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Tod Crane is the lab chief from Madison. Carl Snyder is a burglary specialist with the Minneapolis PD. Detective Domeir is a Milwaukee cop with experience with sexual predators. Bobby McClain is a publisher. Zeke is a schoolteacher with a printer. The firemen Duane Helper is a professional firefighter who lives in the back of the firehouse. He is full of town gossip.
Dick Westrom runs one of the hardware stores in town and is a volunteer fireman. His wife is Janice. The hospital Dr. Rice , the local GP, does surgeries. Bergen has his own cross to bear. Joe is an AA sponsor. Bob Jones is the principal at Grant Junior High. John Mueller is a student and knows about the photograph. Eldon is the county attorney. Lisa is their daughter. Jean Hansen is his ex and Jimmy Wilson is hers. The Iceman is eager to keep his identity secret and is willing to do anything to keep it. Take me if you want me.
I felt it. And it was like the lights turned on.click
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Suddenly all that churchy talk made sense. The kids who seemed so stupid before were looking smarter. I was a changed person. I had a lot yet to figure out about who I was, what life was all about, what it means to follow God in a mixed-up world. Times, Orange County Register, and broadcast media all over the country. No, my task is bigger.
My first summer camp was very near St. Joseph [about 50 miles from Holland], on the west coast of Michigan on Lake Michigan. That was 65 years ago—I am 72—and I am thankful for those wonderful years. God entered my life and that still small voice has guided me all these years. And it still does whenever I go there and watch the sunset. This reader, J. When I was young, 12 or 13 or so, the U. Back then, an HIV diagnosis was a virtual death sentence, as there were few ways of treating it.
And to complicate the situation, there was a huge stigma that went along with the discovery that one was carrying the virus. We had a very young child in our family who had contracted HIV through a blood transfusion, so we were all too aware of the horrible social consequences of this affliction: isolation, harassment, rejection, being forced out of school, and, in extreme cases, assault. I soon discovered that those most vocal and zealous in their condemnation of HIV victims were the very religious. I found that at best, these misguided religious leaders were blinded by their interpretation of their scripture.
They just could not conceive that AIDS was not some sort of divine plague upon the wicked. At worst, I thought many of the more vocal instigators were just playing upon the tragedy to gain more publicity for themselves and their churches. I eventually concluded that the more consumed a person was with their religion, the less connected with reality they were, even in matters that had little to do with the divine. By the time I graduated high school, I had little patience for church and no desire to participate in it, in any manner whatsoever.
Funny thing is, I am not an atheist. I think that there is a place where science ends and God begins, but I have no idea where that is. I think of God as an entity that is just far too complex for the mortal mind to really comprehend. After decades of meditation and contemplation, I have concluded that our purpose here is not to spend the eight or so decades we have on Earth praying and tithing, but rather to embrace the gift of life that we have been given and live it to its fullest, experiencing all that we can and learning all we can possibly learn until our time here expires.
I am not enlightened enough to know to what end this serves, but if I am certain of one thing, it is that no one else does either. My best guess is that we use our knowledge to advance to a higher life form, be it in a trans-humanist conversion to the next step in the evolutionary ladder or the promotion to a higher level of some spiritual plane, but I cannot say for certain. I have no doubt that if God wanted me to know what my purpose in life was, He would possess the power to make me know it.
My life after rejecting conventional religion was truly liberated. My unwillingness to follow the herd allowed me to take novel approaches to my life choices. If you or someone close to you has HIV and it affected the way you thought about your religious faith, send us a note. The final paragraph in this reader note from Amy is the most powerful, showing how she was able to embrace who she is without rejecting religion altogether:.
I grew up at a Southern Baptist church in Louisiana, where I was homeschooled and then attended a fundamentalist evangelical high school. What 6-year-old would choose that? In middle and high school, I realized that I was a lesbian, but I managed to hide it until college. Although I attended a Southern Baptist university, it was a moderate one with plenty of nonreligious students and even a fairly large Muslim population.
Really, the biggest and most difficult decision was to let go of the idea that everything in the Bible was intended to be taken literally. Such churches tend to be more progressive, such as approving gay marriage and supporting Planned Parenthood. I hope to be a good example of how one can let go of literalism yet still enjoy a deep faith.
Being able to let go of the threat of hell, I realized that non-Christians, feminists, and science gifted me a faith that truly feels rooted not in fear, but love. In this latest note for our religion series , a reader who grew up in the American South during segregation recounts two evil forces in his childhood, one real and one imagined: Satan and institutionalized racism. When I was a child, my mother often referred to the Devil in some form or the other to threaten or keep the children in check, especially if we had been bad or were somewhat hesitant about getting ready for church on Sundays.
So we would merrily go off to church each and every Sunday in an attempt to keep a step or two ahead of that ole wicked and evil Devil. You would not even be able to recognize yourself or your family. He would make you do evil thing to others. I was told that the only power that could protect from the Devil was God. That just blew my mind. I would often ask my mother if she loved her children. Of course she said yes. She said no. He had two long horns that protruded out the top of his head. His body was always aglow in fire. All day and night, the sinner can be heard screaming out and begging and pleading for water to quench the thirst.
While a child, and even sometimes today, I would have nightmares about this Devil.
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Our true inability to clearly discern what will happen to us after we die leaves us vulnerable to all sorts of unscrupulous people with the sole intent of taking advantage of the weak and confused. Some folks will have you to believe you can buy your way into Heaven. It is said that God made everything and everything he made is good. Yet, I am suppose to hate the Devil. Remember, God made the Devil and he must have known what he created, especially since he made everything. Then again, if God made the Devil and said the Devil was flawed, what does that say about the creator?
I am told that unless we are born again, we will not enter into the kingdom. I just try to treat people the way I would like to be treated. If it works for you, fine. But I have come to the conclusion that man has no knowledge of any of the unknown in life. It is all based on guesswork from the folks in control and the masses should just follow them because they are the rich and powerful. Not me. If I go to Hell or wherever, it will be on my own terms. A reader from a very traditionalist Muslim family has a colorful story of personal religious choice:.
I was born into a long line of imams of a Sufi order. My father is an imam, all my paternal uncles were imams, and my six brothers and I are supposed to be imams. One of these ways, she would tell us, was that if we whistled, Satan would appear in some guise to convert us and pervert us, be it the form of a cockroach, a goat, a snake, or even—gasp—an attractive woman.
This one would cause me to whistle frequently as a boy, to the point where I am now an expert at various methods of whistling. One evening I found myself walking alone between the gym and the camp, whistling absentmindedly and happily, now that I was away from home. Then I realized my mistake: I was all alone, in the dark, calling Shaitan! I froze in my tracks, stopped my song, and waited for Him to appear—hoping for a cockroach rather than a sexy maiden.
Nothing appeared. Doubt started to creep into me. So I whistled again, this time loudly, while standing in the dark street, daring him to show up. I continued to call Shaitan—not even a cameo. I whistled and continued on my way, but a realization was nagging at my young mind: If Shaitan does not exist, then his counterpart does not either; there can be no Good if there is no Evil.
No Shaitan, no Allah. I am nearing 40 years old now and have never looked back to either God or Satan As a side note, I think my mother invented, or maybe perpetuated that myth of whistling, as a way to have peace and quiet in our small home where she was trying to raise 11 children. She did not want to be the conductor of a symphony of whistling adolescents.
Also, if she were to find out that SHE is the cause of one of her sons straying from the righteous path, she would have a heart attack on the spot. I do not want my mother to die yet! Dylan, a young Millennial reader, revives a really interesting subthread on Jewish identity starting here , here , here , then here within our overall discussion on religious choice:. I grew up in New York and was raised Jewish.
For the most part no one questioned my Jewish identity until I was in my teens.
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My dad was Jewish; my mom was Christian. They met in Nazi Germany and fell in love there.
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My dad and his siblings and parents escaped to Britain and the U. My parents reunited after the war when he came back as an American soldier and joined his family in the U. By the time I was 13, I had learned what all the whispering among adults had been during my childhood: the Holocaust—who died, who escaped, their lives before and after.
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It impacted me very hard. As I got older and started to date, religion took on a new importance. Culturally I was drawn to Jews, and most of the guys I dated were Jewish. The one Christian I dated seriously dumped me the moment he found out my dad was Jewish. I saw it in his eyes immediately. I never dated a Christian again.
I went on to marry a Jewish man whose family was as unreligious as my own. I had grown up in a cultural world that was heavily Jewish but religiously pretty agnostic. Those were my own tendencies and still are. I also am repulsed by the people who believe that there is only one way to be Jewish and that is to be an ultra orthodox Jew. They remind me of those Christians for whom Christianity is limited to the most conservative fundamentalist sects and who want to limit the entire realm of Christianity to their own narrow beliefs.
Theirs was a very special union and reminds me that love can conquer—if not everything, an awful lot. I was born a Protestant and then my father died of polio. My mother re-married to a Jew and so at the age of 2, I became a Jew too. I got a Jewish-sounding last name. I lived in an increasingly Jewish neighbourhood, so the majority of my friends were Jewish and so I just went along as one. My mother went along acting her part, which helped me do the same. My upbringing always had me question this religious thing, being born into one ideology and then converting to another but never feeling accepted, feeling like an outsider.
But I went along and felt I could continue to pull this charade off until one time at Synagogue during Yom Kippur time during yet another Israeli conflict. This is when I took pause to consider this whole religion thing. My last confirmation that these feelings of conflict and confusion were confirmed to me when the very Jewish high school and graduating class decided to have a reunion. I declined the invitation, and I went back to living a peaceful and fulfilling life in the community of the world around me.
I was astounded yet amazingly relieved that I had escaped that world. My own story involves giving up the Reform Judaism in which I was raised and pursuing an orthodox Jewish conversion. My father is Jewish, not my mother, so only Reform Judaism considers me a Jew. Dramatic though that choice has felt at times, it has come on so gradually that I cannot place a finger on the beginning or any particular turning point.
Maybe you already know about it, or maybe it is of no use to you, and at any rate it is a bit dated now, but I just wanted to note it because a lot of what it talks about is still happening among American millennials. Hey Chris, long-time reader from back in the Dish days. Last month, a lot of leaders in this growing movement held a national convening in New York. I thought some of your readers might be interested in seeing some of the output from that convening, which was covered in several Jewish media outlets, most thoroughly Jewschool.
A tip for readers: just never, ever say that. I hope readers who are struggling with this will connect to Jewish Multiracial Network and the other organizations that hosted the national convening. I was raised to be a lifelong devout Christian, a member of the Southern Baptist church from the time I was in diapers up until I was 18 or 19 years old. I went to church Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and Wednesday nights. I went to camp during the summer, and retreats during the fall and spring. I roofed and painted houses each summer on mission trips. I promised to wait until I was married to have sex.
I learned the books of the Bible and can recite them from Genesis to Revelation even to this day. I memorized a litany of scriptures. Conservative politics were espoused from the pulpit on a regular basis, and I learned to respond in typical fashion to any discussion on homosexuality or abortion—the two big no-nos according to Evangelicalism. I found myself habitually disillusioned and turned off by certain aspects of the faith, and I had a prescient sense that somehow, someway, this lifestyle would not extend much further than my adolescence.
Dogma would rub me the wrong way. I doubted. I resented the treatment of women. She was blindsided by the question. I was highly judgmental of the lack of critical thought and inquiry. The final blow that led to my leaving organized religion behind came when I was about 17 years old. It was Sunday night and the church was voting on the budget for the upcoming year. The money that filtered into that atypically large church astounded me. The salaries! The power bill!
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