Tuesday, April 16, 2013

My thoughts on religious based intolerance...

So many recent events have been driving me to write this post. With the Supreme Court currently working on their decision to allow or disallow gay marriage and the bombings that happened just yesterday in Boston, it seems again that religion is a sad and unnecessary thing in our world.

During the time SCOTUS was hearing arguments on gay marriage, several of my friends posted a scripture from Genesis that "marriage shall be between a man and a woman". They believe that the Bible has already decided that marriage is only proper if it exists in that fashion. That belief, best I can tell, is based on their belief that the Bible is correct since it is the word of God. My question about this really is, "What?!". However, let's just concede the point that the Bible is the word of god. Does that mean that everything in the bible is right? Does that mean the slavery condoned in the very same book of Genesis is correct (or in Leviticus, Exodus, etc)? I would bet that these same people that believe that marriage only truly exists between a man and a woman would say that slavery is wrong, even though the bible says otherwise.

I would bet that many in fact don't even know about the slavery bit, or the priest performing an abortion in the bible, or the men in the bible who allow their virgin children/daughters to be raped by men in order to protect priests, or many other horror filled stories of The Good Book. I would bet that while the story of Noah's ark is pictured on many a nursery wall, they forget that for that story to have happened, their god determined that ALL OTHER MANKIND (including children) and animals (what pray tell did the animals do?!) had to be wiped from the face of the earth. Did an all powerful god need to wipe out everything? Why not just get rid of the baddies?

If one really looks at the bible and studies the killings, virtually all of the killing is done by their god. Their god is a self-described jealous god who dare not be angered or denied. Their god is a very violent god who by conservative estimates killed 2.5 million people through floods, plagues, sword, pestilence, and a host of other misery infested deaths.

I guess it bugs me that the people who are most religious are the most intolerant. They say their beliefs are based on the bible. If the bible condones slavery, intolerance, and hate, which it does, then I certainly don't want to use it as my moral compass. Wouldn't it be more pleasant to just get along?!

I had an interesting chat with someone close to me that is religious. His view is that Jesus came in and changed the whole story, that he basically made the Old Testament invalid. Once Jesus came into the picture, the eye-for-an-eye god became the loving and caring god. Sadly, the New Testament claims several times over that the Old Testament is still valid and must be honored (Matthew 5, Luke 16, 2 Timothy 3, Mark 7, etc).

So I guess I am confused. Do the people who believe in the bible believe in all of the bible or just bits a pieces that support their own thoughts? Are those who are intolerant of homosexuals and their lives actually intolerant because that is how they were raised? (Methinks so.) I dare say there is not a two year old child who would hate having two fathers or two mothers. The only things a young child hates are being told no and naps. So somewhere after that stage, someone has told that young child that two fathers or two mothers is wrong. I see where they could get that from the bible, but it seems to me to be hypocritical to pull that particular verse as gospel (no pun intended) and none of the others (slavery, wearing cloth made from two different sources, an eye for an eye, etc). The thing that frightens me the most about people who base their hatred and intolerance on the bible is that the bible teaches them to hate all who do not believe the same. 2 John 1:9-11 and worse 2 Chronicles 15:12-13 which calls for the nonbeliever to be put to death. (It deserves to be said that the Koran actually calls for the same death for nonMuslims... This is meant not to be a post specifically ripping on Christianity, but rather the inconsistencies and the hypocricies of the believers in most religions.)

I read a quote the other day that really resonated with me: Tolerance of intolerance is cowardice. Claiming that you don't think two gay men should be able to have the same civil rights as a man and a woman is intolerance, irrespective of how it is spun. Any way of thinking that you are entitled to more rights than any other law abiding, tax paying, loving and caring person, is simply intolerance, and probably even narcissistic. And one certainly can't claim to love everyone but not want them to have equal rights and privileges. This to me is as clear as killing someone because they are the wrong religion is the same: intolerance. (Hopefully the bombs that went off yesterday in Boston won't be tied in any way to religion, but I am betting that they will be.)

As a side note, I have had several people tell me that religion is necessary to provide natural order and for people to base their morals on. I find this a pretty self-damning idea from those who support it. I don't kill people or rape people because the bible tells me not to (quite the opposite - the bible supports this to some degree). Many people seem to have their morals based on the bible so that they may receive everlasting life, or perhaps they fear divine retribution if they break the rules of the bible. Either way, someone with true morality is a good person because they are, and because they respect the life of others to live peacefully, and because they have empathy, and not because The Good Book says how to live.

Update: I'm guessing that these early details that emerge from the Boston bombers will soon start up the Islamophobia that runs rampant in our very Christian country. If the two men blew up people in Boston because of their religion, it only solidifies my distaste for organized religion. When organized religion stops spending millions of dollars on a mega church or synagogue or temple, and instead sends that money to help the poor, I may need to rethink this. For now though, I will look around this amazing world we live in, learn as much as I can about it, and be happy that I was able to live this very short time in it without needing to worry about an invisible man in the sky sending me to a very hot eternal place.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Regis, we have a problem

When we returned to the USA, the one bright spot we really had was that we would be sending Caden to Regis School - a catholic all boys school. We had attended there before we left and were eager to return. Our excitement and hope was sadly misplaced.

School started the second week and January. By January 30, we were walking into a meeting with the heads of administration after already having had a meeting with Caden's teacher. We were extremely concerned about the reported bullying and lack of supervision Caden told us about everyday, and also concerned about his constant complaint of boredom. I had already spoken to several parents in the class and they too told me of problems at recess and PE due to bullying and seemingly lack of supervision.

Scott and I felt better after our meeting with administration (even after the headmistress said she felt Caden was "uppity" since he was so opinionated about not liking the school). We were assured in that meeting there was no bullying taking place, but rather, "typical boy behavior" and
"boys will be boys" behavior. We were also told that the work (specifically the math and reading) would be put at an increased intensity to keep Caden stimulated.

Fast forward a month... I was hearing about the increased intensity of bullying. Other parents and kids were telling me of Caden being thrown against the wall by one of the other children. One boy in Caden's class had (thankfully) become Caden's self-appointed bodyguard. The reports of the playground conjured up visions of gang-type mentality groups of boys terrorizing loners or boys who were different in any way. Our kid met this mark with flying colors. Small (the size of boys two grades below), new, and with strong opinions, Caden doesn't shrink into the background. Recess proved no different. Perhaps being new, Caden wore a big target on his back which resulted in bullying on average three times per week.

The first two months of school literally consisted of Caden crying everyday about going to school (which in turn led me to follow suit as soon as he was out the door). After about two months, he stopped crying and became very stoic about it. It almost seemed like he had just accepted this as his new reality. A good day would be one where he didn't get beat up at recess. Literally. Things such as getting his head squeezed on the slide for some period of time, until he could get away enough to hide under the preK slide until recess was over where he could safely access a teacher, and then going to the nurse's office with a headache and needing bandaids. NOT typical boy behavior when it is happening on a consistent basis.

We were worried enough to pay to have him assessed by an educational psychologist. She found him to be extremely bright with a very high IQ, and "extremely gifted" in math and reading comprehension. She also assured us that he wasn't the only child complaining of bullying at Regis. In fact she believed it to be a bigger problem in the higher grades, which I simply couldn't fathom -- It was going to get worse??!

We had spoken via email and phone with various people at the school throughout this time period with no improvements: none in decreasing bullying, none in increasing academics, none in any of it. It seemed in a class of 8 children, all of these things would be addressed easily in a few days, but we found ourselves out 3 months and not seeing anything change. Academically, Caden had learned virtually nothing, aside from what he self-taught from his books. I was spending an hour a day with him everyday after school working on multiplication, cursive, etc to try to stay ahead of the stagnant learning environment he was in during the day.

After a terrible meeting with the head of the lower school and one of the first grade teachers, we (finally) recognized it wasn't going to change. We offered Caden to stay for the remainder of the semester (approximately 35 days) where he knew everyone, the routine, the work, etc; or he could go to a new school with a much bigger class, with girls (ewwwww!), new teachers, new routines, new everything... He jumped at the opportunity to leave Regis. We enrolled him in the local public school the next day: Valley Oaks Elementary.

Within a week, the teacher, the counselor, and Caden had all communicated how happy they all were to have him in VOE. He remarked on day 3 as we went to school how strange it felt to like going to school and to not be scared. It was without a doubt the happiest day we have had since we returned back to the states. The first day at school he received a reading book appropriate for his level versus one that was a year too young level. Winning on all levels!!

Having a kid bullied at school is a very unsettling feeling. It is hard to discern how much of it is bullying, how much of it is exaggerated, and how much of it more hurt feelings than anything. As a parent, I feel like I let him down. I should have paid more attention to the peripheral behavior which fully supported his story of bullying. I shouldn't have doubted that he was exaggerating, or even listened to administrators when they assured us it wasn't happening. I should have listened to my 7 year old boy - not just his words, but his actions. I should have fought more and perhaps pulled him out earlier. I can't imagine going to school or work everyday with this burning fear of being beat up at recess. I shouldn't have let him have that feeling for as long as he did. A kid is supposed to dread going to school because he doesn't want to sit and do schoolwork, not because he is being beat up at recess. For Caden, it was exactly the opposite. He dreaded going to school and not learning, and then adding insult to injury, getting bullied on the playground.

An update: We felt really let down by everything that happened at that school. A couple of school days after we left, there was a meeting called by the administration for the first grade parents. It just so happened that by that date, five children had been withdrawn from Caden's grade in only that school year. I was reassured that we had made the best decision possible when I learned that one of the mom's that attended the meeting said that all the people who had pulled their children didn't really belong at Regis. Since I don't think my kid should be bullied, and that the academics should be at least at the level of public school's equivalent grade (particularly when I put those things above the prestige of being able to say my kid goes to the private parochial school), I guess she is right. I don't belong at Regis. More importantly, I have learned a very valuable lesson. Go with your gut. It is probably right.