Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Christian Pharisee

Ask a Christian who is convinced they have done nothing wrong to apologize for something they did wrong, and they will refuse. They are too inebriated by their own truth to ever admit such a thing. Christ, on the other hand, who the Christian is convinced is the embodiment of all "truth," never did anything wrong in his entire life. And because of his innocence, he offered up himself as an apology for all wrongs, especially those the Christian adamantly refuses to admit to. The great irony of Christianity, therefore, is how Christ was crucified as an apology for the very Christian who refuses to apologize. 

The last thing the Christian would have ever thought to do to those they defined as "witches," for example, was apologize for roasting them alive. After all, an apology is something offered by those who are clearly in the wrong, and the Christian knows that their "faith" in Christ clearly puts them in the right, as far as they are concerned.  Every cruelty performed by the Christian can therefore be seen as a virtue when committed for their own personal Jesus. Hence, the only one who was owed an apology in those days was not the witch being burned at the stake, but the poor Christian who was forced to commit such barbarous barbequing in the first place, so that their own sins could one day be forgiven by God. And today, not much has changed.  

This is not to say the Christian is being a complete hypocrite in every respect, mind you. They are simply practicing their faith of humility with a sense of pride, and exercising their religion of selflessness with an inordinate sense of self. This allows the Christian to reap all the benefits of Christianity without the burden of  having to be like Christ. It is this willingness to cloth such cowardice in the robes of courage, that Christ proclaimed he did not come to bring peace, but a sword."

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Only Question Left for Ferguson

In September, Henry Kissinger responded to ISIL's beheading of an American by saying "a measured response is inappropriate." This is an insult, Kissinger told NPR, "which requires that we demonstrate that this is not an act that is free.”  He argued further that, "when an American is murdered ... there should be a response that you cannot, you would not analyze in terms of a normal response to provocation.” And the people of Ferguson, MO., would certainly agree. 

The sense of frustration and outrage that Americans feel over the beheading of one of their own by ISIL is the same frustration and outrage that the people of Ferguson feel over the shooting of Michael Brown, only in Ferguson, the brutal treatment of American citizens has been going on for far longer. Yet when Kissinger suggests we should respond with violence to the former he is applauded as a statesman, while the citizens of Ferguson, who are simply applying Kissinger's advice to the latter, are condemned as savages. The real difference between the two, however, is that the violence of one results in broken bodies that the news would never show us on television, and the other results in broken buildings that the news shows us on television all the time.

 More paradoxical is the fact that, although no one really knows what happened exactly between Michael Brown and Officer Darren Wilson, everyone knows that the American justice system is overwhelmingly racist. And as a consequence, Black Americans are harassed, brutalized, imprisoned, and even murdered by the police far more often than any other race in America today. Brown and Wilson are not therefore the cause of the problems in Ferguson, they are simply the unfortunate effect. And because they are, the riots in Ferguson are not all that different from Nat Turner's slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia, in 1831.  

Even if Officer Wilson is completely innocent of any wrongdoing in the shooting of Michael Brown (which, given all of the conflicting testimony presented to the grand jury, is something that should have been determined by a jury of his peers) is it really that difficult to understand why people who are forced to endure all the indignities that institutionalized discrimination can impose, would riot? 
Suggesting there must be something wrong with people who respond to such discrimination is like saying there must be something wrong with slaves who riot against their masters. In fact, that is exactly what American physician Samuel A. Cartwright said in 1851. In his book, Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race, Cartwright explained that the black slave should be kept “in the position that we learn from the Scriptures he was intended to occupy, that is, the position of submission.” Trying to make the “negro” into anything other than "the submissive knee-bender (which the Almighty declared he should be)” resulted in the slave developing an overwhelming urge to flee the benevolent hospitality of his captors.Cartwright called this mental illness “drapetomania."

Although the riots in Ferguson can in no way be condoned or justified, of course, they can be understood. For Ferguson is simply a reminder that we do not live in a post-racial America simply because Obama was elected president. Putting "a black man in the White House" does make up for a system of "racism for profit" - otherwise known as the War on Drugs - that incarcerates untold numbers of black men in the Big House every year. Nor does it compensate for the racially disproportionate manner in which such a "war" has been continuously waged. 

In fact, to suggest there is something wrong with those who riot in reaction to such a system - a system which is obviously more interested in protecting itself from guilt than in protecting those it should presume to be innocent - is not only a failure to understand the underlying cause of the riots, it is to tacitly support the very system of racism that has always produced such riots in the first place. Indeed, there would only be something "wrong" with the people of Ferguson if they choose not to react at all.  

So the only question left to ask for Ferguson, is this: if you were politically powerless to change a system that was designed to exploit you the most, what would you do? 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Escaping the Bondage of Beliefs - The Yellow Brick Road in Our Head

Most of us never realize that our beliefs are a form of bondage. This is because our beliefs, which we rely on to define our identity, are also an invisible prison that we help to design and create. Ironically, it was from this very prison that Christ himself came to free humanity. Yet rather than spending our energies trying to escape it, we work to fortify it instead. As a result, our beliefs become our castle, with walls we build ever higher and moats we dig ever deeper, with each passing thought. This castle is built not of stones, of course, but of ideas. In fact, in the same way minerals form into rocks which may eventually become mountains, so ideas can form into beliefs and eventually become religions. The only difference is that, for many, it is much easier to move one than change the other. Unlike most prisons, however, the doors of our beliefs are all locked from the inside; and we alone hold the key. 

If you have ever seen movies like The Exorcist, Poltergeist, or Paranormal Activity, you know how an evil demon can possess a person or even a home. In either situation, the more someone tries to evict the interloping spirit, the more violently the spirit will fight to remain. Our beliefs work much in the same way, especially the destructive ones. And of all the beliefs we hold perhaps the most powerful, and certainly the most resilient, deal with God and religion. So powerful are these beliefs, in fact, that, much like a home built on an ancient Indian burial ground, we can come to be inhabited and even fully controlled by them. This possession can then come to determine both the way we judge and value others and how we interpret our ideas and everything we experience. 

The hardest beliefs to escape by far have always been the ones that promise the greatest freedoms. Religion is just one example of the powerful forms of bondage that such beliefs can create, and Christianity is a single castle in the kingdom of that captivity. From handing out Bibles to blowing up buildings, God and religion are not only the most powerful beliefs humanity has ever designed for itself, they are beliefs humanity has demonstrated its willingness to both give and take life en masse to defend. 

Our beliefs define us not only as individuals but as a society, which is why they can come to be considered even more important than we are. And which ones we hold can determine our freedom or our enslavement, and how we choose to live this life and leave it. Yet despite the tremendous role they play in every aspect of our lives, our beliefs are not necessarily our friends. Indeed, despite what most people think, our beliefs tend to control us much more than we control them. The only way to change this is by trying to understand how this happens, and why. Only then can our mind learn to prefer the effort and insecurity that comes from freedom to the power and stability it enjoys from being the servant to a belief. 

As human beings we are prone to form many kinds of addictions, but the things we are addicted to the most by far are our beliefs. Our beliefs are not only the most powerful drug imaginable, physiologically speaking, they are also the last thing people ever suspect they are addicted to. In a way, beliefs are like the water we swim in and we are the fish. And while we are quick to notice anyone who swims against the stream, we are often oblivious to the current of conformity that carries us along with the tide. And because that tide is so often used against us, we can end up becoming victims to the very beliefs we depend on to protect us.

Rest assured that our beliefs want nothing more than to serve and please the God who cobbled them together from the clay of our own conscious thought - us. Like a virus, beliefs need a host to survive. And because they live in the veritable Eden we’ve created for them inside of our own head, the last thing they want is to be thrown out for not doing as they were told. To keep our ideas pure, therefore, we often forbid ourselves, or more importantly our ideas, from eating of certain trees of knowledge. We do this by not reading certain books, or listening to certain speakers, or even asking certain questions. Some of this self-censoring we do deliberately, but some of it we do subconsciously, out of the habits of our conditioning. 

Often times, our beliefs work by looking out at the sea of information around us, and selecting and interpreting that information in ways that prove we are right and others are wrong. Our beliefs, in other words, determine how our mind metabolizes information into ideas by filtering out impurities that suggest our beliefs could be mistaken. It doesn’t matter whether being “right” in a particular instance is ultimately good for us or not. Our beliefs just want to be agreeable and to ensure we get our instant reward for confirming them, regardless of the long term consequences. That “instant reward” comes in a flood of hormones to our brain, like adrenaline and dopamine. 

For providing us with this rush of hormones, we in turn repay the favor to our beliefs by consciously seeking out new information - from sources like books and speakers - to make our rush, and our beliefs, even stronger. We do this, in part, by befriending people who agree with us, and using the filter of their beliefs to reinforce our own. The hormones released in our brain during this process can make us feel good, dominant, and even invincible. And over time, that “high” can lead us to become virtually addicted to what we believe.

This feedback-loop is not simply the result of our beliefs snowballing in our mind, however, but a physical network of synaptic connections in our brain that we ride around and around, like a carousel. Those synapses, which permit neurons in our brain to pass electrical or chemical signals to each other, allow us to string together ideas like lights around a Christmas tree. As our beliefs begin stringing together different ideas in our mind, our synapses start creating new neurological connections in our brain. And the more we travel along the byways of those beliefs, the stronger and more pronounced the networks in our brain become. Eventually, these neurological connections become the yellow brick road that we follow, again and again, into the bondage of our beliefs.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Stonestreet & Huckabee: Liars for Christ

John Stonestreet is a Christian apologist who seems to believe that anyone who’s not a Christian is destined to go on a shooting spree or join a terrorist group. This is because, as far as he’s concerned, secularism turns people into either homicidal maniacs or religious extremists. Like believing a vow of clerical celibacy magically turns priests into pedophiles or pederasts, the sheer ridiculousness of such a claim makes it hard to take seriously. But that hasn’t stopped Stonestreet and other Christian fanatics from repeatedly making such claims nevertheless.  For them, the problem with the world today is that "secular society is a curse," as Dennis Prager put it, because “life is meaningless if there's no God." Ironically, the only people who agree with Stonestreet and Prager just happen to be terrorists.

In his article "Pop Nihilism and the Allure of ISIS: When Materialism’s Promise Proves Empty," Stonestreet condemns, "the materialistic salvation sold to us," which "promises to fill the … hole in our hearts ... with stuff." The “meaningless of (this) secular salvation,” he explains, leads some people to become “bored," and others to “become angry, even murderous." To prove his point, he offers the examples of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, who killed 13 people at Columbine High School, and T.J. Lane, a 19-year-old who shot to death three high school students in 2012. According to Stonestreet, the "emptiness of Western materialism" not only poisoned the hearts of Klebold, Harris, and Lane - who, he feels the need to point out, “were not Muslim”-  it also prompted "two beautiful teenage girls from Austria, aged 15 and 16,” to become “burka-wearing recruiters for the terror group known as ISIS."

 This claim that God needs to be kept in our schools was similarly expressed by Adolf Hitler, by the way. As he put it: 
  Secular schools can never be tolerated because such a school has no religious instruction and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith. from our point of view as representatives of the state, we need believing people. (-Hitler, [quoted from Helmreich, p.241])

In addition to Stonestreet's channeling of the Fuhrer, his assessment likewise illustrates a double standard currently employed by some Conservative Christians today. That double standard comes from those who scoff at the suggestion that a lack of financial resources contributes to criminal behavior in poor African American communities, while at the same time declaring that the lack of God in the classroom contributes to shootings like Columbine. In the former situation, blame is focused on the individual who committed the crime, but in the latter, blame is focused on society. By doing so, the responsibility is shifted from those who perpetrate such crimes within schools, to all those who allowed the removal of God from schools. The only problem with such a claim is that God was never removed from schools in the first place. 

The Supreme Court case that people like Rev. Mike Huckabee allege “removed God from our schools” was Engel v. Vitale( 370 U.S. 421 (1962)). Yet Despite the claims of Huckabee and others, this case did not ban school prayer. It simply forbade the state of New York from reciting an official prayer at the start of each school day. People were still perfectly free to pray in school, of course, both individually or in groups. A year later, on June 17, 1963 Abington Township School District v. Schempp (which was consolidated with Murray v. Curlett), 374 U.S. 203 (1963) declared that school-sponsored Bible reading in public schools in the United States was unconstitutional. Again, this case did not prohibit Bible reading in public schools; it simply prohibited the school itself from officially sponsoring such reading.  As Charles C. Haynes of the First Amendment Center wrote, the ruling required “that teachers and administrators neither promote nor denigrate religion,” thus fostering “a commitment to state neutrality that protects the religious freedom of students of all faiths and no faith.”[i]

Claiming that these cases “removed God from our schools” only demonstrates how some Christians are willing to lie to advance their religion. In a previous attempt to scare people into a belief in Christianity, for example, Huckabee used this lie to explain the mass shooting of kindergarten students in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. Talk Show host Steve Deace took that lie even further, claiming that the Sandy Hook massacre happened because “children are taught that there is no God, and thus no real purpose to their lives.”  What both Hucabee and Deace failed to mention, however, was that the person responsible for the Sandy Hook shooting, Adam Lanza, was not the product of a public school system devoid of God. Instead, Lanza attended St. Rose of Lima Catholic School in Newtown before being home-schooled by his mother, an avid gun enthusiast.

On the one hand, such claims falsely suggest that mass shootings did not occur before these cases, or after these cases at schools that focused on God. Both suggestions are untrue. In fact, the deadliest school-related massacre in American history happened in 1927, at an elementary school in Bath, Michigan. There, Andrew Kehoe, upset over a burdensome property tax, wired the building with dynamite and set it off on the morning of May 18, killing 38 children and 7 others. What's more, a number of shootings have happened in schools and other places that focused on God.  

In April of 2012, for example, 7 people were killed at a Korean Christian college in Oakland, California. In August of that same year, 6 more people were killed and 4 wounded when Wade Michael Page opened fired at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. In October, 2006, Charles Carl Roberts killed 5 young girls and injured 6 others at an Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In March of 2005, Terry Michael Ratzmann killed 9 people at a Living Church of God meeting in Brookfield, Wisconsin, and in September of 1999, Larry Gene Ashbrook opened fire on a Christian teen prayer rally at Wedgewood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, killing 7. 

On the other hand, such claims also assert that, without God, people have “no real purpose to their lives.” As Stonestreet puts it, “nearly every commercial message tells us that … there’s nothing beyond the immediate gratification of this world to live for.” First of all, I've never seen a commercial that actually claims - explicitly or implicitly - that "there's nothing beyond the immediate gratification of this world to live for" (unless it happens to be in the superfine print that can only be read with a bionic eye.)

Second, the list of people whose ‘lives have no purpose,’ according to these ministers of Pop-Christian propaganda, include Stephen Hawking, Alan Turing, the chemist whose work helped discover the double helix structure of DNA, Rosalind Franklin, Thomas Edison, theoretical physicist Peter Higgs, Warren Buffet, George Carlin, Bruce Lee, Mick Jagger, and Mark Zuckerberg.  If their lives are representative of what it means to “have no purpose,” then the rest of us can only hope to be so lucky. Also, such a statement further assumes that working for a better world, peace on earth, ending starvation, curing disease, and generally helping others, does not constitute a genuine “purpose” in life if any of it is done without a belief in God.  The people on the above list, in other words, are all just faking it. And while these atheists find their purpose in life by designing it for themselves, Stonestreet apparently finds his purpose in life by criticizing them for doing what he cannot.

[i] http://archives.politicususa.com/2011/08/11/american-fundamentalism-1960s.html

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

How Pop-Christianity Reaps What ISIS Sows

Terrorism is defined as “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims,” but that “violence and intimidation” can be used in more ways than one.  While those who commit acts of violence on innocent victims use terrorism directly, those who exploit the climate of fear that such “violence and intimidation” produce use terrorism indirectly.  Radical groups like ISIS, for example, use terrorism to scare people into believing in the God of Islam, but others use the fear of terrorism to scare people into believing in the God of Christianity. Both constitute forms of manipulation used by religious extremists who seek to turn our fear into a dependence on a deity, regardless of what name we call it. 

By using other people’s violence to peddle their own religious beliefs, Christians like Mike Huckabee and John Stonestreet become surrogates for the very terrorists they condemn by willingly advancing the message that such terrorists seek to convey through their violence – believe in God, or die. Although they in no way legitimize the use of violence in doing so, by using fear to convert people to their religion, these Christians help to legitimize the climate of fear such violence creates.

Using fear to convert people to Christianity in the face of violence and intimidation, however, is like Gandhi using the Amritsar massacre, not to encourage people to oppose British rule, but to scare them into becoming Hindu.  It further suggests that anyone who fails to convert is somehow complicit in the violence being committed.  

Both of these ideas are not only lies, but acts of shameless manipulation that use the violence committed in the name of one religion to recruit for another that is equally red in tooth and claw. If one tries to advance Islam by using violence to instill fear, in other words, the other condemns that violence while utilizing the very fear it instills to advance Christianity. Doing so implies that only a Christian morality can save humanity from the evils of groups like ISIS, despite the overwhelming similarities between the morality of Christianity in the past – which includes everything from genocide to slavery - and the morality of ISIS today.  

Even in 1690, the Enlightenment philosopher Pierre Bayle understood how religion, far from supporting ideas about morality, posed a danger to it instead.  As a result, he advocated for a separation between the spheres of faith and reason because, as he put it, religion "is neither necessary nor sufficient for morality." Nor, according to some studies, is there necessarily a positive correlation between the two. Indeed, evidence suggests that religion and belief in God tends to make people less moral rather than more. In Society without God, for example, published in 2008, Phil Zuckerman notes that Denmark and Sweden “which are probably the least religious countries in the world, and possibly in the history of the world", enjoy "among the lowest violent crime rates in the world [as well as] the lowest levels of corruption in the world".  

As the philosopher David Hume observed, "the greatest crimes have been found, in many instances, to be compatible with a superstitious piety and devotion; Hence it is justly regarded as unsafe to draw any inference in favor of a man's morals, from the fervor or strictness of his religious exercises, even though he himself believe them sincere." Hence religion, which many believe to be the basis for humanity’s moral code, can often produce actions and beliefs that are anything but moral.  

Religion was so immoral to the Roman poet Lucretius, in fact, that it prompted him in 50 B.C.E. to write the famous phrase “tantum religio potuit suadere malorum “– to such heights of evil are men driven by religion. The evil Lucretius was referring to in his work De Rerum Natura, was the sort that drove the “hammer of heretics” Tomas de Torquemada to burn some 2,000 Christians at the stake in the service of a merciful God. The Crusades, the Inquisitions, the Christianizing of Native Americans, and the European witch trials of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, all inspired an ungodly amount of bloodshed out of an unwavering devotion to the blood of Christ. 

What all of this means is that the belief that religion and God are necessary for making the world a better place may, in effect, only be contributing to making it worse.  And the pop-Christian who uses the terrorism of fanatics to recruit the fearful into Christianity may be no better than the Roman procurator who, although reluctant to execute Christ initially, did so because of the threats of religious extremists.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Avatar and the Pandoran Paradigm of History

What is interesting about movies like Avatar is how they help condition viewers to accept the myth that good always triumphs over evil. Of course, it doesn't, but stories that lead people to believe that it does are not only easier to sell, they also serve to perpetuate the myth that history is an unfolding story of God's wisdom and divine providence. And as profitable as it can be to the victors to have people believe that it is, it isn't.

Such stories, told over and over again, produce a paradigm through which people then see themselves and their own history. If good always triumphs over evil, as the paradigm suggests, than victory itself becomes the strongest proof that "God is with us," as was engraved on the belt buckle of the German soldier in 1930. Even the firebombing of Tokyo and the dropping of two atomic bombs on cities full of innocent civilians during World War II could not dislodge the belief that America is always on the side of truth, justice, and morality. The sins of the United States, in other words, are always less evil than those we defeat in battle, like Germany and Japan.

Such a paradigm becomes a lens that colors both the present and the past. Despite the fact that Avatar is clearly based on the story of American expansion westward in pursuit of gold, and the Na'vi of Pandora clearly represent the native American Indians, the movie, by inverting history, converts it into a useful tool for teaching people to believe that the greedy never prosper and the meek shall inherit the earth.

 History tells a very different story, however, of how countless millions of native Americans were killed over the course of four centuries, and how the country that was responsible for that genocide used the brutal injustices of slavery to become the most powerful nation in the world.

 The key to remember in all of this, of course, is that Avatar is a fictional story that we long to believe while history is fact we want only to forget. And both are written to be please an audience.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Contemplating Suicide & Robin Williams

"To be or not to be, that is the question"

Life will be better when I'm dead. This thought has crossed my mind, from time to time. And I know I'm not alone. With the recent suicide of Robin Williams, which has left many in shock, sadness, and disbelief, a new light shines on that darkness that leads so many to implode. That darkness works by whipping our thoughts into a hurricane, and dropping us into the middle of it. It's like having a little homunculus inside your head that reminds you that only the worst awaits, and all attempts to escape it are futile. Indeed, for many who have stood on the edge of that abyss, the powerful allure of the gaping maw below can seem like the only cure. But it isn't. And the thoughts that whisper to us that it is, are a lie.

Depression is a cancer of the mind, and while the effects of both depression and cancer are the same for those they attack directly, people's reaction to each can be very different. Cancer can have the effect of drawing people closer together, for example, but depression, because it is so emotionally contagious, tends to drive people away. Indeed, the very act of talking about depression can be like blowing oxygen into a fire. Worse still is that, even when someone has not actually been abandoned by their friends and family, their depression often leads them to believe and feel like they have.

Also, although cancer can take a person's life quickly, depression steals the mind and leaves the body behind. Like the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers, it turns a person into a mere shell of their former self. The only way to stop the spread of this mind-snatching mental mold, the person then comes to conclude, is by trying to inoculate everyone around them with deception while immunizing them self from its affects with drugs, be they legal or illegal. In fact, combining the two helps to mask the pain that depression can inflict from even the simplest interactions. 

For the person suffering from depression, for example, interactions can grow increasingly painful  as they see the happiness of others as something they think they will never be able to obtain, leading them to sink only deeper into their despair. Other people's joy, in other words, may only remind them of what they want but feel they can never have. In reaction, they may start to self-isolate and avoid social environments altogether.  This includes avoiding Facebook and other social media, as such, because they can seem like digital torture chambers as the person's mind turns against itself and becomes a virtual cyber-bully operating within their own brain. 

In addition to its ability to vanquish even the closest of friends, a person who dares to speak about their depression often ends up being labeled. Such labeling is not limited to describing someone as simply "depressive," however, but more often than not, it comes in the form of the many symptoms that such depression can produce. Many people fail to realize that addictions of every sort - such as addictions to drugs, food, and even pornography - often grow in the damp, solitary darkness of depression. Many who end up in prison, in other words, may be just as much a victim to their depression as Williams was to his, yet we tend to think of one as a criminal and the other as a tragedy.

The inevitable and increasing isolation that results from all of this only serves to compound the spiraling effects of the depression, making it all the more difficult to escape.  And it is in this isolation that the mind becomes a place where, as one rather morose poet once mused,

 The soul is but a phantom limb
and we the disembodied twin
of that emptiness we stare in

which swallows everything within
and makes a coffin of our skin
filled with all that might have been

Like Gethsemane without end
our thoughts kiss us like a friend, 
before they tear us limb from limb 

Like Ahab, depression sets us adrift on a tumultuous sea of reason that breaks the bow of every belief.It is a place where those beliefs become the broken branches reached for by a mind in a perpetual state of free fall, and where every thought mercilessly attacks its host. Indeed, it is where the mind caves in on itself and looses all ability to understand or be understood. In this respect, suicide is not intended to cause pain, but to end it. And the diffusion of pain that can spread like a supernova after a suicide, may be simply the ripple effect from the implosion caused by an increasing density of pain that one mind could no longer endure.

Of course, the nature of depression is as varied as all those who have it,  with the slightest cell anywhere in our anatomy of ideas being capable of spreading like a cancer across our whole mind. In fact, depressions can probably grow in our mind in as many different ways as cancer can develop in our body. Yet the similarity of all forms of depression may come from understanding that it is not always something that a person can escape, any more than a person can escape any of their infirmities, but something to recognize, understand, and try to overcome or adapt to.

Since depression may have as many physiological causes as psychological ones, rather than trying to escape it, we may need to learn how to weather it instead. Much like the Halloween Nor'easter of '91  that befell the Andrea Gale, depression is a maelstrom of thoughts and emotions that can swallow us like an elephant inhaling an insect. Finding the way out comes in part from understanding that, in many ways, it isn't real, but more importantly, it comes from knowing that we are not alone. And in those times when we feel like we are, having a friend can feel like a hug from the whole world. 

Christianity teaches people to believe that the best in life comes only after you die.