Today Jesus would be an atheist

The Thinker by Rodin

My new home in Northampton, Massachusetts in some ways is not much different than life in the Washington D.C. region where I used to live. For example, there are plenty of homeless people here too. They are not hard to spot, particularly in downtown Northampton where they beg for spare change. I also see them at traffic intersections with cardboard signs saying they are down on their luck (usually ending in “God bless”) and a Styrofoam cup. Some of these people look familiar. They look a lot like me if I had been less fortunate.

Perhaps giving them some spare change is love, but it’s a minute measure of the love they need. There are lots of people who end up as at least temporary road kill, curiously often found next to roads. There are some social services for them, but not much. Mostly these services make their lives a little less bleak for a while. Rarely do they help transform these sad people the way a caring and loving society should.

My friend from childhood Tom has a podcast. Regular readers will recall I recently attended his father’s funeral. In fact, Tom once interviewed me. Tom is a talented creative artist currently scratching out a living in advertising by doing freelance work. But he also podcasts and helps support online progressive radio. In his last podcast, Tom conversed with Jeff Bell, who hosts his own podcast, The Left Show. Jeff’s show is a raucous, freewheeling, frequently hilarious but very bawdy weekly endeavor that is also surprisingly entertaining. In Tom’s latest podcast, I learned at Jeff has his friend Forrest (alias Podcast Phil) living in his home with him.

I have not been listening to The Left Show long enough to recognize Forrest’s voice. In the podcast I learned that Forrest has stage-four prostate cancer. Jeff and his wife were kind enough to let their very sick and destitute friend live with them until he dies. I learned that Jeff, very financially stressed himself, was hunting the Internet for donations so that when Forrest dies they can cover his end of life expenses and have him cremated. Yes, you can still die in America and there is no guarantee anyone — not even the government — will pick up the bill even for a cremation. I guess that would be socialism or something.

I felt appalled of course and contributed $50 toward his future cremation. During the podcast Tom contributed his own story of his father’s decline and fall. His father was lucky in the sense that by being a World War II veteran a local veterans’ home took him in at no charge. Tom comes from a large family but all have their financial challenges. Tom’s father never bothered to create a will and was basically destitute too. The family was at least able to scrape up enough money to have their father cremated, but a coffin and a cemetery plot were simply unaffordable.

Until I listened to the podcast, I had not learned another part of the story. Tom’s father was a long time member of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Binghamton, New York. I attended his father’s funeral and it was very well done. A number of priests celebrated mass and reminisced about their time with Tom Sr., who was popular at the church, extremely Catholic, extremely Irish, and extremely Notre Dame (the university where he got his engineering degree). The funeral included a cantor and a luncheon for family and friends after the service. Aside from being destitute though, Tom’s family shared something in common with Forrest. St. Pat’s wanted money for the privilege of sending him off to the next world in the Catholic way. Apparently, all those years of Tom Sr. tithing money to the Catholic Church was not quite enough for a freebee funeral. There was also an exit fee for the family to pick up.

This surprised me but my surprise quickly turned to disgust. What did Jesus call the moneychangers at the temple? Jesus saw them as desecrating the temple. It made such an impact on early Christians that it appears in all four gospels. Two thousand years later, at least at some Catholic churches, charging money for service rendered is routine. It happens in the very church that Jesus himself founded.

Catholics are not alone in this grubby business. Mormons must tithe 10% of their income, although I don’t know enough about Mormons to know if they close the door on you at services if you don’t pay up. I read that Jews don’t require tithing anymore, but some practices like selling tickets for a seat on high holy days leave me revolted.

Churches, synagogues and I’m sure mosques have bills to pay too, so perhaps I should not be surprised they charge fees in addition to depending on donations. St. Pat’s is a big, honking Catholic Church. I can understand charging for certain services like a minister’s fee for a wedding when the participants are not members. That wasn’t the case with Tom Sr. A truly Christian community would certainly send off one of its most devout, popular and loyal members without charging an exit fee, right? You would be wrong.

I hear all the time that we live in a Christian country. While we are free to practice the religion of our choice, for many of the devout Christianity is our state religion. Well, I’ve got news for these people. Christianity is not our state religion. It’s Capitalism and it’s so much a part of our values that it’s built into our religious institutions too. It’s why most Christians in our country have little in common with Jesus Christ.

Perhaps due to the kindness of strangers or the beneficence of government some of our many distraught and uncared for people will get some escape from their misery. But while the services we do provide may seem like a lot, it is but a droplet of water to a thirsty man. It’s not nearly enough. Our tacit message to the poor like Tom Sr. and Forrest is that you have to throw the dice and hope on the kindness of strangers, and the kindness you get is likely to be meager if you get it at all. Tom Sr. got it from being a veteran. Forrest is getting it thanks to the beneficence of Jeff and his wife. Otherwise he would probably be on the street too, dying of prostate cancer in some back lot or hovel.

By the way, Jeff is an atheist in the predominantly Mormon state of Utah. No one from the state of Utah or the Mormon Church seems interested in making Forrest’s exit from this life humane, perhaps because I believe Forrest is an ex-Mormon and thus an apostate.

Apparently, it takes an atheist and the kindness of people on the Internet to see real Christianity at work these days. Which is why I suspect that if Jesus walks among us today, he is probably an atheist. Who could blame him?

Sampling the Pod Porn Universe

The Thinker by Rodin

The public has been sending me a consistent message: we want more porn posts! Looking through my SiteMeter statistics today, the message is clear. Today 45 of my last 100 page views have been for posts I made about porn, even though porn represents only one percent of my post subjects.

I should be grateful for the porn enthusiasts out there. Perhaps some of them will bookmark my site to read posts about all the other topics on which I write. It used to be I averaged 150 page views a day. Thanks to a few popular posts on porn and to moving my blog to WordPress, I have been averaging 450 page views per day. Typically twenty to thirty percent of my page views are on porn related topics. What is curious is that while a couple posts get the majority of the hits, the one entry I wrote about porn that I like the best hardly gets any hits at all. Go figure.

While I made a promise to myself not be become an adult oriented blog, I am vain enough to want my page view counts to keep rising. Consequently, I wondered if I had one yet more post in me on pornography. I finally found one: Pod Porn.

I was late coming to the podcast craze but I eventually did pick up the habit. I find that when I exercise at my local Gold’s Gym, an MP3 player full of podcasts is an easy way to engage the mind while going through the drudgery of aerobics and lifting weights. Mostly I fill my MP3 player with shows from national public radio, C-SPAN or technical podcasts from Infoworld. For the last month or so, though I have been supplementing my regular podcasts with pod porn.

Yes, of course there is podcast porn out there. A simple Google search took me to this directory where I found podcasts not just on pornography, but on sex, sexuality, relationships and all sorts of adult content you will not hear on the radio. I had two basic questions. First, are any of these podcasts any good? Second, are any of them even arousing? Bravely I loaded my MP3 player and headed to the gym, hoping that not embarrass myself while exercising. (Frankly, the many attractive women in spandex exercise my imagination far more than any pod porn.)

Fortunately getting aroused from pod porn was not a problem. At age eighteen, any woman under age 40 walking by not in a burka had a 50% chance of raising an erection. The real problem with Pod Porn (and I only include the auditory kind in my sampling) is that porn is more enjoyable if you are viewing it or reading it. In real life, men frequently hit the fast forward button when watching porn. I was even more inclined to hit the next selection button with pod porn than I ever was with ordinary pornography.

So here are quick reviews of some of the sexually oriented podcasts I have listened to over the last month or so. This is about a third of the total, and represent some of my more recent samplings, as I forgot to archive the earlier podcasts.

  • Adult DVD Empire does podcasts! In this interview, porn star Annette Schwarz (and truly, I have no idea who she is) is interviewed shortly after a big porn shoot here in the states and before returning toGermany. I have no idea who she is but I did learn that her friends back inGermany would be cooking her potato pancakes to celebrate her return. Moreover, I was surprised and a little nauseous to learn she enjoys more than Visine in her eyes.
  • In another Adult DVD Empire podcast, porn star Claudia Downs tells us she was raised in Hazard,Kentucky. In a breath of honesty from a porn star, we learn she is doing porn for the money. Apparently, opportunity and high paying jobs do not abound in Hazard,Kentucky so like Jed Clampett she moved toCalifornia. However, she still claims she is kinky in real life too. Apparently, porn will not be her last career. In fact, she wants to earn enough money to go back toKentucky to study to be a physical therapist. Oh, and she is interviewed just off the set of having extreme multiple partner sex. I hope she showered first.
  • In Fetish Flame 29, a woman named Flash “the Kinky Mom” is interviewed in “The Red Room”. Flash is a divorced mother with two teenage children who are aware that their mother is into strange things but (she says) don’t really know just how strange. Her favorite publication is Penthouse Forum Variations. Flash likes to hang out in adult novelty stores and do things like try on their latex body suits. We learn vital things like to use the lube they provide when you try on body suits. (TMI!)
  • In Fetish Flame 36, Natasha explains how hypnosis can allow people to become more submissive with their partners. Frankly, all that discussion about hypnosis just made me want to go to sleep.
  • In (where else) San Francisco106.9 FM has a late night Sex with Emily Show. In this podcast we learn about how a 36 year old woman had sex with a 22 year old and how good it was for her. We also learn how men in their mid to late 20s have a natural talent for giving women oral sex.
  • Pod Wanker apparently thinks its podcasts are good enough to get your plumbing moving. I beg to disagree. I listened to this podcast and it sounds like bad phone sex, not that I would know phone sex because I have never tried it. If I were getting charged $3.99 a minute for this incestuous fantasy, I would be demanding a refund.
  • In this podcast, a guy who sounds a lot like Forest Gump, only stupider, describes a presumably fictitious group sex party. I confess I did not make it past the one-minute mark. His voice grated me. Frankly, I cannot imagine that this podcast would arouse anyone, including its author. It was simply dreadful.
  • Violet Blue hosts Open Source Sex. She is enthusiastic about porn and Web 2.0 communities. She also writes a column for the San Francisco Gate. In this podcast, we get to hear her brief talk at an O’Reilly forum (yes, the same people who publish those technical books). She talks about how difficult it is to police adult content on social networking sites. Aside from her natural enthusiasm, there is nothing the least bit arousing about this podcast.
  • Finally, although I am not gay, I did try this podcast from The Gay Trucker. I loved the naughty song at the beginning of the podcast. The Gay Trucker took a call from the Bill, the Gay Construction Worker. I learned a few things I did not particularly want to know, such as gay truckers are checking my package when they cruise by me on the highway in their elevated cabs. I also learned that if you are a gay trucker there are protocols for using the CB channels to find other gay truckers. Apparently, it involves triple clicks with your microphone. Also, Flying J truck stops have the best place to pick up other gay truckers. It may help to grab your crotch, but be discreet because most truckers are rednecks. I also learned about the strategic value of off ramps to chat with fellow gay truckers. This podcast was actually the most educational of the bunch as well as occasionally humorous. I learned a heap of things I never knew about truckers and gays. Moreover, it was well produced and insightful.

So will I be listening to more pod porn? Probably not. Frankly, I find podcasts on politics and information technology far more interesting. Nonetheless, my casual introduction to this world suggests that there is plenty of mediocrity in pod porn, not to mention advertising, and little of it is titillating. In the pod-casting universe, I suspect it represents a significant minority. If you have a particular kink, you may find porn podcasts to your liking. For us ordinary libidinous folks, I suggest Howard Stern.