and saying “It’s okay”. I was sure I would be struck by lightening for my insolence.

Family drama Sherrie is survived by a sister who has three kids. Cousin Ruth (known as Denean) is an accomplished business woman who achieved Woman of the Year status. Her daughter Graduated Magnum Cum Laud from Dartmouth, has met President Obama and is flying to Paris this year after being offered an amazing job (not even 25 yet). Chick speaks five languages.

Danean and Danielle HATE each other. The sat faaaar away from one another on either side of the pew and when Danielle started to cry Danean screamed at her “Danielle if you MUST do that go to the back of the church!”

What the hell????

Sherrie’s home was broken into the night it was announced she died–every expensive thing in her home was stolen. My Cousin Junior ( Willie Jr) had his iPad stolen from his Lexus. They tracked it to Sherries best friend’s house and learned that her son had stolen it.

Wow.

LEGACY Many of Sherrie’s co-workers came to speak at her funeral. They worked with her for over a decade and they spoke of how she made the office a fun place to work. She had never been later a day of working there; efficient, motivated and capable she was a boss who made bosses day a joy to celebrate. They also mentioned that when she would head funding and charity drives she would gather more volunteers than anyone else. This co-worker spoke with tears in her eyes… could see that she loved Sherrie.

The pastor said a few things in this regard that I did agree with. He said that many of us concentrate on our resumes and never reflect on what our obituary will read. He said that the legacy of what we leave behind will tell of the life we lead. He said that Sherrie was the kind of person who, when they leave the world, Christmases and Holidays will never be the same.

Judging by that packed church, he was right.

Most funerals you go to people are checking their watches and looking to get out of there. I didn’t get that impression.

Everyone was there for her.

She is one of the rare souls who will truly be missed.

Abscence of Faith Details My Deconversion Story

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Absence of Faith, a book that chronicles 16 deconversion stories, is available for purchase and as far as atheist based books go, it is a great concept.

The book was written by MS Pearce (who writes the blog The Tippling Philosopher) and Tristan Vick (who writes Advocatus Atheist) with a foreword by Jeremy Beahan (of Reasonable Doubts).

My deconversion story is detailed in it as well and the first review of the book mentions it. It is humbling and exciting to note that some people find my story moving in any way.

Please check out the review below and if so inclined, check out the book:

http://freethoughtblogs.com/marginoferr/2014/05/18/book-review-beyond-an-absence-of-faith/

Thank you,

Alicia

http://freethoughtblogs.com/marginoferr/2014/05/18/book-review-beyond-an-absence-of-faith/

WordPress — True Champions of Free Speech

WWP 2014I am a black, bisexual woman who moonlights as an erotic animator. I’m also a politically active atheist who is not prone to backing down when my freedom is being challenged.

Which it is — quite often.

Seeing the world from a multi-layered perspective as I do, I can tell you that there are those who claim to fight for freedom but merely give it lip service. Their true mantra shouldn’t be “Freedom for all” but “freedom for everyone who thinks, acts, looks like I do”.

As an atheist, I simply see no real value in the belief of gods or the practice of religions. That being the case, I would never stifle religion’s voice. I understand that in this diverse world of ours, it truly takes all kinds. Some of the most passionate and insightful humans have been individuals of faith. The flipside also exists, as there have been non believers who have brought humanity to great heights via science or technology.

I wouldn’t seek to upset this delicate balance, but to vehemently uphold it. You don’t have to agree with my point of view, in fact, I welcome spirited discourse on a great number of topics. Expressive by nature, I can bow towards a well argued position. All I ask in return is that I get to have a say in this exchange of ideas.

I’d also like to be afforded the opportunity to live free without someone else imposing their personal ideologies on me via the law. I should, for example, be able to go to any store I desire to on a Sunday. Why would anyone make a law that restricts my activity in this regard, when I don’t personally subscribe to any religious practices that would prohibit my ability to do so? Those who wish to abstain from visiting a store can happily do so without creating any laws.

In a world of supposed freedom fighters, there are those who would seek preferential treatment at the expense of others. Such self serving, cavalier attitudes has left me feeling as if no one truly understands what freedom entails. In a modern era, the concept has been demoted to a meaningless buzzword used to fuel political agendas and rob disenfranchised groups of rights.

WordPress would seek to challenge the status quo.

Yet, with this bitter perspective in mind, you could then understand my skepticism when I learned from a friend that WordPress was among one of a handful of companies that claimed to be the last bastion of true liberty. Companies’ like Google, who owns YouTube, claims to be anti censorship and yet they will allow the entire world to DCMA videos at the drop of a hat.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), was created with saintly purpose. I mean, just because an intellectual property is housed online doesn’t mean it is not owned by the person who created it. As an artist, I can appreciate the “why” that made DCMA’s a necessity. It takes years for someone like me to create a full feature film. Effort is married with time and money as well, making it a costly labor of love. To that end, I don’t want someone to be able to cash in on my hard work with the click of mouse.

However, the types of piracy and copyright infringement that DCMA’s seek to protect creatives from are largely perpetrated offline. Most professional “pirates” create mock DVD’s that they sell on street corners. The few outlets that try to hawk illegal materials online are quickly ferreted out and shut down. One also has to bear in mind that in a technological age, intellectual property theft is sadly easier and bound to occur.

None of these scenarios are applicable to YouTube content creators. If some eight year old kid is singing to Justin Bieber’s “Baby” in a video, he is hardly infringing on the record label’s copyrights. If that were the case, any woman or man singing loudly to a CD in their car can be held in violation of copyright laws. Songs are digitally stamped anyway, and when used, can be linked to the video. I don’t know how many times I ran across a vid on YouTube only to find it contained a long lost song I hadn’t heard in years. In such instances, I’d quickly rush off to iTunes to purchase the track.

Besides, under the Fair Use Act, films, documentaries and videos can be dissected and utilized by Vloggers and common users for the purpose of education or critique. Yet YouTube is a veritable minefield of falsely filed DCMA’s which are often leveled because someone had an axe to grind. In such cases, the Vlogger or content creator is left at a loss with very little recourse. They often must wait around until the situation is reviewed, meanwhile, their hard work goes down the drain, unnoticed and unranked, all because someone didn’t like what they had to say.

In its current incarnation, DCMA filing systems place a lot of power in the hands of supposed copyright holders. Knowing humans all too well, I’d realized long ago that this kind of power would be abused.

Case in point.

I created an innocent video of two animated characters kissing. It was the kind of kiss one would see in a Disney film — they were clothed — in an office setting — standing face to face. I wanted to share this with my YouTube fan base, who had been following my erotica storyline at the time.

To my surprise, the video gained a lot of traction. In a matter of a couple of months, the video had nearly reached 300, 000 views. It was my most popular video to date and I was beyond ecstatic.

Incidentally, I was at war with a racial realist group at the time, who decided to lash out at me by falsely flagging my work. Without warning, my video was taken down. I frantically tried to learn what I could do in such a situation and found that my only recourse was to surf through hundreds of forums to get my simple question answered. By the time I finally learned I had an option to appeal, I was so dispirited that I simply deleted my video, certain they weren’t going to rule in my favor anyway. To my chagrin, a month later, they actually did.

As a filmmaker and activist, my work becomes my voice. The fact that anyone with a grudge or agenda can silence it is a frightening prospect. Adding insult to current injury are the new Content ID measures being put into place by YouTube. Under the provisions set forth Google/YouTube, content providers can penalize those who use their clips in video debates or in ways already protected by the Fair Use Act.

Yet Google claims to be all about protecting Freedom of Speech. Pffft!

With these facts in mind, I could only view WordPress’ claims as freedom fighter’s askance. That is, until I did some actual research.

I soon learned that WordPress was one of the few blogging platforms that allowed you to post and write erotic content unfettered.

Hummm….

Furthermore, I learned that their anti-censorship stance has caused them to be blocked by several repressive countries and regimes. WordPress developer Matt Mullenweg went on record to say this, “WordPress.com supports free speech and doesn’t shut people down for ‘uncomfortable thoughts and ideas, in fact, we’re blocked in several countries because of that.”

Double hummmm…

Most interesting however, was the fact that the company behind one of the most respected blogging platforms in the world, was willing to put their money where their mouths were. In November of 2013, Automattic, the company that runs WordPress.com, filed two separate lawsuits against individuals who tried to silence opposing voices via falsely filed DCMA’s.

They finally had me at “hello.”

The lawsuits addressed two situations where DCMA filings were utilized to infringe on the free speech of an opponent. In one case, Retraction Watch had been reportedly targeted by researcher Anil Potti, whom the group had been critical of. Co-Edited by Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus, the blog focuses on the retractions of scientific papers. Anil Potti has since came out to say that the DCMA wasn’t filed by him. The second case involved an interview conducted by student journalist Oliver Hotham. A UK Straight Pride group consented to the interview but when their own words came back to haunt them, they decided to file a false DCMA to get Hotham’s blog post removed.

Automattic’s official position on the matter was simple. They didn’t like the fact that people could easily silence their opposition in such an underhanded manner. Those who have such claims filed against them hardly have the means to defend themselves and must jump through a bevy of hoops and/or face potential prosecution for their efforts.

Having the money and inclination, Automattic decided to roll up its sleeves in defense of the little guy.

Brings a tear to the eye it does.

Indeed, the term gratitude just isn’t strong enough. I am a minority within a minority. If the bullies get their way, I can easily get shut out and shut down. Were it not for true champions of freedom like WordPress.com, I’d have no recourse but to sit on the sidelines and hope not to be squashed by the powerful elites who take their own freedoms for granted.

The internet gives folks like me a voice and a say. WordPress knows this, which is why they refuse to change their anti-censorship policies even when countries like China, Turkey and Russia boycott them.

Like Automattic, I would never silence those who disagree with me, no matter how loudly they scream. In fact, I never once falsely flagged or DCMA’s the racial realists who attacked me. I gave my counter opinion. I raised my voice against theirs. I said my piece.

Yet they and others like them would not only seek to silence me but would see me stripped of my rights based on some misguided interpretation of freedom.

Whatever flaws may exist within their system, WordPress truly understands what Freedom entails and will fight to keep the concept alive.

This is why I have to regard WordPress and its counterparts as true champions of freedom, now, if only everyone would follow their exemplary lead.

photo by Alicia R. Norman
by # WordPress — https://twitter.com/AliciaN24666551